Urdu writer Mustansar Hussain Tarar refuses Pakistan’s highest literary award

Apr 5, 2022: According to a report by Dawn, the country’s renowned writer and one of the biggest names in Urdu novels has  refused to accept the Kamal Art Award announced by the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) in Islamabad a few days ago, calling it controversial and tainted.

Seraiki poet Dr Ashu Lal refused to accept the award immediately after the announcement, saying he could not accept the award for “a fascist state that is anti people and anti art.” There is also a prize money of Rs. 1 million in Kamal Fun Award.

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”.

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“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”.

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.

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

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.

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