By Khurram Ali Shafique

There is a furore over the statement given by the Indian actor Saif Ali Khan in one of his interviews. “I don’t have faith in Pakistan, generally,” he has said while commenting on the ban on his movie Phantom in Pakistan.

Yes, our anger as Pakistanis is understandable but what about those serious writers of so-called high literature, who said the same thing as Saif, i.e., they have no faith in Pakistan? We have been giving them accolades, and have included them in our syllabus!

If they had not been turned into holy cows, we may not have been in this trouble today in the first place. The truth is that the cultural hijacking of Pakistan was planned long before the country came into existence, and it started with high culture.

We only need to go through the list of those writers of Urdu who received critical acclaim after 1935. Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sadat Hasan Manto, Muhammad Hasan Askari, Salim Ahmad, Quratul Ain Hyder, Abdullah Husain, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi – which of these luminaries did not say at one point of another that he or she did not have faith in Pakistan?

Not only them. While we may be grateful to Qudratullah Shahab, Mumtaz Mufti, Ashfaq Ahmed and their likes for teaching us patriotism in their later days but unfortunately even they had to start by making similar statements in order to gain initial recognition by the intelligentsia – Ya Khuda by Qudratullah Shahab is a glaring example.

Jamiluddin Aali and A. Hameed were among those newcomers who did not curse Pakistan in any manner and consequently, although they were also writing the same kind of stuff as other writers of high literature – and arguably better – they were seldom taken seriously by the literary critics.

Even more tragic is the case of those literary giants of the pre-partition era who survived into the later period and were much senior than any of the writers names here. Yet, because they refused to curse Pakistan, their literary achievements were ignored by the later day intelligentsia of Pakistan. The new generation hardly knows anything about their work – Hafeez Jallundhri, Mian Bashir Ahmad, Hakeem Ahmad Shuja, Sheikh Abdul Qadir, M. Aslam and many, many others.

We need to pause and think how our literature was hijacked from the very beginning, and why. “I don’t have faith in Pakistan, generally.” Saif Ali Khan is not the first to say this. Before him, this cry has been shouted by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sadat Hasan Manto, Quratul Ain Hyder, Sajjad Zaheer, Abdullah Husain and many others.

Without any disrespect to any of those geniuses, can the people of Pakistan have the right to acknowledge some other writers who had faith in Pakistan and entertained no ill-will towards any other nation either?