“The basic reason for our economic and cultural stagnation is the capitalist system we have inherited from our colonial masters, the British.”

–(The manifesto of Progressive Writers Movement in 1949, published in Sawera magazine)

 

Right after the partition of 1947, the Progressive Writers Movement organized its first conference in Pakistan in 1949 under the presidency of Sajjad Zaheer. The conference published an angry manifesto to express its bitter disappointment with the progress of the state. The manifesto lambasted the state for failing to improve the condition of its workers, its inability to curb the rise of unemployment, poverty and disease and for spending the wealth of the country on such destructive activities as the preparations of wars instead of spending it on some constructive projects. The manifesto blamed the colonial, capitalist underpinnings of the state for these failures. Such a vehement criticism of the state from one of the most influential literary movements of its time speaks volumes about the critical role literature used to play in the society.

Within a few years, however, the state started censoring the magazines of the movement and arrested its major figures like Sajjad Zaheer. The legacy of this censorship and suppression has continued to this day. PEMRA, for example, issues frequent notices, warnings to the TV channels and regulates their contents to weed out any criticisms of the state. Such a regulation explains the uncritical, conformist, submissive nature of literature produced today as indicated by the content of our contemporary drama serials.