Changing face of ‘Manchester’

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The commercial culture of Faisalabad now also boasts of a vibrant literary scene

The sprawling city of Faisalabad, now a veritable metropolis, was established in 18880 and was later named Lyallpur to honour the then lieutenant governor of the Punjab, Sir Charles James Lyall. One Captain Poham Young designed its city centre on the pattern of the Union Jack – the British national flag – with eight roads leading from an imposing clock tower in the centre, to eight separate bazaars.

After being launched as a tehsil of district Jhang in 1893, it grew into a district in 1903 and finally a division in 1982. Setting up of The Lyallpur Cotton Mills (LCM) in the early 1930s followed by the emergence of a chain of textile units within the next twenty years or so, earned it the well-deserved title of the Manchester of Pakistan. Rapid growth of agriculture and industry accelerated the pace of urbanization in the area.

Unlike agriculture and industry, literary traditions take a longer time to graft in the cultural milieu of a geographically well-defined locale. In the early years of its history, the presence of literary personages of the calibre of Pundit Brijmohan Dittatariyah Kaifi, Sh. Abdul Qadir, Bari Alig, Zahoor Niazbegi, S.M. Ikram, Noon Meem Rashid, Ghulam Mohyuddin Khalwat, Manzoor Elahi Sheikh, Manzoor Ahmad Manzoor, and Khaleeq Qureshi in town would indicate the growth of an incipient literary tradition here.

After the Partition, however, a galaxy of writers, poets, and intellectuals including Faiz Ahmad Faiz (in prison), Meem Hassan Latifi, Ahmad Riaz, Habib Jalib, Shore Alig, Qayyum Nazar, Mirza Muhammad Munawar, Prof. Zafar Iqbal Ahmad, Hafiz Ludhianvi, Nazir Naji, Syed Shahzada Hassan, Salim Betab, Javed Qureshi, Dr. S. Moeen-ur-Rahman, Abdullah Hussain, Adeem Hashmi, Dr. Saadat Saeed, Iftikhar Nasim, Hazeen Ludhianvi, Dr. Riaz Majeed, Dr. Ahsan Zaidi, Dr. Anwar Mehmood Khalid, Manzar Mufti, Talib Jalandhari, Afzal Ahsan Randhawa, Abeer Abuzari, Prof. Rana Irshad Ahmad Khan, Prof. Ghulam Rasool Tanvir, Sa’im Chishti, Akhtar Sadeedi, Prof. Arif Raza, Sh. Shaukat Nasim Akhgar, Khawar Jilani, Ahmad Shahbaz Khawar, Nazar Javed, Nadir Jajvi, Dr. Maqbool Akhtar, Fazal Hussain Rahi, Nemat Ali Akhtar Bhatti, Syed Najm-ul-Hassan Bukhari, Tahira Iqbal, Shams Naghman, Arshad Javed, Ejaz Kunwar Raja, Nusrat Siddiqui, Prof. Ashfaq Bukhari, Maqsood Wafa, Anjum Salimi, Naz Khayalvi, Ambreen Ash’ar, Ashraf Yusufi, Gulfam Naqvi, Qayyum Nasir, Dr. Shabbir Ahmad Qadri, Shakila Sham, Shafi Hamdam, A. H. Atif, Dr. Mosadeq Husssain, Zia Hussain Zia, Dr. Shaukat Ali Qamar, Ali Zaryun, Kausar Ali,  Ghulam Rasool Asif, Syed Najeeb Ali Shah, Rabia Sarfaraz, and others have put up in Faisalabad either temporarily or permanently, and enriched its literary tradition with their creative and critical discourses.

In pre-Partition days, Faisalabad was the venue of two Urdu conferences (in 1939 and 1941) attended, among others, by Baba-e-Urdu Maulvi Abdul Haq, Khawaja Hassan Nizami, Dr. Abdullah Chughtai, Dr. Sir Ziauddin, Pundit Kaifi, Haji Laq Laq, Saghar Nizami, Khizer Tamimi, Arsh Malsiani, Zamir Jafri, and Qayyum Nazar. The Lyallpur Cotton Mills played a pivotal role in sponsoring literary and cultural activities in the city until its seizure by the government as enemy property. The Lyallpur Cotton Mills Dramatic Club (established 1938) staged dramas, one act plays, and skits (directed by that stalwart of a director Nasiruddin Qureshi) that enthralled and educated their avid audience. Interestingly female roles were acted by male artistes in those days.

The LCM also held mushairas in town continually from 1944 to 1965. Literary men like Bekhud Dehlvi, Maulana Abdul Majid Salik, Shaukat Thanvi, Mir Abdul Qayyum, and Kh. Muhammad Shafi compered these events. Participants included such renowned poets as Israr-ur-Haq Majaz, Allama Tajwar Najeebabadi, Ghulam Mohyuddin Khalwat, Kunwar Mahinder Singh Bedi Sehar, Tiloke Chand Mehroom, Jagan Nath Azad, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Moeen Ahsan Jazbi, Jigar Muradabadi, Abdul Hamid Adam, Hafeez Jalandhari, Arsh Massiani, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi, Tufail Hohsiarpuri, Shore Alig, Himayat Ali Sha’ir, Kaleem Usmani, Raghib Muradabadi, Qateel Shifai, Ehsan Danish, Zaheer Kashmiri, Saghar Siddiqui, Sahir Siddiqui, Khumar Barabankvi, Manzoor Ahmad Manzoor, Khaleeq Qureshi, Habib Jalib, Zareef Jabalpuri, Adeeb Saharanpuri, Zehra Nigah, Sehab Qizilbash, and Pervin Fana Syed.

Radio Pakistan, Faisalabad Arts Council, GC University, University of Agriculture, University of Faisalabad, Punjab Medical College, Chenab Club, Chenab Forum, the Lyallpur Golf Club, Minerva Club, Halqa Arbab-e-Zauq, Ikai, Dastkhat, and other literary and cultural organizations besides the literary columns of some local newspapers, and magazines like Zar Nigar, Humkhayal, Misaal, and Niqaat have also played a key role in promoting literary activities and developed the taste of the readers besides educating them on the delicacies of literature.

A perceptible change has also occurred in the erstwhile commercial culture of the town. People have now begun to appreciate literature and its impact on their life. As a result, there is a noticeable increase in the publication of literary works on fiction, poetry and criticism.

Thus the literary scenario of Faisalabad is expanding fast. Some writers from this town have already made their mark on the national and international literary scene. They are: Manzoor Elahi Sheikh, Hafiz Ludhianvi, Abeer Abuzari, Iftikhar Nasim, Afzal Ahsan Randhawa, Dr. Riaz Majeed, Anjum Salimi and Tahira Iqbal.

The writer is a Faisalabad based former bureaucrat, poet, literary and cultural analyst, and an academic. He can be reached at [email protected]