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Express Tribune

Published Date: Jun 19, 2012


Over six decades after gaining independence from British imperialism, Pakistan remains under the control of a neo-colonial power – the United States – fulfilling the prophecy of legendary short-story writer Saadat Hasan Manto.

Manto’s famous letters to Uncle Sam are a reflection of “Pakistan’s foreign policy and its dependency on the US”. In face of threats from imperialists and fundamentalists alike, he continued to write about how he thought the Muslims were being armed to counter communist threat.

This was the consensus among speakers at a seminar, “Manto’s Uncle Sam in his time and in ours”, held at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Monday.

The event was held to mark the centenary of the birth of Manto (1912-55).

Literary critic and a lecturer at Beaconhouse National University (BNU) Raza Naeem read out Manto’s famous nine letters to Uncle Sam during the event, linking them to the country’s present political situation.

Though Manto was mostly known for his short stories, his letters present a picture of changes occurring in the society due to American imperialism.

Reading out one of the letters, Naeem said Manto explains himself as a poor writer. “I am poor because my country is poor,” he quoted the short-story writer.

Naeem said that the letters have not been considered seriously by literary critics. However, they in fact present “a foresight that continues to dazzle the readers even after 60 years of composition,” he added.

Speaking on the occasion, adviser to the National Accountability Bureau Chairman Dr Ayesha Siddiqa said, “Manto has been rediscovered by people in the recent past and has become a fashionable brand now.” “These nine letters are masterpieces without which Urdu literature is incomplete,” she said.

In his letters, Manto criticised and assessed American foreign policy and its strong hegemony over Pakistan through the instrument of aid and its nexus with Pakistani ruling elites, she said.

Pakistan on its own has never aimed for economic independence, instead the policy-makers, especially the military dictators, have reinforced the country’s dependency on foreign support and reliance,” she added.

“Are we ready to genuinely reassess our foreign policy or are we searching for another form of deep-rooted patron-client relationship with the US which Manto challenged through his letters?” Siddiqa asked.

Furthermore, renowned writer and SDPI Senior Adviser Ahmad Salim said Manto wrote these precious letters when Pakistan was still deciding its fortunes under its foreign policy-making process in the 1950s.

“Manto didn’t write these letters to become popular. His work represents the feelings of a politically conscious person who challenged this patron-client relationship amid facing the charges of being anti-social,” he added.