Faiz Ahmad Faiz February 1911 – 20 November 1984) MBE, NI, was an influential left-wing intellectual, revolutionary poet, and one of the most famous poets of the Urdu language from Pakistan. A notable member of the Progressive Writers’ Movement (PWM), Faiz was an avowed Marxist and a recipient of Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union in 1962. Despite being repeatedly accused of atheism by the political and military establishment, Faiz’s poetry suggested a complicated relationship with religion in general and with Islam in particular. He was, nevertheless, inspired by South Asia’s Sufi traditions.
Faiz was controversially named and linked by Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s government for hatching the conspiracy (see Rawalpindi conspiracy case) against Liaquat Ali Khan’s government, along with a left-wing military sponsor Major-General Akbar Khan. Having been arrested by Military police, Faiz among others received a maximum sentence by JAG branch, although his sentence was commuted after the assassination Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951.
Early life and education
Faiz Ahmad Farooq was born on 26 October 1911, in Karachi.Faiz hailed from an academic family that was well known in literary circles. His home was often the scene of a gathering of local poets and writers who met to promote the literacy movement in his native province. His father was a barrister who worked for the British Government, and an autodidact who wrote and published the biography of Amir Abdur Rahman, an Emir of Imperial Afghanistan. Although his family were devoted Muslims, Faiz was brought up in a Secular tradition of Islam.Following the Muslim South Asian tradition, his family directed him to study Islamic studies at the local Mosque to be oriented to the basics of religious studies by Maulvi Ibrahim Mir. According to Muslim orthodox tradition, he learned Arabic, Persian, Urdu language and the Quran. According to a book written by Sarvat Rehman, while Faiz was brought up as an orthodox Muslim, he saw himself as an agnostic.Faiz was also a Pakistan nationalist, and often said “Purify your hearts, so you can save the country…”.
His father later took him out of Islamic school as he wanted his son to follow the footsteps of the great Indian Muslim educationist Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, sending him to attend the Scotch Mission School, which was managed and run by a local British family. After matriculation, he joined the Murray College at Sialkot for intermediate study. In 1926, Faiz enrolled in Department of Languages and Fine Arts of the Government College University (GCU), Lahore. While there, he was greatly influenced by Professor Mir Hassan and Professor Shamsul Allam who taught Arabic language. Professor Hasan had also taught the renowned philosopher, poet, and politician of South Asia, Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. In 1926, Faiz attained his B.A. with Honors in Arabic language, under the supervision of Professor Mir Hassan. In 1930, Faiz joined the post-graduate programme of the GCU, obtaining M.A. in English literature in 1932. The same year, Faiz passed his post-graduate exam in the 1st Division from Punjab University’s Oriental College, where he obtained a Master’s degree in Arabic in 1932. It was during his college years that he met M. N. Roy and Muzaffar Ahmed who influenced him to become a member of the Communist Party.
In 1935 Faiz joined the faculty of Muhammedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh, serving as a lecturer in English and British literature.Later in 1937, Faiz moved to Lahore to reunite with his family after accepting the professorship at the Hailey College of Commerce, initially teaching introductory courses on economics and commerce.[During the midst of World War II, he enrolled in the British Indian Army in 1942. He was commissioned and attained the rank of Captain.Faiz served with the unit led by Akbar Khan, a left-wing general. Although, he was kept out of war operations, Faiz was given a desk assignment when he joined the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) in New Delhi. In 1943, Faiz was promoted to Major rank, and then Lieutenant-Colonel in 1944. In 1947, Faiz opted for newly established State of Pakistan. However, after witnessing the 1947 Kashmir war with India, Faiz decided to leave the army and submitting his resignation in 1947.
Academia and literacy
In 1936, Faiz joined a literary movement, Progressive Writers’ Movement (PWM) and was appointed its first secretary by his fellow Marxist Sajjad Zaheer.In East and West-Pakistan, the movement gained considerable support in civil society. In 1938, he became editor-in-chief of the monthly Urdu magazine “Adab-e-Latif (lit. Belles Letters) until 1946. In 1941, Faiz published his first literary book “Naqsh-e-Faryadi” (lit. Imprints) and joined the Pakistan Arts Council (PAC) in 1947. From 1959–62, Faiz served as the secretary of Pakistan Arts Council, and later became Rector of Abdullah Haroon College in 1964.The same year, Faiz became the vice-president of Pakistan Arts Council in 1964.
Faiz was a good friend of Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko who once said “In Faiz’s autobiography… is his poetry, the rest is just a footnote”.During his lifetime, Faiz published eight books and received accolades for his works. Faiz was a humanist, a lyrical poet, whose popularity reached neighbouring India and Soviet Union. Indian biographer Amaresh Datta, compared Faiz as “equal esteem in both East and West”.Throughout his life, his revolutionary poetry addressed the tyranny of military dictatorships, tyranny, and oppressions, Faiz himself never compromised on his principles despite being threatened by the right-wing parties in Pakistan. Faiz’s writings are comparatively new verse form in Urdu poetry based on Western models. Faiz was influenced by the works of Allama Iqbal and Mirza Ghalib, assimilating the modern Urdu with the classical. Faiz used more and more demands for the development of socialism in the country, finding socialism the only solution of country’s problems. During his life, Faiz was concerned with more broader socialists ideas, using Urdu poetry for the cause and expansion of socialism in the country.The Urdu poetry and Ghazals influenced Faiz to continue his political themes as non-violent and peaceful, opposing the far left politics in Pakistan.
Internationalism and communism
Main article: Communism in Pakistan
Faiz believed in Internationalism and emphasised the philosophy on Global village.In 1947, he became editor of the Pakistan Times and in 1948, Faiz became vice-president of the Pakistan Trade Union Federation (PTUF).In 1950, Faiz joined the delegation of Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan, initially leading a business delegation in the United States, attending the meeting at the International Labour Organization (ILO) at San Francisco, California. During 1948–50, Faiz led the PTUF’s delegation in Geneva, and became an active member of World Peace Council (WPC).
