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.

Saturday, March 25, 2006



(Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb)

Author: Strobe Talbott

Publisher: Brookings Institution Press, Washington D.C.

Pages; 268 Price:

Dr Afzal Mirza

America's former deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott’s latest book Engaging India though meant to describe Indo-US relations during Clinton’s times has much to reveal about Pakistan as well. Talbott who worked for 21 years in Time Magazine as a columnist and correspondent before becoming the deputy secretary of state had old association with Bill Clinton being his contemporary in Oxford days when the later was a Fulbright scholar there in late 1960s. It seems both of them shared a common fascination for India triggered by history books read by them.“ I remember him toting around Robert Blake’s biography of Disraeli for several weeks in the fall of 1969 and talking about it in pubs and in the kitchen of the house we shared. Then same year he read E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India for the first time,.” writes Talbott about Clinton. Again Talbott’s wife Brooke Shearer also stayed with an Indian family in 1968 when she visited India sponsored by Experiment in International Living. So India was close to Talbott’s heart when he took over as the deputy secretary of state. But the problem was that to the chagrin of Clinton administration India carried out nuclear tests in 1998. The situation was worsened by the fact that India kept their preparation for the tests so secret that CIA or any other American agency could hardly get a clue of it. Thus it was a great set back to the technical superiority of American intelligence. Talbot writes that the whole administration turned against India and wanted to clamp stringent sanctions. India justified its tests by pointing to its two neighbors “China an overt nuclear weapons state on our borders, a state which committed armed aggression against India in 1962 and Pakistan a covert nuclear weapons state that had committed aggression against India three times and that continued to sponsor terrorism in Kashmir.” Talbot responded to the occasion by developing direct rapport with Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh from whom it appears that Talbot is enormously impressed. That is why the back flap of the book carries a picture of the two. The purpose before Talbott was that having accepted the fact that India was a nuclear power the efforts should now be directed to bring round India to sign NPT or CTBT.

The dust had not yet settled after Indian tests that Pakistan also announced its intention to retaliate with their own nuclear blasts. The most stressed man at this juncture was Clinton who did not want that Pakistan should follow suit. Thus the administration planned to prevail upon Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif not to go ahead with his plans to explode its nuclear devices. Talbot has described details of the administration’s efforts towards this end. While he describes in details the discussions he had with Jaswant Singh who skillfully sold the BJP government’s point of view to his American counterpart but it hardly satisfied Clinton and his close circle of advisers. Now when they come to know that Pakistan was also preparing to effectively reply to Indian tests they came into action. Talbottt writes, “ Clinton telephoned Nawaz Sharif the Pakistan prime minister, to whet his appetite for the planes, huge amounts of financial aid and a prize certain to appeal to Sharif--- an invitation from him to make an official visit to Washington. Sharif was not swayed.’ You can almost hear the guy wringing his hands and sweating,’ Clinton said after hanging up” Having failed to evince any reply from Sharif Talbott was directed by the president to visit Pakistan and make the case to Nawaz Sharif personally. An invitation to their visit could only be obtained through the good offices of Gen. Jahangir Karamat. Which according to Talbott proved that ‘ the civilian leaders were in a state of confusion perhaps discord and the military called the shots in Pakistan.’ In Pakistan they first met foreign minister Gohar Ayub and foreign secretary Shamshad Ahmad who did not agree to American proposal. Shamshad to the disliking of Americans was more vocal. He writes, ’The people of Pakistan’ added Shamshad Ahmad ,’ will not forgive those in this room if we do not do the right thing. “Then they meet General Karamat, the favorite of Talbott and all other authors (from Zinni to Tommy Franks). “ He heard us out and acknowledged the validity of at least some of our arguments….His government was still wrestling with the question what to do….There was more generally Karamat talked about his country’s political leadership a subtle but discernable undertone of long-suffering patience bordering on scorn.” Briefing them with the historic Indian attitude towards Pakistan Karamat assured them that “ given the political, military, historic and economic stakes involved the Pakistani government is carefully weighing what to do.” Then they met prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Talbott writes, “ What we got from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was a Hamlet act, convincing in its own way----that is I think he was genuinely feeling torn—but rather pathetic….On this occasion he seemed nearly paralyzed with exhaustion, anguish and fear. He was literally just as Clinton had sensed during their phone call---wringing his hands. He had yet to make up his mind but he said,’ I am an elected official and I can not ignore popular sentiment.’” When Talbott revealed to Sharif the Clinton plan of ‘dramatizing’ the world’s gratitude to him during the latter’s visit to USA if he just refrained from testing Nawaz Sharif asked Talbott, “Will Clinton promise to skip India on his trip and come only to Pakistan?” There was no way he could promise that but he told Sharif that Clinton would recalibrate the length and character of the stops in Delhi and Islamabad. He writes,” Sharif looked more miserable than ever.” Kashmir came up repeatedly during the meeting and Nawaz Sharif told him that Kashmir and not nuclear issue was at the core of the tension between India and Pakistan. Talbott did not enjoy his dealings with Shamshad and goes on to write,” Towards the end of the meeting Sharif asked every one but me to wait outside. Shamshad seemed miffed. He glanced nervously over his shoulder as he left.” Sharif told him in privacy that if he did as they wanted the next time “you came to Islamabad you would find yourself not dealing with a clean-shaven moderate but and Islamic fundamentalist ‘with a long beard.’” Pakistan went ahead with its tests and when Talbott broke the news to Clinton ,”He scowled, looked down at floor and silent for what seemed a long moment, ’That’s bad’ he finally said shaking his head ,’real bad. Those folks have got a kind of genius for making a bad deal worse’. Clinton said that he wanted to get into that situation there but that would be harder now..

