Would Fahmida Riaz have refused the presidential award?

Dr Ujan’s courageous action confirms her as a great daughter of a great writer

Raza Naeem September 04, 2020

Earlier this week, the daughter of legendary poet and writer Fahmida Riaz, Veerta Ali Ujan, did her mother’s memory and legacy proud by refusing the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, which was conferred on the latter for her services to literature last year. She cites the disappearance and torture of activists and journalists as the reason for refusing the award. Last month, renowned Sindhi writer Taj Joyo also refused to accept the President’s Pride Award (Nishan-e-Pakistan) conferred to him by the government in protest against the disappearance of his son Sarang Joyo.

Dr Ujan’s courageous action confirms her as a great daughter of a great writer and brings much joy to those who have been fighting and struggling for social justice and the underprivileged in Naya Pakistan. One also hopes now that the sons of the legendary poet Ahmad Faraz – who has also been conferred with Pakistan’s highest civil award the Nishan-e-Imtiaz this year – will follow suit and honour the hallowed memory and legacy of their father by considering doing what Joyo and Ujan have done.

One wonders though if Dr Ujan indeed knows that by refusing the award she is in fact fulfilling a poetic death wish of her mother’s which she had expressed in a long poem titled Taaziyati Qaraardaaden (Condolence Resolutions) while she was still alive. In the very first stanza Riaz says,

‘Yaaro! Bas itna karam karna

Pas-e-marg na mujh pe sitam karna

Mujhe koi sanad na ataa karna deendaari ki

Mat kehna josh-e-khitabat main

Darasal ye aurat momin thi

Mat uthna saabit karne ko mulk-o-millat se vafadari

Mat koshish karna apnaa len hukkaam kam az kam laash meri’

Lest the reader be left in any doubt, in the opening lines of the very next stanza Riaz reveals what her real honour and award would be, away from state medals and trophies: ‘Kam zarfon ke dushnaam toa hen aizaaz mere’

So today we salute the action of Dr Ujan and honour her mother’s lifelong struggle for justice and rights of the underprivileged, weak and defenceless by translating and re-reading her poem Taaziyati Qaraardaaden (Condolence Resolutions), which may also serve as a fitting testament and tribute to her eventful life and legacy:

‘Friends! Just do me this favour

Do not be unjust to me after death

Do not award me any certificate of religiosity

Do not say in the force of eloquence

Actually this woman was a believer

Do not rise to prove loyalty to country and nation

Do not try that the authorities own my corpse at least.


Friends, friends

The invectives of the mean are my honours

Whether they may not come up to the pulpit

My lovers are no less

The beginning of reality is hidden in life

And dust and breeze are my confidantes

Do not go about insulting them

For the goodwill of the censors

Do not make the corpse apologise

My companion

Lest I cannot be shrouded

Do not worry

Leave my corpse in the jungle.


So comforting is this thought

The beasts of the jungle will come for me

Without testing my thoughts

My bones and my flesh

And my heart like a glittering ruby

They will be happy to devour everything


They will lick their lips

And in their obedient eyes will shine

What you might not say

That truth

This corpse belongs to a being

Who said whatever she wanted

Was never repentant lifelong.‘

Raza Naeem

The author is president of the Progressive Writers Association in Lahore. He is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and translator. His translations of Saadat Hasan Manto have been re-translated in both Bengali and Tamil, and he received a prestigious Charles Wallace Trust Fellowship in 2014-2015 for his translation and interpretive work on Manto. He is presently working on a book of translations of Manto's progressive writings, tentatively titled Comrade Manto.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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