In Memoriam: Aslam Rasoolpuri (1941-2024)

Rasoolpuri articulates that the Saraiki identity, rooted in the ancient history of the Indus Valley has undergone a distinct racial and ethnic evolution, wholly distinct from Punjabi ethnicity or race.

In Memoriam: Aslam Rasoolpuri (1941-2024)

As a millennial who has only begun to see my downtrodden and marginalised Saraiki people, I was almost tempted to call Aslam Rasoolpuri a Marxist, however, it would be a grave injustice to confine him to labels when he was in fact, the vanguard of Saraiki socio-political thought. Amid the chaos of the general elections in Pakistan, the passing of Aslam Rasoolpuri went largely unnoticed, a loss too profound to be overlooked.

A dignitary of the Saraiki literary landscape, he bid farewell to this world on 1st February 2024, leaving behind a legacy that echoes through the hearts and minds of all who have been moved by the profound impact of his words.

Born in 1941 in the quaint village of Rasoolpur, nestled within the embrace of the impoverished district of Dera Ghazi Khan in the Wasaib, Rasoolpuri emerged as a towering figure in the realm of Saraiki literature, leaving an enduring mark through his writings and unwavering commitment to social justice.

Amidst the heartfelt tributes pouring in for Aslam Rasoolpuri, Mushtaq Gaadi's touching words truly resonate. Gaadi fondly recalls their lifelong friendship, stretching back to their youth, and shares the awe he felt upon stumbling upon magazines adorned with Rasoolpuri's writings dating back to the 1970s. Such discoveries serve as a poignant reminder of Rasoolpuri's lasting impact on literature, spanning generations with his timeless words.

Gaadi also mentions one of Rasoolpuri's famous writings, "مابعد قوم پرستی تے سرائیک قومیت," published in a magazine called "سنڄاݨ". He expresses deep admiration for this piece, highlighting its exploration of vital topics ranging from post-modernism to post-nationalism. Gaadi is particularly impressed by its profound examination of the history and significance of the Saraiki identity. He lauds it as a uniquely advanced specimen of Saraiki scholarship, noting its compelling arguments and meticulous adherence to research protocols with complete references.

I am grateful for the opportunity to shed light on an exceptional piece penned by the legendary Aslam Rasoolpuri. In his insightful analysis, Rasoolpuri articulates that the Saraiki identity, rooted in the ancient history of the Indus Valley and anchored in the Saraiki Wasaib, has undergone a distinct racial and ethnic evolution, wholly distinct from Punjabi ethnicity or race.

In the contemporary landscape of post-nationalist ideologies, where minority ethnic groups demand equal rights, the Saraiki ethnicity emerges as a beacon of new identity formation, encompassing its unique culture, and language, and aspiring for political recognition. Rasoolpuri concludes that this evolutionary process has engendered a hybrid identity, departing from conventional unitary constructs.

Rasoolpuri's commitment to progressive ideals and his unwavering advocacy for social equality reverberated throughout his body of work. Influenced by the ethos of humanism and inspired by the struggles of the proletariat, he embraced a steadfast allegiance to the principles of justice and equity. His writings served as a rallying cry for societal transformation, igniting flames of hope and resilience in the hearts of his readers.

Though Aslam Rasoolpuri had penned and published a dozen books or booklets, along with approximately a hundred papers covering various topics, his heart was most drawn to Saraiki phonetics, historical linguistics, literary criticism, and jurisprudence.

Throughout his illustrious career, Rasoolpuri remained a steadfast guardian of the Saraiki language, tirelessly advocating for its recognition and preservation. His pioneering efforts in elevating Saraiki literature to greater prominence paved the way for future generations of writers and poets to follow in his footsteps. His contributions to the literary landscape of Pakistan are immeasurable, leaving an enduring imprint on the annals of Saraiki culture and heritage.

  • "Siraiki Rasm-ul-khat Ki Mukhtasar Tareekh" (A Short History of Siraiki Orthography)
  • "Siraiki Zaban Da Rasm-ul-khat Tey Oundian Awazan" (Orthography of Siraiki Language and its Sounds)
  • "Siraiki Qa'eda" (Siraiki Primer)
  • "Tulawarrey" (Scales)
  • "Marxi Nuqta-e-Nazar Aur Humara Adab" (Marxian Point of View and Our Literature)

While it would be impossible to enumerate all of Aslam Rasoolpuri's works and discuss them within the confines of one article, the aforementioned list comprises some of his notable contributions to linguistics and criticism. These books have established the groundwork for centuries to come in the preservation and promotion of the Saraiki language, and we remain indebted to his invaluable contributions.

Aslam Rasoolpuri hailed from a humble village devoid of basic amenities, navigating life on a motorcycle while juggling roles as a teacher and human rights advocate. His scholarly contributions in linguistics and socio-political realms span generations. Yet, heroes like him from the Saraiki Wasaib remain unrecognised, let alone celebrated. Even within purportedly progressive circles, the Saraiki Wasaib is often relegated to a stereotype of feudalism and stagnation. However, our land and our people embody progressiveness, a cause epitomised by Aslam Rasoolpuri himself.

Aslam Rasoolpuri's passing leaves a void in the world of literature that can never be filled. Yet, his spirit lives on through the timeless resonance of his writings, inspiring generations to come with their profound wisdom and eternal truths. As we bid farewell to a beloved writer, let us take solace in the enduring legacy of his words, which shall continue to illuminate the path of enlightenment and compassion for generations to come. In honouring the life and literary contributions of Aslam Rasoolpuri, we pay tribute to a visionary whose works will forever echo in the corridors of our hearts.

May his soul find eternal peace in the embrace of the heavens, as his legacy continues to flourish in the hearts of all who cherish the beauty of Saraiki literature. Rest in peace, Aslam Rasoolpuri. Your words shall live on, an eternal beacon of light in the tapestry of human existence.