Talbott writes that Nawaz Sharif a number of times asked Clinton to mediate on Kashmir between India and Pakistan as America did between Israel and Egypt but Clinton would express his inability saying that for mediation both the parties should approach the mediator. In this case India was not interested. But it seems that Clinton was definitely interested in easing out situation between the two nuclear neighbors as he mentioned to his advisors. They had a solution of the problem by dividing Kashmir along the LOC and giving more autonomy to Indian –held Kashmir. Clinton might have personally helped in its solution but according to Talbott, Kargil episode was yet another event that disappointed Clinton enormously. He has written in details what happened between Clinton and Nawaz Sharif on that occasion under the heading From Kargil to Blair House. He writes about the Lahore Summit between Vajpai and Sharif and Musharraf’s elevation as Chief of Army Staff in these words,” It quickly became apparent that the new chief of the army staff Parvez Musharraf had even less regard for Sharif and the civilian leadership than his predecessor Karamat. In particular Musharraf found the Lahore Summit galling” About Kargil he writes,”The American Government followed the conflict with growing alarm which could easily become a nuclear cataclysm…Tony (Zinni) warned Musharraf that India would cross the LOC itself if Pakistan did not pull back. Musharraf professed to be unimpressed. Back in Washington the administration let it be known that if Sharif did not order a pullback we would hold up $ 100 million IMF loan that Pakistan sorely needed….. We did not know whether Sharif had personally ordered the infiltration above Kargil (doubtful) reluctantly acquiesced in it (more likely) or not even known about it until after it happened (possible). But there was no doubt that he now realized that it was colossal blunder.”

Talbott writes that “through our ambassador in Islamabad Sharif begged Clinton to come to his rescue with a plan that would stop the fighting and set the stage for a US-brokered solution to Kashmir,” In reply to Sharif’s phone call Clinton said that he would consider it only if Pakistan first unilaterally withdrew. ”The next day Sharif called to say that he was packing his bags and getting ready to fly immediately to Washington--- never mind that he has not been invited. ‘This guy‘s coming literally on a wing and a prayer ,’said the president,” Sharif was not given the proper protocol and was received by Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia and brought to Blair House who informed the Americans that ‘they should be prepared to deal with a man who was not just distraught about the crisis but terrified of the reaction from Musharraf and the military if he gave in to American pressure.’ Talbott suggested to the president that if Sartaj Aziz and Shamshad would participate in the meeting it would not be a productive so president should have a two to one meeting with Sharif attended by one aide of Clinton. In the meeting instead of relenting Sharif made matter worse by linking withdrawal from Kargil with solution of Kashmir dispute .Talbott writes that Clinton came as close to as I had ever seen blowing up in a meeting with a foreign leader. But after giving him a lecture on history Clinton switched from “chastising Sharif for the reckless stupidity of Kargil to complementing him on his earlier contribution to moment of diplomatic promise.” “Having listened to Sharif’s complaints against United States he had a list of his own and it started with terrorism. ..Clinton had worked himself back into real anger—his face flushed. ..Sharif seemed beaten, physically and emotionally. He denied he had given any orders with regards to nuclear weaponry and said he was worried for his life.” The meeting however ended on a happy and friendly feeling on Clinton’s part after Sharif signed the press note “ As the president and his advisers were leaving Blair House Shamshad Ahmad scurried after Sandy with alterations he wanted in the text. Sandy kept walking and said briskly over his shoulder ,’Your boss says it’s okay as it is.’” (End)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


