Original Articles

RIP Hamid Akhtar


Hamid Akhtar Receiving President’s Award for Pride of Performance from Late Governor Salman Taseer


LUBP Editors express their profound grief over the demise of Hamid Akhtar, veteran progressive scholar, activist and columnist.

In the last few years, we have always supported, valued and published Mr. Akhtar’s bold columns which were originally published in Daily Express and some other newspapers. His support for progressive values and politics, critical views on Pakistan’s military establishment and its tight network (which he described as Teen Jeem), his critical views on Mullahs’s narrow, lopsided interpretations of Islam were always a guiding light for our editors and authors.

Indeed, Hamid Akhtar’s discourse was a challenge not only to orthodox right wingers but also to urban centric fake liberals who remain subservient to discourses and tactics of the powerful elite. His support for the Baloch nationalists, Shia Muslims, Ahmadi Muslims and critical views on the Taliban and the Taliban enabling urban elite were always a challenge to lifafa journalists and social activists.

We offer our sincerest condolences to his family and pray to Allah to shower his blessings on the departed soul.

Here is a link to Hamid Akhtar’s articles published on LUBP pages:


Also, here is a link to Hamid Akhtar’s interview (August 2009) with Farrukh Sohail Goindi on “Socialism and Left Movement in Pakistan”


About the author

Abdul Nishapuri


Click here to post a comment
  • I was a regular reader of Hamid Akhter Sahib’s columns. His voice was much more honest and bold than the compromised lot we usually come across in Pakistan’s Urdu AND English media.

  • RIP Hamid Akhtar.

    A path his own

    Ahmad Salim captures the illustrious journey of Hamid Akhtar and comes up with a detailed and worthy biography which is a lively read as well

    By Altaf Hussain Asad

    Swaneh Umri Hamid Akhtar

    By Ahmad Salim

    Book Home Publishers, Mozang Road Lahore, 2010

    Pages: 280;

    Price: Rs480

    Hamid Akhtar spent quite an eventful life. From his early days, he was lucky to have rubbed shoulders with eminent literary giants of his times. Needless to say, he heavily benefited from these experiences and wrote many books on his contemporaries as well as on his own life. This book, Swaneh Umri Hamid Akhtar, is an attempt by Ahmad Salim to present a complete biography of the esteemed writer. Ahmad Salim extensively read Hamid Akhtar’s writings as well as whatever was written on him to come up with this detailed and worthy biography which is a lively read as well.

    Hamid Akhtar and his legendary companions — Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer, Sahir Ludhianvi, Manto, Sibte Hasan, Krishan Chandar and others — dreamt of a classless society, free of any exploitation. They made great effort to meet their goal and faced many hurdles along the path. Hamid Akhtar always stood with them. Basically, he belonged to a family of ‘Pirs’ and he had to rebel against his family to choose a path of his own. Born in Ludhiana, life was not easy for Hamid Akhtar. Orphaned at the age of three, the onus of supporting the family fell on her mother. Akhtar is all praise for her mother who showed great courage and determination in the face of acute circumstances.

    He had a nightmarish experience in a Madrassa where he was sent to learn the Holy Quran. Once there, the oppressive attitude of the cleric irked him, although he learnt the Holy Quran by heart when he was ten. Later, when he was sent to a school in Ludhiana, he made another bold decision. Instead of his family name Akhtar Ali, he enrolled himself as Hamid Akhtar, rejecting the fierce opposition of his family. It was at the high school where he made friends with Ibne Insha who egged him on to write. And write he did and sent it to a magazine Humayoun, which published his article. Thus started an illustrious journey in which Hamid Akhtar took on many roles.

    If I say the journalist in Hamid Akhtar attracted more attention, it would not be far from the truth. Whenever the communist party launched a paper, he was there to play his role assigned by the party. The government was not soft on these papers and it clamped down cruel orders on all these papers — be it Naya Zamana, Irtiqa, Siasat Nama and many others. Sibte Hasan, another giant intellectual of the Left, took him under his wings and polished his journalistic skills. Hamid Akhtar pays him rich tributes saying that Sibte Hasan did not like flowery prose as he believed in getting one’s message across through simple prose.

    It was Imroz where all the towering intellectuals worked and made it a top newspaper of the country. He, too, joined it when Mian Iftikharuddin, owner of the newspaper, invited him to work in Imroz in a very friendly manner. Later, when Imroz was purged of all the left-wing intellectuals, he along with his friends was fired.

