Sadat Hasan Manto, who died on 18th January 1955, is like a bad penny. No matter how deep you burry him he keeps coming back. The recent film on him by Nantida Das was released last year and as it was not allowed to be screened in Pakistan, just like his stories which parents told their children not to read, it must have been watched by everyone, even those who had no interest in Manto!

And now we hear that the week long Manto Mela, in Alhamra Lahore has been cancelled by an executive of Lahore Arts Council who says that as long as he is alive such lewd stuff will not be allowed in Alhamra. I am sure this will also act as something to incite people who never heard the name Manto to start reading his stories.

It is appropriate when talking about Manto to alter a quote by Oscar Wild whose play 'Vera of the Nihilists' was one of the first pieces of literature the young Manto translated into Urdu at the start of his career, ''There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral short story, short stories are well written or badly written, that is all.' And indeed as far as the art of writing short stories goes there is no one who can compete with Manto in Urdu language, something even his enemies agree with.

So what is all this fuss about Manto? Why was he tried six times in his life (three times before Independence from British and three after) for writing obscene stories? And if indeed he was such a vile character why is he so popular? And why do they keep digging up his grave and putting him on trial again and again even though he is dead?

And here we need to understand the various types of people in this world. Essentially, we have those who believe in sweeping everything under the carpet. For them life is about hiding the bad things, they know this can't be done forever but they are happy to kick the can down the road for someone else to deal with. As far as they are concerned it should be ‘sab acha hai’ (all is well).

For the above, Manto and his like are the ex-murderers. These unscrupulous people rub their nose in the crap that is flowing everywhere and ask for this to be fixed. The moralists do not like this, as they have no remedy to fix the moral corruption, they want everyone to act as if it does not exist.

And for them Manto is something to be avoided just like from a plague.

And then, we have the realists. Those who may not have the solution to the problems of society but at the same time those who do not believe in hiding the ills of the society, for  them the first step in improving ourselves is the realization of what is wrong with us. 

It is depressing and sad that our society is still controlled by the first type who do not allow us to lay bare the festering sores of our society and thus do not allow any chance for a surgeon to cut away the rotting flesh poisoning the whole body.

Sadat Hasan Manto, an exceptional writer of the realist group, was a man of extraordinary intelligence, with a supernatural ability to understand the psyche of those he met and used to create his characters but he also possessed the fatal flaw to write in lucid details and truth about the society he lived in and the people he lived with.

Manto himself confessed, ''Dear Lord, please recall from this world Sadat Hasan Manto for he runs away from fragrance and chases after filth. He hates the bright sun, preferring dark labyrinths. He has nothing but contempt for modesty but is fascinated by the naked and the shameless....''

And it was his this ability to tell the naked truth without tact which led the authorities to consider him a dangerous progressive and the progressives declaring him to be a reactionary.

In a nutshell, this sums up the relationship Pakistan has with Manto. A man who was born in Ludihana, that part of India which did not become part of Pakistan, who found fame, fortune and friendship in Bombay (not Mumbai as Manto would hate that), another part of India which did not become part of Pakistan regardless of that many others decided to leave all that to live and love Pakistan but was never accepted or appreciated for such devotion in his life, simply because he spoke the truth without sugar coating. 

The sad thing is that there so much knowledge in Manto’s stories that can help us to come to terms with the events of 1947. For in him, we have someone who hated the very concept of what we call partition but at the same time someone who accepts it as something that has happened and to get on with life instead of falling into despair due to it.

And yet just like we Pakistanis are in perpetual confusion about what Pakistan is, we are confused about what Manto is, something he saw 67 years ago and is still true, ''I feel great sadness today. There was a time when I was considered as a progressive one, but I was then declared a reactionary. And now, once again, those who had passed the earlier judgment appear willing to admit that I am a progressive. And our government, which pronounced its own judgment over that of others, sees me as a progressive, in other words, a Red, a communist. Sometimes out of exasperation it calls me a pornographer and files a suite against me. The same government also puts out advertisements in its publications declaring Sadat Hasan Manto to be a great writer of this country, a great short story writer. My melancholy heart trembles that one day this indecisive government will find itself pleased with me and place a medal on my coffin, which would be a great insult to my commitment to what I believe in.''

This is exactly what happened in 2012 when the government of Pakistan (then under PPP) woke up from its slumber and bestowed Nishan-a- Imtiaz, the highest possible decoration a civilian can achieve, to Sadat Hasan Manto. An event that must have made him turn in his grave a few times.

And now we have the Supreme Court banning a film made on his life and some officials banning his anniversary celebrations that had been planed declaring once again he is a pornographer.

One is reminded of the verses by Ghalib (Manto's favorite poet) written on his tombstone:

''Ya Rub zamana mujh ko mitata hai kiss leyae

Loh-a Jahan pay harf-a-mukarar nehien hon mein.”

“Dear God why does the world want to erase my name

On the face of life I am not whose name was written twice by mistake.''

The problem is that the more they try to erase it the more his name keeps coming back to haunt them.

And Manto does not stop in his evil ways, no sir. When a reader was upset at his write-up about someone dead claiming that in a civilized society people do not talk ill of the dead and one should only speak of their virtues Manto replied, ''If that is indeed what happens, then I pronounce a thousand curses on that civilized society and that civilized country where every dead persons character and personality are crated off to a laundry so that they can come back scrubbed clean and white, ready to be hanged under a sign saying,  'Of Blessed Memory’.''

And so what is the solution to this dilemma? How do the pallbearers of morality get rid of Manto once and for all? Well, in my opinion the only way is to smash all mirrors! For the greatest sin of Manto is that he showed us our real face with all the warts, blemishes etc. By this can we be free of all the truth when we look into a mirror. Only then will we be free of Manto and can live in peace.