Dr Afzal Mirza

Location: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Studied in Govt. College, Lahore, Punjab University,Peshawar University & Zagreb University(Croatia). Started writing when in 7th class. Wrote prose & poetry,Have published writings in almost every Pakistani Urdu & English magazine and newspaper,held important positions in many literary and professional organizations. worked as a teacher, research scientist and industrial management professional, In the words of Arthur Miller I have always felt as being temporary. That is why there was no significant achievement.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


By Dr Afzal Mirza

There was a time when Mushaira culture was in vogue in Lahore. In his autobiography Intezar Hussain wrote of the Lahore after the 1947 partition when a large number of poets migrated to this city and Mushairas were commonly organised. "Almost everyday there would be a Mushaira somewhere," he wrote. And many poets who participated in these Mushairas read out their creations in a melodious way called tarannum. The term meant the melodious singing of a nazm or a ghazal without the accompaniment of music. My father used to tell me thatAllama Iqbal would recite his poetry in tarannum. Hafeez Jallundhri was another poet who recited his poetry in tarannum. Actually Hafeez knew the basics of classical music. He has also recited his Shahnama-e-Islam on Radio Pakistan in the accompaniment of Sarangi played byUstad Bundu Khan. Another poet who used to recite his poetry in tarannum was Ehsan Danish and because of this characteristic he was in great demand throughout India. But after the partition he gave up tarannum altogether.In an inter-school Mushaira in 1949 -- when I was a school kid --some known poets participated and many of those were the poets mentioned by Intezar Husain. One of these was Iqbal Safipuri who stole the show at this Mushaira. He was a thin man with a lean but melodious voice. He became a celebrity in Lahore in the early 1950s. At about the same time, the Red Cross organised a Mushaira in thePunjab University hall. Among the participating poets, was JigarMuradabadi who was known for his excellent rendition of poetry in tarannum. He was a dark-complexioned man with a black beard and was wearing a black sherwani with a black Jinnah cap in the Red Cross Mushaira. The edges of his mouth were smeared with excessive chewing of paan but he kept the audience spellbound with his beautiful tarannum:
Jab tak keh ghm-e-insaan say Jigar insaan kadil ma'mur nahin
Jannat sahi yeh dunya lekin jannat say jahannumdoor nahin
The show, however, was stolen by a young teenage girl -- all dressed in white called Zahra Nigah. She had a young and fresh voice then which touched every one's heart. It was for the first time that a woman had dared to enter the domain of Mushaira, hitherto exclusively monopolised by men. But her appearance changed the earlier trend altogether and people also started inviting women poets to theMushairas. Zahra Nigah, the elder sister of Anwar Maqsood and Fatima Surayya Bajya, had migrated from Hyderabad Deccan. After a couple of appearances in Mushairas she got married and migrated to the UK where she is now living a life of relative obscurity.Among others who made their debut in that Mushaira was one HabibJalib. A young man with long hair and nicely cut features, Jalib also succeeded in impressing the audience with his beautiful rendering of his famous ghazal:
Aik hamein awara kehnakoi barra ilzam nahin
Dunya walay dilwalon ko aur bohat kuch kehtay hain
Only Jigar, Zahra Nigah and Jalib were repeatedly called to the stage during this Mushaira. Afterwards, Jalib became a star poet. He had his own individual style of presenting his poetry and unlike other poets he maintained it till the end.Another poet who started as a tarannum poet was Qateel Shifai and his earlier rise to fame was due to his good voice but in his early forties he gave it all up. Nasir Kazmi was also one of those poets who could render his ghazals in tarannum but he gave it up at a later stage in his life. Tufail Hoshiarpuri was yet another poet blessed with good voice. He knew the intricacies of classical music as well. Zameer Jafri and Shaukat Thanvi also recited their poetry in tarannum, though their tarannum did not produce the desired effect. Also in 1950s, it was the Majlis-e-Iqbal of the Government College which had banned tarannum during its annual Mushaira. But in some of the meetings of the Majlis, Shakoor Bedil used to recite with tarannum on demand. The ban on tarranum was due to the fact that during the competition it was not possible to compare the poets who recited their poetry with tarannum with those who did not. I remember Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum asking Shakoor to recite a poem for him.Once Shakoor also recited M D Taseer's poem: Maan bhi jao/Janay bhido /Chorro bhi ab pichli batain. Shakoor Bedil had a trained voice.He was also the first playback singer of Pakistan. He sang for the movie Shahida as A Shakoor. At that time he was studying in the M A O .College Lahore. He was a short, dark and balding man who joined theGovernment College for his masters when he was in his thirties. His younger brother Khayyam is a known Indian composer.Many years later in one of the Oriental College Mushairas, a new poet stole the show. His name was Kalim Usmani:
Atish-e-gham to barrhaktihai mere seenay mein
Aanch kiyon aap kayrukhsar tak aa pohnchi hai
Usmani was a prote´ge of Ehsan Danish who had a large number of pupils. Usmani ended up writing for movies and produced many memorable songs. Saqib Zeervi was another tarannam poet much in demand in the Mushaira circuit. One of the poets who had a voice comparable to that of Jalib was Muzaffar Warisi. He became popular during 1960s and during Zia's dictatorship, he turned towards naatwriting. He is now a popular naat writer besides Mansur Tabish. Like Jalib, however, Warisi has maintained the quality of his voice even in the old age. There was one Rifat Sultan -- a poet from Shorkot --who used to present his poetry in compositions derived from ragas.Aiman Kalyan is quite a favourite raga among the poets and many of them presented their poetry in it. I remember an excellent poet from Jhang named Ram Riaz who had beautiful voice and wrote ghazals of high quality:
Tum to dunya kay mukhalif thay magar yehkiya hua
Tum peh hi chorr gayarang zamana apnna
As a student of the Government College Jhang, Ram along with his close friend Mahmood Sham participated in many inter-collegiateMushairas. Ram Riaz, being extremely sensitive, served as a teacher at many places and died prematurely. Then there was and is Aqeel Rubi who appeared a little later and could steal the Mushairas with his melodious voice. A teacher by profession, he has now given up reciting his poetry in tarannum.Among women poets, Zahra Nigah was later replaced by Munawwar Sultana Lakhnavi but she was no match for Zahra as far as the quality of poetry and presentation was concerned. She came into limelight because there was no one else to take the baton. A Sahiwal poet Bismil Sabri, also a protege of Qateel Shifai, also had good quality voice.Music and poetry are two inseparable things. Anyone who does not have a taste for music cannot compose balanced poetry. After all what distinguishes poetry from prose is the rhythm and the rhyme scheme.Barring prose poems, all other poetry is written according to certain rhyme scheme. Many poets who normally did not present their poetry in tarannum had an ear for music. Major Ishaq has written in his introduction to Zindan Nama that Faiz used to hum his verses while composing them. Some other poets who did not read their poetry in tarranum, in fact, lacked a quality voice.But the advent of the electronic media and the easy availability of a trained voice of a professional singer has changed the whole scenario. Now a poet needs not to be melodious to impress his audience. He can pass on his poetry to a reputed singer to sing and become famous as a result. The fact, however, remains, that with Mushairas becoming rare, the poets who presented their poetry in tarannum have also become few and far between.(Taken from Jang)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Ace story writer Saadat Hasan Manto arrived in Pakistan sometimes in the beginning of February 1948 that is only six months after the partition of the sub-continent. They say that he was well-established in the Bombay’s film industry as a story and dialogue writer.He had personal friendships with most of the actors and producers of that period which can also be found in his collection of sketches written under the title Ganje Farishte (The featherless angels). Bombay was and perhaps continues to be the city generally considered as melting pot of different ethnic and religious groups. There were so many Muslims there who belonged to the areas that later on became part of Pakistan and they chose to remain there even after the partition. So what compelled Manto to leave India and settle in Pakistan? In his sketch of actor Shayam written under the title Murli Ki Dhun Manto has shed light on his mental condition at the time of partition and his decision to migrate to Pakistan.
