PESHAWAR: Dr Raj Wali Shah Khattak, a Pashto poet, died of a heart attack Monday night at the age of 63. He was buried in Dak Ismail Khel village, Nowshera on Tuesday.
A large number of fans, friends and family members from across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa attended his funeral and paid their respects. The Pashto poet mainly wrote ghazals on social themes, most of which were published in his book Sangzaar. He was awarded the Pride of Performance Award by the president of Pakistan for his contribution to Pashto literature and was also a recipient of the Asia Youth Talent Award.
Dr Raj Wali Khattak, a literary icon, was born on January 24, 1952. He started his career as a lecturer at Edwards College, Peshawar and subsequently became a professor at University of Peshawar (UOP). During his university days, Dr Raj Wali received a gold medal when he completed his master’s from UoP. He also completed his doctorate from the same institution and retired as a professor.
In 2009, he was appointed as the director for the Centre for Pashto Language when the Pashto Academy and the Pashto department of UoP were merged. In 2010, he was appointed as the dean of oriental languages.
Dr Raj Wali had a large number of fans. He was considered an authority on Pashto literature from the Khattak tribe, following in the footsteps of stalwarts such as Khushal Khan Khattak, Abdul Qadir Khan. He had written over 10 books and a large number of research papers on Pashto literature. Some of his famous books are called Literary Movements in Pashto, Heritage of Peshawar, Tori Che Ranra Kawi, Da Rahman Pa Shair, Rohi Mataluna: Pashto proverbs.
One of his books, Rohi Mataluna: Pashto proverbs, comprises over 1,300 Pashto proverbs with English translations and annotations. The project is aimed at preserving oral history and folklore.
As news of his demise spread, a large number of litterateurs and politicians paid glowing tributes to the poet.
“He was an authority on Pashto literature as a poet, researcher and critic,” Pashto poet and writer Hamish Khalil told The Express Tribune.
“Dr Raj Wali was one of the most talented people I have ever known,” said Dr Salma Shaheen, former director Pashto Academy. “His untimely death is a huge loss for Pashto literature. He dedicated his whole life for the promotion of Pashto literature.”
In an official statement, Hamid Karzai, former president of Afghanistan, also paid tribute to the Pashto poet.
“Dr Raj Wali rendered countless services to Pashto,” read the statement. “His sudden demise is a huge loss.”
ANP Central President Asfandyar Wali Khan said his demise will leave a void in Pashto literature, culture and heritage. “His services for Pashto language and culture will never be forgotten,” said Asfandyar.
Culture Journalist Forum President Ihtisham Toru also expressed deep sorrow over the sudden demise of the Pashto poet.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2015.