A cultivated poet from an uncivilised age

Riaz Tasnim’s contributions to Pashto literature are fondly remembered and appreciated

A cultivated  poet from an uncivilised age


he Pashto literary circle of Karachi has made significant contributions to the promotion of Pashto literature for the last three decades. Riaz Tasnim was one of the people who provided Pashto with considerable work.

Tasnim died in a Karachi hospital on December 4, 2017, falling victim to hepatitis C-related complications.

Born in 1969 in Swato village of Charsadda, Tasnim completed intermediate studies from Islamia College, Peshawar. In the early ’90s, he moved to Karachi, where he lived till the end.

Soon after graduation, he joined the police service. He also taught as a private school teacher.

Karachi’s fertile literary landscape allowed him to create fine poetry. Tasnim introduced a unique genre to Pashto ghazal, which is widely lauded. Many Pashto poets have since adopted the style.

Tasnim opted for a colloquial style in his poetry, which is quite interesting. Sometimes, while talking about the Divine and his connection with the Exalted he uses terms like pir, murshid, majzoob and malang.

In many of his ghazals, Tasnim has words like parizad, sabarob and sangay when addressing his beloved one to express internal pain.

One can easily conclude that he was born a poet. His approach is inspiring and his sensibility appealing to the readers.

Prior to his departure for Karachi, he had served as a sub-editor at a Pashto daily, Wuhdat in Peshawar. In Karachi, he became a regular contributor to monthly Jaras, a well-read Pashto journal printed from Karachi for more than 13 years.

Besides having a distinctive poetic style, he was a distinguished critic. The lack of critical writings in Pashto deeply concerned Tasnim. His published volumes of poetry are Da Kum Rang May Kasheed Karhay (what colours I have painted), Chandarh (the sandalwood tree), and Za Ka Da Waray Oda Shwam (If I went to sleep this time).

Pashto literature suffered an irreparable loss by Tasnim’s untimely departure. He remains alive in the memories of his followers and colleagues.

In one of his Pashto literary reviews titled “A great poet of a vulgar time”, eminent writer Sabir Shinwari writes “Riaz Tasnim was the only poet of the age who taught us how love is offered in a book? His deep approach and farsightedness differentiate him from his contemporaries. His poetry is a continuous dialogue with closed doors and semi-collapsed walls. As a cultivated poet of an uncivilised age, Tasnim has done enough for the redecoration and improvement of our time. He made norms his source of expression and also his goal. Tasnim fulfils the need of a solid and creative culture beyond the Pashtun civilisation.“

As an unswerving follower of Khushal Khan Khattak and Qalandar Momand, Tasnim believed in both humanism and Pakhtun nationalism. Paying rich tribute to him on the eve of his first death anniversary, senior Pashto poet and scholar Saleem Raz said “Riaz Tasnim had an earnest spirit. He was a trendsetter. His extraordinary work made him highly distinct from his fellow poets and writers”.

I met him for the first time in Karachi in 2010 when he had arranged a Pashto Mushaira at Bacha Khan Markaz in Banaras. Though diabetes had taken a toll on his health, Tasnim’s eyes were full of hope.

Tasnim’s ghazals have influenced a vast number of people on both sides of the Durand Line.

Che kalai chup v no rasai da dar khabary kwi

No dasi wakht ki lewani da kar khbray kwi

Her zai au her chata mo khpla muda’a byan kra

Os di pa mozh pasey da warha shar khabary kwi

[When all the people keep tight-lipped and only the gallows speak

The lunatics tell the truth

We put our aim before everyone and everywhere,

Now all the people may comment behind our back]

He wrote a literary report, titled Bed No 28, during his days of hospitalisation, narrating a tale of his days of sickness.

Tasnim also published a volume of selected poetry of Khushal Khan Khattak (Muntakhibat Khushal Khan Khattak).

Pashto literature has suffered an irreparable loss with Tasnim’s untimely departure. He remains alive in the memories of his followers and in his work.

The writer is a   columnist and lecturer at the government degree college Zhob. He can be reached at   hussainhunarmal @gmail.com

A cultivated poet from an uncivilised age