Pakistani literature

Pakistan literature, that is, the literature of Pakistan, is a distinct literature that gradually came to be defined after Pakistan gained nationhood status in 1947, emerging out of literary traditions of the Indian subcontinent.[1] The shared tradition of Urdu literature and English literature of British India was inherited by the new state. Over a period a body of literature unique to Pakistan has emerged in nearly all major Pakistani languages, including Urdu, English, Punjabi, Balochi, Pushto and Sindhi.


The nature of Pakistani literature soon after independence aroused controversy among writers due to its being centered heavily on the negative events related to the India-Pakistan partition. According to Gilani Kamran (GC University), Pakistani literature was expected to take a new direction along with the new state of Pakistan at this point, but did not immediately meet this expectation. Saadat Hassan Manto (1912–1955), a prominent writer of short stories of the South Asia, produced great literature out of the events relating to the India-Pakistan independence. His literature is considered to be progressive in its tone and spirit. According to several critics it had not only evolved its own identity, but also had played a significant role in documenting the hardships and hopes of Pakistan in the latter part of the 20th century. Today, Pakistani literature has taken a shape of its own by depicting the complex class system and common man. Contemporary authors such as. It also has evolved in merging Urdu literary forms and English literature leading to experimentation. Many writers of fiction borrow from English and vice versa. Pakistani literature's main official platform is the Pakistan Academy of Letters, whose work is overseen by a Board of Governors.

Pakistani English literature

English is an official language of Pakistan and has been established in the area since the British colonial era. The dialect of English spoken in Pakistan is known as Pakistani English. English language poetry from Pakistan from the beginning held a special place in South Asian writing, notably with the work of Shahid Suhrawardy, Ahmed Ali, Alamgir Hashmi, Daud Kamal, Taufiq Rafat, and Maki Kureishi, and later of M. Athar Tahir, Waqas Ahmed Khwaja, Omer Tarin, Hina Babar Ali and others; but fiction from Pakistan began to receive recognition in the latter part of the 20th century, with the popularity of the Parsi author Bapsi Sidhwa who wrote The Crow Eaters, Cracking India (1988), etc., after the earlier reputations of Ahmed Ali and Zulfikar Ghose had been made in international fiction. In the diaspora, Hanif Kureshi commenced a prolific career with the novel The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), which won the Whitbread Award, and Aamer Hussein wrote a series of acclaimed short story collections. Sara Suleri published her literary memoir, Meatless Days (1989). Pakistani English writing has had some readership in the country. From 1980's Pakistani English literature began to receive national and official recognition, when the Pakistan Academy of Letters included works originally written English in its annual literary awards. The first major English writer to receive this national honour was Alamgir Hashmi. Subsequently, through the last three decades, a number of other English writers, including Bapsi Sidhwa, Kamila Shamsie and Nadeem Aslam, have been recognized by the Academy. In the early years of the 21st century, a number of Pakistani novelists writing in English won or were shortlisted for international awards. Mohsin Hamid published his first novel Moth Smoke (2000), which won the Betty Trask Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award; he has since published his second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Kamila Shamsie, who was awarded in Pakistan the Prime Minister's Literary Award for her first novel, was shortlisted for the John Llewelyn Rhys award for her third novel, Kartography (2002); she has since published her fourth novel, Broken Verses. Uzma Aslam Khan was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Eurasia region) for her second novel, Trespassing (2003). Asad Shabbir broke the all-time Pakistani record by becoming the youngest author on an international level when he published his debut novel, Leo Solay, at the age of 16. British-Pakistani writer Nadeem Aslam won the Kuriyama Prize for his second book, Maps for Lost Lovers (2004). The first novel of Mohammed Hanif, A Case of Exploding Mangoes (2008) was shortlisted for the 2008 Guardian First Book Award.Emerging authors Kamila Shamsie and Daniyal Mueenuddin have garnered wide attention.

Pakistani Persian literature

During the early Muslim period, Persian became the lingua franca of the subcontinent, used by most of the educated and the government. Urdu, Pakistan's national language and lingua franca, draws heavy influences from the Persian language (see Persian and Urdu). Although Persian literature from Persia itself was popular, several figures in South Asia, and later Pakistan, became major Persian poets, the most notable being Allama Iqbal. For a time, Persian remained the court language of the Mughals, soon to be replaced by Urdu. Persian still held its status, despite the spread of Urdu, well into the early years of the British rule in the Indian subcontinent. Most British officials had to learn Persian on coming to South Asia and concluded their conversations in Persian. In 1837, however, the British, in an effort to expand their influence, made a government ruling to discontinue the use of Persian and commence the use of English instead. Thus started the decline of Persian as the subcontinent's lingua franca, a position to be taken up by the new language of the British Raj, English. Persian is regarded as a cultural language of Pakistan, and its national anthem is also composed in Persian. Languages spoken in Pakistan still show signs of heavy Persian influence.