“I render my thanks and return to my work, to the blank page which everyday awaits us poets so that

we shall fill it with our blood and our darkness, for with this blood

and darkness poetry is written, poetry should be written.”

–(From Pablo Neruda’s speech at

the Nobel Banquet at City Hall in Stockholm , December 10, 1971 )

Our legendary poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz was in Australia as he was in exile. A person who was well aware of his greatness asked him why he was not in his homeland. Faiz Sahab smiled and said, “I write the wrong sort of poetry.” Another equally great contemporary of Faiz, Pablo Neruda also wrote such a ‘wrong sort’ of poetry but he was less fortunate than Faiz Sahab as he was poisoned to death by the autocratic regime of Augusto Pinochet.

The stories of tyranny and oppression know no boundaries and are equally happening and have happened in all the corners of this planet regardless of the form of government, whether democratic, a monarchy, fascist or theocratic (by the by, Hitler was an elected and popular leader).

The concept of dictatorship as well as the use of force and systemic persecution dates back to Roman Civilisation (rather far before it), however, it was the modern dictators who made it virtually a synonym for gross human rights violations and brutality. Sadly, some of the most brutal dictators in modern history held power not so long ago. From 876 BCE ,when military commander of Israel Zimiri killed his king Elah and became king; a failed coup attempt in Athens by Cylone who attempted to establish himself as a tyrant in 632 BCE; and in 41 CE when Roman Emperor Caligula was killed by his own body guards, the list of coups d’etat and coup attempts is continuing to the day.

Here I’ll name just a few dictators who belong to the modern history and hail from various regions of the world: Adolph Hitler (Germany); Joseph Stalin (a Georgian-born Soviet leader); Pol Pot (Cambodia) ; Idi Amin (Uganda); Augusto Pinochet (Chile); Francois Duvalier (Haiti); Francisco Franco (Spain); Saddam Hussein (Iraq); Charles Taylor (Liberia) ....and so on. This list is long and may include some rulers in the democracies of the developed countries who are behaving as tyrants.

There is a common misconception that a person always remains the same in her/his psychological make-up and her/his behaviour towards other people, but humans change with the changing circumstances and factors. One of the major factor in corrupting a person is power. No doubt the military should very sensibly intervene to ameliorate the polity of Pakistan keeping the democratic system intact but no one should try to corrupt this only secular institute left in Pakistan by mindless calls of a direct intervention. No doubt many of our politicians are corrupt and dishonest, but it never has proved to be a remedy in the past. Furthermore, given the present geo-strategic developments, the armed forces must remain focused on their primary goal of securing Pakistan from external and internal security threats.

Victor Jara was a Chilean teacher, theatre director, poet, singer, song writer, and political activist. He set poems by Chilean writer Pablo Neruda to music and performed in a ceremony after the famous writer received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971.

On the morning of 12 September, Jara was taken prisoner by the military along with thousands of others deemed suspects, and interned in the Chile Stadium in September 1973. A lifelong rebel Jara responded to his incarceration by composing new songs and singing them to his fellow prisoners to keep their spirit up. Unsurprisingly, he soon came to the attention of the camp commander, who made seemingly magnanimous gestures .Placing a guitar on the table in the middle of the stadium, he invited Victor Jara to come down and play to the crowd. Naively, Jara agreed.

“They took Jara to the table and ordered him to put his hands on it. In the hands of the officer rose, swiftly, an axe. With a single stroke he severed the fingers on Jara’s left hand, and with another strike, the fingers of the right.

In response, Jara pushed himself to his feet with infinite calm, he reportedly walked to the nearest set of bleachers and said, “All right, Let’s do the senor commandant a favour.” Then with mutilated hands, he began to sing. He sung unsteadily with a wavering voice. As his voice began to steady, an incredible thing happened. Across the stadium, prisoners who had no food or sleep or threatened with death, all rose to their feet and began to sing with him. For a fleeting moment, the guards could only watch as their charges joined in with Victor Jara for his final song. Reality came back with a gunshot. Peppered with rifle fire, Jara fell lifeless on the floor.

His body was later discarded with other civilian prisoners who had been killed by the Chilean Army. The last poem was written on the piece of paper that was hidden inside the shoe of a friend:

We are 5,000 in this little corner

of the city.

How many are we in all the cities

of the world?

All of us, our eyes are fixed on death.

How terrifying is the face of fascism

For them blood is a medal, carnage is a heroic gesture.

Song, I cannot sing you well when I must sing out of fear.

When I am dying of fright.

When I find myself in these endless moments.

Where silence and cries are the echoes of my song.