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.

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)