LAHORE: Leftist political activists, poets, students and icons from all corners of the country gathered at the Jinnah Park open-air theatre to celebrate another edition of the annually held Faiz Aman Mela here on Sunday.
This year’s festival was marked by a sense of celebration and loss, as well as, a politically charged atmosphere, given that the event’s organising committee had declared to hold the 2018 edition in honour of the recently deceased human rights activist and liberal political icon Asma Jehangir.
A number of communist and socialist parties such as the Mazdoor Kisan Party, the Awami Workers Party and the Barabri Party Pakistan also took the opportunity to initiate fresh membership drives and were seen distributing party literature during the event.
The stands of the theatre were packed with ideologues of all ages and from all walks of life, as people thronged to the festival to pay tribute to the poetry, politics and ideology of Faiz Ahmed Faiz on his 107th birth anniversary.
Drama performances by the Progressive Student’s Collective and others paid glowing tributes to both Asma Jehangir and late columnist Munnu Bhai, who also passed away earlier this year.
The core event of this year’s festival, as in the previous years, was the Urdu-Punjabi poetry session, in which at least a dozen poets from all over the country participated. Keeping in line with the theme of the celebration, the poets read poetry penned by Faiz, while also dedicating their own poetry to Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Asma Jehangir. Moderated by Dr Khalid Javed, the poetry session included, Anees Ahmed, Baba Najmi, Comrade Irfan Ali, Dr Khalid Javed Jan, and Javed Aftab.
The poetry session was soon followed by a panel discussion on the lives of Asma Jehangir and Munnu Bhai, in which the already charged atmosphere turned electric when leftist students in the crowd took to chanting socialist slogans.
It was in the resounding noise of ‘laal salams’ that Imtiaz Alam took to the stage and riled up the crowd even more, after which they started chanting slogans in favour of ‘Comrade Asma’ and ‘Comrade Munnu.’
Later, the festival’s traditional musical event took place, in which a host of different artists, such as the band Laal, performed the poetry of Faiz and Habib Jalib, as well as, more conventional songs.
Acclaimed classical dancer Sheema Kirmani also gave a breathtaking performance on the revolutionary poetry of both Faiz and Jalib.
By the end of the evening, the crowds had swelled to a great extent and were seen occupying every inch of space from the edge of the theatre stage all the way to the last steps of the arena.