He writes,”Those days when there was a bloody tussle going on between Hindus and Muslims on the partition of India and thousands of people of both the factions were being killed every day Shayam and I were sitting with a Sikh family that had migrated from Rawalpindi . The members of the family were narrating the tales of their woes which were very depressing. Shayam couldn’t remain unaffected by them. I could easily understand the disturbance that was shaking his mind .When we left that place I asked Shayam,’I am a Muslim. Don’t you feel like killing me?’.Shayam replied very seriously,’Not now….but when he was telling me the atrocities committed by Muslims on them I could have killed you.’ Hearing this from Shayam gave a big blow to my heart. May be at that time even I could have killed him. But afterwards when I thought over it and found that there was an enormous difference between the thinking of that period and now and then I could understand psychological background of all these riots resulting in the killing of thousands of innocent Hindus and Muslims.’Not now….at that time yes…why?’.If one closely follows he can find the true answer to the nature of human beings behind this problem.”
Manto then goes on to narrate the immediate reasons behind his decision to migrate. He writes,” The communal hatred was increasing day by day in Bombay. When Ashok Kumar and Wacha got the control of Bombay Talkies the important positions all went to Muslims. This resulted in a wave of hatred among the Hindu staff of the Bombay Talkies.Wacha received anonymous letters in which he was threatened with burning down the studio or killing important people. Wacha and Ashok did not give much imporatnce to these letters but being a sensitive person and a Muslim I was giving due importance to the situation and many times I mentioned my concern to Ashok and Wacha advising them to relieve me from Bombay Talkies. Actually Hindus were thinking that whatever was happening in Bombay Talkies was due to me.. But they (Ashok and Wacha) would say ‘Are you insane?’ I was really insane perhaps. My wife and children were in Pakistan when it was a part of India . From time to time some Hindu-Muslim riots would take place in that area but I understood it. But what this new name had made of that piece of land was beyond my comprehension.What is self rule? I had no concept of it……I couldn’t understand which was my country Hindustan or Pakistan and whose blood was spilling so callously every day? Where would they bury or burn those bones whose flesh had been devoured by vultures. Now that we had become independent who would be our slaves? And there was the question whether we had actually got independence or not?.There were answers to these question but those were Indian Answers, Pakistani Answers and British Answers….Hindustan had become free. Pakistan had become independent soon after its inception but man was still slave in both these countries—slave of prejudice…slave of religious fanaticism…slave of barbarity and inhumanity.”
Manto writes about the final moments of his departure in these words,” Shayam would look at me and smile although he knew my state of mind. I was very upset as to why Shayam did not think like me…but perhaps he had reached the conclusion that it was futile to ponder over what was going on in our envirionment.I thought a lot but could not come to any conclusion. At last getting fed up I said,’Okay let me go from here..’Shayam had night shooting. I started packing my baggage. The whole night I did it.In the morning Shayam came back from shooting. He saw my packed baggage and only asked me,’Are you going?’I also said only,Yes..’And after that we did not say a word about ‘migration’ (hijrat). He helped me in collecting the rest of the baggage and kept telling me stories of his previous night shooting and laughed. When it was the time of my departure he took out a bottle of brandy from the closet and made two pegs and handing me one said,’Hiptulla !’. I also said in return ‘Hiptulla” and with a big laughter he dragged me to his broad chest saying,’ you swine..’.I tried to stop my tears and he raised a sincere slogan,’Pakistan Zindabad’..’Zindabad Bharat..’ I said and went downstairs where truck was waiting for me. ” Manto came to Pakistan by a steamer and after disembarking in Karachi travelled to Lahore by train. Manto’s narrative in this sketch shows that there could be two main reasons for his migration to Pakistan. Firstly he missed his family who were already in Lahore and secondly he was not sure about his future because of the communal hatred that had reached Bombay as well. Manto mentions of a letter that Shayam wrote to him from Bombay that says,” Every one remembers you here. They miss your humorous anecdotes.Wacha thinks that you have dodged him because you left for Pakistan without informing him. It is ironic that one who was foremost in opposing the entry of Muslims in Bombay Talkies was the first one to escape to Pakistan making himself the martyr of his own ideology. This is Wacha’s point of view.”
Manto’s contemporary writer Upinder Nath Ashk on the other hand had a different story to tell about Manto’s decision of migrating to Pakistan. During early 1940s Ahmad Shah Bukhari (Patras Bukhari) had engaged a number of important writers in All India Radio where he was the director general. Among those writers were Krishan Chandar, Manto, Ghulam Abbas, Upinder Nath Ashk, Noon Meem Rashed, Mahmood Nizami, Meera ji and others. So there was a spirit of competition among these writers. In an article entitled Manto—Mera Dost Mera Dushman(Manto—My Friend, My Foe)Upinder Nath Ashk wrote about his antipathy and a strange type of friendship with Manto. He wrote, “ Manto had written about Bari Sahib( Bari Alig) that he was very sensitive person . But as I saw Manto he seemed to be influenced by Bari Sahib although he did not know this aspect of his character. The circumstances in which Manto disappeared from Delhi one day were almost similar to those in which he ran away from Bombay to Pakistan. In Delhi I was responsible for his flight but in Bombay it was Nazir Ajmeri. But in reality Manto was also himself responsible for this flight. In fight as long as he was on the giving end he was happy but when others would start using his tactics he used to run away. Talking about Nazit Ajmeri’s opposition that caused his flight from Bombay Manto once wrote,’ I thought a lot but could not understand anything. Then I told myself,’ Manto Bhai…you won’t find any way if you go straight so stop the car…go through the side street and from the side street I came to Pakistan.”” Ashk had thought that Manto could not compete with him in Delhi so he escaped to Bombay. In his article Ashk also mentions of strained relations between Manto and Rashed as he was also in his words “an authoritarian type..” Though Manto’s superiority over his contemporaries was unchallenged yet his problem was that he could not tolerate any criticism or would not allow any one to change any word or sentence in his writings which generally caused heart burning among them. But the question is if Manto left Delhi because of Ashk then why did he call him to Bombay to take up a job in Bombay Talkies? Ashk says that Manto did it to show his superiority over him. But it was common with Manto to help his friends to get jobs in Bombay’s film industry. He invited Ahmad Nadim Qasmi as well who went there but did not like the environment and came back. Ashk writes,” Although Ashok and Wacha were Manto’s friends and Manto joined Bombay Talkies with them but Manto couldn’t give any story there.Once when I asked Ashok as to why Manto left he said that he had written a story but we decided to take Kamal Amrohi’s ‘Mahal’. Manto did not say a word before leaving although we had said that after this we would make his story but he did not listen to us.’….Actually he got involved in such people there whom he had forced earlier to leave Filmistan. Yes, Ashok and Wacha did receive some letters because of placing Muslims in important positions but it was not easy to burn the studio and become jobless.Neither Shahid Latif, nor Nazir Ajmeri got scared due to these letters. The main reason of Manto’s disappointment was firstly the selection of the story of Nazir Ajmeri and secondly that of Kamal Amrohi. The day Manto found out about Kamal Amrohi’s story he decided to leave Bombay….Manto ran away from the arena due to his great egocentricity and perhaps that was the reason of his greatness.” (End)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Dr Afzal Mirza