    Azad was born when he and his friends — I.A Rahman and Abdullah Malik — invested all their earnings in the newspaper. With men like these at the helm of affairs, Azad soon became one of the most widely read Urdu newspaper of the country. When Bhutto came to power, he decided to teach them a lesson by launching a dirty campaign against them. Hamid Akhtar says Bhutto ordered the then governor to malign them. One day they saw few people on a hunger strike, sitting on the Lahore’s Mall Road, with a banner titled Sahafat Kay Teen Shaitan, Hamid Akhtar, Abdullah Malik and I.A Rahman. Bhutto was behind this vilification campaign.

    There are many interesting episodes too: Hamid Akhtar was in love and Abdullah Malik gave him a warning to mend his ways. When Sibte Hasan got knowledge of the affair, he said, “Communist party does not ban falling in love. Love is in man’s nature. A man is incomplete without love'”

    Hamid Akhtar wore many hats. He tried his hands at making films too but it proved to be another nightmare for him. The entire film industry joined hands to make his film Sukh Ka Sapna a failure as they did not like educated people entering the film industry. That film was an utter failure at the box office as it was not a formula film which average viewers love to watch. He made a second attempt and decided to make a formula film by compromising on many aspects. Its fate too was not different from the first film. Hamid Akhtar played many roles in his life: journalist, film maker, short story writer, sketch writer, a revolutionary worker and what not. Today he is nearly ninety, but he is still agile as he writes columns for an Urdu daily. This book is an important addition to the material on the politics of Left. Ahmad Salim’s attempt at documenting Akhtar’s life is praiseworthy.


  • by Zeba Naureen

    Hamid Akhtar sb is not any more with us. He died at the age of 87.

    His life is full of struggle for the rights for the ordinary people. He never surrendered.

    When he was seriously sick even though he was writing regularly columns in the Express and attending the seminars. He was brave and committed to his cause-Socialism. I think he sacrificed everything for the Pakistani people . He was the active member of that historical progressive caravan which had members such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer,Sibthe Hasan,Krishan Chandar,Bedi,Ahmed Rahi ,C R Aslam ,Minto and Lal Khan.

    He was the author of the famous book” Kal Kothri” He wrote many other books and thousands of articles on the national and international topics. His writings will continue to encourage the progressive people of Pakistan (us) to fight against the feudal lords, Capitalism and the Imperialism.

    Respected Hamid Akhtar Sb ,

    We will never forget you. We promise to you that we will learn more from your life and from your writings.


  • Comrade Hamid Akhtar is not any more with us. He died at the age of 87.

    His life is full of struggle for the rights for the ordinary people. He never surrendered.

    When he was seriously sick even though he was writing regularly columns in the Express and attending the seminars. He was brave and committed to his cause-Socialism. I think he sacrificed everything for the Pakistani people . He was the active member of that historical progressive caravan which had members such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer,Sibthe Hasan,Krishan Chandar,Bedi,Ahmed Rahi ,C R Aslam ,Minto and Lal Khan.

    Comrade Hamid Akhtar is the author of the famous book” Kal Kothri” He wrote many other books and thousands of articles on the national and international topics. His writings will continue to encourage the progressive people of Pakistan (us) to fight against the feudal lords, Capitalism and the Imperialism.

    Comrade Hamid Akhtar,

    We will never forget you. We promise to you that we will learn more from your life and from your writings.

    Surakh Salam to you!

    masood Punjabi

  • by Shakil Chaudhary

    In March this year I heard Hamid Akhtar Sahib at Sahir Ludhianvi’s birthday function at Lawrence Garden in Lahore. He spoke so well but without any pretensions. He reminisced about Sahir with a great deal of affection. He disclosed that in his twilight years Sahir suffered from obsessive compulsive disorder.

    He said another poignant thing: “All my friends died relatively young. I am here to endure the suffering of old age.”

  • Hamid Akhtar Sb was one of few sane voices who supported Benazir Bhutto when she decided to return to Pakistan in 2007 . More importantly he supported her decision of going of contesting election when everyone was saying ” Jo election ka Haqdar ; woh mulk ka gaddar “.

    RIP Sir !

  • سینئر صحافی حمید اختر انتقال کر گئے

    عارف وقار
    بی بی سی اردو ڈاٹ کام، لاہور
    آخری وقت اشاعت: پير 17 اکتوبر 2011 ,‭ 12:08 GMT 17:08 PST
    دوست کو بھیجیں
    پرنٹ کریں

    اخبار ’آزاد‘ کی پالیسی کے باعث بھٹو جیسی عوامی طاقت سے ٹکر لینی پڑی
    پاکستان کے بزرگ صحافی، کالم نگار، ادیب، ترقی پسند کارکن اور فلم ساز حمید اختر اتوار کی شب لاہور کے شوکت خانم میموریل ہسپتال میں دم توڑ گئے۔

