Last week the annual Faiz Festival was held in the Alhamra compound in Lahore. Instead of the focus being on Faiz and the festival, the news stories centered around a group of young people who sang the famous song of Ramprasad Bismil “sarfaroshi ki tamanaa ab hamaray dil mai hai.” Unfortunately, the paranoid state machinery has converted an innocent commitment to idealism into anti-state behavior.
As Babar Sattar wrote in a recent piece titled ‘Pakistan on Repeat.’ “When it is not hilarious how insecure the state that lords over us is, it’s actually really sad.” Further, “In 1951, Faiz was seen as a threat and in 2019 Arooj Aurangzeb singing Faiz’s poetry is seen as a threat. It seems almost lost on the state that we will remain stuck in this soap opera on repeat unless we allow folks to come up with new story lines. The purpose of education is to create thinking minds, to investigate reality, as it exists, to question and critique assumptions underlying sustenance of such reality with a view to changing it for the better. And here we are castigating university students for being inspired by the idea of an equal world. There is consensus across Pakistan that things aren’t as they should be. That we haven’t created a polity that treats citizens fairly or dispenses justice to haves and have-nots alike. That our people have tremendous potential that remains locked up. And yet we are terrified of our youth getting together over a weekend signing poems and rehashing old ideas. The parents of Arooj Aurangzeb and her fellows seen in the video should be proud of themselves for raising children who refuse to yield to the shackles designed to stifle critical thought.”