Urdu scholar chosen for Pakistani civilian honour

"I was pleasantly surprised when I received a call on August 15 from Iftikhar Arif, noted Urdu poet and Pakistani scholar who also heads the National Language Authority which is a body devoted to promote the cause of Urdu.

"He told me that just a day ago, the Pakistani government had taken the decision to confer this award on me," renowned Urdu literary figure Shamsur Rahman Faruqi told PTI here.

Faruqi said the award presentation ceremony was likely to take place in March next year and the authorities have informed him that a formal invitation will soon be send wherein details of the programme will be given.

The 72-year-old Urdu scholar, who received the Padma Shri last year, expressed hope that the award would be more than a mere personal achievement and "do its bit in bringing about an atmosphere of friendship and mutual trust..."

"Diplomatic relations between the two countries may have had their ups and downs, but writers and poets of India and Pakistan have always remained united," Faruqi said.

"We must not underestimate the impact these things can have. Our Prime Minister has been offering humanitarian assistance to Pakistan which is reeling under devastating flood. Pakistan, on its part, has chosen an Indian litterateur for one of their prestigious awards. This shows that all is not lost between the two countries," he said.

Faruqi also expressed displeasure over the tendency to view Urdu as a "Muslim language", which he said "results from ignorance of the fact that this is one Indian language in which people from all faiths -- Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians -- have made significant contributions".

"Urdu has had innumerable writers, poets and critics who came from a non-Muslim background. Fortunately, despite attempts to politicise the issue, there seems to be no dearth of interest in the language even in the younger generation," he added.

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