A political travelogue

By Dr Afzal Mirza
Faith at War:
A Journey on the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu

Written by:
Yaroslav Trofimov
Published by:
Henry Holt & Company,
New York

Price: $26.00
Pp. 312

As the name indicates this insightful book of Yaroslav Trofimov, a Russian immigrant and journalist, is a political travelogue. Trofimov was born in Kiev, Ukraine, to a mixed family of Russian Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish lineages. About his early life he writes, "I spent part of my childhood living a happy colonial life on the African island of Madagascar where my father taught statistics at a local university. Having left Ukraine before it re-emerged as a separate country, I lived virtually my entire adult life first as a student and a journalist in New York City and then as a foreign correspondent based in France, Israel and Italy -- my new home country."
The book under review is based on Trofimov's experiences as a Wall Street Journal reporter on assignment in various Muslim countries. During the period between 1999 and 2001 he roved through the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and the Balkans. The book covers Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Mali and Bosnia.
The travelogue begins with the author's comments on the political systems of the countries he visited. "For most Muslim nations political independence has brought no reprieve. A glaring exception in the global embrace of democracy, the Islamic world -- outside a few happy enclaves remains a frustrated swath of the planet Earth where citizens chafe under brutal regimes, often propped up by the West and where mineral wealth developed by the foreigners is the main source of prosperity."
The first two articles of the book are about Saudi Arabia. Trofimov travelled into hitherto forbidden and undiscovered areas of the oil-rich kingdom meeting the common people. His first impression after visiting the office of a Saudi minister was that "the whole room badly needed fresh paint, and parts of the kitsch plasterwork on the ceiling had fallen off; one piece hung precariously by the wire. My tea glass was chipped too." He wonders where all the oil money is going if it is not being spent on the public buildings.
"Saudi International Airports, unlike the separate royal terminals used by the fleets of princely jets and hidden from public scrutiny, had become so dreary and drab that they wouldn't be out of place in the poorest parts of Africa. In the dusty back streets of Riyadh and under the decayed lattice windows of the old city of Jeddah the stench of open sewage gave off the unmistakable sign of an economy in a tailspin."
The author says that although slavery was formally abolished in 1962, the progenies of freed slaves were told to settle in a special part of Riyadh without any government assistance in obtaining education and jobs.
Of his visit to one such slum area the author writes, "As soon as I stepped out of the car a crowd gathered around me, men with wrinkled weary faces and pus-filled eyes, toothless women wrapped in black clothes. Several immediately started shoving petitions in my hands,'they are illiterate but they think you are from the government and can give them money,' the minder said."
As the people were complaining to the author a police car arrived and the officer dispersed the crowd and made the author leave the place.
A Saudi professor back in the hotel told him, "We are being robbed. Why is it that a barrel of oil costs US$20 like in the 1970s while a car that we buy from the Americans costs US$10,000 not US$1,000 like back then?"
The author tells that "as the protests against the American presence (in Saudi Arabia) grew in the mid-1990s the Saudi government dispatched to prison at least 400 dissident clerics, academics, and professionals". Among them were two fiery clerics, Salman al-Awada and Safr al-Hawali. Later, he maneuvered to meet Awada whose feelings the author conveys in these words: "While tepidly condemning the Sept. 11 attacks the Sheikh made it clear that he was no fan of America which was guilty of terrorism in his eyes. His bottom line was that Muslims are facing annihilation from massive attacks by the immoral and greedy West. It was again the familiar discourse of the battle of good and evil."
On the other hand another religious leader Mohsen al-Awaji was more emphatic in his talk with the author. While supporting the suicide bombing he claimed that he wanted to improve women's rights and eventually extend freedom of religion to the whole kingdom. He campaigned for freedom of press and Western-styled democratic elections. "We want a reasonable relationship with the Royal family, not the one of masters and slaves," he said.
