Fahmida Riaz’s daughter turns down presidential award for late mother


Famed poet Fahmida Riaz’s daughter has declined the presidential award announced by the government for her late mother, in protest against the kidnapping and torture of journalists and writers.

Taking to Facebook, Veerta Ali Ujan, posted, “Awards section contacting me about ammi’s award investiture ceremony. . . .how can I accept an award for her work at this time? It would be an insult to her whole life’s struggle for justice and equality.”

Awards section contacting me about ammi's award investiture ceremony. . . .how can I accept an award for her work at…

Posted by Veerta Ali Ujan on Wednesday, 2 September 2020

“Writers and journalists are being kidnapped, tortured, even murdered. Harassers being awarded. Karachi left to rot in sewage.”

“So. No thank you. I am refusing the presidential award for my mother’s work. I’m sure she would have refused it if she was alive today.”

Speaking to Images, Ujan says, “If my mother was alive today, she would not wish to be associated with any government award in the current climate of authoritarian intimidation of publications, writers and journalists. She would be crying over the state of Karachi and angry at the way blasphemy cases are being used as a blunt instrument to divide society.”

She continues, “If anyone doubts this, they can read her poetry and prose. If the government wishes to award her, it should refrain from rewarding and encouraging injustice, exploitation and misogyny.”

Born in pre-Partition Meerut in 1946, Fahmida Riaz was among the leading Urdu poets of her time.

A relentless social critic, she had been active in several human rights movements and was among those who campaigned against the military rule of General Ziaul Haq and the execution of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Riaz passed away on November 21, 2018. She was 72 years old.

Previously, Saeen Taj Joyo, the father of a Sindhi teacher and activist Sarang Joyo, had also refused the President’s Pride Award (Nisan-e-Pakistan) due to his son’s disappearance. Sarang Joyo was recently found and was alleged to have been tortured in captivity.