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Downgrading literature and languages

Shafqaat Tanvir Mirza

The Pakistan Writers Guild was founded by the close bureaucrat-intellectuals and right from the beginning it had the blessings of Baba-i-Urdu Maulvi Abdul Haq and the seths of Karachi who tried to won the favour of the concerned bureaucrats, instituted many awards through banks and other financial concerns.
It was a much bigger organization of writers than the government-funded literary organization established after the fall of East Pakistan. Guild fall started when the Ayub government withheld the grant on the plea that it has again started controversy between the national language and regional languages.
Actually it was not meant but the fact is that it was controlled autocratically by the Urdu oriented writers like Jamiluddin Aali and Qudratullah Shahab. In early stages it did well but the Sindhi publication of Sheikh Ayaz’s poetry published by the Guild House was banned by the West Pakistan government and all the stalwarts of the organization remained tongue-tied.
Who by their act allowed the Guild to die much before its natural death. After the Urdu-Sindhi conflict a controversy over Punjabi-Urdu flared up in Punjab on which the central finance minister Muhammad Shoaib in his annual budget refused to include the annual grant for the Guild.
The grant was released when the Punjabi group was banned and Shahab encouraged the writers from Multan to raise the issue of Multani as a separate language from Punjabi and for that Bazm-i-Saqafat was patronized by the government and the Guild.
After Ayub’s downfall the Guild also badly suffered and was totally ignored by Yahya and Bhutto’s regimes during which Academy of Letters was raised and it continues to enjoy financial help and patronage from all sorts of government like Ziaul Haq, Benazir, Nawaz Sharif, Shaukat Aziz and Pervez Musharraf.
Fakhar Zaman was PPP man, Nazir Naji was Nawaz’s favourite and Iftikhar Arif was the favourite of Shaukat-Musharraf group.
Fakhar was again made its head by Zardari/Gilani. Fakhar arranged two Sufi conferences in which Academy looked no more affluent but somehow in a longer spell of Fakhar’s absence the Academy suffered and ultimately he was relieved on ground not yet clear.
This may be identical case with Iftikhar Arif’s removal from the chairmanship of the National Language Authority to be replaced by scholar Dr Anwar Ahmad from Multan. He is also a retired person. No replacement has been provided for Academy by the authorities concerned and this has led to discontinuation of funds used for families of writers who had expired or who are invalid on seriously ill.
The list of such families was last time revised at the residence of Dr Javed Iqbal and the participants included Dr Aslam Ansari from Multan. One wonders that Bhutto’s created Academy is being destroyed by his daughter’s successors. Its four provincial offices are not properly functioning because all the powers now lie with the bureaucrat boss who has only one wish reflected from Punjabi proverbial line.
The bifurcation of provinces on ethnic or linguistic or administrative ground has been strongly supported by the people and the parties who have no vision and welfare agenda for the next elections. They are trying to convince their supporters that only the division would open all gates to paradise. For instance the Seraiki protagonists continuous refrain is that when the Seraiki suba or Seraikistan would come into existence no province would object the construction of Kalabagh Dam because other provinces are fed up with the hegemonic attitude of the Punjabi bureaucracy.
Politicians in spite of the bad performance of the provincial governments other than Punjab raised their accusing finger on Punjab… a sort of symbol of hatred. There are many reasons for other provinces to hit or hate Punjab but one reason is quite obvious. They think that Punjabi junta is neither fair to its language nor to its culture. They have in the past never supported any move for the promotion of Bengali, Sindhi, Pushto etc. They always sided with Urdu in which they have no match but all that because they have totally ignored the issue of their own provincial language Punjabi which has not yet been introduced even as a compulsory subject at primary level.
The recent up-rise in Seraiki areas has so far gone unnoticed by the Punjabis sitting in government offices, schools and universities, representing Punjab in assemblies and Senate. The only expectation was that Punjabis would come with the solid documentary proof that it was the Punjabi in which Khwaja Farid composed his poetry and it was Punjabi in which he used to address his followers and audience.
The job was done by the Pakistan Punjabi Adabi Board and sent its findings not only to the teachers, politicians, bar associations, groups or many hundred writers who claim that their language is separate and independent of Punjabi but also to the president, chief justices of Pakistan and the PM demanding that a committee of prominent linguistics be formed to decide the question raised in the south by the lower middle class writers joined now by the feudal lords and politicians particularly attached with the PPP.
A letter in the same spirit was addressed to Asma Jahangir, the head of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and some 50 rights NGOs working in Punjab. But if the head of state or chief of the judiciary does not feel to at least acknowledge this request how would you expect a full-throated reply to those who are out to bifurcate the linguistic, literary and cultural heritages of this part of the Indus valley.
Almost all the big names in Urdu literature around 1950s ignored the struggle of Bengalis for the due status of their language and looking towards Punjab the most powerful province among all the five for help.
It was the vested interest of the Punjabis which held them from supporting Bengalis. It was not the tragedy of 1971 only which earned beautiful and self-confessing statement but also the tragedy of fifties to be repented; Faiz had said in 1973 also apply to 1950s Bengali Shaheeds.





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