    حمید اختر برسوں سے کیسنر کے موذی مرض کا مقابلہ کر رہے تھے اور چند برس امریکہ میں زیر علاج بھی رہے تھے جس کی بدولت یہ آفت دس پندرہ برس تک ٹلی رہی لیکن گزشتہ دو برس سے سرطان نے پھر سر اٹھانا شروع کردیا تھا۔

    آج سے اٹھاسی برس پہلے ضلع لدھیانہ میں پیدا ہونے والے حمید اختر معروف شاعر ساحر لدھیانوی کے بچپن کے دوست تھے اور ابن انشاء سے بھی ان کی شناسائی نوجوانی ہی میں ہوگئی تھی۔

    حمید اختر ایک دراز قد اور خوب رو نوجوان تھے۔ آواز بھی جان دار تھی۔ دوستوں کا خیال تھا کہ بمبئی جا کر فلمی دنیا میں قسمت آزمائی کرنی چاہیے۔ یہ خیال کچھ ایسا غلط بھی نہ تھا کیونکہ بمبئی میں اچھی آواز والے خوبرو نوجوانوں کی ہیمشہ مانگ رہتی تھی۔ حمید اختر وہاں گئے اور ’آزادی کی راہ پر‘ نامی ایک فلم میں سائیڈ ہیرو کا رول بھی ادا کیا لیکن فلمی زندگی ان کے ترقی پسندانہ عزائم کا ساتھ نہ دے سکی اور وہ انجمن ترقی پسند مصنفیں کے لیے کل وقتی کام کرنے لگے۔

    حمید اختر کے سوگواروں میں ایک بیٹا اور تین بیٹیاں شامل ہیں
    بمبئی میں قیام کا یہ فائدہ ضرور ہوا کہ کرشن چندر، سجاد ظہیر، سبط حسن اور ابراہیم جلیس جیسے ترقی پسندوں سے ان کی براہ راست شناسائی ہوگئی اور یہ تعلق آخر تک قائم رہا۔

    تقسیم ہند کے بعد حمید اختر پاکستان آگئے لیکن اشتراکی خیالات رکھنے والے دانشوروں پر تب برا وقت آیا ہوا تھا چنانچہ دیگر ترقی پسند ادیبوں کی طرح حمید اختر بھی گرفتار ہوئے اور دو سال کے لیے کال کوٹھری میں ڈال دیے گئے۔

    اسیری کے دن
    آخری ایام میں وہ روزنامہ ایکسپریس کے لیے روزانہ کالم لکھتے تھے۔ ایام اسیری کی یادوں کو انہوں نے اپنی کتاب ’کال کوٹھری‘ میں رقم کیا ہے اور ترقی پسند ساتھیوں کے خاکے بھی احوال دوستاں کے نام سے محفوظ کیے ہیں
    انیس سو ستر میں انہوں نے آئی اے رحمان اور عبداللہ ملک کے ساتھ مل کر روزنامہ ’آزاد‘ جاری کیا جو کہ بائیں بازو کے آزاد خیال گروپ کا ترجمان تھا اور انتخابات کے نتائج پر عمل کرتے ہوئے مجیب الرحمٰن کی عوامی لیگ کو عنان حکومت سونپنے کی حمایت کرتا تھا۔ اس پالیسی کے باعث اخبار کو بھٹو جیسی عوامی طاقت سے ٹکر لینی پڑی جس کے نیتجے میں سخت مالی مشکلات کا شکار ہونے کے بعد یہ اخبار بند ہوگیا۔

    ایک فری لانس صحافی کے طور پر حمید اختر نے اپنا کام جاری رکھا۔ آخری ایام میں وہ روزنامہ ایکسپریس کے لیے روزانہ کالم لکھتے تھے۔ ایام اسیری کی یادوں کو انہوں نے اپنی کتاب ’کال کوٹھری‘ میں رقم کیا ہے اور ترقی پسند ساتھیوں کے خاکے بھی احوال دوستاں کے نام سے محفوظ کیے ہیں۔

    حمید اختر کے سوگواروں میں ایک بیٹا اور تین بیٹیاں شامل ہیں، دو بیٹیاں بیرون ملک آباد ہیں جبکہ بڑی بیٹی صبا حمید پاکستان ٹیلی ویژن کی معروف فنکارہ ہیں


  • A Great Loss indeed,May his soul rest in peace,I always read his articles and get myself enlightened and knowledged with his remarkable writings,for these legendary people Late Mr.Saleem jafri said once in a Mushaira gathering,


    We will miss you Sir!!

