Saturday January 22, 2022

Faiz Ahmed Faiz – ‘His activism was as significant as his poetic works’

December 02, 2016

“One should only speak if one can improve upon the silence.” 

A long term associate of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Zafarullah Poshni, borrowed Faiz’s own words to describe the revolutionary poet’s calm extraordinaire and humility. And so he did. 

He spoke, on every oppression, every taboo, and in times when people were strictly ordered not to.

These, if not more, were some of the aspects of Faiz’s poetry, politics and person deliberated upon by his contemporaries, students and friends, at a session titled ‘Faiz aur Amn-e-Aalam’, held on Thursday as part of the 9th Annual Urdu Conference underway at the Arts Council, Karachi.

The session was moderated by playwright Asghar Nadeem Syed, and besides Poshni, the panel included intellectual giants such as IA Rehman, Fahmida Riaz, Kishwar Naheed, Arif Naqvi, Raza Ali Abidi and Zehra Nigah.

A fellow jail-mate of Faiz in the ‘infamous’ Rawalpindi Conspiracy case of 1951, Poshni said there was absolutely nothing he regretted about his incarceration, for he had the company of the likes of Faiz and Sajjad Zaheer.

Reflecting upon the case based on Faiz and others having signed an official agreement with the Soviets to overthrow Liaquat Ali Khan’s government, for which no supporting evidence was later found, Poshni cited Faiz’s famous couplet – ‘Wo baat jis ka saare fasaney main zikr he na tha; Wo baat unhain buhut nagawaar guzri hai’ – as an example of how Faiz’s politics and poetry were linked.

He said it was men like Faiz that had to be read if Pakistan wanted to rid itself of hate, religious or political intolerance.

Poet Zehra Nigah, also a close associate of Faiz, shared an incident where Zehra, Faiz, Alys (his wife) and a few other friends were sitting together when everybody started questioning him about his three months spent in solitary confinement.

“How excruciating solitary confinement is not something we can’t imagine. But Faiz saheb said ‘Sahi thay. Bus hamain eik he cheez ka darr tha..chipkali (lizard),” Zehra said as the audience burst out laughing.

Among the diverse panel was also Minister for Ports and Shipping Mir Hasil Bizenjo, whose father Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and Faiz were fellow activists. Bizenjo urged for the man to not only be identified as a poet but also as a political activist.

“His poetry collection is indeed huge, but his politics can also not be ignored. He was as important a political worker as he was a poet.”