ASR reprinted a novel, The Heart Divided, and published a bilingual anthology of feminist poetry, Beyond Belief, a selection of readings, Finding our Way, and a series of interviews with women on Islam, Voices Within.

After the tremendous response to ASR as an alternative publisher, new titles had been added to its publications lists. ASR reprinted Nawal el Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero, Fatima Mernissi’s Hidden from History: The Forgotten Queens of Islam and Kumari Jayawerdena’s Feminism and Nationalism in accordance with their thematic relevance for Pakistan and South Asia. Honour, Shame and Resistance a book about honour killings had been published. Other publications included a Women’s Studies Series, women’s fiction and literary criticism, a collection of essays on social, political and ideological issues and academic publications.

To make art more accessible and to bridge the gap between fiction, academia and art, ASR used art work by women artists for its book covers. In addition, the work of feminist artists was also printed in the form of posters and cards for wider dissemination.

Beyond Belief

The women poets’ resistance to Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorship naturally came in the form of poetry, but their poetry was not necessarily being published, because of the restrictions imposed by Zia’s regime. In fact, some major women poets also had to go into self-exile for several years like many other artists and activists who were opposing the regime. Fahmida Riaz was one such poet, who was hounded out of the country because of her poetry. The regime lodged fake cases against her and she had to live in India for seven years until Zia’s regime was over. ASR was aware of the situation and encouraged women artists and poets in whatever way it could in their resistance. 

In 1990, Nighat Said Khan met Rukhsana Ahmad in London by coincidence. Rukhsana Ahmad had been translating Pakistani women poets, who were sensitive to the political situation in the country in the 1980s and most of their poetry that resisted the regime was not yet published. Nighat Said Khan got the rights from Rukhsana Ahmad for ASR Publications to publish the poetry along with its translation. Thus, Rukhasana Ahamd’s translation of Pakistani women’s poetry from the 1980s and resulted in an ASR publication titled ‘Beyond Belief’ that was published in 1992.

To honor the poets, ASR felt it was important to produce a book that actually shed light on their role in keeping the struggle alive. The book was designed and printed manually. The paper used in the book was not available in the given shade and it was dyed to give the paper a certain character. ASR Publications have also showcased the artwork of Pakistani women artists as book covers that was a visual expression of their resistance. The publication, thus, served a dual purpose by making the resistance art and poetry available to the readers.  

The Heart Divided

The narrative of the Partition has been tampered by regimes and governments on both sides of the border in Pakistan and India since it took place. ASR has always been involved in peace initiatives. The portrayal of Partition, Independence, and the Two-Nation Theory in schools is of paramount importance to the future of peace in the region. ASR was aware of a novel written by Mumtaz Shah Nawaz in the 1940s that could also be used as an alternative text to teach the narrative of Partition. 

Mumtaz Shah Nawaz was a freedom fighter, poet, and women’s rights champion working out of Delhi and Lahore in the 1940s. She was a very interesting person in her own right; her story symbolizes India’s political transition in the 20th century. She was politically involved with the Indian National Congress initially and then with All India Muslim League. Deeply influenced by the ongoing political situation in the country she wrote a novel in the mid-1940s. She intended to publish it, but unfortunately, she did not see it published in her own life as she passed away at a young age in a plane crash over Ireland. She was on her way to the U.S., when she died, as a part of the Pakistani delegation that was to present Pakistan’s credentials to the U.N. to be inducted as a member country. She had also taken along a manuscript of her novel on this trip with the intention of finding a publisher in the U.S.

Her family self-published the novel in 1957. ASR Publications got the rights of the book from her family in 1990. ASR published it with the general public in mind but also wanted it to be introduced in the schools as an alternative text on Partition. The Partition can be seen through the eyes of a young Indian Muslim woman, who herself was a part of the Indian National Congress initially and then had switched over to All India Muslim League. It is an intergenerational narrative, which covers an important period in the history of Indian, and the story is set in Lahore. The rights of the book were further given to Penguin India and the third edition of the book was published by Penguin India in 2004.

ASR Publications have done all its book covers in-house. The cover of the book’s ASR edition was also done by ASR, which shows a map of the Indian sub-continent torn into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. This particular cover stirred quite a controversy when the book was showcased at the New Delhi Book fair. The Indian publishers’ association sought a ban on it as the book’s cover showed Kashmir as a part of Pakistan.

 

 


The first draft of book cover, which shows a map of the Indian sub-continent torn into India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.