When Faiz Ahmed Faiz passed away, it was unbeknownst to him the harmony his work would bring between the two troubled neighbours, Pakistan and India, exactly 34 years after his demise. The 4th Faiz International Festival from November 18-20 warmly welcomed Indian cinema and stage artist Shabana Azmi and her husband, Javed Akhtar, a renowned poet himself, in Lahore who arrived with the message of love and peace. Interestingly, Faiz’s British wife once worked to support India against colonial rule. When politics and foreign policy fail to unite two countries borne from the same land, art and poetry achieve the goal in a much more genuine way. The little peace that does exist between the two nations, in fact, one might credit entirely to the artists who have worked to spread the message of peace and tolerance.
The role of art in promoting peace and brotherhood has not been appreciated enough and most people continue to undervalue its potential. Ms Azmi is absolutely correct when she says she believes in the value of greater contact and communication between people of the two countries. Where realpolitik creates distrust, art encourages people to understand each other through mutual interests and individual histories. Various art forums provide viewers with new perspectives by communicating history in paintings, poetry and dance.
Even though recently venomous politics tried to generate hatred between Indian and Pakistani artists with bans on showing each other’s movies or by rejecting visa applications, artists continue to hold their ground. Exchanges such as these should be supported by ministers for information and culture more frequently to help people change misconceived notions and break stereotypes. When tolerance is achieved, we can then finally say that along with Naya Pakistan, the people have also changed for the better.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2018.
Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.