Fahmida Riaz

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Fahmida Riaz
Born (1946-07-28) 28 July 1946 (age 70)
Meerut, UP, British India
Occupation Urdu poet, writer
Nationality Pakistani
Citizenship Pakistani
Literary movement Progressive Writers Movement
Notable works Godaavari
Khatt-e Marmuz
Notable awards Al-Muftah Award

Fahmida Riaz (Urdu: فہمیدہ ریاض‎) is a Progressive Urdu writer, poet, and feminist of Pakistan. She is author of Godaavari, Khatt-e Marmuz, and Khana e Aab O Gil, the first translation of the Masnavi of Jalaluddin Rumi from Persian into Urdu. She has also translated the works of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai and Shaikh Ayaz from Sindhi to Urdu.

Early life[edit]

Fahmida Riaz was born on 28 July 1946 in a literary family of Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, India. Her father, Riaz-ud-Din Ahmed, was an educationist, who had an influence in mapping and establishing the modern education system for Sindh.[citation needed] Her family settled in Hyderabad in 1930 following her father's transfer to Sindh. She learned about Urdu and Sindhi literature in childhood, and later learnt Persian.[citation needed]

Her early life was marked by the loss of her father when she was just four years old. She had already been writing poetry at this young age.[citation needed] Her mother, Husna Begum, supported the family through entrepreneurial efforts until Riaz entered college, when she started work as a newscaster for Radio Pakistan. Her first poetry collection was written at this time.[citation needed]

Family and work[edit]

Riaz was persuaded by her family to enter into an arranged marriage after graduation from college, and spent a few years in the UK with her first husband before returning to Pakistan after a divorce. During this time she worked with the BBC Urdu service (Radio) and got a degree in film making. She has one daughter from this marriage.She worked in an advertising agency in Karachi before starting her own Urdu publication Awaz. She met and married Zafar Ali Ujan, a leftist political worker and had two children with him. The liberal and politically charged content of Awaz drew the attention of the Zia regime and both Fahmida and Zafar were charged with multiple cases—the magazine shut down and Zafar was thrown in jail.

Exile in India[edit]

Fahmida was bailed out by a fan of her works before she could be taken to jail and fled to India with her two small children and sister on the excuse of a Mushaira invitation. Her friend the renowned poet Amrita Pritam helped her obtain assylum. She had relatives in India and her husband later joined her there after his release from jail. The family spent almost seven years in exile before returning to Pakistan on the eve of Benazir Bhutto's wedding reception. During this time Riaz had been poet in residence for Jamia Millia Islamia university in Delhi.

Fahmida was appointed MD of the National Book Foundation during Benazir Bhutto's first tenure and was later persecuted by the first Nawaz Sharif government, labelled an Indian agent and made virtually unemployable because of this threat. She worked three simultaneous jobs to support the needs of her growing children at this time. In the second tenure of Benazir's government, she was given a post at the Quaed e Azam Academy. When Benazir's government toppled a second time, Riaz was again persona non grata for Islamabad.[citation needed]

Fahmida Riaz lost her son Kabeer in October 2007. He drowned while swimming with friends on a picnic. This was soon after Riaz had translated fifty of Rumi's poems from Persian into Urdu, dedicated to Shams Tabriz. She was MD on the Urdu Dictionary Board from 2000–11.[citation needed]

Progressive Activism in Pakistan[edit]

Riaz took part in social and political activities throughout her academic life. She spoke and wrote against the University Ordinance and the ban on the students' union during the Ayub Khan regime. She spent many years in exile in India in the 1980s during the dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq, living in Delhi and teaching at Jamia Millia Islamia[citation needed]. She enjoyed the patronage of the Indian Government. Her husband, an activist of Sindhi nationalism, had also accompanied her to India.[citation needed] Fehmida Riaz has also been an advocate of Sindh's rights and language.

Literary work[edit]

Her first poem was published in Funoon of Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, when she was fifteen. Her first collection of poetry appeared at the age of 22.

  • Pathar ki Zaban
  • Khatt-e Marmuz
  • Godavari
  • Kya tum poora chand na dekho ge
  • Karachi
  • Gulabi kabotar
  • Badan darida
  • Dhoop
  • Aadmi ki zindagi
  • Khulay dareeche se
  • Halqa meri zanjeer ka
  • Adhoora aadmi
  • Pakistan, literature and society
  • Qafle parindon ke
  • Ye Khana e Aab O Gil


  • Hemmet Hellman Award for Resistance Literature from Human Rights Watch[citation needed]
  • Al Muftah Award for Literature: Poetry[citation needed]
  • Sheikh Ayaz Award for Literature: Poetry from Sindh Government[citation needed]
  • Presidential Pride of Performance Award for Literature: Poetry[citation needed]
  • Sitara -e- Imtiaz on 23 March 2010 by the President of Pakistan[1]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 

External links[edit]