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Fiction writer, critic, co-founder of KLF Asif Farrukhi is no more


June 2, 2020

Dr Asif Aslam Farrukhi, noted fiction writer, critic and co-founder of the Karachi Literary Festival and Adab Festival, passed away on Monday. He was 60.

Farrukhi, a diabetic, had been unwell for the past few days, according to people in his close circles. His funeral prayers will be held today (Tuesday) after Asr at the Jamia Masjid in the University of Karachi. He will be laid to rest in the varsity’s graveyard.

He is survived by two daughters.

Along with former Oxford University Press (OUP) managing director Ameena Saiyid, Asif has the credit for founding the first literature festival in Pakistan, the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF). The two later founded the Adab Festival in 2019.

He was the son of distinguished Urdu scholar, poet, researcher and writer Dr Aslam Farrukhi who passed away after a prolonged illness in 2016.

A public health physician by training, Asif was a professor of practice at the Arzu Programme for Languages and Literature and director of the Arzu Centre for Regional Languages and Humanities at the Habib University.

According to his profile provided by Habib University, he completed his MBBS from the Dow Medical College, Karachi, in 1984 and master’s in public health with concentration in international health from the Harvard University, US, in 1988.

He completed the short course on health economics and financing from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2012. He also served as a senior instructor in community health sciences at the Aga Khan University, Karachi, with primary responsibilities of teaching undergraduate medical and nursing students and developing modules of primary health care in under-served areas of Pakistan.

From 1994 to 2014, he served as the health and nutrition programme officer at UNICEF, Karachi, with the primary responsibility of planning, monitoring and managing maternal and child health-related interventions in collaboration with the government and NGOs.

However, his career in medicine did not let his interest in literature and linguistics wane. He authored several books, including collections of short stories and essays on literary criticism. His collections of short stories include Ism-e-Azam ki Talash, Mein Shaakh Se Kyun Toota, Aik Aadmi ki Kami, Shehr Beeti and others. Aalam Eejad and Nigah-e-Aaina Saaz are compilations of his essays on literary criticism. His recent publications included a collection of new critical essays on Manto and Look At The City From Here, an anthology of writings about Karachi, published by Oxford University Press.

He was also a translator who translated various prose and poetry works of foreign languages into Urdu. Farrukhi also regularly wrote on literature and books in Dawn. He was also the editor of Duniyazad, a literary journal.

For his distinguished work, he was awarded the Prime Minister’s Literary Award by the Pakistan Academy of Letters in 1997 and Tamgha-i-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan. One of the legacies of Asif will be literature festivals in the country as he and Ameena were the organisers of the first KLF, which is the first literary festival of Pakistan. The two later started the annual Islamabad Literature Festival as well.

Speaking to The News, Ameena said she had an association of around 25 years with Asif as he would regularly write, review, edit and translate books for the OUP. She said it was in 2009 when she attended the Jaipur Literature Festival in India where she was surprised to see how the Indian writers were treated like royalty. She said upon returning, she thought if a similar festival could be organised in Pakistan as well. As she discussed the idea with Asif, he was more than ready to pursue it, and they both succeeding in founding the KLF.