  • His bold stand on Bengal crisis will always be remembered. One of the few Pakistanies who had the courrage to support Bengali people during 71


  • Hamid Akhtar: The chronicler of a movementInpaperMagzine | | By Intizar Husain October 30, 2011 (5 days ago)

    MUCH has been said and written about Hamid Akhtar after his sad departure. I am concerned here with his role as a progressive writer in contrast to his role as a party worker. In fact, because of these two roles, his association with the Progressive Writers’ Movement appears divided into two periods, one closely following the other.

    During the first period, which began around the mid-1940s, Akhtar appeared devoted mainly to party work. The few stories he wrote during these days went unnoticed even within the circle of the progressives. This period came to an abrupt end with the disruption of the party because of the catastrophe known as the Pindi Conspiracy Case in 1951.

    It was during 1953 that Akhtar, after his release from jail, made an appearance in the true sense as a writer with Kal Kothri.

    This book is a deeply felt depiction of life lived in prison. No sensitive reader could afford to take this work lightly. Moreover, with the publication of Kal Kothri, Akhtar could no longer be confused with just being a party worker. His painful story is of the dreary life lived within the four walls of a prison. He tries to share with his comrades their sorrows and afflictions.

    This political prisoner suffering for a cause is not just embroiled in his own sorrows. He is also in touch with all kinds of other
    prisoners and tries to share their sorrows regardless of the crime committed. He treats them as a brotherhood of afflicted souls. Kal Kothri is a graphic depiction of this brotherhood.

    Akhtar also becomes aware of the presence of those living under the shadow of an impending death, hoping and waiting for a miracle that might save them from being hanged. He is distressed at their fate and by forging a personal relationship with each, he delves deep into their tortured souls and sincerely portrays them, depicting at the same time the vulnerability of their relatives.

    Akhtar is at his height when trying to capture their last moments. It is the capturing of such moments which elevates his account to a superior literary status and guarantees a place for this book in Urdu literature.

    The other work which secures Akhtar an honorable place in the array of prominent progressive writers is the portraits of distinguished writers and intellectuals, mostly progressives, of his time. He has to his credit two volumes, Ahwal-i-Dostan and Ashnaiyan Kya Kya, in which we read his portrayal of a number of writers belonging to the literary period of the 1930s and 1940s.

    With the exception of a few, these include progressive luminaries, those who led the movement and those who, with their sheer talent, such as Faiz and Krishan Chandar, dominated the literary scene. Because of his personal relationship with all of them, Akhtar was in a position to know them intimately and portray them in a personal light. To top them all was Sajjad Zaheer, the leader of the movement, with whom Akhtar had worked closely, having won his confidence as one devoted selflessly to the cause. As portrayed by him, Bannay Bhai comes to us as an acme of virtues worthy to lead the

    The portraits can be seen as the outcome of a writer’s passion to sketch the characters of personalities whom he knows intimately and who have impressed or inspired him. But perhaps Hamid Akhtar had a higher purpose in view; we must not forget that Akhtar was the tail-ender of the generation of the progressives belonging to the 1930s and 1940s. He seems to be conscious of his responsibility as the last one and so felt duty bound to record all that he knew about the movement as he had experienced it. In this manner, he leaves behind a record for the benefit of future generations.

    While portraying the stalwarts and the luminaries of the movement, Akhtar wanted to present them as they were. Also, while speaking about them he is also speaking about the movement as he had known it through them.

    Doing so, he played the role of a chronicler of the Progressive Writers’ Movement.


  • Hameed Akhtar reference: A rational voice encouraging a progressive society
    By Peer Muhammad
    Published: October 20, 2011

    Local poets, writers, and members of literary community on Wednesday paid rich tributes to renowned journalist and writer Hameed Akhtar for his services for Urdu literature and journalism.
    The speakers said that Akhtar’s death marks an end of an era in Pakistani journalism. He was “one of the stars of the golden age of journalism in the period just after the independence”, said one participant.
    They said that he was a fearless writer committed to exposing injustices in Pakistani society.
    Akhtar as a young person associated himself with the progressive political movement committed to fundamental social, cultural and political changes for the betterment of workers, peasants, students and other oppressed sections of the society, said one speaker, adding that Akhtar always remained committed to his mission and was never disappointed.
    Human rights’ activist Tahira Abdullah said that throughout his life, Akhtar wrote and struggled for the emancipation of the downtrodden section of the society. “If we are really Akhtar’s admirers then we have to follow his legacy,” she added.
    Another speaker said that Akhtar’s Marxist views and rational voice were a source of encouragement to all those who dreamt of a progressive, modern and egalitarian society in all parts of the world.
    His death has been received with great sorrow by his friends and admirers throughout the world.
    Throughout his life, Akhtar endured great deal of hardships including imprisonment, solitary confinement and restrictions on accessing jobs for living, but he continued believing that the pain being endured by the masses will one day end, said one speaker.
    Akhtar was associated with some of the most important journals in Pakistan like Imroze, Lail-o-Nihar and Musawat. His incisive columns were popular and reflected progressive thoughts.
    His columns on a range of issues and personalities are not just important journalistically but also part of literature and political history. He was a prolific writer and continued to pen columns till just before his death.
    His many publications including “Aashnayian Kia Kia” and “Kal Kothri” have contributed in our understanding of progressive movement in Pakistan, said a participant.
    Yousuf Hassan, Ashfaq Saleem Mirza, Arshad Rizvi, Manzar Naqvi, and National Language Authority’s Chairperson Dr Anwar Ahmed and others attended the reference, which was organised by the NLA.
    Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2011.


