Pakistan has numerous literary languages, of which the main ones are: urdū, official in the country, bengalī, panjābī, sindhī, pashtō and belūcī.
Literature in urdū, the most important in Pakistan despite urdū being the mother tongue of any resident of the state, reached the apex of formal perfection in the 19th century. with the poet Ghālib of Delhi and with the prose writer Sir Sayyid Aḥmed Khān. The most notable Muslim poet of the 20th century. it was M. Iqbāl. Among the great writers of classical urdū poetry (19th-20th century) are mentioned: AH Ḥālī, considered the founder of urdū literary criticism, Zafar ‛Alī Khān, M. Azād, Akbar of Allāhābād and Sīmāb of Agra. Of the poets born in the early 20th century, innovators in style and content, Hafīz Jāllandhrī, Muḥammad Dīn Ta’sīr, ‛Ābid‛ Alī Ābid, author of short stories, and Nazr Muḥammad Rāshid stand out. Also innovators, especially in form, were Mīrā-jī and Faiz Aḥmad Faiz. The prose was established by RN Sarshār, Mīrzā Rusva, A. al-H. Sharār and Premcand. In 1936, the Movement of Progressive Writers (Taraqqī-pasand musannifīn) by Faiz Aḥmad Faiz together with novelists and short story writers such as I. Chughtā’ī, AN Qāsimī, M.Ḥ. ‛Askarī and S.Ḥ. Mantō. Among the writers active after the ‘split’ from India are Mumtāz Muftī (1906-1995), Azīz Aḥmad (1914-1978), Qudratullāh Shahāb (1917-1986), the writer Qurratu ‘l-‛Ayni Haidar (1927- 2007), joined by the sisters Hājira Masrūr (b. 1929) and Khadīja Mastūr (1930-1983) and Aḥmad ‛Alī (1910-1993); the latter also wrote in English, as Iqbāl Aḥmad (1921-1993), Yūnus Sa’dī and Anvār Inayatullāh (b. 1947).
According to listofusnewspapers, Bengali literature, characterized for a long time by the coexistence of Hindi and Muslim elements, then took on a distinctly Islamic character thanks to Nazr al-Islām, who, together with Tagore, is considered the greatest Bengali poet. The technical and formal innovations brought about by Nazr al-Islām were followed by numerous poets, including Ghulām Mustafā and Jasīmuddīn. Other poets include: B. Aḥmad, the poet and novelist S. Kamal, S. Sayfullāh and A. l-Husain. In the genre of the novel we distinguish S. ‛Osmān, A. al-Azād, A. Rushd, S. Valīullāh and the writer Nūrunnahār.
Panjābī literature during the British domination (1847-1947) saw the development of the ghazal genre, with Fazl Shāh and A. Rā’ē. In this period, in addition to the poem ṣūfī by KG Farīd and MM Bakhshī, a political poem was established with Sharaf of Lahore, J. Fazlu ‘d-Dīn, U. Dāman and QF Ḥaq. In 1951 a literary monthly (Panjābī) was founded in Lahore, directed by ‛AM Sālik and F. Muḥammad: numerous poets collaborated with the periodical such as U. Karam, S. Tabassum, S. Kunjāhī, A. Rāhī, who drew from popular folklore themes for works with a social background.
In the 18th century. Sindhi literature was renewed in themes and forms by Shāh ‛Abd al-Latīf. In the following period a typically Persian poetic genre developed; great favor also met the marsiya (“elegy of Persian tradition”) in which S. Sābit ‛Alī Shāh excelled; the mystical poet S. Sarmast also had considerable importance. In the British period, in addition to a deepening of Persian metrics and style, other literary genres were also attempted, which, although not reaching a high artistic level, broke the rigid classical setting. An exception should be made for S. ‛A. Ghīlānī and for Shaikh Ayāz who, influenced by the modern urdū style, went beyond the Persian metric schemes to create new poetic forms.
Pashto literature, largely influenced by Persian, in the 17th century. it reached its formal peak with K. Khān Khatak; his disciples and imitators were the sons ‛Abdu ‘l-Qādir, Sādar Khān and his nephew Afzal Khān. Among the mystical poets, we remember ‛Abd ar-Rahmān and‛ Abd al-Hamīd. A true renewal of literature began in the 19th century, especially with the short story genre, which had its founder in MA Jan. The new school progressed especially from 1920 with the founding of Islamiya College in Peshawar, where culture pashtō had a fruitful contact with the European and urdū. However, more than ‘learned’ literature, it is popular literature that flourishes again, with religious legends, historical-epic and amorous songs, both in its own metric forms and in the structure of the ghazal.
Belūcī literature is largely popular and passed down orally. Influenced by the tradition that links the Belūcīs to an Arab origin, it includes the novella (focusing on the legendary origins of the Belūcī, the lives of saints and prophets, fables and love stories) and poetry (with an epic, didactic-religious background, or amorous). A well-known love poet is Jām Durrak (17th century). Literature continues to deal with the same issues until the advent of the local press, which urged the creation of a written literature, cultivating above all Islamic and patriotic ideals. Among the major representatives of this period are: the poet G. Khān Nasīr, and A. Jamāldīnī, editor of the monthly Balūcī.
The production in English is also abundant; among the most appreciated authors, we remember the novelist Aḥmed ‛Alī and the poets T. Raqat, A. Hashmi and MA Tahir.
In the rich panorama of the contemporary Pakistan (for the artistic and cultural events preceding independence ➔ India) the painter Zainul Abedin, exponent of the realist current, whose forms range from naturalism to semi-abstractism, the painter Zubeida Agha and the sculptress Novera Ahmed for the avant-garde current, the futurists Shakir Ali and Ozzir Zuby, Gulgee, Sadequain, Amimul Islam. Some, including Anwar Jalal Shemza, Ahmed Parvez and Ali Imam, founders of the Lahore Group in the early 1950s, later lived and worked in Britain.
The influence of Western and Anglo-Saxon culture was also sensitive to modern architecture. The generations of architects of Pakistan have been affected by the principles of the International Style (H. Fida ‛Ali, Burmah Shell headquarters in Karachi, 1978; Y. Lari, Finance and Trade Center in Karachi, 1989 etc.). The presence of foreign architects is noteworthy: E. Durrell Stone (Water and Power Development Authority House in Lahore; Pakistan Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology in Islamabad etc.); G. Ponti (Secretariat and Sherazad Hotel in Islamabad); CA Doxiades (new Campus for the University of Punjab).