Pashto Poetry - A Powerful Medium
Sher Alam Shinwari
Publishing Date: Friday, April 25 2003
Poetry, says Wordsworth, is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge. It is the impassioned expression of the soul and poets were there first on the scene even before the birth of all the major civilizations of the world. Therefore not strangely the Pakhtoons who have a long history, full of sound and fury, also produced men and women with a finer quality of lofty imagination and creativity. They, of course, blended their poetry with the physical, mental and environmental sturdiness and rigidity of their surrounding.
The dawn of the twentieth century saw the emergence of many schools of poetry each of which had an innovative style and outlook towards society. Khushal Khan Khattak and mystic Rehman Baba remained popular and a great source of inspiration for all the poets who followed them. Prominent researcher Hamish Khalid has compiled ده قلم خاوندان
(Da qalam khawandaan - The men of letter) which is a directory of Pashto poets containing all the necessary information about 3,000 poets born in 1880-1985.
The Pakhtoons found poetry to be a powerful vehicle for expressing and preserving their national identity and cultural values. This would explain why they have such a large number of poets who have contributed immensely to the development of Pashto. The two world conferences on Pashto held in 1987 and 2000, which brought the language into international limelight, were arranged by poets and writers in Peshawar.
Similarly, the emergence of the Ulasi Adabi Jirga, the first ever literary organization in 1949, proved to be a landmark in the history of Pashto poetry. Its founding fathers were Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, Haji Sanober Hussain Kakajee, Qalandar Moomand and Dost Mohammad Khan Kamil. Pashto poetry also found a new dimension with the establishment of institutions such as the Pashto Academy and Pashto Department of the University of Peshawar in 1958 and 1962 respectively
New literary forms such as drama, novel, short story, takl, character-sketch, satire, humour, reportage, azaad nazm, tappiez nazm and even haiko entered Pashto poetry. Subjects like realism, romanticism, classicism, subjectivity, objectivity, progressivism and other social themes were introduced. The poets and writers widened the vision and mental horizons of the Pashtoons. Pashto language was popularized by the print and electronic media. About eighteen Radio Stations, including those from India, America, England, Germany, Russia and China, are now broadcasting literary programmes in Pashto, which now enjoys the 41st position among the languages of the world.
More than 250 literary organizations in Pakistan and abroad are working for the promotion of Pashto poetry which was further enriched thematically by the migration of Afghan poets/writers to Pakistan and elsewhere across the globe. The volume of Pashto poetry is enormous as compared to prose. Pashto poetry is popular among the general public in spite of a limited readership of Pashto books.
At the start of the new millennium, new trends and images are yet to find expression in Pashto poetry, the revolution in Pakhtoon society notwithstanding. Baba-i-Pashto ghazal, Amir Hamza Khan Shinwari, Samander Khan Samander, Ghani Khan, Qalander Moomand, Ajmal Khattak, Murad Shinwari, Dr Mohammad Azam Azam, Dr Rajwali Shah Khattak, Khaiber Afridi, Rehmat Shah Sail and countless other poets have produced quality poetry. But what is needed is a proper appreciation of the problems of Pashto poets by the elites. The plight of the Pakhtoon poets is pitiable as most of them live in penury. The pace of the development of Pashto poetry is indeed slow but its power of expression has never dimmed. The young Pashto poets are by far more creative, more original and more enthusiastic than their predecessors.