About the Saudi ruling family, Trofimov says, "Like the Soviet Politburo in the 1980s 10 top rungs of the Saudi ruling family are hard for outsiders to scrutinize. The ones who know what?s going on in the family don't talk. And the ones who talk don't know."
In the meeting with Prince Talal bin Abdelaziz, a brother of King Abdullah, the author was told, "The family is divided -- we used to come together but now we see each other only on rare occasions."
About the reforms he had this to say, "The UN will ask us one day. Why are you not giving minorities their rights? Why do we always have to wait for pressure from outside? Our curricula are known to be backward. Is it plausible that Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where there are no cinemas and the women can't drive?" The author says that after listening to Prince Talal he understood why he couldn't find a single Saudi who believed that Prince Talal would ever be a king.
Trofimov went to Iraq from Kuwait. He moved with the American army that advanced into Iraq. They were given to understand that they would be received with open arms in Iraq and would be garlanded and that was the reason why all the media was moving with the army. They were told that the Shia Iraqis were the worst affected during the Saddam regime and they would be the first to embrace the advancing American armies. All their hopes were dashed to the ground when they found that the Shia Iraqis gave more tough reception to the advancing Americans than the Sunni Iraq.
"My plans to install myself in Basra's Sheraton had to wait -- the city wouldn't fall to the British troops for almost three weeks. Fighting continued to rage just north of the Safwan clover leaf. This was the perception that from the first days of the invasion Iraqis would have of their liberators. Just as they did in Zubayr, American and British forces would later stand by and watch as looters destroyed and torched government buildings, hospitals, museums, and hotels across the land -- culminating in a April 9 2003 looting free-for-all in Baghdad," writes the author.
Among the people he meets a school teacher who tells him, "We are Iraqis and we will defend our country and defeat the aggressors." An engineer says, "The Americans are destroying our country. There will be fight."
During his long sojourn in Iraq, Trofimov found out that most of the US Marines were young men who had no war experience nor they knew how to handle alien people in a foreign land. Their behaviour on the other hand was that of occupation forces that was annoying for the local population.
"Our people have seen Americans in Hollywood movies and were impressed with how educated and polite the Americans are on the screen but now these people have seen your soldiers in real life. And they are very surprised that the Americans have turned out to be so rough and so rude?" said an Iraqi. By the end of his visit the author was fed up with the feeling of being an unwelcome intruder in a dangerous, disembowelled and yet boundlessly proud land.
During his visit to Kabul after the American invasion and installation of Karzai, the author met the dean of Kabul University, Professor Kazem Ahang, who summed up his feelings in these words, "The intellectuals feel now that America is colonizing Afghanistan and the rest of the people don't know why the Americans are here. They only see that more time goes by the more American presence is growing, so far nobody has seen where this American money is spent, whereas with the Soviets it was visible. The only thing we have seen from the Americans is their soldiers."
In his meeting with Noorzai, the chairman of Afghan Human Rights Commission, Trofimov is told that "the war is going on not because the Taliban are strong but because the government is weak; we all know that the Afghans need the help of friendly countries but also that the Afghans are culturally and religiously different from these countries. The conflict springs from these differences."
The author also writes of his short visit to Timbuktu in Mali and is surprised that it was the only country in the Muslim world where democracy is being practiced in its true spirit.
As a whole the book is a must read and could also be a source of enlightenment for the Bush administration itself.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


