PESHAWAR, June 3: Born to a humble family at Gara Tajik village near Peshawar city in 1935 Sultan Mohammad alias Maatu Khan did his graduation from Edwards College, Peshawar, in 1955 followed by masters in Political Science and History in 1958 and 1960 respectively from the University of Peshawar.
He had a penchant for deep study of world religions, philosophy, psychology and literature since his early age. For the last over three decades he remained in complete hibernation under family pressure.
“I am in the twilight of my life but my heart is young. I thought why I should take risk as whatever I had to do, I did. I wanted to open a new chapter in the Pashto literature; I did not like to talk to media on the issue but one day one has to divulge one’s past,” Maatu Khan broke his silence and spoke for the first time after three decades to Dawn. Inspired by Manto, Maatu Khan launched his literary career by publishing his maiden Pashto short story in 1954 titled “Stergey” (the eyes) in the literary magazine of Edwards College, Peshawar, which earned him a widespread fame among Pashtun literary circles. A popular senior Pashto writer then Nasrullah Khan Nasr invited him to his hujra and appreciated his first literary attempt. The acknowledgment from a literary giant encouraged Maatu Khan to look for introducing new ideas into Pashto literature.
“I thought that the new idea could be to touch upon the issue of sex which is still a taboo in a typical Pashtun society. I was not doing it for satisfying my personal sexual urge; it was and is still a real issue. Youngsters don’t have awareness of it; they need proper guidance as our society has been plagued by issues related to sex, but we are still in a state of denial. Though I earned a bad name for daring touch upon such untold issues, I pioneered a trend and to a great extent I was successful,” Maatu Khan argued.
It was a coincidence that Manto in Urdu and Maatu Khan in Pashto fiction were dubbed by public as proponent of sex, propagating immorality through their writings. Even critics and writers of the time did not spare them. Both faced public wrath, litigation, ban and confiscation of copies of their pieces. He contributed three novels to Pashto fiction in early 70s on the issue when no writer could dare touch taboos like sex.
His first Pashto novel titled ‘Chaude Kheekha’ (the broken mirror) came out in 1962 narrating the story of illicit relationship of an English woman Maj with a Pashtun Shazaman Khan; his second novel (Intizar -- 1966) exposes the moral, cultural and political fabric of an Asian society, while his third novel ‘Heray auo Eray’ (pearls and ashes -- 1978) throws light on the relation of mankind to universe, but all the three stories revolve round the issue of sex. His first novel was banned in the West Pakistan during One Unit.
“Noted critic Qalandar Momand once complained to my mother that I was spreading vulgarity, but the founder director of Pashto academy and prominent scholar Maulana Abdul Qadir once embraced and told me that I had taken a bold step and I should continue writing like this. My novels triggered a hot critical debate among literary circles,” Maatu said.
Even political stalwarts like Wali Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto awarded him with commendatory certificates and cash prizes on his books. But conservative writers could not swallow the harsh truth, recalled Maatu Khan. He said that his stories exposed real face of the society. “Our youngsters are driven by extremism and vulgarity though they have potential and strength to change the society,” he observed.
Maatu Khan was critical of CDs culture, saying it tended to breed violence among youth. He said that Pashto still needed genuine writers to highlight issues of women and youth.
“Woman is not a showpiece, she must be given her due status. Pashtun women like in other conservative societies are unprotected,” he maintained.
The octogenarian writer used to write for The Frontier Post on social issues for quite sometime. Once condemned for being a vulgar writer, the Pashtun critics now rank Maatu Khan’s novels of high literary standard and term Maatu Khan the pioneer of the subject of sex in Pashto fiction.