Pakistan’s famous ‘misfits’

Every system has its misfits but the religion-based political structure of Pakistan seems to have generated more than its share. Here is a list of a few famous writers, musicians and other creative people who were hunted down in Pakistan instead of having been recognized for their contributions.

I am presenting it here in the hopes that this list will grow with more information from Uddari readers about Pakistan’s ‘misfitting’ famous and non-famous creative people.

By Waseem Altaf

Today i.e. on Sunday 25th July, I was watching a program on Qurattulain Haider on a private channel and I recalled that she had come to Pakistan in 1949. By then she had attained the stature of a world class writer. She joined the Press Information Department and served there for quite some time. In 1959 her greatest novel ‘Aag ka Darya’ was published. ‘Aag Ka Dariya’ raised important questions about Partition and rejected the two-nation theory. It was this more than anything else that made it impossible for her to continue in Pakistan, so she left for India and permanently settled there.

Sahir Ludhianvi, one of the finest romantic poets of Urdu language settled in Lahore in 1943, where he worked for a number of literary magazines. Everything was alright until after partition when his inflammatory writings (communist views and ideology) in Savera magazine resulted in the issuing of a warrant for his arrest by the Government of Pakistan. In 1949 Sahir fled to India and never looked back.

Sajjad Zaheer, the renowned progressive writer Marxist thinker and revolutionary who came to Pakistan after partition, was implicated in Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case and was extradited to India in 1954.

Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan was a Pakistani citizen, regarded as one of the greatest classical singers of the sub continent, was so disillusioned by the apathy shown towards him and his art that he applied for, and was granted a permanent Indian immigrant visa in 1957-58. He migrated to India and lived happily thereafter.

All of the above lived a peaceful and prosperous life in India and were conferred numerous national awards by the Government of India.

Saadat Hassan Manto a renowned short story writer, migrated to Pakistan after 1947. Here he was tried thrice for obscenity in his writings. Disheartened and financially broke he expired at the age of 42. In 2005, on his fiftieth death anniversary, the Government of Pakistan issued a commemorative postage stamp.

Zia Sarhadi the Marxist activist and a film director who gave us such memorable films as ‘Footpath’ and ‘Humlog’, was a celebrity in Bombay when he chose to migrate to Pakistan. ‘Rahguzar’, his first movie in this country, turned out to be the last that he ever directed. During General Ziaul Haq’s martial law, he was picked up by the army and kept in solitary confinement in terrible conditions. The charges against him were sedition and an inclination towards Marxism. On his release, he left the country to settle permanently in the UK and never came back.

Faiz Ahmad Faiz, one of the greatest Urdu poets of the 20th century was arrested in 1951 under Safety Act and charged in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case. Later he was jailed for more than four years.

Professor Abdussalam the internationally recognized Pakistani physicist, was disowned by his own country due to his religious beliefs, went to Italy and settled there. He could have been murdered in the land of Islam but was awarded the Nobel prize in the West for his contribution in the field of physics.

Ustad Daman, the ‘simpleton’ Punjabi poet had a flair of his own. Due to his unorthodox views, many a times he was sent behind bars. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru offered him Indian citizenship which he refused. The reward he received here was the discovery of a bomb from his shabby house for which he was sent to jail by the populist leader Mr.Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

I was wondering, had Mohammad Rafi the versatile of all male singers of the Indian sub-continent chose to stay in Pakistan, what would have been his fate. A barber in the slums of Bilal Gunj in lahore. And Dilip Kumar selling dry fruit in Qissa Khawani Bazaar, Peshawar.

Ustad Salamat Ali a bhagwan in Atari turned out to be a mirasi in Wahga all his life. Last time I met him at his rented house in Islamabad, he was in bad shape.

This state was not created and is not meant for these kind of people. Put on a sherwani and recite nahmadahu wa nussali ala rasool e hil karim if the spirit of times so demands. Or put on a designer suit with puppies in both hands and talk of enlightened moderation. Don’t ever defy the status quo, be a part of it, promote it and therein lies the perfect recipe for success.
From Socialist Pakistan News (SPN)

I know, i can add more names to this list including my own. There are many artists living in Pakistan who have dedicated their lives to their art but have to live through ongoing harassment. Kathak dancer/teacher Naheed Siddiqui in Lahore, Bharat Natyam dancer/teacher and an activist Sheema Kirmani in Karachi have performed miracles by surviving in Pakistan as women creative artists. Fahmida Riaz had to leave with her family to live in India during General Zia’s period.

If you know of another ‘misfit’, please add their name to this list via Comments or send us a message at

Fauzia Rafique

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3 comments on “Pakistan’s famous ‘misfits’

  1. Jasdeep says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article,
    but few days back it was published, an article with similar content was published in dawn by Jawed Naqvi
    that appears to be a rip off from this very article published at uddari, the author Jawed Naqwi has not used quotations marks or has not given refrence of the original article.

    Its quite unethical not to quote the original source of writing, please take proper action about it.



  2. K Dhaliwal says:

    What do you expect from a state artificially created by the colonial masters, with the help of fanatic-traitors of the country, which served them very well till September 11, 2001. The names mentioned in this marvellous piece of writing were ‘diamonds’ of the Indian Subcontinent, but they are the ones whose fate we know. What about many more, the unsung heroes, perished in the same struggle.The struggle of raising ‘the word of truth’. There must be many, but I can certainly add the name of Major Isaac Muhammed, the author of ‘MUSALLI’ and KUKNAS’.


  3. Shahid Batalvi says:

    I would have to say that the most vocal misfit, who my father used to call a dervesh, was Habib Jalib and he stood his ground till his dying day.
    Once, in a literary gathering, people told Faiz that he was the nation’s poet. Faiz replied, “No, Jalib is the nation’s poet.”


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