Man of Letters

The passing away of Amjad Islam Amjad has created a vacuum in Pakistan’s literary scene.

By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar | March 2023

Seldom do we come across individuals whom we never met, but their words, thoughts, and ideas remain with us. Amjad Islam Amjad was one such person who was not a stranger to his readers. The celebrated Urdu poet and dramatist breathed his last on February 10. He was 78.

Amjad wrote a plethora of poems and prose as he ventured into the depths of his ideas. What he presented for the readers was a cascading symphony of words embedded with his concepts and philosophies that will remain alive forever. The news of Amjad Islam Amjad’s passing away came just two days before an all-round artiste Zia Mohyeddin left for his eternal abode. One wonders how the literary fabric of Pakistan will withstand the vacuum created by the end of these two distinct eras. Indeed, these two wizards of words were institutions in themselves.

Amjad Islam Amjad was born on August 4, 1944, in Lahore. After completing his graduation from the Government Islamia College Civil Lines, he received his degree in Masters of Arts in Urdu Literature from the Punjab University. He served as a teacher at the Government Muhammadan Anglo Oriental College Lahore. From 1975 to 1979 he served as the director of the Pakistan Television Corporation.

Gracing a simple character, adorning a smile, and with plainness as his aura, Amjad Islam Amjad was a humble individual who ascended his way to the top of the literary scene of the country. Through his writings, he instilled in the readers the ideals that sent them into introspection.

One of the most popular TV serials to be aired on PTV was Waris written by Amjad. It was aired from December 1979 to March 1980. The story focused on Chaudhry Hashmat Khan (played by Mehboob Alam) who rules his territory that is planned to be used for a dam. Amjad was once asked if the story of Waris was a reflection of his life, he replied, “People often discuss this issue with me and most of them do not believe in the fact of my life that I have never been to a village as a resident throughout my life span. They believe that the meticulous handling of and command over this topic is proof that the writer has at least a 20-year experience of living in a feudal society.”

Other TV serials that Amjad wrote include Dehleez (1981), Samandar (1983), Waqt (1986), Din (1992) among others. Among the long plays that he wrote include Bazdeed, Dukhon Ki Chadar, Apney Log, Laikin, Dhund Ke Uss Par, Sham Se Pehley and Baazgasht. In 1966, Amjad had his first piece of poetry published in the magazine, Funoon, which was launched by Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi.

Amjad wrote over 70 books, and wrote numerous long plays and general plays for the PTV along with plays for children and short films. Amjad published his first poetic collection, Barzakh (1974). This was followed by the publication of his collections of poetry including Satvan Dar (1978), Fishar (1982), Us Paar (1992), Baarish ki Aawaz (1997), Sahar Asar (1998), Sahilon Ki Hawa (1999), Yahiin Kahiin (2006), Nazdeek (2009), and many others.

He also ventured into the lyrical world of writing ghazals and geets, but he is known for writing nazms. “I like the structure and freedom of the genre; it allows me to introduce an idea, develop it properly, examine it at length, and then take it to a crescendo,” he once told in an interview with a magazine.

Amjad Islam Amjad received many awards and accolades during his career that cemented his legacy as a man of letters. Among the titles he was bestowed with include Sitara-i-Imtiaz (1998), Pride of Performance (1987), National Hijra Iqbal Award (Best Book of Poetry: Fishaar, 1982), Writers’ Guild Award (Best Translation Work: Aks, 1976), Karachi Arts Council Award, (Best Book of Prose: Nai Puraney, 1991), PTV Awards, Graduate Awards, and many others.

During the recently held Pakistan Literature Festival in Lahore, speakers paid tribute to Amjad Islam Amjad. Among the chairs placed for the panelists on the stage, a vacant chair was marked with Amjad’s picture on it. It was indeed an emotional sight that left everyone teary-eyed.