Phir usi rahguzar par shayad,
Hum kabhi mil sakain magar shayad!
(On our favoured road again perhaps
we might meet again, but, perhaps!)
Three years after the death of the renowned progressive and popular poet Ahmad Faraz city fathers woke up to honour his memory by naming a road after him. However the belated honour reflected the parsimony the establishment has reserved for creative giants of the land. The road that will now bear his name is a service road in the backyard of F-10. The comparison springs to mind as the main boulevards of the capital city have been named after far lesser persons whose names have no meaning for the populace.
Ahmed Faraz (Syed Ahmed Shah) who died three years ago at the age of 77 is regarded among the great Urdu poets of our time. His family and friends in Islamabad and thousands of admirers across the country observed the anniversary on Thursday last.
Why CDA took so long in conferring this honour on the poet may be due to their inability to find a suitably insignificant road among the numerous streets and lanes of the city to match the poet’s name. After three years search they found it at last: the Service Road (West) in Sector F-10. This would ensure him eternal life in people’s memory.
“It casts no effect on the stature of a cultural or intellectual icon if the person is decorated by the state or a road is named after her or him. They live in people’s minds and hearts through their work,” said poet and writer Harris Khalique.
“It is a shame that we have named just a service road after a great poet who was Pakistan’s biggest poet after Faiz Ahmed Faiz,” said writer and author Arshad Mehmood. He added that the writers and intellectuals’ associations like Progressive Writers’ Association should protest against this dishonour to the poet.
Pakistan Academy of Letters former chairman and a prominent poet Iftikhar Arif said it was a pity that most of the poets, writers and intellectuals of this country were not considered worthy enough to name a major road.
“There is no road named after, for instance, Saadat Hassan Manto, Munir Niazi, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and many other poets and writers who had earned respect for the country through their work,” said Arif.
“You speak of Faraz, I wait for a road to be named after Dr Abdus Salam,” added Harris Khalique.
If the idea was to keep Faraz’s name alive among the city dwellers, some major road would have done the job. But those have already been named after bureaucrats whose names never generated any sentiment in the public psyche. One of the busiest roads of the city has been named as Agha Shahi Avenue.
“Naming avenues after glorified clerks and service lanes after great minds is a reflection on the mediocrity of those who govern our public life,” said Khalique.
The service lane was inaugurated by the CDA Chairman Imtiaz Inayat Elahi, who acknowledged, without realizing, that “intellectuals, scholars and poets are the real asset of our society,” adding that his organization would also name important buildings in the city after famous poets and intellectuals.
Referring to the authorities responsible for such decisions, Iftikhar Arif said “they do not know the real worth and stature of these people (the poets and writers).”
Elahi assured that roads will be named after Josh Malih Abadi and Syed Zameer Jafri also in the near future.
Ahmad Faraz, born in Kohat on 14th January 1931, was an outspoken critic of military dictatorships. He had returned the award of Hilal-i-Imtiaz in 2006 which was conferred on him in 2004 in protest against the then Gen Musharraf government’s policies.
During the era of Ziaul Haq, he had gone into self-imposed exile after he was arrested for reciting his famous poem Mushaira at a mushaira criticizing military rule.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2011.
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