Senior Pashto writer asked female literati to bring out talent

Sher Alam Shinwari

PESHAWAR: Senior writer and research scholar, Prof Dr Salma Shaheen asked Pakhtun woman and poets and writers to take maximum advantage of the space available to them to bring out their hidden talent. Acknowledging talent of the young women, she said that Pa director Pakhtun women enjoyed more freedom and space than ever before owing to their creativity and capabilities. She said she had never prized on childhood experiences because of the so-called social norms prevalent adding though her own parents had provided her with every possible way to move ahead.

Former director, Pashto academy, and author of 18 books, Prof Dr Salma Shaheen recently spoke to this scribe dwelling on her past career, and role of woman writers in shaping the outlook of the society. Beating down the memory lane of her career as poet and, she pointed out that Pakhtun young woman writers had an edge over those lived in the past for being more empowered, educated and aware of their rights and duties compared to five decades ago.

Ms Shaheen had attained superannuation as first woman director of Pashto Academy, University Peshawar in 2014 but she continued her poetic and research activities and most often busy supervising works of female writer’s research scholars. “I had started my writing career when in I was in 8th grade. I used to hire books for self-reading on six paisa from a library set up near our home by a bibliophile. That small library housed in clay-made room inspired me. I went through almost all Pashto and Urdu classics alongside progressive Russian German and Chinese writers especially fiction. My father affiliated with Khudai Khidmatgaar Tehrik of Bacha Khan was instrumental in my education and onward journey,” the senior writer recalled.

She said that she and a few other women had faced hardships and passed through a thorny trail and built a highway for today’s young Pakhtun women. She said that there was a time when would attend literary and cultural events sitting among swath of men around her and at other times would walk up all alone to Radio and PTV to give talk on women issues and their rights.  She said that she had been part of several projects on women rights. She added that she had launched doctorate classes and passed out several female research scholars during tenure as director Pashto academy.

“After becoming first woman director of Pashto academy, my own colleagues mostly male turned against and dragged me to the courts but I remained firm and committed to my stance. They wanted to merge Pashto academy with Pashto department which was against the rules. During my nine-year service as director I accomplished several important projects including preservation of over 2,000 Pashto old manuscripts. Also I set up a Pakhtun cultural museum and refused to take Rs800,000 lacs as remuneration and donated the same for purchasing furniture for the said museum,” the writer narrated.

Ms Shaheen said that she used to encourage young woman writers to raise awareness regarding their rights and role in the society. She said that despite ailing health she was facilities with different literary, cultural, rights, and academic organizations in various capacities. The fiction writer said her area of interest included Pashto folklore, classics, research, travelogue, fiction, modern literature and women rights “Ghani Khan is still my great inspiration as he pushed me into fiction and research works.  Zaitoon Bano is also my mentor. I discovered a strong humanist in myself. I advise young woman writers should utilize the space available to them,” she directed. 

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