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VOA Celebrates Pashtun Poet on 400th Birthday

Deewa staff and friends

Deewa staff and friends

“I refuse to bow down to the ruler, as he bears the heart of a tyrant,” is one of Khushal Khan Khattak’s most famous lines.

Four-hundred years after his birth, Deewa Radio/TV staff honored the poet on March 22nd with an open house and a celebration of his work. Nadeem Hotianana, the Press Attaché from the embassy of Pakistan and other guests took part in the day-long event, which was held in honor of International Poetry Day, and featured newsreels from the Deewa service, cultural information, music and refreshments.

“It is important for VOA to celebrate this writer because we want to educate our audience about his influence on both the ancient and modern culture of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” says Deewa Service Chief Nafees Takar. The service is well known for the use of poetry in its programs.

Khattak is considered the father of Pashtun literature and the national poet of Afghanistan. He was also a renowned military fighter, but found time to pen at least 45,000 poems and is often compared to British playwright William Shakespeare and the German writer and politician Johann Goethe.

“Khattak is such an important part our history,” said Muhammad Suleman, a banker from Washington who took time out to come to the open house. “His poetry is passed down through generations. I grew up reading it, both in school and at home, as the youth still do today.”

VOA’s South Asia Division Director Spozhmai Maiwandi said, “Many famous singers on both sides of the border have sung his poetry and translated it into music. He is an iconic figure who still brings joy to our society. This day is an opportunity to remember him. Happy birthday Mr. Khan – may your creativity live on for several centuries to come.”