These groups were anti-imperialistic and left-oriented, and sought to inspire people through their writings advocating equality among all humans and attacking social injustice and backwardness in the society.
According to The Dawn newspaper, "Progressive Writers Movement in Urdu literature was the strongest movement after Sir Syed's education movement. The progressives contributed to Urdu literature some of the finest pieces of fiction and poetry. Undoubtedly, they were the trend-setters for the coming generation of writers."
Progressive Writers Movement has had a chequered career. Formed in 1936 in Lucknow, just one year after the London meeting of Indian writers, the motivating figure behind this organisation, whose Urdu name was Anjuman Taraqqi Pasand Musannifin, headed by Sajjad Zaheer. The other writers in the forefront were Dr Mulk Raj Anand, Dr Joshi Parshad, Pramod Ranjan Sengupta and Dr M. D. Taseer. Sajjad Zaheer had traced the account of its formation in his celebrated book 'Roshni'. It could be said that the Urdu writers were in the forefront of 'Anjuman Taraqqi Pasand Musannifin', but later on almost all the writers of Indian languages had their own organisations with the same aims and objectives: struggle against British imperialism for the liberation of India from the foreign yoke; struggle against the henchmen of imperialism, land for the tillers of the soil. The organisation regarded socialism as the proper economic system, which could end exploitation. Munshi Premchand, the great Urdu and later on Hindi writer inaugurated it. Rabindranath Tagore, Maulvi Abdul Haq, Chiragh Hasan Hasrat, Abdul Majeed Salik, Maulana Hasrat Mohani, Josh Malihabadi, Professor Ahmed Ali, Dr Akhtar Hussain Raipuri, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Professor Majnun Gorakhpuri, Dr Rashid Jahan, Sahibzada Mahmood uz Zafar, Professor Manzoor Hussain and Dr Abdul Aleem were some of the stalwarts whose active or lukewarm support was with the Anjuman Taraqqi Pasand Musannifin.
The word "progress and progressive" attached with it has a history of its own. In 19th century England, the word progressive was the battle cry of all those who wanted a better deal for the underprivileged and wanted science and technology to spearhead the movement for social development. The word "progressive" became an anathema for the ones who were status quo and opposed to the transformation of the British society on an egalitarian basis. The 'movement for progress' touched all spheres of human development. It stood for liberation and democracy. Munshi Prem Chand, doyen of Urdu writers, had delivered the Presidential Address of the PWA meeting. It was a movement for the freedom-loving writers who were opposed to the status quo in the feudal-dominated Indian society. They thought that unless the Indian society was not transformed and the common masses were not in the driving seat, nothing could change. Writers like Krishan Chander, Ismat Chugtai, Saadat Hasan Manto, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Sibte Hassan, Ehtesham Hussain, Mumtaz Hussain, Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi, Ali Abbas Hussaini, Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Farigh Bukhari, Khatir Ghaznavi, Raza Hamdani, M.Ibrahim Joyo, Sobho Gianchandani, Shaikh Ayaz, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Amrita Pritam, Ali Sikandar, Zoe Ansari, Majaz Lucknawi made it the strongest literary movement.
The partition of the sub-continent also portioned the movement and with the sway of the McCarthyism in the USA, the movement was declared illegal in 1954 in Pakistan. Then the martial law of 1958 saw its rank and file working under different banners 'Awam Adbi Anjuman' was revived during the PPP Government in 1971. Rafiq Chaudhry, Shaukat Siddiqui, Hasan Abidi, Ateeq Ahmad, and Hamidi Kashmiri had supported it. However, in 2007, it was organised on a countrywide basis under an interim constitution. During this period Hameed Akhtar and Rahat Saeed, worked very hard and organised general body meeting in Lahore in 2012 to elect another team of office-bearers with a mandate to get its new constitution passed in a few months time on March 4, 2012. Dr Mohammad Ali Siddiqui was elected as its new President unopposed, Salim Raz was elected its Secretary General, Rasheed Misbah, its Deputy Secretary General, Dr Qazi Abid its joint secretary and Maqsood Khaliq, its deputy secretary co-ordinator. Soon after the election, South African Free Media Association (SAFMA) invited the new office-bearers at a dinner presided over by Munnu Bhai, Dr Muhammad Ali Siddiqui, newly elected president of PWA, and Rahat Saeed, the outgoing Acting Secretary General were the guests of honour. Replying to a question by the journalist Imtiaz Alam as to what challenges the PWA of today, was considered relevant, as the previous contention of the PWA 'the battle of ideas' had become irrelevant, the newly elected president PWA contended that the battle of ideas is still going on. And how could it be considered a closed chapter, when a few hundred multinationals in the world had in their coffers 50 percent of the world's GDP. He thought that, in Pakistan, the rate of poverty was rising alarmingly and even if the rate of illiteracy as a yardstick of poverty is taken into account, more than 50 percent of the people were literate.