By Dr Afzal Mirza

In one of his rare articles famous intellectual Dr Eqbal Ahmad highlighted the common greatness of Faiz and Jalib. He wrote,” Faiz and Jalib shall live in our collective memory and shape our consciousness long after the dictators have been forgotten. Their talents were not unique. Critically judged, Jalib was not a great poet. Several of his contemporaries had greater talent. Yet he shall be remembered more than most of them for his universal affirmations of life, and his uncompromising opposition to oppression and injustice. Faiz was the greater poet, no doubt, but he too had competitors, among them Rashid and Meeraji. Yet he has touched us as no modern Urdu poet has. If I were to explain his extraordinary power as poet l would offer first his qualities of humanity. These attributes Jalib shared with Faiz; and in this lay their common greatness.” In his article Dr Eqbal has found genuine common ground between the two celebrated poets of the country who made a great contribution towards the awakening of masses in their own individual styles. The good poetry is always characterized by its appeal to the sensibility of its readers and listeners. Jalib was different from his contemporaries as his simple and emotional poetry directly appealed to the hearts of his audiences who would experience a unique emotional surge in their collective psyche. Those who would listen to his poems in public meetings were subjected to a strange emotive experience that would either charge them into high frenzy or move them to spontaneous tears.
Jalib was born in Hoshiarpur (East Punjab) in 1928 but spent his younger years in Delhi where he studied in the Anglo-Arabic School. Smitten by muse at an early age he adopted Jalib as his pseudonym ameliorating a classical Delhi poet called Jalib Dehlvi. Like all other poets Jalib’s earlier poetry was characterized by romantic feelings. In 1947 when he was 19 years old India was partitioned and like all other Indian Muslims he migrated to Pakistan. Initially he landed in Karachi and found a job as a proof reader in Daily Imroze Karachi at a very nominal salary. In Karachi soon he got recognition as a budding poet with a beautiful voice who was invited to functions more to recite other poet’s verses than his own. In his book Gumshuda Loag Agha Nasir remembers of a function held in his College where Jalib was invited to recite Faiz’s poetry. May be at that stage he was shy of reciting his own poetry before general public. But it was in a Mushaira held in Lahore in 1949 that Jalib recited his own poetry and stole the show. In his memoirs Chiraghon ka Dhuan Intizar Husain has mentioned of those times when many poets migrated to Lahore and Mushairas used to take place on almost every other day. The Mushaira I am mentioning was the Indo-Pak Mushaira in which Jigar Muradabadi and Jagan Nath Azad had come from India and Jalib and Zahra Nigah came from Karachi. It was actually a maiden appearance of these two budding poets in Lahore and both of them stole the show in presence of well known Indian and Pakistani poets. In that Mushaira Jalib recited his famous ghazal:
Dil ki baat labon par la kar ab tak ham dukh sehte hein
Ham ne suna tha iss basti mein dil wale bhi rehte haein
Jalib so much impressed the audience with his rendering that he was asked to recite his poetry several times. May be it was this ovation that prompted him to shift to Lahore permanently. But Lahore of that period was full of literati and literary movements.
Those who think Jalib underwent a sudden transformation in his poetic diction after Ayub’s martial law forget that in his early days in Lahore Jalib used to regularly participate in the meetings of the Progressive Writers Association till the time it was banned by our pro-American government. Though the major content of his poetry was amorous and romantic but in lesser aggressive manner he would write verses with progressive content:
Kaliyan royein ghunche royein ro ro apni ankhein khoein
Lambi taan ke chaen se soyein iss phulwari ke rakhwale
However his style and content underwent a drastic change in 1959 when after Ayub’s martial law the civil liberties were curtailed and the government came with a heavy hand on the progressive writers. While on one hand Qudratullah Shahab, Jamiluddin Aali, Ashfaq Ahmad and others tried to woo the writers to support the regime by joining the Writers’ Guild and arranging free trips for them within and outside the country, the government took over Pakistan’s independent newspapers and brought them under the umbrella of National Press Trust. The freedom of expression was curbed with a heavy hand of censorship. Jalib was a man of the street. He hated dictatorship in all its manifestations. I remember that in a Mushaira held in Abbottabad in 1959 where Faiz was also present Jalib recited a purely romantic poem.
Rah e subhe ashqi mein kahin shaam a na jaye
Tujhe bewafa kahoon mein woh maqam a na jaye
But soon after that in a radio Mushaira held in Rawalpindi Jalib startled the organizers with his verses:
Kahin gas ka dhuan hae kahin golion ki barish
Shab-e-ahd-e-kamnigahi tujhe kis trah sarahein
