top of page

Exploring Words: Pakistani Literature

By Myra Ahmed

Pakistani literature has always been admired across the globe. From the poems written at the time of Partition, to the plays we see on our TV screens, writers in Pakistan have held our hearts for years. Today, we often forget the masterpieces that once made a huge part of our life, leaving some of the world's greatest writing works unexplored.

Ghalib's Poetry

One such poem is Iqbal's iconic 'Lab pe Aati Hai Dua bann ke Tamanna Meri', which roughly translates to 'My Longing Becomes a Supplication as it Leaves my Heart', that explores the depths of human responsibility with utmost grace. Children in Pakistan recite this poem nearly every morning, but we often fail to look beyond the surface level meanings of the poem. Written in 1902, 'Lab pe Aati Hai Dua' became a huge part of Pakistan's culture with its invigorating message and powerful summation of what made a Pakistani: selflessness, faith and passion. A particularly moving line is "Zindagi shamma ki surat ho Khudaya meri", which is the reader praying for their life to act as a candle in a world of darkness. The use of a candle symbolises warmth, empathy and unity, as do the following lines, with Iqbal moving away from metaphors and speaking in stark truth.

In 1949, soon after Partition, Hafeez Jalandhri penned down the Pakistani National Anthem, or Qaumi Taranah. The anthem is said to be one of the world's greatest, with its enlivening lyrics and tune. From the very first line, Pakistan is established as the Land of the Pure and a symbol of faith, unity and discipline. The most significant section, though, has to be the following: 'Tarjuman-e-Mazi, Shan-e-Hal, Jan-e-Istaqbal, Saya-e-Khuda e Zu--al-Jalal'. The verse defines Pakistan as a land representative of our past, and the pride of our presence, calling for the guidance of God. Sacrifices made to achieve such peace and prosperity are honoured in every aspect of Pakistan's existence, including the anthem, which denotes them as the greatest contributors to the country.

Years later, in 2000, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi published his collection of short stories 'An Old Banyan and other Stories'. Qasmi was one of Pakistan's most prominent literary figures, and wrote mainly around social issues in the region. The stories in this collection were said to have risen from his own experience across the different provinces of Pakistan, and explored the way religion and culture impacted the way we lived, especially as a newly established state.

In 2020, Pakistan's contemporary literature is as powerful as ever, with writers like Farhat Ishtiaq and Zanjabeel Asim Shah producing works that not only address social issues and stigmas, but also emanate great artistry in their execution. Take recent drama serial Pyar ke Sadqey, that followed the lives of two innocent, manipulated characters. Everything from the cyclical narrative to the symbolic gestures and themes explored throughout the story, the play showed us that Pakistan has great potential in the literary world.

As we read poems, stories and articles, let's start looking at them with more than just criticism, but with an understanding and appreciation of what they explore, why they were written and how we can learn from them. Pakistan is home to some of the world's most talented writers, and it is time we give them the spotlight they deserve.



bottom of page