HEC includes two plays of teacher from remote area in MPhil English course

By Raheel Hanif

March 2, 2023 11:31 AM

The Higher Education Commission has made two plays of a Pakistani teacher, playwright, director, actor, researcher and translator based in Mandi Bahauddin Usman Ali in the MPhil English course.

Usman is a unique literary figure in Pakistan who destroyed the myth of a conducive environment and big cities and institutions' exposure to excel in his trade. Instead, he has brought opportunities to the students of the less-privileged area through his sheer passion and genius despite many setbacks. 

The HEC has included his plays The Guilt and The Last Metaphor in MPhil Course titled ‘Pakistani Writings in English (core)’.

He is the first Pakistani English language playwright and has published six plays which have been acknowledged in Pakistan, England and the US. Usman Ali is a playwright of more than 16 original plays in English endorsed by Edward Bond.

He founded Ali’s Theatre at a sub-campus of the University of Sargodha in Mandi Bahauddin, which was later closed by Dr Ishtiaq, Vice-Chancellor, the University of Sargodha along with the University Campus in which it was located.

At his theatre, he produced a number of masterpieces and won accolades from his peers locally as well as internationally.

His genius forces Claire Chambers who teaches global literature at the University of York and is the author of Britain Through Muslim Eyes: Literary Representations, 1780-1988 to travel to this remote area of Punjab and she was awestruck after seeing the masterwork of Usman and also compared him to the founder of famous Ajoka theatre’s Nadeem Shahid.

“Mandi Bahauddin’s bard and the founder of Ali’s Theatre, Usman Ali, exerts an almost cult-like hold over his young students, who revere his visionary teaching and supple creative imagination. However, in his turn the younger playwright is following in Nadeem’s footsteps, even if the former writes in English while the Ajoka activist works in Urdu, Punjabi and Seraiki. For instance, Ali dedicates all his work to the University of the Punjab professor, Shaista Sonnu Sirajuddin, who penned the laudatory introduction to Nadeem’s Selected Plays. And his play The Last Metaphor, performed at the conference, has striking similarities with Nadeem’s debut The Dead Dog.

“Ali’s Beckettian three-act play The Last Metaphor features two men (played by Ali and Qaiser Mahmood) alone on the stage. Their passions and fears are recounted in a strange, disjointed dialogue amidst futile arguments. The play has a haunting, hallucinogenic quality, reinforced by the sound effect of a repetitive dripping that seems redolent of the Chinese water torture. Into this claustrophobic, absurdist world come all-too-real tales of police brutality; the audience is shown an intensely masculine world of violence and a lynching reminiscent of the Sialkot case of 2010.

“This is juxtaposed with the touching male friendship of both the two protagonists and the dog and his former companion, set against the beauty of a Pakistani winter replete with crows, cobras and fireflies. The dead body one character has been carrying around is revealed at the denouement to be that of a canine. Ali, like Nadeem, shows his interest in rights that go beyond the human, even in a situation characterised by extreme violence,” wrote Claire in her column for Daily Dawn back in 2017.

Usman was also selected for a 2018 Fall Residency with the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa where the University introduced him in these words: “Usman ALI (playwright; Pakistan) researches physical and non-verbal theatre, and is the founder of Ali's Theatre at the Mandibhauddin campus of the University of Sargodha. His English-language plays The Prisoners, The Guilt, The Last Metaphor, The Odyssey, The Breath, and The Flute have been published and performed in Pakistan, with three upcoming runs at the Royal Court Theatre in London. In 2014 he received the Taufiq Rafat Prize for Drama. He participates courtesy of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.”

Usman is the first Pakistani to get a certificate of appreciation from the American President, Donald Trump; he also directed the dramatic reading of his play at the Theatre Department of the University of Iowa, US, and also enacted along with famous American actor, Elijah Jones.

Usman is the first Pakistani playwright who also conducted a workshop on creative writing at the famous ‘Hugo’s House’ in the US. His plays have been performed across the US, and Royal Court Theatre in London has also accepted his plays for performance in the UK.


Written By

Raheel Hanif

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