Altaf Fatima was born in Lucknow in 1929, to a family who had moved there around 1857 from Khairabad in Patiala. She completed her education in Lahore, after partition, obtaining her M.A. and B.Ed. degrees from the Punjab University. She taught Urdu literature at Islamia College for Women in Lahore for several years. She has now moved to APWA Girls’ College, also in Lahore, as a professor in the Urdu department.

She has published three novels, Nishaan-i-Mehfil, Dastak Naa Do (The One Who Did Not Ask) and Chulta Musafir, as well as three collections of short stories, Woh jisay chaha gaya, Jub diwaaren girya kurti hain, and most recently Taar-i-unkaboot, which was published in 1990. She has also translated from English into Urdu, Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mocking Bird, and a collection of political essays by eminent personalities, Barrey aadmi, aur unke nazariyat.

Out of all Fatima’s work, The One Who Did Not Ask has enjoyed the most sustained success in Pakistan. An adaptation was presented on Pakistan television and an abridged translation was serialised by the prestigious Karachi monthly, Herald.