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Literature, politics, and resistance

25 9 0

Another valorous resistance writer was Akhtar Jamal who died in 2011 in Canada. She was a leading Urdu short-story writer and her books include, 'Khalai Daur ki Muhabbat' (Love in the space age), 'Samjotha Express', 'Unglian Figar Apni (My bleeding fingers) and 'Zard Patton ka Ban' (A garden of yellow leaves).

She was one of the most steadfast fighters for democracy in Pakistan, and no adversity could cow her. She endured extreme financial constraints and refused all attempts by the General Zia regime to bribe her. Like the notorious McCarthy era of the 1950s in the US, General Zia’s era in Pakistan was a period when most writers were either subdued or enticed to financial gains, but not Akhtar Jamal and her husband Ahmed Ali Khan who was a poet and writer. Tariq Ahsan was their only son who taught at the Quaid-e-Azam University, but the state apparatus did not tolerate him.

In a familiar sequence, unknown personnel abducted him and accused him of writing against the state which at that time meant the military dictatorship of General Zia. Martial-law authorities imprisoned him two years in Adiala jail where Akhtar Jamal used to visit her son, travelling by buses and wagons. Akhtar Jamal was a mother who endured all this, even after losing her daughter, Tazeen, who passed away young. All these atrocities were committed under the watch of General Mujb, who was General Zia’s information minister targeting all dissenters’ especially progressive activists and intellectuals.

Akhtar Jamal went through intense personal crises but remained true to their ideals of a democratic and progressive Pakistan. Akhtar Jamal’s short story written in the 1980s, 'Salgirah ka cake' (The birthday cake) was included in her collection 'Khalai Daur ki Muhabbat' published in 1991. This is the story of a mother whose son is a........

© The News on Sunday