While receiving Nobel Prize for literature in 1982 Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez told his audience ,” I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters. A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.” This ”outsized reality” that the author of The Hundred Years of Solitude referred to and which was termed by critics as Magic Realism catapulted this prolific Colombian writer to the position of the most outstanding fiction writer of the present times. His hallmark is exaggerated realism interpersed by doses of fantasy that provides a metaphysical flavor to his writings. He is a story-teller par excellance and no wonder that by many he is considered as the greatest living writer.
Gabo, as he is popularly known among his Spanish compatriots was born in the Colombian coastal village of Aracataca in 1928. Situated at the northren most tip of the South America known as banana area this small town of his childhood was always called by him as “a wonderful place of ‘bandits and dancers’. Of those days he says,”My parents were poor. My father worked as a telegraphist. When my father wanted to marry the daughter of Col. Nicolas Marquez her family opposed it. After the wedding my father took a job in another town far from Aracataca…When my mother became pregnant with me in a gesture of reconciliation my grandparents said,’Come have the baby in our house.’Which she gladly did. After a while my mother returned to the village my father was working in and so my grandparents said,’Leave Gabriel with us to raise.’ The family was poor. Later on when my parents returned to Aracataca I went on living with my grandparents—where I was mostly very happy. I did that till I was eight when my grandfather died.”
For formal schooling he was sent to a boarding school in Barranquilla, a port city at the mouth of the Magdalena River. After winning a scholarship later he went to a school near Bogota but he did not like Bogota finding it “dismal and oppressive.” H e was good at his studies but at the same time he was drawn towards literature and wrote humorous poems and drew cartoons. Against his temperament Gabriel’s parents were interested in making him study law so he went back to Bogota. In his autobiography Living to Tell the Tale he writes about those days,” I just dropped out of the faculty of law after six semesters devoted almost entirely to reading whatever I could get my hands on, and reciting from memory the unrepeatable poetry of the Spanish Golden Age. I already had read in translation and in borrowed editions all the books I would have needed to learn the novelist’s craft and had published six stories in newspaper supplements winning the attention of critics.”
When he was twenty three he adopted a lifestyle wherein he smoked sixty cigarettes a day of “most barbaric tobacco.” He writes,” For reasons of poverty rather than taste I anticipated what would be the style in twenty year’s time: untrimmed moustache, tousled hair, jeans, flowered shirts and pilgrim’s sandals.” His friends especially the girls thought him to be a “lost cause”. It was earlier when he had just finished his school and was preparing to go to Law School in Bogota he was introduced to a 13 year old girl named Mercedes Barcha Pardo. Dark and silent, of Egyptian decent, she was "the most interesting person" he had ever met. After he graduated from the Liceo Nacional, he took a small vacation with his parents before leaving for the University. During that time, he proposed to her. Agreeing, but first wishing to finish school, she put off the engagement. Although they wouldn't be married for another fourteen years, Mercedes promised to stay true to him. About this once he talked to journalist Claudia Dreifus ,”We became engaged in 1952 when I was working for Bogota newspaper El Espectador. Before the wedding the paper gave me the opportunity to go to Europe as its foreign correspondent. So I had to choose between doing something that I always wanted to do and the wedding. When I discussed it with Mercedes she said,’ It is better for you to go to Europe.’….However it was not very long before the dictator Rojas Pinilla shut down El Spectador leaving me stranded in Paris and broke. So I cashed the return part of my air ticket and used the money to continue living in Europe. I stayed there three years. She was absolutely certain I’d return. Everyone told her she was crazy….From Paris I wrote to Mercedes every week And after we were married to force her argument she would always say that you wrote such and such thing in your letters.” Settling in the Latin Quarter, he lived off credit, the kindness of his landlady, and money scraped up returning bottles for their deposits. Those days, influenced by the writings of Hemingway, he typed out eleven drafts of No One Writes to the Colonel. But he always acknowledged the major influence of Faulkner on his writings.
Subsequently he returned to Columbia to marry Mercedes and moved to Venezuela for a few years and then arrived in New York as the correspondent of Cuba’s news agency Prensa Latina. Having been associated with Fidel Castro of Cuba his entry was banned in his home country and USA. However the ban to enter his home country was lifted when he became a Nobel Laureate and Bill Clinton an ardent fan of Gabriel’s fiction removed restrictions on his entry to USA when he became the president. In the meantime he had moved to Mexico since 1961.The most interesting thing is that majority of his books were published because of his friends. He began his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude when he was 18. Only in 1967 after many years of struggle and frustration in writing it was published in Argentina and famous Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa wrote,” a literary earthquake has shaken Latin America.” The critics regarded the book as a masterpiece of the art of fiction. Again it were his friends who took the manuscript of Leaf Storm (1955) to the printer when they found it on his desk after he was gone to Italy in1954. Llosa remarked that,” the truth is that without the obstinacy of his friends Garcia Marquez would perhaps still today be an unknown writer.” Autumn of the Patriarch considered to be the best modern portrait of a tyrant was published in 1975, and it was a drastic departure from both the subject and tone of One Hundred Years of Solitude. The book was initially considered a disappointment by the critics, who were most likely expecting another book of A Hundred Years of Solitude type. Opinion has changed over the years, however, and many now consider this novel of shifting realities to be a minor masterpiece all in its own right.
Having leftist leanings Garcia Marquez was upset when Pinochet took over control of Chile in a coup de tat in which Salvador Allende was assassinated. He decided that he would write no more fiction until the American-supported Pinochet stepped down from his control of Chile, a decision he later rescinded. Now a famous writer, he was becoming more aware of his own political power and his increased clout and financial security enabled him to pursue his interests in political activism. Returning to Mexico City, he purchased a new house and stepped up his personal campaign to influence the world around him. Building on his actions of the last few years, he continued to divert some of his money into political and social causes. Politics, however, was not the subject of his next novel. Rather it was a love story. Turning again to his rich past for inspiration and material, he reworked his parent's strange courtship into the form of a decades-spanning narrative. In 1986 Love in the Time of Cholera was published which was well received.By now one of the most famous writers in the world, he bought residences in Mexico City, Cartagena, Cuernavaca, Paris, Barcelona, and Barranquilla and took part in the fields of his choice i.e. teaching, political activism and writing. In 1990 he wrote The General in his Labyrinth and two years later Strange Pilgrims. In 1994 he published his work of fiction, Love and Other Demons. This was followed in 1996 by News of a Kidnapping, a journalistic work detailing the atrocities of the Colombian drug trade. In 1999 he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer and currently he is steadfastly fighting against this treacherous disease. Still he has not abandoned his first love i.e. writing. The first volume of his memoirs was published in 2001 as Living to Tell the Tale. The epitaph of the book reads,” Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it.” In 2004 appeared his last novel Memories of My Sad Whores. The second part of his memoirs is in the pipeline.(End)

