A Per­son­al­ity Ex­traor­di­naire

Faiz Ahmed Faiz has not only mes­mer­ized an en­tire na­tion but has cap­tured the at­ten­tion of the world. He re­mains one of Pak­istan’s most beloved per­son­al­i­ties and a national trea­sure.

Southasia - - Contents - By S.G. Ji­la­nee S. G. Ji­la­nee is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer edi­tor of SouthAsia Mag­a­zine.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz re­mains Pak­istan’s national trea­sure and an in­spi­ra­tion for mil­lions across the world.

Per­haps the most fa­mous and “beloved” poet of Pak­istan, Faiz Ah­mad Faiz, was born on 13 Fe­bru­ary 1911 in Sialkot to an “aca­demic fam­ily that was well known in lit­er­ary cir­cles.” He was born as just Faiz Ah­mad. Af­ter he be­gan writ­ing po­etry he chose Faiz as his pen-name and con­se­quently came to be known as “Faiz Ah­mad Faiz.”

Faiz re­ceived his early ed­u­ca­tion in an Is­lamic school where he learned Urdu, Per­sian and the Qu­ran. In 1926, he at­tended a Scotch Mis­sion school and ul­ti­mately at­tained his M.A. in English Lit­er­a­ture and Ara­bic in 1932.

In 1935, Faiz joined the fac­ulty of Mo­hammedan An­glo-Ori­en­tal Col­lege at Ali­garh as a lec­turer in English Lit­er­a­ture. In 1936, Faiz had joined the Pro­gres­sive Writ­ers’ Move­ment. Sa­j­jad Zahir, a fel­low Marx­ist ap­pointed him as the Move­ment’s first sec­re­tary. Two years later he be­came edi­tor-in-chief of the monthly Urdu mag­a­zine Adab-e

Latif, in Delhi. In 1941, Faiz pub­lished his first lit­er­ary book Naqsh-e-Faryad and joined the Pak­istan Arts Coun­cil in 1947 to serve as its sec­re­tary from 1959 to 1962. In 1937, he moved to La­hore af­ter ac­cept­ing the pro­fes­sor­ship at the Hai­ley Col­lege of Com­merce. Dur­ing World War II, he en­rolled in the Bri­tish In­dian Army in 1942 as a com­mis­sioned of­fi­cer where he rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel. Faiz opted for Pak­istan in 1947 but was so distressed by the Kash­mir war with In­dia that he re­signed from the army in 1947.

A year be­fore join­ing the army, Faiz had mar­ried Alys, a Bri­tish national. Their mar­riage was a per­fect meet­ing of the minds as Alys was mem­ber of the Com­mu­nist Party of the United King­dom while Faiz had met com­mu­nist lead­ers, M. N. Roy and Muzaf­far Ahmed, dur­ing his col­lege days and un­der their in­flu­ence, joined the Com­mu­nist Party. Soon af­ter leav­ing the army, Faiz be­came edi­tor of the Pak­istan Times in 1947. The next year he be­came vice-pres­i­dent of the Pak­istan Trade Union Fed­er­a­tion (PTUF). “Dur­ing 1948–50, Faiz led the PTUF’s del­e­ga­tion in Geneva and be­came an ac­tive

mem­ber of World Peace Coun­cil.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, he de­voted him­self to pro­mot­ing the com­mu­nist cause in Pak­istan. As edi­tor of the Pak­istan Times, “he lent edi­to­rial sup­port to the party.” Hav­ing served in the unit led by Ak­bar Khan dur­ing the War, he held the lat­ter in high re­gard and was later in­volved with the cir­cle that sup­ported Ma­jor Gen­eral Ak­bar Khan’s coup plan, in 1951.

When the coup failed, the con­spir­a­tors were tried in a mil­i­tary court. Faiz was sen­tenced to four years im­pris­on­ment. In 1955, his sen­tence was com­muted and he went into ex­ile in Lon­don. In 1958, Faiz re­turned but was again de­tained by the govern­ment for pub­lish­ing pro-com­mu­nist ideas and ad­vo­cacy for a pro-Moscow govern­ment in Pak­istan. How­ever, in 1960 he was re­leased and this time de­parted for Moscow.

