LAHORE -  The Faiz International Festival started yesterday evening at Alhamra with a photographic exhibition on the life and work of revolutionary poet and a play “Ani Mai Da Sufna” (the dream of a blind lady) by Ajoka theatre.

The three-day festival includes wide-ranging discussions on different topics and singing performances by Abida Parveen, Ustad Hamid Ali Khan and Tena Sani. The annual event – third in a row – is being organised by Faiz Foundation Trust.

Although all talks, panel discussions and performances, except from Tena and Abida, are free and open for all to attend, some critics termed the event a gathering of the elite class, the society against which Faiz voiced throughout his life.

They say Faiz’ name was “hijacked” by the ruling elite after his death against whom the poet voiced throughout his life.

“Faiz is the poet who is now being celebrated by two segments of society, the working class and the elites. Being to a left wing progressive, his views are being shared meetings, rallies of labourers and left wing parties but ironically those people also celebrate Faiz against whom he wrote,” says Shahzad Nayyar, a modern poet and critic.

He regretted that in leaders, writers and people belong to working class had not been invited in the Faiz Festival.

Nayyar stressed the need for starting struggle for the rights of working class.

He said Faiz was a poet of unmatchable qualities. “He was a thinking poet. His message was universal.”

He quoted some critic who call Faiz even better poet of Dr Iqbal when one compares his universalities. Though, he added, Dr Iqbal was no doubt the greatest poet and thinker and even Faiz accepted it and paid tribute to the services of our national poet.

Faiz’ criticism on aristocrats could be understood through his dozens of verses:

“Qafs hy bus main tumharay, tumharay bus main nhe, Chaman main aatish-e-gul k nikhar ka mosam” (Dast-e-Saba)

“Chand ko gul krain tu hum janain, Zulm ka zehar gholnay walay, Kamran ho sakain gay aaj na kal.” (Zindan Nama)

He wrote for working class and struggled for them:

Aay khak nasheeno uth betho, vo waqt qareeb aa pohncha hy-Jb takhat gira-ay jain gay, jb taj uchalay jain gay. (Dast-e-Saba). He used to sit with them, love them and respect them.

Major Ishaq, a fellow of late poet in jail, wrote: “Faiz kept praising for hours an electrician who fixed electric on power pole without any supportive material. His eyes glittered after meeting with the postman who used to deliver daily post to Faiz in the jail. He (Faiz) used to say unity among the working class could fix Pakistan’s problems,” late Ishaq wrote in preamble of Zindan Nama.

(Major Ishaq spent couple of years with Faiz sahib in jail. He was a Marxist, a revolutionary and founder of Mazdor Kissan Party.)  He was optimistic and believed in the power of love to attain victory: Ajze ehle sitm ki bat kro-Ishq k dam qadm ki bat kro (Dast-e-Saba).

He wrote for writers: Mata-e-Loh-o-qalm chen gae tu kya gham hy, K khon-e-dil main daboi hain unglyan main nay.

He was a true patriotic. He loved Pakistan from core of his heart. He used to dream for his country when he was put under bar: Chamk utha hay salasil tu hum nay jana hy-K ab sehar teray rukh pay bikhar gae ho gi.  He had great love for Lahore. His poem “Aay Roshanyo K Shahr” is in praise of Lahore.

An optimistic throughout his life, Faiz believed in struggle and he wrote a lot in praise of all martyrs of the world who lost their lives resisting against slavery. He wrote dozens of poems paying homage to freedom fighters with titles: Karbla, Africa Come Back, Palasi, Sarangapatam, Jhansi, Jalyanwala, Qisa Khawani, Stalingrad, Malya, Kenya, Morocco.