Raza Naeem

Raza Naeem

The author is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and translator. His translations of Saadat Hasan Manto have been re-translated in both Bengali and Tamil, and he received a prestigious Charles Wallace Trust Fellowship in 2014-2015 for his translation and interpretive work on Manto. He is presently working on a book of translations of Manto's progressive writings, tentatively titled Comrade Manto.

Majaz Lakhnawi to the labourers: ‘The day we rebel, Judgement Day will compel’

The Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif has announced that a first-ever labour policy for the province would be announced today, on the occasion of International Labour Day. This is welcome news from the incumbent chief minister, known to publicly recite from the popular poets and bard of the Pakistani working class, Habib Jalib in his more distracted moments. While the national government has yet to announce a more conciliatory policy for the hardworking workers of the country, the chief minister might also be interested in another progressive intervention on behalf of the workers from our not-too-distant past, the ...

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Majaz Lakhnawi advices young women to ‘lift the veil, raise the flag’

Majaz Lakhnawi lived through a turbulent yet exciting time: in 1930’s British-controlled India, where patriarchy also raised its ugly head, especially in Muslim households. Yet Majaz, who himself was born in a Muslim family, became a prominent member of the Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA), whose task was to rid India both of British colonialism and patriarchy. He quickly became a popular poet, ahead of his illustrious peers, both amongst young men and women, due to his message of revolution and female emancipation. Owing to just a few of his poems, Majaz has entered the pantheon of great poets who recounted the social history of the Indian subcontinent ...

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Would Malcolm X have denounced Obama’s imperial adventures in Pakistan and Afghanistan?

“The house Negro usually lived close to his master. He dressed like his master. He wore his master’s second-hand clothes. He ate the food that his master left on the table. When the master would be sick, the house Negro identified himself so much with the master, he’d say, ‘What’s the matter, boss, we sick?’ The house Negro was in minority. The field Negroes were the masses. They were in the majority. When the master got sick, they prayed that he’d die. If his house caught on fire, they’d pray for a wind to come along and fan the ...

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Kashmir ko Salam

Kashmir played an important part in Krishan Chander’s fiction; he initially spent a lot of time in Poonch owing to his father’s employment there and used to return to Kashmir whenever the opportunity afforded itself. His first three short stories were devoted to the beautiful valley and its people. Of about twelve stories which he wrote on Kashmir in all, are two novels, Shikast (Defeat) and Mitti kay Sanam (Earthen Idols). At least five decades before Kashmiri poets and writers like Agha Shahid Ali, Basharat Peer and Mirza Waheed and indeed filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj’s recent memorable Kashmiri nod to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his film Haider became household names, Chander wrote presciently in a preface to his collected ...

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In Manto’s words, this is what Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi looks like

We live in strange times. Saudi Arabia’s ageing despot has finally died. The difference between then and now of course is that Saudi visits are hardly as honest and just as scarcely the bearer of good news for Pakistan’s perpetually-indebted elite. If in the 1950s they brought some hope for the poor along with gold, now these visits carry a heavy price tag, despite assurances to the contrary from the country’s financial mandarins after the latest Saudi bequest of $1.5 billion in a scarcely-entertaining drama at the national level. And the heavy price-tag might end up consuming Pakistan itself. Our dependence on Saudi oil, remittances ...

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60 years ago Saadat Hasan Manto knew what Pakistan was in for today

“I have seen him;  On the cleanest roads, in a dust-covered amazement;  In the gathering storm of blind, overturned cups; Tossing the empty bottle he shouts, ‘Oh world! Your beauty is your ugliness.’  Booms becoming the noise of chains, The world stares back at him, Their bloodshot eyes rattle with the question, ‘Who nabs the pillar of time, By the noose of his drunken breath? Who dares to break into dim corridors, Of twisted conscience? Who intrudes upon poisonous dens, Of demonised souls? Through icy glasses his rude glance, Chases us like a footfall, Foul monster! Bang! Bang!” (A poem for Manto – Majeed Amjad) The man who saw beauty in the world’s ugliness and for whom this poem ...

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Are we the new slaves of American imperialism?

2014 is being celebrated as the birth centenary of prominent Indian Progressive writer, Krishan Chander (1914-77). He completed his postgraduate education in Lahore until 1947, when he migrated to India. Saadat Hasan Manto is often credited with being the only Pakistani writer of his generation to foresee the patterns of Pakistani state and society, especially its ruling elite’s increasing political opportunism and its ties to US imperialism, and the increasing intolerance in our society. In India, it was Krishan Chander who acutely foresaw patterns of political corruption, as well as increasing Americanisation of its huge middle-class, symptoms of which had started appearing in the ...

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Iqbal’s relevance as explained by Saadat Hasan Manto

I first came to translating Saadat Hasan Manto about two years ago, 2012 being celebrated as the birth centenary year of this literary lion. Partly intrigued by the Kashmiri roots I share with him, and partly disgusted by the neat pigeonholing done by literary critics, Manto could apparently only either be a realist of sex or partition. I sought to bring the joy of his satirical and prescient nonfictional pieces about postcolonial Pakistan to an audience – not necessarily a younger one – that had been brought up on the comfortable fiction that Manto was not a political animal with a far-reaching ...

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