The second day of the third Faiz International Festival pulled a mammoth crowd as people from all walks of life gathered at the Lahore Arts Council to celebrate the life and works of the legendary poet.

From bookstalls stuffed with some of Faiz’s famous works to foodspots, the festival was a delight to attend.

A discussion of Qawwali

One of the interesting sessions of Faiz International Festival was on Qawwali. The session was moderated by Qasim Jafri and the panelists were Zehra Nigah and Dr Arfa Syeda.

Zehra Nigah said, “ Delhi’s sufi saint Amir Khusro Dehlavi of the Chisti order of Sufi’s is credited with fusing the Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Indian musical traditions in the late 13th Century in india to create Qawwali as we all know it today. Qawwali was used to be performed at Sufi Shrines and Dargahs throughout southasia, it gained popularity in the late 20th century. The poetry used in it is implicitly understood to be spiritual to its meaning which was classified into several categories like Naat, Marsiqa, Ghazal, Kafi and Munajaat,” she said. Dr Arfa Syeda said, “Qawwali today is sold to a specific class it isn’t for the common people. In the past the concept was change people from all walks of life used to come at Shrines and listen to them. Qawwali is derived from the word Qual which means ‘Words of Wisdom’ which is a relatively coinage by the Sufi’s of the subcontinent ,” she said. The early Sufi of the 11th and 12th century called it Samma which usually comprised Nay, Daff and sarangi as musical instruments,” she said.

Finding ‘Pakistani’ among heroes and antiheroes

Manik Aftab and Sana Eqbal

“For 70 years we have been trying to figure out our identity as two opposing forces fight for what’s best for Pakistan,” stated Nadeem Farrukh Paracha. The contest between Left and Right is decades old, argued the cultural critic, as he reflected upon the circumstances that led to him penning The Pakistan Antihero. Referring to his recent publication, Smokers’ Corner: The Order of Words, the writer said Quaid’s three-word motto became a contested issue when Zia’s regime changed the word order.
“Until 1977, it was Unity, Faith and Discipline. But Zia regime slowly reversed the word order in 1978. Faith now preceded, Unity and Discipline. The emphasis on faith reflected a change in the mindset,” he added.
Paracha argued that the founding fathers had their roots in Islamic modernism which further stemmed into more branches. “Islamic modernism was an (important) aspect of Pakistan’s identity and was based on Sir Syed’s theory of reason,” he added. Jinnah, he said, represented one aspect of that modernism. “Ayub represented another. Bhutto came up with Islamic socialism. By Zia’s time, Muslim modernism had died,” he added.
The critic said to this day citizens question their identity. One of the reasons, he said, is that the country’s educational institutions treat history as a one-dimensional subject. “You talk about Iqbal but you do not look into the complexity of his work. Iqbal was diverse. He evolved as a writer, as a poet,” he added.
Paracha said the answer to the identity question perhaps lies in our understanding of history. “You cannot understand the present without understanding your history, you just cannot.” About The Pakistan Antihero, he said, it is very difficult to write objectively in Pakistan. “You teach about heroes. But that is one dimensional and there are some who cross the line and, to me, they are antiheroes,” he added.
“Seventy years into our existence and we are still living in a state of paranoia. We are uneasy and unwilling to accept what’s here for us. Replacing colonialism with Saudi imperialism won’t do the job.” Jinnah, said Paracha was a pragmatic politician. “Jinnah wanted the best people to run this country. He had talked about a Muslim-majority nation. There is a difference between a Muslim-majority and an Islamic state,” he added. Had Jinnah lived for five to 10 years, he said, Pakistan would have been in a much better position than it is today. “The state has nothing to do with religion. That was what he said and he meant what he said. He just didn't live long enough to materialise his dream.” Paracha ended the discussion on a lighter-note by saying that Pakistan is not “the center of the universe” and everyone is not Pakistan’s enemies. “We live under a false sense of superiority which makes us think that the whole world is against Pakistan. That isn’t true at all. We have to make things better. You people, the young ones have to make things together.”

Storytelling must continue

Manik Aftab and Sana Eqbal

The process of storytelling must continue through mediums like cinema and digital media, speakers at a seminar on the second day of Faiz International Festival said.
Veteran artists Irfan Khoosat, NavidShehzad, SaminaPeerzada and SamiyaMumtaz spoke at the one-hour session, titled "BaatKahanThehri Hai: My Journey Theatre, TV, and Film," which was moderated by SarmadKhoosat.
The session began with discussion on dance as a form of art. Recalling her experience, SamiyaMumtaz said she took up theatre and dance at a time when such things were considered taboos. "For the next 10 to 12 years I performed with discipline and hardwork. But that was at the height of Zia regime and dance and theatre were considered taboos," she added.
"Our performance at that time was confined to four walls. Ajoka theatre was our only way out of that suffocation." The actress, famous for her works in Meri ZaatZaara-e-Benishan, Dukhtaar and Moor among others, said she did not enter the film industry during the '90s as "film was considered a dirty word at that time".
NavidShahzad, a woman of various professional accolades, said cinema had always fascinated her. "Cinema has always fascinated me as a medium, probably because three of my uncles owned cinemas," she added. On efforts to revive theatre, she said one had to practice it."Theatre is like religion, it has to be practiced." The session also saw a light-hearted interaction between the father and son duo, Irfan and SarmadKhoosat. The former, while recalling his experience growing up under a father who was also an actor, said people to this day compare him to Sultan and Sarmad. "They often tell me that Irfan you are good but your father was better. Nowadays, they say Irfan you are good but Sarmad is better," he added. "I say to them that I am the father of Sarmad."
SaminaPeerzada, while sharing her experience, said she grew up under a violent father. “My mother would cover her face and pretend that she got injured. She never told that my father was abusive who used to beat her.”
She added that the incident led her to working for women rights and voice concerns against domestic abuse.
The discussion ended with the panelists urging the audience to continue working for the industry and come up with new stories and ideas through the medium of cinema and social media.