  • Hameed Akhtar passes awayFrom the Newspaper | Back Page | By Our Staff Reporter October 18, 2011 (3 weeks ago)
    Veteran jounalist (late) Hameed Akhtar. —File Photo

    LAHORE: Veteran journalist, writer and secretary-general of the Progressive Writers Association Hameed Akhtar passed away in Lahore on Sunday night.

    He was 87.

    Hameed Akhtar had a long battle with cancer. He was taken to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital on Sunday evening in a serious condition – where he breathed his last a few hours later, according to his daughter Saba Hameed, the well known actor.

    He leaves behind his wife, four daughters and a son. His funeral prayers will be offered at the ‘DD’ mosque Defence Housing Society Phase 4 after Asr prayers on Tuesday.

    Born as Akhtar Ali in a village near Ludhiana in 1924, Hameed Akhtar came under a variety of influences that shaped his course in life. His family descended from the sufi saint Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiari of Ajmer and he became a ‘Hafiz-e-Quran’ at the age of 10. He ran into future literary figures Sahir Ludhianvi and Ibn-e-Insha at school and his company in Ludhiana included Anwar Ali, the famous newspaper cartoonist.

    Akhtar chose to express himself in short stories, but was too occupied in journalistic and political pursuits to be writing fiction as frequently as some others.

    He did work as a scriptwriter in Bombay for some time and also tried his hand at film production after partition in Pakistan.

    The film ‘Sukh ka Sapna’ was a culmination of his desire to communicate his ideas of change through the popular medium of film. But it was journalism and his association with progressive leftist movements that won him more recognition and respect.

    He joined Imroz in 1948 and went on to edit the paper, originally a Progressive Papers Limited (PPL) venture which was taken over by the Ayub Khan government in the late 1950s. In 1970, he co-founded the daily Azad along with Abdullah Malik and I.A. Rehman.

    Hameed Akhtar was a respected columnist and wrote for many newspapers, most recently for Daily Express. His views on politics and social issues were greatly respected and in recent years, he frequently ventured down memory lane for the benefit of his readers.

    In an interview that appeared in Dawn in July this year, Hameed Akhtar said: “My only concern was a just and equitable society, run on the basis of a fair distribution of wealth and resources… and even now I feel that it is this ideology of massawat (egalitarianism) that can solve our problems — those that stem from the exploitative capitalist system rooted deeply in our society.”

    Drawn to communist ideals from an early age, Hameed Akhtar quickly matured into a trusted lieutenant of the Communist Party in India. He was secretary of the Bombay chapter of the Progressive Writers Association as early as 1946-47 and it is a measure of his lifelong commitment to his ideals that he was unanimously elected the secretary-general when the Progressive Writers Association was revived in Pakistan some time ago.

    Hameed Akhtar’s association with left-wing politics repeatedly landed him into trouble with the authorities. He was jailed many times and his book Kaal Kothri was a memento of his time in jail.

    In 1988, he published Ahwaal-e-Dostan, a collection of pen sketches of some famous people he was closely associated with. He was eminently qualified for the job, having rubbed shoulders with personalities such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer, Hafeez Jalandhari, Ismat Chughtai, Sahir Ludhianvi, Patras Bokhari, Saadat Hassan Manto, Ali Sardar Jafri, Kaifi Azmi, Krishan Chandar and Jan Nisar Akhtar, to name but a few.

    Writer Intezar Hussain describes Hameed Akhtar as a chronicler of the Progressive Writers’ Movement.

    Hussain said the late Akhtar found it obligatory to pass on all those bitter and sweet memories of the very difficult times he had gone through to the next generation through his pen.

    As an old friend and colleague, journalist and rights activist I.A. Rehman remembered Hameed Akhtar as an enlightened person who had many dimensions to him: He was an exceptional journalist, a good short story writer and a filmmaker.