The Mushaira which was being aired alive was switched off and the poor station director Syed Ataullah Kalim was penalized for this boldness of a harmless poet. After this he gave no respite to the regime as he started his tirade with full force. When Ayub regime enforced their tailor-made constitution Jalib wrote his most popular poem:
Deep jis ka mahallaat hee mein jaley/Chand logon kee khushion ko lay kar chaley/ Voh jo sayay mein har muslehat kay paley/Aisey dastoor ko subh-e-beynoor ko/ Main nahin maanta, main nahin jaanta(A lamp only in palaces lit/Shed light for a chosen few/Shade in which one has to fit/Such rites and lightless dawns/I will not accept; I refuse to know.)Translated by Khushwant Singh
The poem catapulted Jalib to national fame and then there was no looking back. The poem became very popular throughout the country as it represented the true feelings of a majority of Pakistanis. Around that time, in a mushaira at Jauharabad, the audience demanded from Jalib to recite this poem. He had just started off when he was stopped by Justice S.A. Rahman who was presiding over the function. Undeterred, Jalib shouted back, “You cannot stand between me and my audience,” and continued with his poem to the chagrin of the chief guest. In another incident it is said that West Pakistan Governor, none other than the dreaded Nawab of Kalabagh, invited filmstar Neelo to dance in front of a foreign dignitary. As she refused, the police was sent to bring her forcibly to dance, which led to a suicide attempt on her part. This incident inspired a poem by Jalib, which was later included by Neelo’s husband Riaz Shahid in his movie Zarqa. The song was:Tu keh nawaqif-e-aadab-e-ghulami hae abhiRaqs zanjeer pehan kar bhikiya jata hai(You are not aware of the protocol of a king’s court. Sometimes one has to dance with the fetters on).The song has since then become a classic of poetry of resistance.
The contribution of Jalib towards political awakening during Ayub period was best expressed by Syed Sibte Hasan the noted leftist intellectual in these words,” The dictatorship of Ayub Khan will always be remembered for the fact that this dark period brought forth people like Justice Kayani and Habib Jalib. When the true history of this nation is written, then the world will know that these were the people who put life in the fading pulse of the nation at that time of fear and terror, when one was afraid even to breathe. What is this power that makes this gentle person fight against evil and insist on truth? In fact this power is due to the love of the people which lends bravery and enthusiasm to Jalib. Habib Jalib has sacrificed his self and his poetry for the common good of the people.”
Due to his daring revolt against the order of the day, Jalib was banned from official media but he remained undeterred. He rather started a tirade against the tyranny with more resolution. It reached its climax when Fatima Jinnah decided to contest elections against Ayub Khan. All democratic forces rallied round her and at her election meetings, Jalib used to recite his fiery poems in front of an emotionally-charged crowd. His most popular poem at that time was:Maan kay paon talay jannat hai idhar aa jao(The paradise is under the feet of the mother. So come into her fold).
Jalib became a celebrity and every opposition party tried to woo him into their fold. Jalib had friends among the top politicians of Pakistan ranging from Suharwardy to Bhutto.They say about Suhrawardy that whenever he would be in Lahore often he would invite Jalib and ask him to recite his poems especially the verse he liked most:
Koi to parcham le kar nikle apne gariban ka Jalib
Charon janib sannatta hae weerane yad aate haen
In 1970 there was a wave of support for socialism and the rightist parties all got together to defeat the leftists. Jalib then wrote beautiful poems giving new secular meaning to their slogans. In his poem ‘Pakistan ka matlab kiya’, he wrote:Roti, kapra aur dawa/Ghar rehne ko chhota sa/Muft mujhe talim dilaMein bhi Musalmaan hoon wallahPakistan ka matlab kya/La Ilaha Illalah.Amrika se mang na bhik/Mat kar logon ki tazhikRok na jamhoori tehrik/Chhorr na azadi ki rah/Pakistan ka matlab kya/La Ilaha Illalah.Khet waderon se le lo/Milen luteron se le loMulk andheron se le lo/Rahe na koi alijahPakistan ka matlab kya/La Ilaha Illalah.In the 1970 elections Jalib was offered a provincial assembly ticket by Bhutto provided he joined PPP, but Jalib declined the offer, fought the election on a NAP ticket and lost it. Jalib had to face the wrath of all governments—no matter whether they were martial law regimes or quasi-democratic in nature. He, in fact, was not the compromising type and therefore Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship became a favourite topic of his poetry when the latter toppled Bhutto’s government and seized control of the country. One can’t forget his poetry that was circulated by word of mouth or by photocopies during Pakistan’s worst period of dictatorship.Zulmat ko Zia, sarsar ko saba, bande ko khuda kya likhna
In a country where dictatorships are a norm the presence of a brave poet like Jalib is always needed to raise the morale of the people in those times of depression and despair.(Jalib died on 12th March 1993)