Friday, June 09, 2006


Ashfaq Ahmad utilised the techniques of modern media very well to do what he was best at -- telling stories

By Dr Afzal Mirza
In olden days when the written word was not much in vogue, there used to be people who would narrate stories in nightly gatherings which continue till the wee hours. The audience would sit totally absorbed in their tales of love, hatred, debauchery and chivalrous adventures. Had Ashfaq Ahmad lived during those days, he would be surely one of the top storytellers of his time. He would enthrall his audiences in the street of Peshawar, Lahore or Delhi. Or he might have lived and died in Garh Muktasir -- a small town of Ferozepur district -- unsung and unheard of.
Born in Garh Muktasir, Ashfaq came to Lahore during the upheaval of partition with many other people of his ilk. After settling down, they started holding gatherings in Lahore's Pak Tea House. They came from all parts of India. A Hamid -- a contemporary and a close friend of Ashfaq Ahmad -- in his writings drew beautiful picture of those days.
Among them were Ashfaq Ahmad, Ibne Insha, Sahir Ludhianvi, Zaheer Kashmiri, Safdar Mir, Ahmad Rahi, Intizar Husain, Hameed Akhtar and many younger writers who later became famous in Pakistan's literary circles. Initially they exchanged their experiences of partition because all of them had to wade through rivers of blood and fire to reach their adopted homes in Lahore. Soon they started putting down their feelings.
Many of them joined a radical movement called Progressive Writers Association. Some others were more interested in keeping an independent stance. Ashfaq Ahmad, though close to the progressive writers, did not join the movement and followed Manto, Intizar Husain and others in remaining independent of any associational identity.
I first saw Ashfaq Ahmad in Government College, Lahore, in early 1950s. I was a first year student there while Ashfaq Ahmad was in his final year of masters in Urdu. He was a handsome person with a fair complexion, brownish mustaches and a thick crop of hair on his head.
But he was a famous man even then. His juniors, including I, used to watch him with awe and envy. We were impressed with him because of his proximity to our teachers like Sufi Tabassum, Dr Sadiq, Safdar Mir, G M Asar and others.
Besides these famous teachers, Government College of those days had many students who were budding writers and who in later years made a name for themselves. But Ashfaq Ahmad, despite his friendly nature was more at home with his Pak Tea House buddies than he was with his college fellows. That was the period when Manto had written a number of masterpieces on the subject of partition as did many other senior writers like Ahmad Nadim Qasmi, Krishan Chandar and Rajindar Singh Bedi. It was in those heady days that a story entitled Gadarya (The Shepherd) created ripples in the literary circles. The story was written by Ashfaq Ahmad and soon his name became known throughout the subcontinent. Somewhat autobiographical it was the story of a Hindu school master who tutored Ashfaq Ahmad. The man was the model of a devoted teacher. An enlightened man, the old teacher called Dao Ji had as much knowledge of Arabic and Persian and for that matter Islam as many Muslims would not have. That is why when a Muslim mob encircled him and asked him to recite Kalima he shot back "which Kalima?" because he knew all the Kalimas. Gadarya was a moving description of the state of mind of human beings affected by the mutual hatred between different religious factions. This story catapulted Ashfaq Ahmad to the level of one of great short story writers of the subcontinent.
Even during his student days, Ashfaq Ahmad was writing for Radio Pakistan where he made many friends who included people like Mahmood Nizami, Masood Qureshi and Mumtaz Mufti. After completion of his masters, he joined Dayal Singh College Lahore as a lecturer. Situated in the heart of the city, this college had many writers on its faculty including Abid Ali Abid, Tajwar Najibabadi, Anjum Roomani, Shohrat Bukhari and Sajjad Rizvi.
But Ashfaq Ahmad was a restless soul who always longed for travel and learning. The opportunity to fulfil these desires came his way when he was offered a position in Italy where he was to work for the Urdu section of Radio Rome. In his story Fullbright, Ashfaq Ahmad has described how he managed to collect funds for traveling to Rome and how in this venture he was helped by a beggar. The story showed how Ashfaq Ahmad always looked for special traits among ordinary people whom he called babas. These babas became the subject of his talk shows after the advent of television.
Back from Italy, Ashfaq Ahmad married a former fellow student, Bano Qudsia (a famous writer in her own right). He also started a monthly magazine Dastaan Go. It was a unique magazine in the sense that it was shorter in size than other magazines. Ashfaq Ahmad used to design and print its title himself by a technique he had learnt from Italy. In editing he was assisted by his wife Bano Qudsia. The magazine remained in circulation for quite some time. But the venture did not succeed because firstly it was a purely prose magazine and secondly Ashfaq Ahmad was a writer not a businessman.
Then came 1958 and Ayub Khan imposed martial law in Pakistan. Ayub was advised by people like Qudratullah Shahab to expropriate Pakistan Times and other papers published by Progressive Papers Ltd. After these papers were taken over by the government, Ashfaq Ahmad was appointed the editor of one of them, weekly Lail-o-Nahar. Before him the magazine was edited by Syed Sibte Hasan.
Ashfaq Ahmad had the distinction of being first Pakistani editor whom Ayub Khan gave an interview. Though Ashfaq Ahmad tried to maintain the standard of the magazine but after the government take-over the circulation of all PPL papers nose-dived. Ashfaq Ahmad quit his job and was replaced by his teacher Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum as the editor of Lail-o-Nahar.
The journal seized publication after some time. It was then that Ashfaq Ahmad thought of starting a radio programme, Talqin Shah. The programme was a great success because Ashfaq Ahmad spoke in his native dialect and discussed day to day problems faced by common people with his companions. The programme contributed in a big way towards the media propaganda during 1965 Indo-Pak war.
It seems there were several agendas in Ashfaq Ahmad's mind at the same time. One of them was film making which also proved to be a commercially futile venture. Then TV came into the lives of Pakistanis and Ashfaq Ahmad wrote teleplays and serials that became very popular. Soon his name became a guarantee for the success of the play. He adapted his short stories from his book Aik Muhabbat Sau Afsanay into TV dramas, treating TV viewers to his crisp dialogues and beautiful treatment of the subject matter.
One side effect of his TV activities was that he stopped writing for the magazines. He did not produce any novel or collection of short stories during that period. Ashfaq Ahmad's fame as a prolific and popular writer made him a favourite with changing regimes of the country, especially the military governments who would like to take advantage of his writing skills. Ashfaq Ahmad, whose earlier writings were directly inspired by the problems of common people, had great communicative value for the governments who continued banking upon him without realising how much harm they were causing to his literary abilities in the process.
Of late Ashfaq Ahmad veered into mysticism under the influence of Qudratullah Shahab, Mumtaz Mufti and Masood Qureshi. He embarked on a new path that made some of his writings enigmatic to ordinary readers or viewers. His popularity, however, never waned.
During the last stage of his life, he reverted to TV and staged talk shows wherein he would keep his audience absorbed in his God-gifted capacity to speak alone for hours, telling anecdotes and stories about extraordinary traits found among common people -- his babas.
Last time I met him a few years ago at a dinner thrown by our common friend Dr Zia Samad, who was Ashfaq Ahmad's colleague in Dayal Singh College and later in Italy. I found that in real life he looked flabbier than what he appeared on the television. The gray beard had given him a look of elderliness and piety.
He was a modern day storyteller who lived in the age of printing presses and audiovisual electronic devices but still he was able to captivate his readers and listeners with his artistic rendition of stories and anecdotes.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006


