Ashfaque Ahmed

Ashfaq Ahmed, (22 August 1925 -7 September 2004) was a distinguished writer, playwright, broadcaster, intellectual and spiritualist from Pakistan. He was regarded by many as among the finest Urdu Afsana (short-story) writers alongside Saadat Hasan Manto, Qurratulain Hyder, Prem Chand, Bedi, Mirza Adeeb, Ismat Chughtai and Krishan Chander following the publication of his famous short-story Gaddarya (“The Shepherd”) in 1955.

Life and career

Ahmed was born on 22 August 1925 in Firozpur, British Punjab. He obtained his early education in his native district. Shortly before independence in 1947, he migrated to Pakistan and made Lahore his abode. He completed his Masters in Urdu literature from Government College Lahore. Bano Qudsia, his wife and companion in Urdu literary circles who is also a novelist of Urdu, was his classmate at Government College. After Partition, when Ahmed arrived at the Walton refugee camp with millions of other migrants, he made many announcements on a megaphone. Later, he got a job in Radio Azad Kashmir, which was established on a truck that used to drive around in various parts of Kashmir. He then gained a lectureship at Dayal Singh College, Lahore for two years, after which he went to Rome to join Radio Rome as an Urdu newscaster. He also taught Urdu at Rome University. During his stay in Europe, he earned diplomas in the Italian and French languages from the University of Rome and the University of Grenoble, France. He also gained a training diploma in radio broadcasting from New York University. He started writing stories in his childhood, which were published in Phool (“Flower”) magazine. After returning to Pakistan from Europe, he created his own monthly literary magazine, Dastaango (“Story Teller”), and joined Radio Pakistan as a script writer. The Government of Pakistan appointed him editor of the popular Urdu weekly, Lail-o-Nahar (“Day and Night”), in place of poet Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum. In 1962, Ahmed started his weekly radio program, Talqeen Shah (“The Preacher”) which made him popular among the people in towns and villages. It ran for three decades, the longest weekly radio show in the subcontinent. He was appointed director of the Markazi Urdu Board in 1966, which was later renamed as Urdu Science Board, a post he held for 29 years. He remained with the board until 1979. He also served as adviser in the Education Ministry during Zia-ul-Haq’s regime. In the 1960s, he produced a feature film, Dhoop aur Saie (“Shadows and Sunshine”), which was not very successful at the box office .