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 05, 2006



Dr Afzal Mirza

There seems to exist a strange relationship between exile and incarceration. In the foreword to Faiz’s second book of verses inspired by incarceration entitled Zindan Nama Major Ishaq wrote, ”The jail is like a magical mirror where the images of character and not faces appear in strange dimensions…The reason is that the person’s whole world gets confined into the four walls of the jail which creates in him a feeling of despondency… …Under such conditions it is no wonder that one can not maintain ones usual personality traits. But one must appreciate those people who can keep their poise even then.” According to Major Ishaq Faiz Ahmad Faiz was one such balanced personality. In the same way some one living in exile leaves his familiar cultural and literary environment and goes to live in an alien ambience totally different from his own. One of Faiz’s ghazals of exile days begins with the verses:

Sharh-e-firaq-o-madh-e-lab-e-mushkbu karein

Ghurbat kade mein kis se teri guftgu karein

Yar ashna nahin koi takrain kis se jam

Kis dilruba ke naam peh khali subu karein

These two verses of this ghazal describe the poet’s utter sense of frustration over being lonely and without any friends who knew his beloved or with whom he could talk about his beloved. Such a situation could be counterproductive for those poets who thrive on the spontaneous appreciation and encouragement and are devoid of a mission and ideology. It has been observed that many poets either cease to write or write very scarcely under the changed circumstances. But Faiz’s was a different phenomenon and we find that the flow of muse did not stop with his various stints of exile.

The history of exile is as old as the history of mankind. Writers and poets have throughout the history been forced by various reasons to leave their homelands and move to strange lands. Sometimes they went into exile to oppose the established order from outside because it became impossible for them to wage their struggle from inside the country. There were some other writers who left their homelands because they didn’t enjoy the intellectual freedom in their own country. There is a long list of celebrated writers who abandoned their sweet homes and undertook the travesties of exile and among them one could count writers like Ovid, Dante, Miguel de Unamuno, Rafael Alberti, Yannis Ritsos, Pablo Neruda, Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, Stefan Zweig, Witold Gombrowicz, Ivan Bunin, Hermann Broch, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Nabokov, Bertolt Brecht, Saint-John Perse, Anna Seghers, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Sadik Hidayet, Nâzim Hikmet, Mahmud Dervis, Adonis and Milan Kundera. There were some other writers like James Joyce, Robert Musil, Rainer Maria Rilke, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, Cavafis, and Lawrence Durrell who willfully went into exile.

Talking of Faiz one finds that there are two periods in his life which could be called periods of exile. Those periods are 1962-64 and then 1978 to 1982.

To find reasons for his long sojourns abroad one has to look into the factors that prompted him to leave the country. Faiz was an ideologically motivated person. From the day one he aligned himself with the progressives and although he never became a card-carrying member of the communist party he had his sympathies with Soviet version of socialism. The very first poem that he wrote after the partition entitled Dawn of Freedom landed him in trouble with rightist forces and he was condemned by the rightist press for writing such an “unpatriotic” poem. In 1951 he was arrested in connection with the so-called Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. Faiz and all the Rawalpindi case accused were freed in 1954. Ayub took the reins of the government in October 1958 and all the leftists including Faiz were arrested within two months of the imposition of martial law. Then Faiz had just returned from an Afro-Asian Writers Conference held in Tashkent and was not quite keen in going into exile. The Russian translator of his poetry Aleksander Surkov recorded his conversation with Faiz in Tashkent in these words, ”Then incidentally our conversation turned towards politics .’So what are your future plans? ’Faiz looked towards me with deep black eyes full of sadness but there was still smile on his lips. ’Just this that first I’ll go to London. There I’ll see some of my friends who had left Pakistan recently. Obviously after this I’ll go to Karachi. Lahore-- that is to my country.’ ‘But you know now there is…’ A feeble smile was still floating on his lips .’In that case I must go back to my country.’ ‘So then imprisonment is sure..’ ‘Perhaps…But for a high mission one must not hesitate to go to jail.’ ‘And if there is some place worse than that ?.’ The poet glanced out of window where a statue of Tolstoy was standing in the middle of the lawn, looked at the cold and autumn smitten sky. The smile was still there. After a while he said in his usual style,’ If there is some thing worse than jail then it will be bad but you know a struggle is after all a struggle.’”