Saturday, March 04, 2006


By Dr Afzal Mirza

From Mir Taqi Mir to Munir Niazi every poet of repute has in one way or the other referred to a city or “shehr” in their verses. The city is sometimes their home town which they had to leave by force of circumstances or in many cases it is the city of their beloved. Mir remembered his hometown when he had to migrate to Lucknow in search of livelihood. Nostalgically he wrote:

Dilli keh aik shehr tha aalim mein intikhab

Rehte the muntikhab hi jahan roozgar ke

Faiz, Nasir Kazmi, Faraz and Munir Niazi don’t name it but call it “shehr”. They say about the dwellers of Peshawar that instead of naming it they always refer to their city as “shehr” as a gesture of love. Many years ago when I visited the city of Sarajevo in Bosnia I was surprised to observe that they also referred to their city as “shehr”—a Turkish tradition perhaps. Faiz wrote ravishing poems on Lahore naming it as the city of lights.

Basta hae is kohr ke peeche raushanion ka shehr

Nasir Kazmi wandered in the dark streets of Lahore in search of the “lost ones” as did Shohrat Bukhari. Munir Niazi called it “Us bewafa ka shehr” and Safdar Mir prayed for it in his native Punjabi

as “Jeeve shehr Lahore.” But it was poet Saifuddin Saif who highlighted his deep emotive experience while referring to the word “shehr”. This word in his long and short poems symbolizes the painful separation from his beloved. It can be compared to the word ‘rail garri’ or train which came to be a symbol for the separation of lovers. In the words of Munir”

Rail ki seeti baji to dil lahu se bhar gaya.

Saifuddin Saif came to Lahore after partition from Amritsar as did his many contemporaries and juniors like Ahmad Rahi, A.Hamid, Zahir Kashmiri, Shahzad Ahmad, Javed Shahin, Ahmad Mushtaq, Salahuddin Nadim and others. Famous writer Saadat Hasan Manto also belonged to Amritsar but he arrived in Lahore from Bombay as he had shifted there much earlier than 1947.Some of these writers were introduced to the realm of literature by Saifuddin Saif but many were inspired by the literary stalwarts that had converged on Amritsar in 1940’s as teachers in the MAO College that competed with the Khalsa College in a big way. Some of these luminaries were Dr Rashid Jahan, Rashiduz Zafar, M.D.Taseer and Faiz Ahmad Faiz. Iqbal was a rage during the decades preceding his death in 1938 and thereafter but as his poetry became more and more sophisticated and philosophic the younger generation found catharsis in the writings of romantics and romantic revolutionaries.

On international level the Second World War had produced an economic depression that had also affected the socio-economic conditions of India. The poverty and unemployment had given impetus to the freedom struggle and many parties with revolutionary ideas appealed to the sensibilities of the frustrated youth of the country. Many writers therefore aligned themselves with the progressive writers movement operating on international level with a program of economic emancipation through socialistic principles while others like Saif found solace in some indigenous revolutionary movements. He initially joined Khaksar Movement that strove for the revival of Caliphate through a militant struggle but sometimes before the partition he distanced himself from any political activity and aligned himself with those writers who believed in literature for sake of literature.

Like all well known writers Saif started writing very early in his youth. Being a genuine poet he received an early acclaim and his popularity reached its zenith during his College days when he became star poet of all Mushairas in Amritsar. He had a melodious voice that left a deep impact on the sensibility of listeners. Thus even as a College student he had a large following among the youth of Amritsar who almost ‘worshipped’ him. Soon his fame spread beyond Amritsar and his ghazals and poems became popular in the literary circles of the country..

I first became familiar with his poetry during my college days when in early 1950’s besides Faiz’s Dast-e-saba two more books appeared in the market and became instantaneous hits. These were Saif’s Kham-e-Kakul and Adam’s Kharabat. Some of the ghazals from Kham-e-Kakul became so popular that people used to quote them in the gatherings. I remember that in a discussion in the Punjab Assembly one of the members retorted to a remark of another member with Saif’s line “Ronay wale tujhe kis bat pe rona aya.”

