The Rise and Rise of Pashto

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The Rise and Rise of Pashto, Dr. Sher Zaman Taizai
Published in Khyber.ORG on Wednesday, November 12 2003 (http://www.khyber.org)


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The Rise and Rise of Pashto

Dr. Sher Zaman Taizai

Publishing Date: Wednesday, November 12 2003

The first recorded manuscript of Pashto is Tazkaratul Awlia by Suleiman Mako, written in the year 1214. However, only 7 pages of the manuscript have survived and are documented by Allama Abdul Hai Habibi. Suleiman Mako is linked with the legendary father of Pashtuns; Qais Abdul Rashid by 5 generations as Mako, son of Panjpa, son of Abdali, son of Tarin, son of Sharakhbun, son of Qais. Poems are also attributed to Bet, son of Qais, however a manuscript of book from him cannot be verified.

Bet Nikka

According to G. P. Tate, the author of "The kingdom of Afghanistan" the first to use Pashto for literary purposes was the famous Pir Roshan in the 7th century. His arch rival Akhund Derweza (1533-1638) was also compelled to use Pashto to arouse his followers against the Roshania movement. Apparently, both the giants exploited religious and mystic sentiments of their followers. The windfall of that movement was the freedom of Pashto prose from the influence of Arabic and Persian languages.

Pir Roshan

The most remarkable achievement of that era was the innovation by Pir Roshan that made the writing of Pashto easy. He realized that Pashto could not be written in Arabic script owing to some of its peculiar sounds. He therefore, invented 13 alphabets to represent those sounds. Some of these alphabets patched up vocal differences between the hard and soft dialects of Pashto as well.

Subsequently, Khushal Khan Khattak came to be known "The father of Pashto". Apart from his unsurpassed works in verse and prose on various topics including hunting, falconry, medicine and religion, he compiled a deal of information on the history of Pashtoon.

Khushal Khan Khattak

There was a lull in the 18th and 19th centuries until the emergence of the Ahmad Trio (Mir Ahmad Shah Rizwani, Maulvi Ahmad, and Munshi Ahmad Jan). Mir Ahmad Shah compiled two books for the course of Pashto Honours introduced in the University of Punjab during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The famous prose work of Munshi Ahmad Jan, Da Qissa Khawane gup (The gossip of Qissa Khawani) was published in the second edition with introductory notes by C.L. Pert, dated January 22, 1930.

Ahmad Jan

Then comes Syed Rahmatullah alias Rahat Zakheli (1884-1963), the harbinger of modern Pashto prose. He introduced or revived almost every genre of the time in Pashto. He wrote the first imaginary novel, published in 1912 under the title of "Mah Rukh". His short story "Konda Jeenae" was published in the newspaper AFGHAN in 1917. It was the first but a perfect short story. He compiled history and grammar as well in Pashto.

In the political arena, Bacha Khan gave due attention to the renaissance of the Pashto language, literature and culture. He encouraged and sponsored Pashto poets and writers. Professor Hafiz Mohd Idrees wrote a novel "Peghla" which is considered the first comprehensive novel in Pashto. Said Rasul Rasa, Abdul Rahim Majzoob and Fazal Haq Shida modernized Pashto literature by introducing odes and some other genres of English literature. At this juncture, Pashto took a sharp turn to change its oriental style into a European style. Said Rasul Rasa was a good poet but he is best known for his five novels "Mafroor, Shamae, Khund Kushi, Maimunae and Maikhana".

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan

By that time Pashto received momentum in Afghanistan also with the emergence of a number of good writers, Saleh Mohd Hotak, Abul Haye Habibi, Gul Pacha Ulfat, Qiamuddin Khadim, Siddiq Ullah Rishtin, Zelmay Hiwadmal, Abdul Rauf Benawa and many others. Abdul Mahak wrote "Zamararudda" in three volumes on the post revolutionary situation in Afghanistan.

Allama Abdul Hai Habibi

Ustad Gul Pacha Ulfat

A great number of Afghan writers are busy nowadays in almost every field of literature. In Pakistan, this writer too has authored five novels - Gul Khan, Amanat, Rahman Koroona, Ghunday and Wade Onasho to Pashto prose. Rahim Shah Rahim wrote historical novels. The novel of Tahir Afridi Kano kshe razoona (the stone veins) depicts the inter-tribal jealousies. The novels of Mato Khan are mostly erotic, which do not appeal to the conservative psyche of the Pakhtoons.

In the field of research, the PhD holders, whose thesis have been published include Iqbal Naseem Khattak, Rajwali Shah Khattak and Muhammad Azam Azam.

Many writers have contributed to Pashto drama but only a few dramas have reached the market. Dost Muhammad Khan Kamil introduced academic research to Pashto language with his laborious work on Khushhal Khan Khattak and Rehman Baba.

Some writers work on the religious matters also. The outstanding in this field is Faqir Mohd Abbas Qadria whose work in various sizes from 10 to 1000 (One thousand) pages-have been published in more than 3000 (Three thousand) books. According to Dr Hidayat Ullah Naeem, the religious theme in Pashto books is more voluminous than in any other language of Pakistan.

The prose writers also include some figures of national and international stature like Muhammad Afzal Khan Lala, Khan Abdul Wali Khan (on the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement in four volumes), and Hazrat Bacha Khan (Autobiography Zama zhwand auo jaddo jehhad" (My life and struggle).

Pashto language was popularised by the print and electronic media. The poets and writers widened the vision and mental horizons of the Pashto. About 18 radio stations, including those from India, USA, England, Germany, Russia and China, are now broadcasting literary programs in Pashto which now enjoys the 41st position among the languages of the world.

Pashto prose today covers most of the genres in vogue in Urdu and English including the short story, novel, drama, travelogue, essay, character-sketch, critical evaluation, book reviews, grammar, figures of speech, history, biography, autobiography and columns.


The original article was written by the late Dr. Sher Zaman Taizai in two parts, "The Rise and Rise of Pashto" and "The Early history of Pashto". Both have been merged into one article "The Rise and Rise of Pashto". The material on Suleiman Mako is extra to the original articles.


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The Rise and Rise of Pashto, Dr. Sher Zaman Taizai
Published in Khyber.ORG on Wednesday, November 12 2003 (http://www.khyber.org)