Lahore: A celebration of what would have been the 99th birthday of poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz is on in Lahore, with a series of art exhibitions, poetry recitations and more.

The poet, who died in 1984, remains well loved in the city he made his home for decades.

A museum set up in a private house as ‘Faiz Ghar' (the house of Faiz) pays tribute to the poet while his verses remain a feature in many school text-books.

This of course had not always been the case. Through the era of the late military dictator General Ziaul Haq, Faiz, forced into exile at the time, had been banned.

His poetry — which spoke of the situation of poor people and demanded revolt against tyranny — was considered ‘dangerous' by the leader and his cronies, and was used by those who opposed Zia to rally opinion against him.

"I was quite young; about 13 years old. But I remember being taken by my parents to ‘secret' gatherings in houses and private gardens where Faiz was recited or where there were anti-dictatorship plays that featured his work," said Asif Habib, a chartered accountant.


"I did not understand all the words, but what I heard was touching."

Faiz, a gentle, soft-spoken man, had since his youth been associated with liberal movements in Pakistan.

He had served time in jail and was also a distinguished editor of The Pakistan Times, a newspaper which until it was taken over by the government in the 1960s, reflected values that were anti-feudal and pro-people.

While Faiz as the romantic poet was best loved, his poetry which speaks of change in lives and which pays a tribute to the arduous lives of the under-privileged that moves many.

The fact that change has still to come also moves people. "The vision for a progressive Pakistan that Faiz dreamed about has still to materialise. This is one reason why his poetry holds so much meaning and depth," Sidra Owais, a student, said. She noted that the postmen, the horsemen and others who "no one speaks about but whom we see everywhere" were brought alive by Faiz.

This seems also to be the reason why 25 years after his death, Faiz is a man the people of Lahore are eager to pay tribute to.