PESHAWAR: Renowned poet and fiction writer Dr Salma Shaheen, who enjoys a unique status among literary circles, attained superannuation as the first-ever woman director from Pashto Academy, university of Peshawar, on April 10, 2014 after serving for more than three decades.
Departing director of Pashto Academy feels satisfied on retirement
Author of 18 books both in Pashto and Urdu, Dr Shaheen is widely known for her bold artistic expression and creative thoughts advocating to free Pakhtun women from the clutches of male-chauvinism.
“I feel quite satisfied with the job I have done. I am leaving Pashto Academy with lots of seeds have been sowed and which I hope will grow tomorrow into tall trees. I have supervised five doctorate theses. Being a woman, I have seen ups and downs during my difficult journey spanned over more than three decades but today I see a bright future for Pakhtun women as they enjoy more freedom and space than I had,” she told Dawn here on Sunday.
Born on April 16, 1954 at Bughdada, Mardan, Dr Shaheen was encouraged by her father to get education. She passed her 10th grade from a local government girls high school in 1971, qualified her intermediate and graduation from Government College for Women, Mardan and earned her degree of doctorate in 2002 on ‘Modern Pashto poem’.
Her research work on Pashto tapa ‘Rohi Sandary’ (folk songs), short stories collection Kanri auo Aghzi (stones and thorns) and her poetry collection ‘Za Hum Haghse Wara Way’ (If I were a child once again) gained widespread fame.
Dr Shaheen would take great interest in literary pursuits and gained popularity among the literary circles. Her maiden poetry collection Nawey Sahar (1982) was well received by poetry lovers.
“My future plans are to work on some literary female figures and continue my poetic journey but I would not join politics as some of my friends suggest because being a literati I cannot speak otherwise. Women should come forward to serve,” Dr Shaheen said.
She struggled hard to restore Pashto Academy in 2011 after it was merged into ‘Centre for Pashto language and literature’ in 2009. During her tenure, the academy brought out about 120 books on music, dance, hujra, jirga and various aspects of Pakhtunwali while 450 old manuscripts were preserved and 2,000 rare manuscripts were digitalised and catalogued while a full-fledged ‘Pakhtun Cultural Museum’ was also set up adjacent to the academy and Pashto dictionary project was revived and doctorate classes were launched in 2006.
Dr Shaheen being recipient of numerous awards has represented Pakistan in more than 50 national and international seminars and symposia and earned global recognition for the Pashto Academy in milieu of qualitative research and creative publications.
She proved her mettle as strong feminine voice, poet, committed social worker and a good administrator. During her nine-year service as director, Pashto Academy scaled new heights of success as a research and publication institution.
Dr Shaheen had started her writing career when she was in her 8th grade. Her father being a visionary worker of Khudai Khidmatgaar Tehreek supported his talented daughter to fight for rights of Pakhtun women.
“I was fortunate to have an enlightened father. I drew inspiration from his vision but still working in a male-dominated society was a great challenge. I kept on going my way despite hurdles. I did not waste time because a maxim goes ‘best never rest’. There was a time when male-Pakhtun would reluctant to get married to an educated Pashtun woman but today they take pride in it,” she recalled.
Dr Shaheen said there were more opportunities for Pakhtun women than before but fighting for their rights was still a hard fort to scale. “Not only Pakhtun women are struggling hard, women in general are being meted out a strange attitude, but strong willpower, knowledge and vision can help them free from the clutches of male-chauvinism,” she said.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2014