So the Faiz returned and was as expected arrested and spent some time in the infamous Lahore Fort.. He was released in April 1959 and in the mean time the Pakistan Time of which he was the chief editor had also been expropriated. Being jobless he took a low-key job of the Secretary Lahore Arts Council. In 1962 Faiz was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize for which he was allowed to go to Moscow. After receiving the award he spent some time in globetrotting. A significant output of that period was his interesting travelogue of Cuba where he went as a special guest of Fidel Castro. Having reached London at the end of his travels he decided to stay there in exile. Although he had a number of friends and admirers in London and he was also joined by his family members he felt as fish out of water. He missed his country which he named as the ‘forest of yellow leaves.”

During his first period of exile Faiz doesn’t seem to be prolific and the few of the poems that he wrote are present in his fourth collection of poetry called Dast-e-tah-e-sang (TheHand Under the Stone).However he wrote some prose also.. It appears that the political situation of the country was too disturbing for this sensitive person. The most moving poem of this period was Khusha Zamanat-e-gham written in London in which he salutes his motherland and wishes well to “ all those who live in lightless dwellings and sleep on the dust .“ He wrote:

Har aik kushta-e-nahaq ki khamshi peh salam

Har aik deeda-e-purnam ki aab-o-taab ki khair

(I salute all those who are silent in the face of injustice and wish well to those whose eyes are filled with gleaming tears)

The second period of Faiz’s exile begins in 1978. It happened after Ziaulhaq had imposed martial law in the country and dismissed the democratically elected government of Z.A.Bhutto. Faiz had worked with Bhutto as his adviser on cultural affairs and was a well known progressive. The new regime was using religion as their political tool to win favor of the masses. Under the circumstances there was an imminent chance of Faiz’s arrest. The poet discussed it with his wife Alys and they decided to leave the country. Faiz spent this period in Beirut where he was asked to edit Lotus the journal of Afro- Asian writers. One wonders why Faiz chose to live in a civil war torn city where bomb explosions and shelling were order of the day and one had to live a life on razor’s edge. His wife Alys also spent some time with her husband and used to tell friends that Faiz would always show his characteristic calmness even when the shells rained all around.. Faiz’s poetry written during this exile is collected in a short book entitled Mere Dil Mere Musafir. The book begins with this short but beautiful poem Dil-e-Man Musafir-e-Man:

Mere dil mere musafir

Hua phir se hukm sadir

Keh watan badar hon ham tum

Dein gali gali sadaen

Karein rukh nagar nagar ka

(My heart—the traveler/Again there are orders/That you and I go into exile/ Shouting in every street/ And moving from city to city)

There is an impact of sadness on his poems given in this book. All the poems are reflection of the agony felt by the poet due to the political conditions of the country. Teen Awazein, Yeh matim-e-waqt ki gharri hae , Ham to majboor-e-wafa hain have been written in the same mood. There are some poems written on the Palestinians’ ongoing struggle fro the emancipation of their homeland. The same trend continues in some of the poems of that period in his last book Ghubar-e-ayyam.

Faiz was the type who couldn’t live away from his country for long. Each moment of exile was in fact very heavy for him and to the surprise of his friends and admirers he decided to return to Pakistan in 1982. Why he chose to return at that time is not clear. When he returned in 1964 then Ayub’s glory was on the wane and some semblance of democracy had been restored. In 1982 Zia was still firmly in saddle and democracy was a distant cry. It is said that his Rawalpindi Conspiracy case co-accused Col. Arbab Niaz was instrumental in his return. Strangely enough this communism sympathizer had taken a U-turn and was Zia’s minister. He arranged a meeting between Zia and Faiz. No one knows what transpired in that meeting but Agha Nasir of TV fame has written in his book Gumshuda Loag that,”Arbab Sahib told me later that his(Faiz’s) meeting with Zia was very brief. He told Faiz ,’You are a valuable asset of our country .Why do you live outside the country? There is no restriction on your living in Pakistan.’ Then Faiz said ’I know there is no restriction on my living here but I want that I may be allowed to leave the country whenever I like.’ Gen. Zia said,’ yes that will be so,’ and the meeting ended,’ With that ended the second self-exile of Faiz Only a year and a half later Faiz Ahmad Faiz left for a never-ending exile. (End)

Faiz died on 20th November 1984


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