Hamid Karzai: Read Afghan literature to understand my country
Western perspectives on Afghanistan that most of the world, including India, rely on may be biased or lack sufficient contextual understanding and due emphasis should be put on the flourishing Afghan literary tradition
Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai speaks at a session during Jaipur Literature Festival 2018 at Diggi Palace in Jaipur on Friday. Pic/ PTI
Western perspectives on Afghanistan that most of the world, including India, rely on may be biased or lack sufficient contextual understanding and due emphasis should be put on the flourishing Afghan literary tradition, says former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "Afghan literature has a rich tradition... there is a lot of it...," Karzai, who was here for the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, told IANS in an interview, contending that western views may mostly stress on the negatives of Afghanistan and ignore its positives, its way of life and deep culture.
He cited the names of 17th century Sufi poet Abdur Rahman Mohmand 'Rehman Baba', his contemporary Khushal Khan Khattak, the firebrand national poet of the Pakhtoons known mostly for his exhortations to his people to resist Mughal tyranny and efforts to co-opt them, and many others. Karzai also noted that more recently there have been Khalilullah Khalili (1907-87), regarded as the foremost Afghan poet of the 20th century who happens to be the last of the classical Persian poets and first of the modern Persian poets in his country, and Qahar Asi (1956-94), who also shone in both "classical" and "new styles" but unfortunately lost his life in shelling during the Afghan civil war in the 1990s.
He also noted that while Afghanistan has been facing conflict and all its consequences for many decades now, its literary scene continues to thrive and flourish. "Whenever any book on Afghanistan comes out, it is translated into Pashto and made available to people in a week," Karzai said. Karzai also said that this aspect of Afghan culture was not limited to books and literature, but stretched into other fields too, referring to singers like the popular Aryana Sayeed.
The Afghan leader also stressed that this literary aspect is another link between India and Afghanistan. "There is, in fact, a history of Pashto literature in India," he said, showing a massive work on the issue which was published as a Ph.D. thesis. And Karzai himself displays this bilateral connection by revealing he has read and enjoyed the works of Rabindranath Tagore and Kalidasa and hears Indian singers from Manna Dey to the classical greats.
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