Faiz was a well-known communist in the country and had been long associated with the Communist Party of Pakistan, which he founded in 1947 along with Marxist Sajjad Zaheer and Jalaludin Abdur Rahim.Faiz had his first exposure to socialism and communism before the independence of State of Pakistan which he thought he was consistent with his progressive thinking.Faiz had long associated ties with the Soviet Union, a friendship with atheist country that later honoured him with high award. Even after his death, the Russian government honoured him by calling him “our poet” to many Russians. However his popularity was waned in Bangladesh after 1971 when Dhaka did not win much support for him.Faiz and other pro-communists had no political role in the country, despite their academic brilliance.
Although Faiz was a not a hardcore or far-left communist, he spent most of the 1950s and 1960s promoting the cause of communism in Pakistan. During the time when Faiz was editor of the Pakistan Times, one of the leading newspapers of the 1950s, he lent editorial support to the party. He was also involved in the circle lending support to military personnel (e.g. Major General Akbar Khan). His involvement with the party and Major General Akbar Khan’s coup plan led to his imprisonment later.
Later in his life, while giving an interview with the local newspaper, Faiz was asked by the interviewer as if he was a communist, Faiz he replied in his usual nonchalant manner: “No. I am not, a communist is a person who is a card carrying member of the Communist party ever made. The party is banned in our country. So how can I be a communist?…”.
Rawalpindi plot and exile
Main article: Rawalpindi conspiracy
The Liaquat Ali Khan’s government failure to Indian-held Kashmir had frustrated the military leaders of the Pakistan Armed Forces in 1948, including Jinnah himself serious doubt on Ali Khan’s ability to ensure the integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan. After returning from the United States, Ali Khan imposed restrictions on Communist party as well as Pakistan Socialist Party. Although the East Pakistan Communist Party had ultimate success in East-Pakistan after staging the mass protest to recognised Bengali language as national heritage.
The Muslim League after Jinnah founded struggling to survive its existence in West-Pakistan. Therefore, Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan imposed extreme restrictions and applied tremendous pressure on communist party for not being properly allowed to function openly as a political party. The conspiracy had been planned by left-wing military officer and Chief of General Staff Major-General Akbar Khan. On 23 February 1951, a secret meeting was held at General Akbar’s home, attended by other communist officers and communist party members, including Marxist Sajjad Zaheer and communist Faiz. General Akbar assured Faiz and Zaheer that the communist party would be allowed to function as a legitimate political party like any other party and to take part in the elections. But, according to communist Zafar Poshni who maintained, in 2011, that “no agreement was reached, the plan was disapproved, the communists weren’t ready to accept General’s words and the participants dispersed without meeting again”. However the next morning, the plot was foiled when one of the communist officer defected to ISI revealing the motives behind the plot. When the news reached to Prime minister, the orders of massive arrests were ordered to Military Police by the Prime minister. Before the coup could be initiated, General Akbar among other communists were arrested, including Faiz. In a trial led by the Judge Advocate General branch’s officers in a military court, Faiz was announced to spent four years in Montgomery Central Jail (MCJ), due to his influential personality, Liaquat Ali Khan’s government continued locating him in Central Prison Karachi and the Central Jail Mianwali. His case later proceeded by socialist Huseyn Suhravardie as his defence counselor. Finally on 2 April 1955 Faiz’s sentence was commuted by the Prime minister Huseyn Suhrawardy, and departed to London, Great Britain soon after.In 1958, Faiz again returned but was again detained by President Iskander Mirza, allegedely blamed Fiaz for publishing the pro-communist ideas and advocacy for pro-Moscow government.However, due to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s influence on Ayub Khan, Faiz’s sentence was commuted in 1960 and he was departed to Moscow, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; he later settled in London, United Kingdom.
Return to Pakistan and government work
In 1964, Faiz finally returned to his country and settled down in Karachi, and was appointed Principal of Abdullah Haroon College. In 1965, Faiz was first brought to government by charismatic democratic socialist Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who was tenuring as Foreign minister in the presidency of Ayub Khan.Bhutto lobbied for Faiz and giving the honorary capacity at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MoIB) working to rallying the people of West-Pakistan to fight against India to defend their motherland.During the 1971 Winter war, Faiz rallied to mobolize the people, writing patriotic poems and songs that opposed the bloodshed during separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan.
In 1972, Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto brought him back when Bhutto appointed Faiz as Culture adviser at the Ministry of Culture (MoCul) and the Ministry of Education (MoEd).Faiz continued serving in Bhutto’s government until 1974 when he took retirement from the government assignments
Faiz had strong ties with Bhutto, and had been deeply upset upon Bhutto’s removal by Chief of Army Staff General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in 1977, in a military coup codename Fair Play Again, Faiz was monitored by Military Police and his every move watched. In 1979, Faiz departed from Pakistan after learning the news of Bhutto’s execution had been taken place.Faiz took asylum in Beirut, Lebonan, but returned back to Pakistan in poor health after renewal of the Lebanon War in 1982.In 1984, Faiz died in Lahore, Punjab Province, shortly after hearing a nomination of Nobel Peace Prize.
In 1941, Faiz became affectionate to Alys Faiz, a British national and a member of Communist Party of the United Kingdom, who was a student at the Government College University where Faiz taught poetry.While Alys opted for Pakistan citizenship, she was a vital member of Communist Party of Pakistan, played a significant role in Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case when she brought together the communist mass. Together, the couple gave birth two daughter Salima and Moneeza Hashmi.