    Imroz colleagues, writers and journalists Masood Ash’ar and Munnoo Bhai said Akhtar was a lively soul, who worked relentlessly for progressive causes and whose contributions are of great value.


  • Hameed Akhtar (1923 – 2011)
    Dexter on October 17, 2011 — Leave a Comment
    Few years ago I was watching renowned Pakistani television artist Saba Pervaiz’s interview in which she mentioned that she was named by famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. This made me very curious as to what type of relationship her family had with Faiz. Years passed by but whenever I saw her on TV she always reminded me of this story and rekindled that curiosity. Earlier today that mystery was solved but unfortunately in a sad way. I found out that she is actually the daughter of renowned journalist, Hameed Akhtar, who just passed away.

    Hameed Akhtar was born in the Indian city of Ludhiana. He was a Hafiz-e-Quran and a childhood friend of another famous poet Sahir Ludhianvi. Together they both went to Mumbai to work in the film industry. Besides working as a script writer he even acted in some movies. He was also a member of Progressive Writer’s Movement.

    After partition he decided to move to Pakistan where he was soon arrested due to his communist views and spend 2 years in jail. Since Faiz was also a member of the same movement and spend time in jail for the same reason, I now believe that they must be close friends.

    In 1970 he started a liberal newspaper, Daily Aazad. This was probably the only newspaper in West Pakistan which supported power transfer to Mujeeb-ur-Rehman after his victory in 1970 elections. Challenging Bhutto and Army during those days was not an easy task, soon the newspaper publication had to be stopped.

    He continued working as a freelance journalist and was associated with Daily Express these days. He also authored several books, including ‘Aashnayian Kia Kia’ and ‘Kaal Kothri’.

    He is survived by three daughters, including TV artist Saba Pervaiz, and a son. May he rest in peace.


  • Obituary: ‘A mighty oak has fallen’InpaperMagzine | | October 23, 2011 (2 weeks ago)

    I. A. Rehman shares anecdotes from the life of a dear friend, who passed away in Lahore last Monday

    On a flight from Karachi to London, Hamid Akhtar’s prostate became too stingy to allow him a moment of comfort. A London doctor fixed a catheter and the next day he strapped the urine bag to his leg, pulled the trouser over it and flew across the Atlantic to Washington. His host drove him from airport straight to the hospital for surgery.

    In Hamid Akhtar, who died last week, the angel of death found a tough adversary, an easygoing person who battled against disease with grit and humour. Cancer first attacked his throat and he had to give up his favourite pipe in favour of a miserable cigarette. The second time the dreaded disease attacked his stomach though he ate less than half of what persons of half his size do. He bore pain as an unavoidable price for living and although narratives of his and his wife’s sickness sometimes found their way into his columns that he wrote every day till about a month before his passing, there was no trace of despair or pessimism in his writing.

    Sickness could not prevent him from regaling his audience with stories of and about the literary giants he had rubbed shoulders with — Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer, Sahir Ludhianvi, Krishan Chander, Kaifi Azmi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Sibte Hasan and many others. And he was a raconteur par excellence. In the end he was the only literary great left from the glorious vanguard of the Progressive Writers Association. Amin Mughal put it aptly when he said on Hamid Akhtar’s death — “a mighty oak has fallen.”

    Sibte Hasan used to call him “bhola badshah” because he was an unshakeable believer in the inherent goodness of human beings. He could charm men whose company progressive writers studiously avoided. He did not agree with many people but he respected their right to human dignity. Most of his tales were meant to make his listeners laugh, at least smile. Like this one:
    “Once Hafeez Jallandhari told me: Hamid Akhtar you can be my friend, Sibta (Sibte Hasan) can be my friend. But Faiz? No”
    “Yes”, I said, “for he is a poet.”

    His friendships with odd people could sometimes create strange situations. A bookmaker friend of his got on the wrong side of the Race Club Stewards. So his horses ran under the name of Hamid Akhtar. That made Hamid Akhtar a controlled punter.
    Despite his appearance as an English country gentleman, always wearing a suit and tie, a felt hat on his head and a pipe in his mouth, he was a hand-to-mouth journalist and people had funny ideas when they saw race horses registered under his name.

    He did not succeed as a film-maker for he was much too decent a man to deal with the sharks in the trade. But even when in difficulty he did not lose his sense of humour. General Yahya took a fancy to his leading lady and asked her to come over. She asked Hamid Akhtar: “The General would like to give me something. What should I ask for?” Hamid Akhtar was trying to raise money for the next shift, so he directed the question to me and I said ‘Ask for the Pakistan Railways’. Hamid Akhtar okayed the idea. The lady was happy because railways brought profit and was a means of obliging friends. Good fun was all that Hamid Akhtar got out of his film-making —and a couple of fine lyrics from Faiz.