By Dr Afzal Mirza

It was some time in 1952 that Ahmad Rahi's first book of Punjabi poetry appeared under the title of Trinjan. The book directly touched the sensibility of the reader
The theme of partition inspired many writers, mostly prose writers. Among them Saadat Manto stands out as the one who contributed the largest number of writings on this theme. In Urdu literature there are few poems on the subject which include Faiz's Subh-e-Azaadi and Qasmi's Phir Achanak Teergi Mein Aa Gae.
It goes to the credit of Ahmad Rahi that he wrote highly inspiring poems on the subject in Punjabi. One can also mention the famous poem by Amrita Preetam in which she addresses Waris Shah to wake up and see the plight of the blood-bathed Punjab. That poem became a classic.
Ahmad Rahi, who began as a promising Urdu poet and edited Savera, the journal of progressive writers, wrote his first Punjabi poem which was rendered as a song in one of the eraliest Pakistani films, Beli. Written by Saadat Hasan Manto and directed by Masud Parvez on the theme of partition, the film flopped at the box office.
It depicted the sorrowful plight of a girl kidnapped during the riots in East Punjab. When she was recovered by special recovery force and brought to Pakistan, her parents refused to accept her. Based on a true story, the film could not be properly filmed due to the lack of technical facilities in Lahore's only studio.
It was sometimes in 1952 that Ahmad Rahi's first book of Punjabi poetry appeared under the title of Trinjan. The book left the literary circles flabbergasted by its pathos and diction reminiscent of Punjab's folk tradition. It directly touched the sensibility of the reader.
The book brought into focus the old question of whether the Punjabi language could produce literature to match other languages, specially Urdu literature. Today the situation is different when much work has been done on unearthing the hidden treasures of Punjabi literature and a whole lot of Punjabi writers have started seriously writing in Punjabi.
In the early 1950s, it was a pioneering effort by Ahmad Rahi and the work he produced stands out as a landmark in Punjabi literature. One wonders why Rahi, who had made a name in Urdu poetry, chose to switch over to Punjabi and produce Trinjan.
Perhaps Punjabi was much nearer to the sensibility of Rahi because during his childhood he used to recite Yusuf Zulekha to his mother and while reciting some verses his eyes would fill with tears. Rahi has derived the pathos in his poetry from the condition of the common Punjabi girl who is not treated any better than animals in our feudal setup. Even the girl in his partition poems is a poor common female.
Jay enhan de mehlin ja ke
Choorre de chankare lutt
kharr de vanjare
Fer mein vekhdi mariye maye eh ucche mehlan vale
sarkare darbare jinhan hath khudai
Ucche ho ho behnde patke
ban ban behnde
Another aspect of Rahi's poetry is the influence of Punjabi folk tales and folk music. The folk heroines Heer, Sahiban, Sohni all are present as living characters. In one of the poems Je tu Mirza hondion Ranjhia Rahi gives a new dimension to the tale of Heer Ranjha in which Ranjha is shown as a passive character. Rahi compares him with the chivalrous character of Mirza and in his poem. Heer laments that if Ranjha had been like Mirza then she would not have to take poison. Then the story would have been different. For Rahi, Heer becomes the symbol of a typical Punjabi girl:
Kikli kaleer di
Chalaan pai maar di jawani
jatti Heer di
His fixation with the character of Heer is evident from the script and songs that he wrote for the famous movie Heer Ranjha. In another poem the poet advises Sohni:
Kache gharre dagha de jande
Pohanch ke advichkare
Ni mutiare vanjh karan vanjare
In an article on Ahmad Rahi's poetry, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi wrote, "There is lot of passion in his Urdu poetry but the people are now observing that in order to present his creative skills in a more vivid manner he has chosen a new course. And his gait on this new course is so beautiful and attractive that it has surprised the people of Punjab. After reading and listening to Rahi's poetry, they are saying that our Punjabi language is so sweet and flexible. It is due to Rahi's Punjabi poetry that people have now wiped the dust from the books of Bulleh Shah, Waris Shah, Ali Haider and Khawaja Farid and have started reading them... I remember that four or five years ago Amrita Preetam's famous poem Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah Nu was published here for the first time,.I found..many...persons keeping its copy. When they were alone they would hum it and weep. It is the same with Ahmad Rahi's Trinjan. I don't know how this poem reached the villages but it reached there and I saw in one of the villages that young girls were singing it to the beat of the dholki. The girls kept singing and after some time I felt that their voices were choking because at that time they were singing those lines:
Nan koi sehrian wala aaya
te nan veeran doli tori
Jis de hath jidi banh ai lae
gaya zoro zori "
It is a pity that during the last few decades, Rahi got engaged in writing scripts and songs for movies. But he gave a literary touch to the songs. His role in improving the standard of Punjabi songs was akin to that of Sahir and Qateel in Urdu songs.
Now in his late 70s, Rahi is no longer active in literary or film work. Ill health and some tragedies compounded by pecuniary problems have forced this otherwise lively person into seclusion. Can the Academy of Letters do something for him?
Rahi and his co-travellers
The partition of the subcontinent brought in its wake bloody riots that resulted in the biggest human migration. The worst hit was the province of Punjab, which was partitioned on the basis of religion. No wonder that the Punjabis remember the partition with sorrow and anguish -- when they lost thousands of their dear ones and their ancestral abodes.
In utter destitution they landed on both sides of the border as refugees -- Muslims in Pakistani Punjab and Hindus and Sikhs in Indian Punjab. Among them were many reputed writers who felt emotionally shattered. While they converged from all over India, quite a large number came from East Punjab.
Thus in his autobiography, Intezar Husain talks of a number of writers who came to live in Lahore after partition. The city of Amritsar, not very far from Lahore and being a part of India now, had always boasted a large number of writers and intellectuals who were mostly Muslims. They also came over to Lahore.
Soon after finding shelter these writers resumed their literary activity and most of them gathered under the banner of Progressive Writers Association (PWA). Most were young and full of promise. A.Hameed, fiction writer, in his book on Ibne Insha has very beautifully drawn the picture of their first meetings in the Tea House. He describes how he met Ashfaq Ahmad, Ibne Insha, Safdar Mir and others there. Among these writers there was also Ahmad Rahi, a typical Amritsari.
A.Hameed once told me that Ahmad Rahi, whose real name is Ghulam Ahmad, was his school fellow. "In Amritsari families, at least one young man was supposed to be a wrestler. My own parents wanted me to be a wrestler," A.Hameed said to me.
Ahmad Rahi owed his physical appearance to his quest to become a wrestler at an early stage in his life. But both these friends chose to be writers instead. In Do Mulk Aik Kahani Ibrahim Jalees wrote how these young writers spent those early days after partition, when they were jobless and had nothing else to do, writing and spent days and nights together discussing the problems faced by the Pakistani 'proletariat'.
"We had hardly any money for cigarettes and smoked cheap biries. Safdar Mir would sing in a high-pitched voice these lines of Mahia:
Do pattar anaran de
Sada dukh sun sun ke ronde pathar paharan de
They were totally committed to bringing an equitable social order in the country. And Ibrahim Jalees tells us that when they were in lighter moods, Safdar Mir and Ahmad Rahi would compare the number of push-ups done in their daily routine of exercise.
The activity associated with PWA did not last long. The government that had come closer to America came down with a heavy hand on the communists and their fellow travellers. These writers were either hauled up by the state or gave up activism, finding different vocations for themselves. Many of them tried their luck in the fledgling film industry of Pakistan.


