On his hundredth birthday, Manto stands taller on the literary horizon than others who wrote about the mass migrations of 1947. Where he needs greater appreciation is in the role he played as a witness to history through his chilling narratives of partition. In a country where history as a discipline has suffered from calculated neglect in the interests of projecting statist ideology, Manto's partition stories are an excellent entry point for enquiring minds eager to understand the past that has made their present fraught with such uncertainty and danger. The ever-percipient Manto had anticipated the problems of treating religion as a weapon rather than a matter of personal faith and ethics, which have over the past three decades surfaced with a vengeance in Muslim Pakistan. His words of warning have a resonance that is louder than when he said: ‘Our split culture and divided civilization, what has survived of our arts; all that we received from the cut up parts of our own body, and which is buried in the ashes of Western politics, we need to retrieve, dust, clean and restore to freshness in order to recover all that we have lost in the storm.' Ayesha Jalal
If there is a birthday present Pakistanis and Indians can jointly give Manto, it is to admit the reality of the problems he spelt out in his writings on partition. It may then become possible for them to take the requisite steps towards recovering what has been lost by the myopic refusal of their respective nation-states to understand each other's position, rectify past errors, and strike a mutually beneficial and sustainable historical compromise.