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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The virile language of Dr Taizi

The virile language of Dr Taizi

Dr Yaseen Iqbal Yousafzay

Pushto/Pukhto is the mother tongue of over 40 million people, living in the
heart of Asia and divided by the Durand Line into Afghanistan, the tribal
belt, the North-West Frontier Province and the Balochistan province.
Agriculturally, mineralogically and intellectually, the Pukhtuns’ homeland
is very fertile. Its mountains are popular on the one hand for the precious
stones embedded in them and on the other for its proud inhabitants standing
firmly against some very strong invaders of the human history like Alexander
the Great, the British Raj, the USSR and so on for centuries. Unfortunately,
the lack of industry and job opportunities in the areas under the Pakistan
rule and the continuous war and drought in Afghanistan have not only damaged
the local economy and culture but also forced the Pukhtuns to leave their
fertile lands and move to almost every corner of the globe. Consequently,
their virile language has spread to almost every part of the world from
Kandahar to California, from Abaseen to Thames and from Peshawar to Bombay.
In spite of leaving their land and living with so many problems, the Pukhtun
culture and language are blooming. It is due to the enormous contribution of
our virile writers, scholars and poets who have sacrificed what they have
had for their language and culture.

As a language, Pukhto stands 43rd on the list of over 6000 languages spoken
throughout the world and is 4th on the list of languages first spoken in
space. Although on official level there are very a few organisations working
for the promotion of Pukhto as a language, yet as a code of the Pukhtun
culture and life it is being promoted by every true Pukhtun. Most of the
organisations established for this purpose seem to lose their credibility
day by day because of various administrative and political reasons. However,
individual efforts are keeping it alive and blooming. For example, in the
words of a great Pukhto poet, Rahmat Shah Sayel,

(The enlightened ones (scholars) could not get a chance to come out of their
books but Pukhto always kept on blooming through the hands of those who did
not even know books.)

Rahmat Shah Sayel is right and there have been numerous names who have not
been able even write or read, but promoted and enriched Pukhto to their
best. The author of NARA XJEBA (the virile language) is one of the very few
highly qualified scholars of our times who has contributed a lot to Pukhto.
NARA XJEBA is one of the great research books I have come across so far
written in Pukhto on Pukhto language. It is a very realistic reflection of
the research-oriented mind of its author, Dr Sher Zaman Taizi. The author
has got a very versatile personality. Among the common Pukhtuns, his
popularity comes from his great novels like ‘Gul Khan’, ‘Rahman Koroona’,
‘Ghonday’ and ‘Wadeh Ona Sho’, but in intellectual circles he is known for
his very critical and realistic approach towards current affairs. In
mass-media, he is known for writing and editing some very unique literary
pages and articles for the popular English dailies, but to me his research
book, ‘NARA XJEBA’, is one of the great gifts the Pukhtuns can ever have. It
is comprehensive, realistic and very well referenced. A reader can go
through it in a matter of hours, but the information it carries covers the
whole span of history from today’s internet-age to the BCs.

Dr Taizi explains that as a language, Pukhto is one of the pre-historic
languages that has survived many revolutions. Rag-vedh, written during
1500-1900 BC, mentions the presence of ten groups or tribes, with one of
them called PAKHAT or PAKHT, very similar to the present-day Pukhto or
Pukhtun synonymous to Pashto/Pakhto. The absence of the alphabets for the
Pukhto sounds KHEY or KHEEN in Roman indicates that the tribe mentioned in
Rag-vedh was very similar to today’s Pukhtun/Pakhtun. There are also
opinions relating Pukhto and Dari to AVAISA of ZARTUSHT (559-530 BC), which
bring Pukhto and Dari very close in age to Sanskrit.

This virile language has survived many revolutions throughout the history,
starting from the pre-historic Sanskrit to the modern-day English. History
reveals that in fact Pukhto, like its speakers, has grown significantly only
when it has been challenged. For example, when Persian took over as the
language of court during the Maghul and other rulers of Iranian origin,
Pukhto witnessed its most fortunate and fertile days in the form of the
great Khushal Khan Khattak and Abdur Rahman Baba - the unique and evergreen
poets of Pukhto. Similarly, when Arabic came as the language of religion and
the people attempted to neglect Pukhto for their vested interests, Pukhto
found Pir Rokhan and Mirza Khan Ansari like great scholars and poets who
used Pukhto for the first time as a medium in religious sermons and poetry
which forced even their opponents to learn Pukhto and thus aided its