    Hamid Akhtar was a friend of friends. His best friend and companion was his wife who had insisted on marrying him in spite of her family’s objections to Hamid Akhtar’s habits and lifestyle. They had relied on the testimony of the cinema security guard (where HA had his office and provided cement to those who wanted to build houses and did not keep a bag for himself). This man had praised Hamid Akhtar as a lord who wanted the best for his food and drink, who did not spend his evenings with Lallu Panju — enough to put off a traditional, religious minded family, but Sadia took a stand and won. Hamid Akhtar took great care of her during her long illness.

    That Hamid Akhtar practised what he preached was borne out by the way he brought up his daughters, pampered them without spoiling them, gave them freedom and then respected their decisions about their own lives.

    The responsibilities he had assumed and the lifestyle he had adopted meant that Hamid Akhtar had to toil for his living till virtually his last breath and buy second hand cars till his US-domiciled son presented him with his first new car. Then ended his career as the after-party transporter of all his friends to their residences across the city.

    Hamid Akhtar’s appearance of a man about town concealed a sharp mind that could see far into the future. In 1969-70 he was President of Punjab Union of Journalists. He and Husain Naqi (Secretary) gave Lahore a Press Club premises on the Mall.

    Unlike the earlier premises it was not on top of a wine shop (now Wapda House stands there) but there was a first-rate restaurant on the ground floor. It was at the PFUJ executive meeting at Islamabad in 1969 where Hamid Akhtar lamented the degeneration of Lahore into a stronghold of reaction. At that moment he was decades ahead of time.


  • A tale of two Ludhianvis

    Sarwat Ali
    Wednesday, October 26, 2011


    There may have been more than one reason for Sahir Ludhianvi and Hamid Akhtar to be very close. They hailed from the same town, Ludhiana, espoused the same ideology and were both writers — one a poet and the other a journalist/writer. Both also grew up in an environment heady with the wine of expectation of a better future.

    Born Abdul Hayee in 1921, Sahir Ludhianvi fell in love with a girl from his college and spent most of his time mooning over her while digging deep into the source of his inspiration. She was his muse and the love relationship flowered more in his poetry than in flesh and blood, but its echoes were heard far and wide, outside the four walls of the college through his irrepressible verses. Expelled from college (with a nudge from his love’s influential father), he came to Lahore in 1942 to study and try his luck at what he did best — editing and writing poetry.

    Hamid Akthar (born Akhtar Ali in 1924) was a descendent of the Sufi saint Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiari of Ajmer. He became a ‘Hafiz-e-Quran’ at age ten. He met Sahir Ludhianvi and Ibn-e-Insha, both later major literary figures, while at school. He too came to Lahore, where he Hamid and Sahir Ludhianvi shared a house as well as their mornings, afternoons and late nights, weaving dreams from 1942 to 1945. They then went to Bombay, where Sahir wrote songs, Hamid Akhtar the dialogues, for “Azadi ki Rah Par”. But the film, made on the history of the Congress Party and advocating unity of India, bombed at the box office as it was released after August 1947. But it was during those years they became active in the set of the progressive writers of the city.

    After Partition, Hamid Akhtar spent several months in a refugee camp before drifting back to Lahore; Sahir took an airplane. Hamid Akhtar got a house allotted for Sahir Ludhianvi on Abbott Road where they lived together and started their lives anew, along with Sahir’s mother — the only constant in his life.

    He cared for her deeply, and she looked after him and his friends, extending the maternal lap by transforming the house into a home. As Sahir toiled to edit the progressive journals Adab-e-Lateef, Shaahkaar, and later Savera, trying to make ends meet on a meagre salary, Hamid Akhtar threw himself into the world of politics where taking the parliamentary road was not always considered to be the most desirable option. Despite the hard work and poverty, those were carefree times for the two young bachelors, who were both deeply committed to the struggle for justice in their own ways.

    Sahir Ludhianvi and Hamid Akhtar both espoused the cause of the Left. Within the Indo-Pakistan context, they are more familiar with the nomenclature of being Taraqi Pasand (progressive) as writers affiliated with the Progressive Writers Association that mandated them to work for change through class consciousness.

