Literary notes: The 1965 war and Pakistani Urdu literaturePakistan
The quote “the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton” may be apocryphal, but it does underscore the importance of character-building the educational institutions of a nation are supposed to do.
The character of a nation is reflected in its soldiers. So it is not only the soldiers that fight a war, but it is the nation as well.
And the soldiers fight for what they love, as G.K. Chesterton has put it “the true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him”.
Reciprocally, individuals, including poets, writers and intellectuals, put their weight behind the soldiers fighting for them.
Even in modern-day wars, intellectuals support the soldiers fighting for them and the examples abound.
When the United States joined in the First World War, for instance, the public sentiments quickly turned in favour of US intervention, backed by the intellectuals and philosophers such as John Dewey, and even the ones with the leftist leanings echoed the nationalist feelings.
American intellectuals like Randolph Bourne, who wrote against US going to war, were far and few between (Bourne had his own reasons, right or wrong, but at least he was not influenced by foreign-funded NGOs, unlike some of our intellectuals). The American and western journalists “embedded” with the forces fighting against Saddam Hussein were supporting their national interests, conveniently forgetting things like impartiality and the standards of objective reporting.
The 1965 Indo-Pakistani war saw an overwhelming support for the Pakistani armed forces from the Pakistani nation and everyone stood behind them (for they were the very people the true soldiers loved and fought for).
This included poets, writers, journalists and intellectuals. The Indian attack, wrote Dr Waheed Qureshi, bolstered a true sense of unity among the Pakistanis, which was hitherto not as deep as one would have desired. The introvert writers, romantic poets and the intellectuals who used to ask ‘should a writer be loyal to the country’ began reassessing their noncommittal stance.
The 1965 war jolted even the writers who were associated with Halqa-i-Arbab-i-Zauq and, as Shahzad Manzar has put it, were not convinced of the theories of utility or commitment in literature. Such literary circles feel, generally, that creative literature must dissociate itself from social or political ideologies and also from what may be perceived as ‘useful’.
The great aspect of the brief war was, Shahzad Manzar adds, that it caused to bring to surface suddenly an acute sense of patriotism among all and sundry. The petty differences were forgotten at once and we emerged as one, united nation.
The whole nation was in a trance-like condition, general public as well as our creative writers and poets. Even poets and writers connected with Halqa-i-Arbab-i-Zauq and progressive literary movement penned many literary pieces portraying the sentiments that had gripped the entire nation. The literature created during and after the 1965 war reflected an unprecedented flair and it strikes a chord with readers even today.
But it is a fact that it was the poets and song writers who led the way. Supported fully by Radio Pakistan, the poets helped lift the spirits of the nation and infuse a deep sense of commitment and loyalty to the motherland.
It is not possible to enlist here the large number of song-writers, but some of the Urdu poets whose songs reverberate in the memory of nation included, among others, Ehsan Danish, Rasees Amrohvi, Masroor Anwer, Fayyaz Hashmi, Hafeez Hoshyarpuri, Soofi Tabassum, Jameeluddin Aali and Himayat Ali Shaer.
Aside from the emotional war songs, many of which simply fall in the category of propaganda, some poems with profound meaning and lasting beauty were composed.
Some of such poems were penned, according to some researchers, by Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, Naeem Siddiqi, Jeelani Kamran, Majeed Amjad, Muneer Niazi, Safdar Mir, Qateel Shifai, Shaurish Kashmiri, Farigh Bukhari, Shaer Lukhnavi, Ada Jafri, Amjad Islam Amjad, Sehba Akhter, Saqi Javed, Jafer Tahir, Mukhtar Siddiqi, Ahmed Faraz, and many others.
Dr Tahira Nayyar has mentioned in her thesis that even a romantic genre such as ghazal could not remain aloof and was taken in with the wave of patriotism that was sweeping all over. Traces of such emotions can be found in some ghazals of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmed Faraz and Mahir-ul-Qadri.
Some critics believe that Pakistani Urdu fiction could not come up on the occasion as forcefully as did Urdu poetry. But it is a fact that Urdu short story writers contributed their bit.
And one should not forget that, according to Shahzad Manzar, novel and short stories — unlike poems and songs — require a plot, characters, certain descriptive style and a story-like narrative and it is never easy to hastily put all these things together with a certain point of view and commitment.
Despite all this, a large number of Urdu short stories were written on the theme and events of 1965 war, albeit some of them read like reportage or sound like slogan-chanting. The short story writers who wrote some moving pieces on the topic included Intizar Hussain, Altaf Fatima, Masood Mufti and some others. In 1969, Masood Mufti published Rag-e-sang, a collection of short stories exclusively capturing the essence of the sacrifices and emotions of his fellow countrymen.
In the aftermath of war, newspapers and literary magazines published special issues on 1965 war and put together many important literary pieces written against the backdrop of the war.
Some of these literary magazines include Nuqoosh, Naqsh, Funoon, Adabi dunya, Saqi, Afkaar and Khatoon-i-Pakistan. And hardly any newspaper or magazine was there that did not publish an editorial or two on the war.
It is a fact that the 1965 war created a new sensibility in Pakistan’s Urdu literature. The intellectual circles were beset with new questions. Some of these issues were related to the creation of Pakistan, Pakistan as a geographical and ideological entity, writers’ commitment to the state (not the government) and Pakistani nationalism.
Ahmed Javed once wrote that 1965 war worked as a psychological catharsis for the nation. The issues such the definition of Pakistan ideology and Pakistani culture were raised and many books and articles were written as to what constitutes Pakistani culture and what do we mean when we say Pakistaniyat.
The study of literary and intellectual aspects of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war as reflected in Pakistani Urdu literature is indeed a topic fit for a PhD dissertation.
Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2015
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