of Famous Poet Ahmed Faraz Slurs Pakistan's Image
June 25: Pakistan’s most widely known and internationally
respected living Urdu poetry legend, the fearless and outspoken
Ahmed Faraz, has been unceremoniously and summarily dismissed
from Government service by General Pervez Musharraf, in what one
of his friends described as “a gang rape a la Mukhtaran
the 73-year old rebel, who has been variously described as the
most important Urdu poet of the subcontinent, a political activist
and a romanticist, was working for many years as the Chairman
of the Pakistan National Book Foundation with its headquarters
to confirm what had happened, Faraz told his story to me on the
telephone on Friday and described the situation in one Urdu couplet:
"Kon Takoun Main Raha, Kon Sar-e-Rah Guzaar"; "Shehr
Kay Saaray Charaghon Ko Hawa Jaanti Hay." (Who was resting
on shelves and who was out lighting the Streets; The Winds recognize
every flame in the City.)
agreed that the action had been taken at the behest of some ambitious
people who wanted his job and these people had used the political
clout of Karachi’s ethnic group to oust him. But he would
fight it out and continue to write poetry and visit friends and
admirers outside Pakistan. Faraz said he had plans to go to Iran
and the United States in the near future.
becomes the latest victim of the Enlightened Moderation of the
General partly because he has been speaking out truthfully on
the media against the army rule and partly because General Musharraf’s
Urdu-speaking allies, the MQM of Altaf Hussain, wanted a Mohajir
to head the Book Foundation.
by birth is a Pathan, born in Nowshera near Peshawar and having
lived and grown up in NWFP. Immediately after his sacking, an
Urdu-speaking official was given the charge of the Book Foundation
and he was specially recognized at a political rally addressed
by Altaf Hussain in Karachi.
Faraz's services to Urdu language have no parallel, making him
a living legend and an icon for being an upright fearless character
who would stand up to even the most ruthless dictator.
a recent interview on ARY TV Channel, Faraz was asked to describe
how he saw the State of the Pakistani Union. His brief response
was: “When Pakistan was born, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali
Jinnah headed the Pakistan Muslim League. Now the same party is
headed by Choudhry Shujaat Hussain. That’s where we stand.”
Hussain’s MQM has been after Faraz for many years as the
party believes that the job of Chairman of the Book Foundation
must go to an Urdu-speaking person. The party does not consider
Ahmed Faraz as someone who has promoted and served Urdu as a language.
years ago, the MQM which had joined the military government as
a political ally, used its influence to throw Faraz out of the
job and out of his house as well. MQM's Minister for Housing,
Safwanullah tried to vacate the house where Faraz lives, three
times in the last two years. His household stuff was once thrown
out of his house. It was only after General Musharraf, who had
by then not yet adopted his Enlightened Moderation, intervened
and stopped Faraz from becoming jobless and homeless.
days ago the MQM again got its chance when a PPP member of Parliament
raised an irrelevant point in the National Assembly complaining
that Ahmed Faraz had refused to provide official transport of
the Book Foundation to carry the dead body of the son of one of
the Foundation’s employees, a Sindhi, allegedly murdered
by activists of Karachi’s dominant ethnic group, from Islamabad
to Larkana. Faraz declined saying none of the official vehicles
was in a position to make the journey.
complaint was instantly withdrawn by the PPP MP but the MQM members
of the cabinet raised hell with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz demanding
that Ahmed Faraz be sacked. “It was like ordering a gang
rape for someone else’s fault, just like the case of Mukhtaran
Mai,” a friend of Faraz said. "Shaukat Aziz and General
Musharraf could not stand up to the blackmail of MQM this time
and agreed to make Ahmed Faraz a political scapegoat."
Secretary of Education of the Pakistan Government summoned Faraz
to his office and asked him either to resign or get fired. He
preferred to be sacked and is now waiting for the MQM activists
to come and vacate his official residence in Islamabad.
has been an agitational poet par excellence whose poetry is marked
by sweetness and lyricism with a quality of grace, a tremulous
sensitivity, an ineffable beauty about human relationships that
has timeless appeal.
creator of some of the most popular verses, both political and
literary, Faraz has always been an activist for democracy and
rule of law and was even jailed by the authoritarian Pakistani
rulers. He was in exile during the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq
in the 80s and has been a sharp critic of military rule of General
his international stature and his recognition round the world
as the greatest poet after Faiz Ahmed Faiz protected him from
He is widely traveled and late last year when he visited New Delhi,
the popular web site Rediff.com interviewed him and compared
him to Allama Mohammad Iqbal and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the greatest
Urdu poets of the last century. “Faraz is a writer who has
fearlessly opposed tradition, tyranny and military rule in his
country,” it said.
Faraz adversity is nothing new and neither is romance. "Mera
mijaz shuru se hi Aashiqana tha. (I was romantic from the
very beginning)," he told Rediff.com last year, explaining
how he started writing poetry. “At school, there was a girl
in my class who was my friend. My parents asked me to learn mathematics
from her during the summer vacation. I was weak in mathematics
and geography. I still don't remember maps and roads."
"But maths took the back seat when the girl asked me to compete
in bait-bazi with her." Bait-bazi is a
game in which one person recites a couplet and the other one recites
another couplet starting with the last letter of the previous
"She was very good at it. So I started memorizing hundreds
of couplets for her," he recalled smiling at the memory.
"But I always lost. So I started manufacturing my own couplets,
and she couldn't catch me."
His poems, like those of Faiz and Sahir Ludhianvi, are equally
popular with common readers and scholars. Full of remorse and
anguish, most of them have social and political themes. He firmly
believes in the philosophy of the progressive movement and is
hopeful of history repeating itself.
Faraz also spoke about his political philosophy to Rediff.com.
"The USSR has failed, but the philosophy is still the same.
And it will emerge sooner or later. It is not a religion that
it will die. It can be amended and with corrections and lessons
from the past, it will come up again."
As for America, "It (the US) is promoting terrorism across
the globe. I even said this in America. They are pushing humanity
What about the India-Pakistan relationship? "People are trying
to promote peace. But after reading the newspapers and looking
at violent incidents and statements made by the leadership of
both countries I am not very optimistic," he says. "Ordinary
people want to live together. I don't know what the politicians
He has led several peace delegations to India, but he expressed
helplessness at the state of affairs. "We are poets. What
can we do? It is difficult for us to manage our homes. How can
we save a country?"
today the famous poet Ahmed Faraz could not save his own job in
his own country. Nations take pride in people like him and present
them to the world as their sign of greatness and achievement.
In Pakistan, self-interest and petty politics kills its own legends.
those who are presiding over this day light murder claim to improve
the image of Pakistan in the world. The New York Times
calls them nuts and that is what they are.