Death of two poets in 2015 leaves void in Pashto literature

Shamsul Qamar Andesh
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Two Pashto writers, poets and critics – Rajwali Shah Khattak and Shamsul Qamar Andesh –passed away in 2015, leaving a piercing void in the hearts of their fans.

Researcher, scholar, poet, critic and academic, Dr Rajwali Shah Khattak died of cardiac arrest at the age of 63 on July 21. Popularly known as “Wali”, he dedicated his life to Pashto literature, culture and traditions.

He was awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz by the government and received international recognition. Khattak was declared “Man of the Year” by American Biographical Institute in 2008 for his achievements that have left a positive impact on the lives of people worldwide.

He introduced modern research methodology in Pashto literature, worked extensively on Pukhtun culture and wrote what is known as the “constitution of Pukhtun life” or a code of “Pukhtunwali”.

Khattak was born in Dak Ismail Khel, Nowshera in 1952. He wrote more than 60 research papers and over 100 critical reviews. His reviews were published in international publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. He completed his PhD in 1985 and served as the director of Pashto Academy from 1995 to 2005.

His oeuvre includes a combination of modern and classical trends. They include a book on the introduction to Pukhtun culture and various works on literary movements in Pashto language. He has written a collection of poems titled Sangzar. Da Rahman Pa Shair is a study of Rahman Baba’s poetry while Ghani da Rang aw Nur Shair deals with Ghani Khan’s poetry.

One of his other works was called Rohology. According to Khattak, Roh is the ancient name of Pakhtunkhwa. As a result, Rohology can be understood as the study of Pakhtunkhwa, Pashto language and literature, culture and a short history of how people in Roh or Pakhtunkhwa used to live. He has also edited Rohi Mataluna (Pashto proverbs), the work of Mohammad Nawaz Tair and Thomas C Edwards.

March 9 was another dark day for Pashto literature. Shamsul Qamar Andesh, a senior poet, died of cardiac arrest at the age of 80 and was buried in his native town in Mayar village, Mardan.

His love for Pashto poetry surfaced when the independence movement was at its peak and Pakhtun Magazine was available at every house.

He was the poet of poets and had a specific style of writing Pashto ghazal, which was also acknowledged by the late Ajal Khattak.

Although he did not publish his poetry during his lifetime, his ghazals were disseminated around the province without being published.

“I think after Hamza Baba, the poet who received attention from intellectuals was Andesh Baba,” says litterateur Dr Israr.

Through his poetry, Andesh skillfully portrayed the many flavours of Pukhtun society. He expressed his dislike for violence, his distress over Pukhtun disunity and urged Pukhtuns to unite and struggle to develop the nation.

“He was a true follower of Bacha Khan’s philosophy of non-violence,” said Dr Israr.

In addition to ghazals, Andesh also wrote tappa, quadrants, poems and short stories. However, he remained the master of the Pashto ghazal.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 31st, 2015.