Ustad Daman lived and wrote poetry as someone always on the wrong side of the establishment
By Dr. Afzal Mirza
Ustad Daman was last seen on the funeral of Faiz Ahmad Faiz on November 20, 1984. He appeared terribly ill but he had managed to make it to Model Town to attend the funeral in a rickshaw. Although the mourners were visibly shocked by Faiz's death but whoever saw Daman was shaken by his condition. Those who had seen his wrestler-like figure in good old days could not believe their eyes to see the skeleton-like Daman arriving in the gathering with the help of two people.
There was a close friendship between Faiz and Daman and only a few days prior to former's death both of them had attended a dinner together at Munnoo Bhai's residence. At Faiz's funeral, Ustad kept repeating that it was his turn now. He joined his friend in death only thirteen days later on December 3.
Ustad Daman, whose real name was Chiragh Din, belonged to Lohari Gate, inside the old city of Lahore. His father was a tailor who ran a small shop of his own. His elder brother Feroz Din joined his father in running the shop but young Chiragh was not interested in pursuing the family profession. He instead wanted to get education and find a clerk's job. So he went to school, though this could not get him a clerk's job. Disappointed, he reverted to tailoring and started his own shop. But his heart was sold out to poetry. He would neglect his shop and attend poetry reading functions. He adopted Damdam as his pseudonym, following in the footsteps of his mentor Ustad Hamdam, but changed it to Daman after some time. The break came when he received his first remuneration for reciting poetry in a public meeting. And then there was no looking back.
In the beginning, Daman wrote poetry on traditional subjects like matters relating to heart but as the independence movement gained ground in pre-partition, India political themes also entered his poetry. Ustad Daman, in fact, belonged to that group of traditional Punjabi poets who would read poetry extempore while their pupils would keep the record. That is why they were called Ustads (mentors).
Faiz was right in calling Ustad Daman the Habib Jalib of Punjabi poetry. I remember having seen him first in the early months of 1950 in a public meeting outside the historic Mochi Gate of Lahore. The meeting was organised by newly-founded Awami Muslim League of Husain Shahid Suharwardy. Later this party was rechristened as Awami League. It was perhaps the first gathering of an opposition party in then newly set up Pakistan. Besides Suhrawardy some other political leaders of Punjab were also present in the meeting. Ustad Daman was called on to the stage before Suharwardy's speech. A wrestler-like figure clad in white Punjabi clothes, he emerged from behind the stage and started reciting some humorous verses full of jibes against the then prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan. Then he switched to a poem which he recited in the rhythm of famous Punjabi folk tale Mirza Sahiban.
Mainoon das oay Rabba mairia
hun das main kithay jaan
Main ohthay dhoondhan payaar noon jithay puttran khani maan
Jithay qaidi hoiyan bulbulan tay
bagheen bolan kaan
Ohthay phull p'ay leeran
jaapday tay kalian khilian naan
(O God, tell me where should I go
I am searching for love at a place where children disgrace
their mother
Where nightingales are caged and crows are left to shout in the
Where flowers appear as rags and buds are not allowed to
The whole poem was so moving that it brought tears to the eyes of the listeners. After reciting the poem, Daman withdrew from the stage amidst the shouts of "more, more" from the crowd.
It seems Mirza Sahiban's rhythm was Ustad's favourite because on the same rhythm he had written a hit song before the partition for a golden jubilee Punjabi movie Mangti.
Aithon udd jaa bholia punchhia
way toon apni jaan bacha
Aithay hasday phull gulab day
veri suknay dainday paa
Aithay dub dub moian sohnian
aithay lahu bharay darya
Aithay ghar ghar phaiyaan gadian beeba chhurian haith
nan aa
(Fly away innocent bird; save
your neck
Here the blooming roses are
spread to dry in the sun
Here Sohnis are destined to drown and rivers are full of
There are gallows in every house; my friend, save yourself
from knives)
During the pre-partition days poets were also invited to political meetings organised by various political parties to enliven the atmosphere and create sympathies for the parties' respective ideologies. Every political party indeed had engaged a poet for their public meetings. For example, Ustad Ishq Lehr used to recite from Muslim League's platform whereas Daman at the meetings of India National Congress.
Daman, therefore, was first introduced to public recital of his poetry from the stage of Congress at a meeting also held at Mochi Gate. The star speaker of the gathering was Jawaharlal Nehru who so much liked Daman's presentation that a personal rapport instantly developed between the two. Many years later when Daman went to Delhi (India) to participate in an Indo-Pak mushaira he found that Nehru who had then become the prime minister was also present on the occasion. Daman stole the show at that mushaira with his verses that brought tears to the eyes of the audience:
Lali ankhian di pai dasdi ay
Roay toosi vi o roay asi vi aan
(The redness of the eyes tells us
That both of us have wept)
The partition, in fact, jolted Daman badly. He felt shattered by the loss of friends and pupils, many of them being Hindus and Sikhs. His miseries were compounded by the death of his wife at the same time in riot stricken Lahore. It is said that Daman had to hire labourers to carry her coffin to the graveyard. The incident made him an introvert and he shifted to a small room near Bhati Gate. He lived the rest of his life there as a hermit and received all his friends, many of them being celebrities, in that room.
Soon after the partition, most of the progressive writers' activities shifted to Lahore. Daman too joined their fold. He recited one of his famous poem Inqilab in one of the annual conferences of Progressive Writers' Association.
But the period of political freedom proved to be a short-lived in Pakistan. Under pressure from its new ally, the United States of America, Pakistani government banned the Progressive Writers' Association and its active workers were put behind bars.
Daman reverted to his room in Bhati Gate and started working on his project of writing a new Heer. The project couldn't materialise due to various reasons. During that period, he would sometime come to YMCA to attend the meetings of Punjabi Majlis organised by Safdar Mir. In one such meeting presided by Maulana Abdul Majid Salik, I saw Daman and Manto competing in reciting Punjabi bolis particularly of vulgar variety.
Like Habib Jalib, Daman was not an opportunist and always stood on the wrong side of the establishment. Many politicians would remain on friendly terms with him as far as they were in opposition. But once they would land in power, Daman would become a forbidden name for them because he would not mince his words and would criticise their actions in his verses.
It happened with him when Bhutto government came to power. In his usual style, he wrote some poems criticising the actions of the government. One such poem was against Bhutto's trip to Simla. Daman castigated Bhutto in this poem for raising the slogan of fighting India for 1,000 years on one hand and then going to Simla to meet Indira Gandhi on the other. The poem Ki kari janaan ain ki kari janaan ain became an instant hit.
A surprise police search of Daman's room followed and a 'bomb' was recovered, allowing authorities to register a case against him. This fake case left Ustad deeply depressed. His friends suggested that he should leave Lahore and hide at some other place for sometime. They took him to Sharaqpur but he returned the next day saying that he could not live without Lahore. Daman had earlier spurned Jawaharlal Nehru's offer to migrate to India because he couldn't leave Lahore.
The case finally fizzled out after sometime and Ustad continued with his literary pursuits. But now he spent more of his time in reading than writing. He stopped going to literary functions and would prefer remaining alone in his room. This loneliness together with pecuniary problems badly affected his health. For a year or so he continued to be in and out of hospital. In December 1984 his condition worsened and he finally breathed his last only two weeks after Faiz's death. Late Yunus Adeeb, Kanwal Mushtaq, Zaheer Akhtar and other friends of his have since then made valuable efforts to preserve and publish his writings.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Dr Afzal Mirza

