Prisoner of Opinion

By Basit Ali | November 2023

The metaphor of imprisonment has often been used in Urdu literature, and its semantic dimensions are sufficiently broad in both Urdu prose and poetry. Classical poetry restricted the prison context to pure and eternal love. In marked contrast, modern poets have created more dimensions in it by connecting this word with their era’s prevailing political and social situations.

Fawad Hasan Fawad, a retired civil servant and a seasoned public policy practitioner, is also a prolific Urdu poet. His latest poetry collection, titled ‘Kunj-e-Qafas,’ published by Nigarshat, Lahore, has recently hit the bookstores. Getting high praise from critics, the collection of poems and ghazals shows every sign of a revolt launched against the widely known yet invisible hands that hold the reins of power at the expense of propagating social injustice and ubiquitous disparity across generations.

‘Kunj-e-Qafas’ by Fawad Hasan Fawad truly reflects on his lifelong journey from a fervent orator to a principled political prisoner who was severely punished at the peak of his public service career for his unrelenting commitment to the supremacy of law, social equality, and transparency. Making the most of his rhyming prowess, Fawad Hasan Fawad raises his voice against deep-seated social injustices and coercive tyranny, as his poetry is the cry of a rebel who stands up against the system and challenges the oppressive and absolute rule of a dystopian regime that nurtures merely totalitarianism and give rise to Caesarism.
There is no shortage of literature around the world created during imprisonment. For example, the Roman philosopher Boethius was imprisoned by Theodore the Great on treason charges. Before his execution, Boethius produced the five-volume Consolation of Philosophy, which continued to influence the world for nine centuries after his death. Marco Polo detailed his amazing adventures to a fellow inmate in prison, who kept writing them down.

Adding to this genre through this poetry, Fawad Hasan Fawad corroborates that he is not accidentally but a born literature lover who knows that getting justice in this country is not an easy task since he himself had to wait till his retirement to be released from jail that too on bail. Fawad Hasan Fawad’s ordeal speaks volumes of the grim reality that it is almost impossible for the common man to look for justice when a 22nd-grade officer can face a 17-month imprisonment in inhuman conditions despite his unquestionable innocence.

Over and above a bureaucrat behind bars, Fawad Hasan Fawad emerges as a prisoner of opinion who stands by his ideology. Like political prisoners of the same ilk, he also paid the price of this principled stance through prolonged imprisonment. Be that as it may, today, he is able to stand tall and with honor in society, which seems to have lost the immaculate identity it was earlier known for. ‘Kunj-e-Qafas’ is a lament of a Pakistani who devoted the prime of his youth to serve this country but still bears the brunt of entrenched inequities and partisanship. In doing so, Fawad Hasan Fawad has successfully joined the ranks of Hasrat Mohani, Shorish Kashmiri, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and Habib Jalib, raising many questions on the prevailing injustice, dogmatism, and rampant fanaticism that fail a hidebound society like ours, time and again.