His poetry was characterized by the pain of separation and early setbacks of life. His admirer of College days poet Shaukat Rizvi whom I met in Abbottabad always talked of him with respect and so did poet Shahzad Ahmad. They would always refer to him as Saif sahib. Shaukat told me that Saif’s poetry resulted from an unsuccessful love affair. Like Sahir Ludhianvi Saif expressed his emotional grief in highly inspired verses:

Tumhare baad khuda jane kiya hua dil ko

Kisi se rabt barhane ka hausla na hua

Shaukat told me that the above-mentioned verse was the outcome of his failure in his intense love affair. In another verse in the same vein he wrote:

Chamak ke aur barhao meri siah bakhti

Kisi ke ghar ke ujalo tumhe kisi ke kaya

In a similar mood of utter frustration Saif wrote his famous ghazal that became a hit song of Saat Laakh:

Qarar lootne wale qarar ko tarse. Shaukat told me that Saif showed this ghazal to Faiz Ahmad Faiz who was his teacher in MAO College Amritsar. “On reading this ghazal Faiz smiled and said ,’Barkhurdar, mahbooba ko kabhi bad dua nahin dete,’” he remarked. As happens in most of the cases the poet’s lady love after marriage departs for another city and thereafter poet’s all attention is focused on that city. The long poems and some of the ghazals of Saif written during that period therefore project the feelings of the poet when he thinks of that city or has to travel to that city. His long poem Jab tere shehr se guzarta hun an abbreviated version of which appeared in film “Vaada” beautifully represents those emotions:

Koi pursan-e-haal ho to kahun

Kaisi andhi chali hae tere baad

Shama-e-umeed sarsar-e-gham mein

Kis bahane jali hae tere baad

Jis mein koi makin na rehta ho

Dil woh sooni gali hae tere baad

Din guzara hae kis tarah maen ne

Raat kuonkar dhali hae tere baad

Roz jita hun roz marta hun

Jab tere shehr se guzarta hun

Saif used to recite this poem in Mushairas in Amritsar with beautiful tarranum and used to spellbind the audience. Poet Shahzad Ahmad once told me that “we used to look towards Saif sahib with great admiration and pride when he used to come to the stage to recite his poetry and wanted to emulate him.” After migrating to Pakistan Saif neither participated in Mushairas nor himself recited this poem anywhere. I remember that many years later short story writer Nawaz once recited this poem for Mahmood Naazir (grand son of olden days poet Khushi Ahmad Naazir of Jogi fame) and myself in an exclusive sitting. He copied the style and rendition of Saif being his friend, admirer and witness of the recital of this poem in Amritsar. Frankly speaking the rendering of this poem in “Vaada” was nothing compared to the intensity of feelings with which Saif used to render this poem. Saif also wrote a poem Main tera shehr chorr jaoon ga which Mujib Alam sang in his melodious voice for “Shama and parwana”. Shehr or city was also intensely present in his ghazal:

Main akaila nakhl-e-sehra ki tarah hun kya karun

Yaar tere shehr mein aghyar tere shehr mein

Teri rusvai ka dar sau bar wapas le gaya

Shauq laya hae mujhe sau bar tere shehr mein

Jis ke shanon par teri zulf-e-parishan thi woh Saif

Dhoondhta hae saya-e-deewar tere shehr mein

The city of Amritsar can rightly boast of its role in the cultural development of Lahore after the partition. So much so that Beli -the first movie made in Pakistan was all an Amritsar- affair with Saadat Hasan Manto as the writer, Masud Parvez as the director, Rashid Attre as the music director and Ahmad Rahi as the lyricist. Keeping himself aloof from the literary activity Saif also got himself involved in this genre of art and initially wrote songs for pictures like Hichkole, Vaada, Anarkali, Qatil, Gumnam to quote a few and then at later stage himself decided to wield the megaphone by writing and directing one of Pakistan’s golden jubilee hits Saat Laakh. In this movie poet Shahzad Ahmad assisted Saif as assistant director.. Shahzad thereafter never tried to enter the domain of films. However Saif produced and directed another remarkable Punjabi movie entitled Kartar Singh. Inspired by the theme of partition Saif showed the humane side of a Sikh. He once told his friends that he reluctantly decided to make this film because it could raise controversy. Those still remembering the holocaust of 1947 could hardly accept the character of a Sikh who could be something other than an evil. But the picture that reminded the viewers of Ahmad Nadim Qasmi’s Parmeshar Singh and Ashfaq Ahmad’s Gadarya became a great success and initiated a new trend of purposeful films in Punjabi language. As the age overtook him Saif gave up the hard task of making his own films but continued to write songs for his Amritsari friend and assistant director Hasan Tariq’s independent movies. During his film-making career the writing of serious poetry naturally took the second place in his priorities but as the poet Jan Nisar Akhtar (father of Indian lyricist Javed Akhtar) once wrote “ The time has come that critics should also give due consideration to the film poetry of accomplished writers while evaluating their contribution to literature.” (End)