After his retirement as deputy secretary ministry of foreign affairs in 1971 and serving as law revision commissioner in Uganda Syed Ali Raza chose to spend the rest of his life in Maryland USA and wrote his autobiography in two volumes under the title Mere Zamane (My Times). Unfortunately he died last year. Four years ago when I was forced by circumstances to shift to Baltimore I had the privilege of meeting the gentleman who by then had grown sufficiently old and it was difficult to communicate with him. However, his daughter Dr Attiya Khan who is an eminent physician and a literary figure, gave me Mere Zamane to read. The first volume of the book described Syed Ali Raza’s earlier life in UP, India, and his entry into the service at a lower rung but by the time the country was partitioned he had already become a superintendent due to his sheer hard work. On opting for Pakistan he was posted in the refugees ministry in Karachi. The ministry was later on renamed as the ministry of refugees and rehabilitation and soon after Ayub Khan’s martial law under Gen Azam Khan it was given the task of finalizing the rehabilitation work and winding up the ministry in a given span of time. As described by Syed Ali Raza soon after the partition the main task before the ministry was to frame the rules of business for rehabilitation work in the form of an ordinance which was not an easy task. Syed Ali Raza points out that it was more due to the diligence of the lower staff than the top bureaucrats that this work was completed in record time. It was during the same period that Syed Ali Raza first met Z.A. Bhutto. He writes: “The most complex case related to the funds deposited in the courts was that of a famous political personality of the country who later on served as minister in various ministries and prime minister and president of the country. He was Zulfikar Ali Bhutto whom I’ll mention as only Bhutto Sahib in (the) rest of my book. A few years after the signing of treaty on evacuee property Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto the father of Z.A.Bhutto came to my office with Bhutto sahib and asked me to take special care of this young man. From that time onwards Bhutto sahib was consulting me about his problems related to the evacuee property and I am proud to say that he would always treat me with honor and respect. Bhutto sahib’s problem was that when he was still a young lad his father Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto had given a house in the name of young Bhutto to the Bombay High Court as a court deposit. After some time with the permission of the court Sir Shahnawaz sold that house and deposited the amount of Rs 148000 in the same court as a deposit. In 1948 laws related to the evacuee property were enforced in India and Pakistan. So a request was made to the court for the release of the said amount. The request was turned down with the reasoning that because the amount was generated from an immovable property therefore it should be treated as immovable property. Since at that time there was no agreement between the two countries pertaining to the immovable property therefore this deposit could not be released. This was the position regarding this deposit in the name of Bhutto sahib when Sir Shahnawaz introduced him to me. The question was how to get this money released from Bombay High Court.”Syed Ali Raza continues: “At first we raised this issue in a meeting with Indian counterparts but they came with the same excuse that since this is related to immovable property so it does not fall in their jurisdiction…In the meantime in April 1954 the central assembly passed a resolution that a law pertaining to the immovable property left in India by refugees be framed and enacted. Now there were two options before Bhutto sahib. First, as per Indian government’s stand this money resulting from the sale of the immovable property be treated as immovable property and Bhutto sahib should file a case in a Pakistani court constituted for the purpose. Second, as per our stand after its conversion to cash this amount be treated as movable property and it should be paid to the claimant through Government of Pakistan. To reach success we kept ourselves engaged in both the options. We advised him under Pakistani law he should file a claim for immovable property before chief claims commissioner and try to get postponement of the verdict for the time being. So Bhutto sahib did the same. On the other hand in a meeting of the committee for movable properties we proposed that the matured securities of those who have migrated to India and which are in our possession should be released and given to India and Bhutto sahib’s deposit be taken out of Bombay High Court’s custody and given to Pakistani Custodian of Court Deposits. Upon this we were told in a meeting in New Delhi that Bhutto sahib had filed a request in Indian Supreme Court to declare him a non-evacuee. So as long as that court did not give its decision this matter could not be taken up and should be kept pending. This revelation was really surprising for us so the matter was deferred. On returning from Delhi I personally talked to Bhutto sahib and on his affirmation we discussed in detail the pros and cons of such a case and a possible verdict both in his favor or against him. So I advised him to withdraw the case from Indian Supreme Court. He followed the advice and sent a certificate to the effect to us. But somehow the news of Bhutto sahib’s request for declaring him a non-evacuee reached the political circles of the country and it was propagated that Bhutto was an Indian national.” In his account Syed Ali Raza has written about a gathering of his friends where a well-known religious leader was busy in a tirade against Mr Bhutto accusing him of being an Indian citizen. Syed Ali Raza interrupted the cleric and pointed out the true situation. He stated that Bhutto had given an application in the Indian Supreme Court to declare him non-evacuee but later on realizing its negative implications withdrew it. He was never an Indian citizen nor he would be so. Syed Ali Raza in his book wound up the Bhutto property issue in these words,” Let us now tell you how this matter ended. I had earlier written that there were some matured securities of a refugee who had taken refuge in India. So in the next meeting of the custodian of deposits of both India and Pakistan I handed over the securities of Indian evacuee after getting them released from a Pakistani court and asked my Indian counterpart to get the deposit of Bhutto sahib released from Bombay High Court and hand that over to us. So in the next meeting we received a check of Rs 168000 from them pertaining to Bhutto sahib’s deposit. Although the price of Bhutto’s property at the time of its sale was Rs 148000 but Bombay High Court also ordered to pay Rs 20000 as interest on that amount. After some time Bhutto again sent another application concerning this amount to me raising some newly conceived points but on my explaining that his demand was against rules withdrew it and never felt annoyed.”Syed Ali Raza writes that Bhutto never forgot that favor and when he became foreign minister offered him to join his ministry as deputy secretary and at a later stage as a director. Regarding Bhutto’s exit from Ayub’s cabinet he writes, “In the mid June all of us in the ministry had known that Bhutto sahib was leaving. Because Ayub Khan was annoyed with him therefore most of the ministry people were scared of any retribution on meeting him. The feeling I had for him and his kind attitude towards me I have mentioned earlier in the book. So I considered it my moral duty to pay him a farewell visit and although my well wishers in the ministry warned me against the consequences and particularly told me not to go in my personal car to see him because secret service people were noting down the numbers of the nameplates of such cars but I went in my personal car. Bhutto sahib immediately called me in. He looked tired and a bit upset. He told me, ’Yes, Ali Raza I am leaving’. I shook his hand bidding him good by and with difficulty controlled the tears that swelled up in my eyes.”