    Sahir’s unhappiness with the system stemmed at least in part from the lifestyle of his father, a zamindar (landlord) with a penchant for marrying and then divorcing and discarding his wives. Sahir was born out of such a union. As he became more aware he found himself being brought up by his mother, amidst squalor and poverty. She was his lifeline and he clung to her. Right from the start, it was clear that the education Sahir preferred was not the formal one imparted in the classroom — he breathed in a much wider environment. Before he knew what was happening his disposition forebode the emergence of a poet. Colours, seasons, women and social inequity held this attention rather than the discipline of the examination. He found himself ready to make a debut in life without the armour of academic degrees by choosing diction and a form that held an instant appeal for the common man. His initial poems were printed in an underground paper Kirti Lahar, published from Merat.

    The going was tough, but the dreams were sweet and aplenty. The lack of resources and their ever-present poverty were overshadowed by the promise of a better tomorrow. Sahir Ludhianvi wrote and Hamid Akhtar toiled in the field, supporting each other. However, Sahir occasionally expressed the desire to return to India, staying in Lahore only on Hamid Akhtar’s insistence. At one point, Hamid Akhtar left for Karachi for a secret political assignment along with the Communist Party’s Sajjad Zaheer`. However, “due to circumstances” as Hamid Akhtar explained in a recent television interview with Farrukh Sohail Goindi (http://bit.ly/oTXJmP), they had to stay on for longer than initially planned.

    Due to the secrecy of the trip, Hamid Akhtar was unable to write or call his friend to explain the delay. Sahir waited for him to return, bringing reassurance and an affirmation of their destiny — he himself was being hounded and harassed by various intelligence agencies. People told him that Hamid Akhtar had been arrested. Feeling vulnerable and alone, he quietly left for India in June 1948, and a few months later, sent somebody to escort his mother over as well.

    When Hamid Akhtar returned to Lahore over a month after having left, he was shocked to find the house empty. Sahir and his mother were no longer there to shelter Hamid Akhtar and his friends. He lived in the house for a few days but found it increasingly difficult to cope with the loss to rationalise living in a house whose true occupants had left. He decided to leave it, and moved elsewhere in Lahore.

    Sahir went to Delhi, then Hyderabad and finally to Bombay where he settled for good. The two did not meet again for the next thirty odd years — until Hamid Akhtar travelled to India, where he insisted on staying in the house of his bosom friend, Sahir Ludhianvi.

    Theirs was truly a friendship and meeting of hearts and minds that transcended time and man-made borders.

    The writer is a literary and music critic based in Lahore.

    Email tnslhr@gmail.com

    Caption: Two friends, two countries, one vision for peace and justice: (Above) Sahir Ludhianvi (file photo) and Hamid Akhtar (still from 2010 television interview with Farrukh Sohail Goindi)


  • Memoir By Mujahid Barelvi
    Can the editors and columnists of widely-circulated newspapers tell?

    Who was Hameed Akhtar?

    Because he was a communist, there were frequent spells of having to live underground in the dark and narrow streets of Old Lahore

    Unfortunately I got home quite late that night and had to read it in the papers next morning: Urdu’s prominent progressive writer and journalist Hameed Akhtar had passed away, after a prolonged illness, in Lahore – the same city where he spent more than half a century of his vigorous and eventful life. That half a century included several tough years he spent on the Mall enduring the bane of unemployment, and, because he was a communist, frequent spells of having to live underground in the dark and narrow streets of Old Lahore. He kept the fire of his resolve burning even in the solitary confinement cells of Lahore’s Royal Fort and several other jails. Then he wrote a book called Kaal Kothri (The solitary confinement cell) which is a historic essay on life in imprisonment. He relied on writing not only to feed himself but also to raise a family who are now known on their own. I still remember my last meeting with Hameed Akhtar: he came to Mayo Hospital to see Habib Jalib in his last moments, and was so perturbed to see him going away that he hugged me and started crying like a child.

    Hameed Akhter with AHameed

    A friend of Syed Sibte Hassan, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi, Akhtar regularly wrote columns for the daily Express during the last eight years of his life. His association with this newspaper was considered such a crime that the newspaper group which claims to have the largest readership in Pakistan didn’t consider the news of his death worth even three lines in print. But the same news was considered big enough by the largest newspaper in Pakistan to reserve – commendably indeed – a four-column space on the last page. The next day, those with claims of being ahead of everyone else in news published this news in a single column on page three, as if Hameed Akhtar was a reporter for some local paper. I had thought perhaps one of the leading columnists of self-styled journalism associated with this group would remember Hameed Akhtar… Enough. I wouldn’t write more on this issue as I am already overcome with grief. After all, people like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Habib Jalib, Josh Malihabadi, Sadeqain and Zameer Niazi – who are still alive among us even decades after their demise… does their name stand in need of widely-circulated newspapers and ratings-hungry news channels?

    Translated from the Urdu by Babar S. Mirza


  • Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact used to be a leisure account it. Look complex to far delivered agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?