LAHORE: Renowned writer and one of the giants of Urdu novel in the country has also refused to accept the Kamal-i-Fun award announced by the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) in Islamabad some days back, terming it controversial and tainted.

Seraiki poet Dr Ashu Lal has already refused to accept the award immediately after its announcement, saying that he could not accept an award from ‘a fascist state that’s anti-people and anti-art’.

The Kamal-i-Fun award carries prize money of Rs1m too.

Addressing his readers and audience in his video statement posted on social media on Sunday, Tarar said: “Ladies and gentlemen, you must be aware that some days back the country’s highest so-called literary award, Kamal-i-Fun, was announced. In the history of 20/21 years of the award, it’s the first time that the award has been divided (between two people). Otherwise, according to the rules and regulations, it was always given to only one writer of any language”.

Says accepting ‘controversial and tainted’ award is against his creative integrity

Tarar, famous for his novels and travelogues, raised the question as to why the tradition of the award was violated and the rules of the award ignored. He said the move was similar to dividing Sitara-i-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award of Pakistan, between two persons.

“It’s just ridiculous. Sometime back, I came to know the ‘half of the award’ has been awarded to Dr Ashu Lal. He, according to his ideology, refused to accept the award. I think he is right (in rejecting the award) because it was injustice not only to me, but to him as well that he had to share the award’.

Tarar said, “It’s difficult for me to accept the award that’s tainted and controversial. It’s against my creative integrity. That too at the age of 83 and after the creative process of 60 years. No, it’s not acceptable to me”.

However, he expressed gratitude to the members of the PAL committee for their love and kindness as they voted for him. “I am obliged to them and I hope they will understand my point of view”. At the end of his message he thanked his readers, saying that whatever status as a writer he had got was due to his readers. “I get a Kamal-i-Fun award from my readers on (publication of) my every book. They don’t consider me a half-writer but a complete writer.”

Tarar has already received Sitara-i-Imtiaz in the category of literature from the government of Pakistan for the year 2016.

On March 31, Dr Yousuf Khushk, chairman of PAL, announced the names of Mustansar Hussain Tarar and Dr Ashu Lal, selected for the Kamal-i-Fun award for 2020 after a meeting of the award committee at the PAL office. The selection for the award was made by a panel of writers and intellectuals, including Kishwar Nahid, Asghar Nadeem Syed, Mahmood Sham, Muhammad Izharul Haq, Dr Anwar Ahmad, Dr Rauf Parekh, Parveen Malik, Dr Riaz Majeed, Hafeez Khan, Mohammad Hameed Shahid, Dr Abaseen Yousufzai, Nasir Ali Syed, Dr Abdul Razaq Sabir, Dr Zulifqar Sial, Taj Joyo, Dr Ziaul Hasan, Dr Rubina Shaheen, Dr Qasim Naseem, Harris Khalique and Dr Wahid Bux Buzdar.

According to a press release issued by the academy, the Kamal-i-Fun award is bestowed upon a Pakistani writer in recognition of his/her literary services of lifetime. It was launched in 1997. The National Literary Award for books published in various national and regional languages of Pakistan was also announced on the occasion for the year 2020.

After his rejection of the award, Ashu Lal was hailed by the Seraiki speaking people for raising his voice against the state; however, some sections criticised him as well. Some others urged him to accept the award, terming it recognition of Seraiki language, but he remained adamant, due to his ideology. Now rejection of the literary award by Mustansar Hussain Tarar, considered by some as the most famous and the best living novelist of Urdu language from Pakistan, has raised more questions about it and the decision of the award committee.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2022

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