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Dr Afzal Mirza

Ghubar-e-Ayyam is the last anthology of Faiz poems written between 1981 and 1984. These poems are also included in his bigger anthology entitled Nuskha Hae Wafa. The book begins with the Bedil’s Persian couplet:
Har kuja raftam ghubar-e- zindagi dar pesh bood
Yarab ien khak-e-pareeshan az kuja bardashtam
(Where ever I go the dust of life hangs in front of me. How could I bear this cloud of strewn dust). The contents of this short collection all represent a state of mind where the poet near the fag end of life reflects about his past and takes stock of his achievements and losses. Faiz as we know had lived an eventful life but the last years of his life were spent in exile in frustration and depression. Earlier he suffered incarceration at various stages in life. He was first imprisoned in March 1951 in connection with the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. This was a period of great stress for him because he could even face a death penalty for some of the charges against him. That is why he wrote:
Maqam Faiz koi rah mein jacha hi nahin
Jo koo-e- yaar se nikle to soo-e- daar chale
(Nothing attracted Faiz’s attention in between. Leaving the street of his lover he went straight to the gallows)
When Ayub Khan imposed martial law in the country he was among the first ones to be hauled up. So he remained behind the bars from December 1958 to April 1959. This also included some time spent in the notorious investigation center in Lahore Fort where every internee was subjected to third degree methods. It is in one of the cells here during that time that famous activist Hasan Nasir was tortured to death and it was declared that he had committed suicide. So when Pakistan came under Ziaulhaq’s ruthless regime Faiz thought it proper to leave the country and he remained in exile till late 1983. This time Faiz was saved by his old friend and co-accused of Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case Col. Arbab Niaz Muhammad who happened to be a minister in Ziaulhaq’s government.

Faiz had first time suffered a heart attack in 1967 and he recorded his feelings in a poem with the same title:
Dard itna tha keh us raat dil-ewehshi nein
Har rag-e-Jaan se ulajhna chaha
(There was so much pain that the wild heart wanted to clash with every vein of life)
And he ends his poem on these lines;
Aur jab yaad ki bujhti hui shamaon mein nazar aya kahin
Aik pal akhiri lamha teri dildari ka
Dard itna tha keh is se bhi guzarna chaha
Ham nein chaha bhi magar dil na theherna chaha
(And when in the dying lights of memory I found a last moment of your love
There was so much pain that I wanted to skip it. I wanted to sustain but the heart was not prepared to do it)
Then in 1972 Faiz wrote a poem entitled “Jis roz qaza aye gi” (The day death will come).It shows that even in those days when Faiz was advising ZAB government as Cultural Adviser the earlier set backs of his life had left a deep impression on him. So he started thinking about death again with which he had a brush earlier during 1950s. However this time it was due to heart ailment. He surmised:
Kis tarah aye gi jis roz qaza aye gi
Shayad is tarah keh jis taur kabhi awwal-e-shab
Be talab pehle pahal marhamat-e-bosa-e-lab
( How would it come when the death would come. Perhaps like this that some one in the early night offers a kiss without asking).
His vision of death is both a benign one and painful. That is why he concludes his poem with these lines:
Jis tarah aye gi jis roz gaza aye gi
Khah qatil ke tarah aye keh mahboob sifat
dil se bas hogi yehi harf-e-widaa ki surat
lillahah alhamd ba-anjam-e- dile dilzadgan
Kalma-e-shukr banam-e-labe shireen dahanan
(It could come either like a killer or like a beloved; But on my lips there will be praise for the heartbroken people and words of thanks for those having sweet lips)

But in Ghubar-e-ayyam Faiz opens his book with a poem Tum hi kahjo kiya karna Hae(You should tell me what can be done). The poem was written in 1981. The poem covers the struggle of those progressive people who together with Faiz had dreamt of an egalitarian future for Pakistan and had made sacrifices. He remembers that when they had embarked upon this journey they were young and full of promise. They had thought that achieving their goal would be an easy task. But this did not happen. There were so many unforeseen counter forces that impeded the struggle. ”Now we may analyze our failure and blame any body for it but the fact remains that it is the same river and the same boat and you have to tell what to do to treat these wounds on the chest of the country” he concludes. In another poem written the same year Faiz lamented that we couldn’t do anything because while the others were waging a struggle we kept silently watching:
Ham na is saf mein the aur na us saf mein the
Raste mein kahrre un ko takte rahe
Rashk karte rahe
Aur chup chaap ansoo bahate rahe
(We were neither in this line nor that
We kept standing and watching them on the way
Watching them enviously
And shedding tears quietly)

Faiz who had spent most of his time in Beirut editing a magazine named Lotus decided to return to Pakistan in 1983 a year before his death. His health had further deteriorated because he witnessed the worst type of holocaust in that civil war torn country where he was most of the time confined to his apartment as the war waged outside. It is here that he met his famous admirers Dr Eqbal Ahmad and Edward Said. For Eqbal Ahmad, a poem by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, "Dawn of Freedom", captured the pathos of decolonization. In 1980 Ahmad introduced Edward Said to Faiz who was in exile in Beirut, and their oft-recalled evening of poetry recitation inspired Said's essay, "The Mind of Winter: Reflections on Life in Exile". Back in Lahore Faiz’s spirit regaled although he was in and out of hospital. Lahore appeared gloomy and sad to him:
Go sab ko bham saghar-o-bada to nahin tha
Yeh shehr udas itna ziyada to nahih tha
Thak kar yunhi pal bhar ke liye aankh lagi thi
So kar hi na utthein yeh irada to nahin tha
(Although every one did not have the privilege of enjoying drinks
but this city was not so sad earlier as now. Having tired I closed my eyes for a few moments. That I would never wake up was not my intention).
In Mayo Hospital he wrote a poem entitled Is waqt to yun lagta hae (It seems like this at present). It reflected the feelings of a person in a state of limbo.:
Is waqt to yun lagta hae ab kucch bhi nahin hae
Mehtab na suraj na andhera na savera
(It seems at present as if there is nothing around
The moon or the Sun darkness or the morning)
But he is not intimidated by the situation he is in:
Mana keh yeh sunsan gharrri sakht karri hae
Laikin mere dil yeh to faqat ik hi gharri hae
Himmat karo jeene ko to ik umr parri hae
True that this desolate moment is greatly testing
But o my heart it’s just a single moment
Be strong you have a lifetime to live)
In another incomplete poem Yeh kis dayar-e-adam mein…. Faiz has expressed similar sentiments saying “ In a strange atmosphere of intoxication we are lost my friend where neither the sound of the drinking buddies nor the sound of breaking of a heart could be heard.”

Then during the same period he penned his poem Idhar na dekho (Don’t look here) in which he lamented that all those who had at one time represented a spirit of struggle and bravery are now sold out to the forces of reaction but look towards those “ who offered the Dinars of their blood for free and when they were gone lying in their graves they look generous and magnanimous and also look towards those who decorated their bodies with the crosses of truth and are now prophets among the people.” And there is a ghazal that Faiz wrote a few days before his death that read:
Bohat mila na mila zindagi se kam kiya hae
Mata-e-dard baham hae to besh-o-kam kiya hae
Kare na jag mein alao to sheir kis masraf
Kare na shehr mein jalthal to chashm-e-nam kiya hae
Ajal ke haath koi aa raha hae parwana
Na jane aaj ki fehrist mein raqam kiya hae
He pointed out that “some note is coming through the hands of death and we don’t know what is written in it.” And it came on November 20, 1984. (End)