Ahmed Faraz and land reforms

This article was first published in The Express Tribune on Feb 15, 2013.

Islamabad – Sometime after the 1990 decision by Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court declaring land reforms ‘un-Islamic’, Abid Hassan Minto, a veteran constitutional expert and progressive politician, remembers meeting the revolutionary poet, Ahmed Faraz.

“What kind of a lawyer are you that you cannot lodge any appeal or arguments against this decision,” Minto recalled Faraz asking him pressingly.

Faraz, who himself was a member of the Progressive Writers’ Association (PWA) that has always associated itself with the fight for social justice since its inception in 1936, had earlier congratulated Minto once after the Land Reforms Ordinance 1977 came about, Minto reminisced.

Minto was presiding over a seminar and awards ceremony organised by the Ahmed Faraz Trust (AFT) in connection with the birth anniversary of the legendry poet at the National Language Authority’s auditorium here on Thursday.

Faraz’s jab pushed him into action but it took him the better part of two decades to devise a strategy and file two petitions in the apex court seeking land and electoral reforms.

The SC ruled in favour of the electoral reforms in June 2012 but the land reforms petition is pending. “It is a pity that despite laws for land reforms (which were passed in 1959, 1972 and 1977), there is no way that people can be liberated from the stranglehold of feudalism because of the 1990 judgment,” the Awami Workers Party (AWP) president said.

“What is legal has been deemed illegal (by the SC’s Shariat bench),” he said. “That’s the power of a system which has held our society and our future captive.”

Minto lamented that the land reforms issue has been kept out of the mainstream narrative. Both the media and the civil society have ignored the important land reforms issue,” he said.

Before he broke into the impassionate speech about the importance of land reforms in empowering the common man, Minto said Faraz is a great poet because of his “world outlook” and his “perspective” on socio-political issues.

Earlier, speaking on the life and work of Faraz, poet Harris Khalique said the members of the PWA had decided long ago that they will never sacrifice social realism for poetic aesthetics and never prioritize literature for the nobility over literature for the masses. Faraz was an example of this school of thought, Khalique said.

He said Faraz was unparalled in Urdu poetry because he wrote poetry that simultaneously met strict standards of art and was easily understood by the masses.

Hameeda Shaheen, a poet from Lahore, talked about the artistry in Faraz’s ghazals and Dr Anwar Ahmad discussed the elements of resistance in his poetry.

Other speakers included Haleem Qureshi, Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik and Faraz’s younger brother, Barrister Masood Kausar.

Shibli Faraz, the son of the great poet, told the audience about Ahmed Faraz Trust. The trust aims at collecting Faraz’s unpublished writings, his audiovisual recordings and establish a museum to make the poet accessible to new generations, he said.

The Trust has launched three literary awards. Two awards, worth Rs100,000 each, will be given to the two best poetry books released during the year. One of the poetry awards will be for a local poet and the other for a book from outside Pakistan.

Another award worth Rs50,000 will be given to the best academic text produced on the art and poetry of Faraz.

To launch the awards, the Ahmed Faraz Trust awarded a single prize of Rs100,000 to Dr Khurshid Rizvi for his works of poetry.

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