Pukhto did not care even for borders and when the environment was not
convenient for Pukhto during the first few decades of Pakistan, we saw DA
PEENJREY CHAGHAAR (the screams of the cage) and DA GHAIRAT CHAGHA (the cry
of honour) by great poets like Abdul Ghani Khan and Ajmal Khattak published
from Kabul. Even today, when various circles threaten the status of Pukhto,
great scholars like Dr Taizi along with many others work for the promotion
and survival of their mother tongue and prove Pukhto to be in no way
contradictory to our religion or international norms. From time to time, Dr
Taizi has continuously discussed and condemned the hostile behaviour of the
Pukhtun rulers towards their mother tongue. The Pukhtuns ruled or had
influence, in various parts of the world, particularly in the regions
surrounding Afghanistan, but never bothered to promote their mother tongue.
Ghaznawids, Ghaljees, Saadaats and Lodhyaan rules extended for centuries but
most of them enjoyed playing with swords and ignored pen while others were
busy in jokes about their mother tongue. In his humorous style, Dr Taizi
narrates that someone (obviously a non-Pukhtun) asked a Pukhtun, “Why are
you speaking the language of hell?” The simple Pukhtun responded that if
Pukhto was the language of hell, then what was the language of paradise? The
person speaking Hindi/Urdu replied, “Arabic.” On this the Pukhtun advised
him, “When Allah recognises only two languages (Arabic for paradise and
Pukhto for hell), then what the hell are you speaking and violating His

Ghiasuddin Balban was a great Pukhtun ruler, but he showed no interest in
the promotion of his mother tongue. Ahmad Shah Baba ruled regions from
Mashhad to Kashmir and was himself a great poet of Pukhto, but he did
nothing officially for his mother tongue. Even his own historian was a
Persian. Interpolating this situation to our present circumstances, we see
that whenever the Pukhtuns have demanded something for their mother tongue
or identity, they have always been blamed and labelled as
separatists/extremists and against other languages, but most of us forget
that Urdu originated through Amir Khusro’s pen during Allauddin Ghaljee’s
rule, a Pukhtun who facilitated Urdu to grow and bloom but never cared about
his own Pukhto. We really feel proud of our broad-minded leaders, but would
have been thankful as well if they could have given a little attention to
their own mother tongue. Only the Pukhtuns of the 19th and 20th centuries
realised the importance of their mother tongue and promoted it considerably.

Dr Taizi reveals that one of those pioneers was the great Jamaluddin Afghani
who advised Sher Ali Khan, the then amir of Afghanistan, to promote Pukhto
along with many other issues which resulted in the publication of the first
Pukhto newspaper ‘Shamsun Nihaar’, in 1873. This prompted the Habibia School
in Kabul to introduce Pukhto as a subject. This consideratory gesture of the
amir led Saleh Mohammad Hotak, a teacher, to write Pukhto books for up to
level 3 along with the grammar. Furthermore, the same teacher started the
publication of ‘Tuloo-e-Afghan’ newspaper from Kandahar. The journals,
‘Pukhto Xjeba’ and ‘Zairay’ also came from the same period. It was Ghazi
Amanullah Khan who declared Pukhto as the national language of Afghanistan
and ordered to write the constitution of the country in it. During his
times, Arab Khan’s voice was the firstever Pukhto voice broadcasted from the
German Radio. In 1936, King Zahir Shah gave Pukhto the status of an official
language in Afghanistan. Although the Pukhto Society, Kabul, had not
survived the political instability during the last days of Ghazi Amanullah,
the merger of the Pukhto societies of Kandahar, Herat and Kabul in 1938 into
a single great Kabul Pukhto Tolana compensated that loss to a great extent.

Dr Taizi has not forgotten the British contribution in the promotion of his
mother tongue in his book. The British Pukhto scholars not only
internationalised Pukhto by relating it to English but also wrote several
good basic, grammar and history books. Mir Ahmad Redzwani, Munshi Ahmad Jan
and Maulwi Ahmad known as the three Ahmads and very popular names in the
history of Pukhto language, promoted Pukhto during the British rule.
Similarly, Fazal Mahmood Makhfi, Haji Sahib of Torangzai and Bacha Khan not
only translated courses for the Darul Uloom Deoband into Pukhto but taught
them in their Islami madrassas as well.

