In an effort to preserve and enrich one of Pakistani’s regional languages- Pashto, the Pakistan Academy of Letters, Sindh has inaugurated a Pashto literature section, ‘Tahir Afridi Corner’, at its office in Liaquat Memorial Library.
On Saturday morning, a dozen Karachi-based Pashto writers, artists and poets reached the premises of the library to learn about the man after whom the corner has been named. Renowned literary scholar Tahir Aridi does not hold a single academic degree, yet his fictional works are taught to students of Pasho literature at postgraduate level.
Appreciated even outside Pakistan, especially Afghanistan, Afridi has been given this honour as a token of appreciation for the valuable services to the Pashto literature.
Pakistan Academy of Letters Resident Director Agha Noor Muhammad Pathan, while speaking at the inaugural ceremony, announced that they will celebrate Afridi’s 50 years of service to Pashto language for which literati from Iran and Afghanistan will be invited. “At first we were considering the names of Khushal Khan Khattak or Rahman Baba but then we thought about Afridi’s contribution to literature,” said the director, adding that the books in the Pashto corner will be uploaded to the Pakistan Academy of Letters website and will be available on the internet. He appealed to the Karachi-based Pashto writers to send their essays and poetry to the Academy of Letters so that they can translate and publish them in its magazines.
A Pashto poet and writer, Saleem Raz, told the guests about Afridi’s life achievements and the perils faced by academics at the hands of spy agencies. “Sadly, there is a general perception among spy agencies that a Pashto literary poet or writer must be a nationalist, because of which intelligence personnel would sit in our literary meetings,” said Raz.
The Tahir Afridi Corner has been built with the help of Pakhtun Thinkers Forum, a non-political literary and social group of Pashtuns belonging to different walks of life. Pakhtun Thinkers Forum and a Quetta-based literary group Khurasan Adabi Tolana have provided books to the corner. Pakhtun Thinkers Forum Chairperson Qasim Jan offered his gratitude to the Academy of Letters for paying tribute to Afridi, assuring them of full support to expand the corner.
“It is a great honour for me to be appreciated by all of you,” said Tahir Afridi. “All my life I wanted to work for Pashto language and its development in every aspect. I did what I could do with my resources. I tried to translate books and essays from Sindhi into Pashto and then published them in our magazine Jaras.” He recalled meeting legendary Pashto poet and writer Ajmal Khattak and shared his memories of Pashto poet Ameer Hamza and Qalandar Momand who used to stay with him on their visits to Karachi.
Afridi has authored 20 books of fictions, novels, travelogues and reportage in Pashto language. He has also authored Urdu fictions and novelettes.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2013.