A ‘traitor’ Is not given a Medical Certificate
Shaikh Ayaz moved from Karachi to Sukkur where he remained associated with the legal profession. When Pakistan and India came face-to-face in 1965 and war started, Shaikh Ayaz resisted it and wrote a poem using his poet friend Narayan Shyam as a metaphor:
“Ye Sangram, saamne hai Narayan Shyam
Iske mere bol bhi vohi qaul bhi vohi
Is par kese bandooq uthaaun, kese goli chalaaun”
(This is Sangram, facing me is Narayan Shyam
His words and mine too are the same, promises too are same
How should I raise a gun upon him,
How should I fire?)
After the popularity of this poem, Shaikh Ayaz was arrested. He writes in his autobiography that he was in Sukkur Jail in 1965 and a rumour was spread in the city that the wireless with which he was sending alleged messages to India had been found in the basement of his office. He writes that the orders for house-arrest were for 3 months; in those days his mother-in-law who too lived with them, developed cancer of the liver and his wife Zarina lost her senses from this shock.
“In those same days I contracted malaria. Ghulam Ullah Awan who was the civil surgeon in Sukkur in those days came for inspection. I said to the surgeon to give me a certificate of illness so I can send the government the application for release, upon which the surgeon said to send my son. Anees (son) came for meeting so I asked him to meet the doctor. When he came again for a meeting to the jail I asked him about the meeting with the doctor, so he cried and said that the doctor said that he cannot give a certificate to any traitor.”
Joining the party of Sheikh Mujib
At the request of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Shaikh Ayaz joined the former’s party, the Awami League and remained in jail afterwards.
He writes in his autobiography that after release in the Agartala case, G. M. Syed organized a feast in a Karachi hotel for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. G. M. Syed told Sheikh Mujib that he should include Agha Ghulam Nabi, Ayub Khoro and Ali Muhammad Rashidi in the central committee of the Awami League, in response to which Sheikh Mujib said, “I will review these feudal friends of yours later, first give me your poet Shaikh Ayaz for the central committee because my friends recognize him owing to the translation of his poetry in Bengali and are influenced by him.”
In fact, we are told:
“Sheikh Mujib clarified that the Awami League is a party of the middle class, not the feudal class. G. M. Syed did not like this thing. I said to Sheikh sahib that the One-Unit has not ended yet: communists, socialists, anarchists, nationalists, friends of Sindh all types of people are part of the movement. I am in touch with them all as a poet and writer. When the One-Unit will break, I will join Awami League.”
Shaikh Ayaz writes that Sheikh Mujib went to Dhaka. After a while, Qazi Faiz Muhammad who was a representative of the united front within the Awami League visited his house and said, “Sheikh Mujib has insisted upon me not to go to Nawabshah (my house), and straight to Shaikh Ayaz and remind him of his promise.”
After this he joined Awami League along with Rasheed Bhatti and others. The next day martial law was enforced and Sheikh Mujib was arrested and Ayaz too was arrested for 8 months.
When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was appointed Chief Martial Law Administrator, he made Mumtaz Bhutto the Governor of Sindh, on whose orders the release of Shaikh Ayaz was brought into effect
Shaikh Ayaz’s arrest and Faiz’s invitation
Shaikh Ayaz also complained about his contemporary friends. He says addressing the intellectuals:
“Mere deeda-varo, mere danish-varo
Paon zakhmi sahi, dagmagaate chalo
Apni zanjeer ko jagmagaate chalo”
(My connoisseurs, my intellectuals
Would that the feet are hurt, proceed unsteadily
Proceed with your chains dazzling)
He is also seen to be a critic. He writes in the diary of Sahiwal Jail that last night he was listening to the program “Ghalib Ke Darbar Mein Aam” (Mangoes in Ghalib’s Durbar). Presided over by Faiz Ahmad Faiz, many poets and writers read verses and essays on Ghalib and his affinity for mangoes. They had been invited to a mango party and many types of mangoes had been brought over.
“When they were sucking mangoes, at that time many lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of people, youth, children, aged and women in East Pakistan had crossed over the border into India and lakhs of people had become homeless after leaving their homes. Then I took a cold sigh and thought that could poets too fall in such a manner in the ditch of humiliation as other people? When the touchstone of history will judge the good and the bad, at that time these dazzling coins will not even fetch a pittance.”
General Sherof Marri’s Gift of A Knife
He has also written about the journey to Quetta and meeting with the Baloch poet Gul Khan Naseer during the government of the National Awami Party (NAP). Shaikh Ayaz writes that when he sent a card for a meeting, he got the reply: “Send your address, he will himself come to meet.” But he did not come.
After 15 days they came face to face during a recording on Radio Pakistan. He said while complaining that he had gone to meet Gul Naseer who was his friend rather than Gul Wazir (Minister).
On the night of this complaint, there was a knock on the door of his room, he looked outside to see an aged man present along with armed people. He said, “I am Sher Mohammad aka General Sherof Marri, we are going to Britain from where I have to leave to meet the Palestinian Christian freedom fighter (leader of the Popular Front) George Habash, from whom arms for the struggle are to be procured. I have come to apologize to you on behalf of the Baloch nation. Gul Khan is not a real Baloch but Brohi.”
Shaikh Ayaz says:
“I offered him tea, he said that he does not drink tea but beer – and that too half a dozen. I said that its 9:30 pm at night, all the wine shops are closed. So he said that nobody dares that the commandos of General Sherof go and shops are not opened. I gave my son Anees 200 rupees and said that if they can have a wine shop opened, then bring half a dozen bottles of beer. He brought the beer. I did not drink because I had had dinner. He said that street warfare is easier where you are, but mountain guerilla war is difficult: one has to walk for 20 miles to find places of refuge in mountainous areas. He drank 3 bottles, asked the commandos to pick up the rest and took a knife from a commando and gifted it to me.”
Voice of Sindh
When Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was appointed Chief Martial Law Administrator, he made Mumtaz Bhutto the Governor of Sindh, on whose orders the release of Shaikh Ayaz was brought into effect.
Ayaz was a rebel of his era and a non-traditional poetic revolutionary character who created fissures in the palaces of the then-prevalent ideas. He challenged the ideas, images and beliefs of his time which were the enemies of human happiness, progress and freedom. For him, human freedom was the most important consideration; and that is why he did not prefer any religion, philosophy or belief over humanity itself. This is the very reason that numerous traditional circles were upset with him. Allegations of sedition were thrown at him. Cases of being anti-religion and anti-national were instituted against him and he was jailed.
(to be continued)
All translations are by the writer. Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic and award-winning translator and dramatic reader, currently based in Lahore, where he is also the president of the Progressive Writers Association. He can be reached at email@example.com