In 1964, Faiz re­turned to Pak­istan and was ap­pointed rec­tor of Ab­dul­lah Ha­roon Col­lege.

Faiz also en­joyed good re­la­tions with so­cial­ist Zul­fikar Ali Bhutto. There­fore, in 1965, Bhutto, then for­eign min­is­ter in the Ayub Khan govern­ment got Faiz an hon­orary slot in the In­for­ma­tion and Broad­cast­ing min­istry, where his task was to rally pop­u­lar sup­port for the 1965 Indo-Pak­istan War.

In 1972, when Bhutto be­came prime min­is­ter of the “resid­ual” Pak­istan, he ap­pointed Faiz as Cul­ture ad- viser, where he worked un­til his re­tire­ment in 1974.

But the vi­cis­si­tudes of his life did not cease. Be­cause of his strong ties with Bhutto, he fell afoul of Gen. Zi­aul Haq af­ter the lat­ter had top­pled Bhutto and was kept un­der sur­veil­lance. Faiz once again went into self-ex­ile in 1979, this time to Beirut. But due to the civil war in Le­banon in 1982, he re­turned to Pak­istan.

Two years later, Faiz Ahmed Faiz died in La­hore, on 20 Novem­ber 1984.

Faiz was a hu­man­ist and a lyri­cal poet. His songs touch hearts not only for their lilt­ing mu­sic, but chiefly be­cause, they “tell of sad­dest thoughts.” He talks of the op­pressed lower-class and the tyranny of mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship but at the same time kin­dles hope of a bet­ter fu­ture. His fa­mous poem, “Lazim hai

ke hum bhi dekhen­gay...” speaks of the day when the moun­tains of tyranny will van­ish like pieces of cot­ton in the air; when crowns will be flung and thrones will be over­turned, and the King­dom of God will be es­tab­lished where to­day’s down­trod­den peo­ple will rule.

But Faiz did not write only rev­o­lu­tion­ary po­ems. He also wrote of love and ro­mance that be­came the hall­mark of clas­sic Urdu po­etry. He started with love po­ems in the genre of “ghazal” that over­flow with ten­der sen­ti­ments and por­tray a marked in­flu­ence of Ghalib. A dis­tinc­tive fea­ture of Faiz’s po­etry is that even though his po­ems, par­tic­u­larly the po­lit­i­cal ones, are couched in a sim­ple con­ver­sa­tional style, the lan­guage and dic­tion is pol­ished and re­fined. It is the dic­tion of the elite rather than of the com­mon­ers. Yet, his po­etry has been very pop­u­lar not only in Pak­istan and In­dia but also in the Soviet Union,

In 1962, Faiz be­came the first Asian poet to be awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, a Soviet equiv­a­lent of the No­bel Peace Prize. In 1976, he was awarded the Lo­tus Prize for Lit­er­a­ture. He was also listed four times for the No­bel Prize. In 2011, the Pak­istan govern­ment de­clared the year of 2011 “as the year of Faiz Ahmed Faiz” and set up a “Faiz Chair” at the Depart­ment of Urdu at the Karachi Univer­sity and the Sindh Univer­sity. The Govern­ment Col­lege Univer­sity of La­hore fol­lowed by es­tab­lish­ing the Pa­tras, Faiz Chair at the Urdu Depart­ment.

Dur­ing his life­time, Faiz pub­lished eight books. Two of his books, Dast-e

Saba and Zin­dan-Nama are the prod­ucts of the pe­riod of his im­pris­on­ment. Faiz’s awards, be­sides the Lenin Prize, in­clude MBE (1946), Ni­gar Award (1953), HRC Peace Prize, Nis­han-e-Im­tiaz (1990) and the Avi­cenna Prize (2006).

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