During the same British rule, Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan of Kota in Swabi
founded the Islamia Collegiate School, Peshawar, in 1913 which was later
upgraded to the Islamia College, Peshawar, then to the University of
Peshawar and ultimately the Pukhto Academy, Peshawar, came into being in

Describing the significant events in the history of Pukhto, Dr Sahib writes
that it was in 1917 when the publication of the Pukhto part in The Khyber
Mail started in Peshawar. Abdul Akbar Khan Akbar’s drama, “Drey Yateemaan”
(three orphans) was staged in the Othmanzai Madrassa School. Pir Abdul
Sattar Shah founded the first Pukhto society in Peshawar in 1933, which
produced great poets like Hamza Baba in Pukhto who openly and decisively
challenged all the ambiguities and wrong-feelings about Pukhto by his

(Whatever others call my mother tongue, I will go to the paradise with the
same Pukhto.)

In 1930, the first Pukhto drama, ‘Da Veeno Jaam’ (the goblet of blood),
written by Aslam Khan Khattak, was broadcasted from the All India Radio,
Peshawar. According to Dr Taizi, it was the then chief minister of the NWFP,
Dr Abdul Sattar Khan (known as Doctor Khan Sahib, the elder brother of Khan
Abdul Ghaffar Khan) who declared Pukhto as a compulsory subject in the NWFP
schools. The late General Fazle Haq also tried in the 1980s to promote
Pukhto officially in the NWFP, but the teachers and experts of different
mentalities involved in the process nullified his efforts.

Nowadays, Pukhto is broadcasted by more than 20 radio stations around the
world and as its international recognition the UNESCO publishes a Pukhto
journal, ‘Payaam’. There are many heroes doing their best to promote Pukhto,
some of them even not Pukhtuns, but I would like to mention the name of Noor
Rahman Liwal (a young devoted Afghan) for his valuable contribution in the
form of Pukhto Microsoft Windows - a job expected from a
government-sponsored organisation, but that talented Pukhtun did it on his
own and is trying his best to keep Pukhto shoulder to shoulder with the
other languages on the modern machines of computer and information
technology. Writing great research books like NARA XJEBA has never been a
full stop to Dr Taizi Sahib’s continuous and untiring struggle.

Dr Taizi has not only produced some great Pukhto novels and current affairs
books but the appearance of his day-to-day articles on various issues
regarding literature, health and awareness in various forms provide new
directions the Pukhtuns need to understand and promote.

Using his vast knowledge and logic to clarify various issues about Pukhto by
anti-Pukhto elements within and without Pukhtunkhwa, Dr Taizi has presented
verses from the Holy Quran to support his argument that the development and
use of one’s mother tongue as a medium has never been discouraged or
forbidden but encouraged by the religion. Furthermore, highlighting the
importance of the mother tongues, he explains that human beings have been
given the high status of Ashraf-ul-Makhluqat (the best of the creatures)
only and only because of the language they speak. He goes on to explain the
question of identity, quoting verses from the Holy Quran, that one’s
identity is not a sin but it is according to the Holy Quran.

O you men! Surely We have created you of a male and a female, and made you
tribes and families that you may know each other; surely the most honourable
of you with Allah is the one among you the most careful (of his duty);
surely Allah is Knowing, Aware. (49.13)

Presenting the holy verses from chapters Yusuf (AS) and Ibrahim (AS), Dr
Taizi argues that the revelation of the Holy Quran in Arabic was because of
its being the mother tongue of the addressees (Arabic) and with the spread
of Islam the problem of the medium of guidance was solved by the Ulema who
translated the Holy Quran into the language of the people where it reached,
keeping the original Arabic text intact. Saudi Arabia follows this principle
and has arranged translation of the Holy Quran into different languages of
the world - including Pushto. The Pushto translation in two volumes carry a
note that King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz A’l-Saud, the King of Saudi Arabia and
the servant of the two Holy Shrines, was blessed with the opportunity of
approving the order of conducting the translation of the exegesis of the
Holy Quran in Pushto.

After establishing the importance and non-contradictory status of Pukhto
from the Islamic point of view, he informs us of the worries (about the loss
of languages and cultures) being felt in the international community.
According to the Atlas of the World Languages in Danger of Disappearing by
Professor Stephen A. Wurm, “Close to half of the 6,000 languages spoken in
the world are doomed or likely to disappear in the foreseeable future. The
disappearance of any language is an irreparable loss for the heritage of all
the human kind.” This clearly means that the promotion of one’s mother
tongue is not only necessary for one’s identity and development but for the
preservation of the intangible cultural heritage as well. I will use this
opportunity to advise every Pukhtun to read NARA XJEBA and know about the
virile nature of his/her mother tongue.

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