Faiz Festival 2023 was jointly organized by Faiz Foundation and Pakistan Arts Council in the Alhamra Complex from February 17 to February 19, 2023. The festival offered over 60 free literary, music and art events, including discussions, lectures, theatre, dance performances, and qawwali, and hosted foreign delegates from the UK, Canada, USA, and India. There are only three halls at Alhamrah, in varying sizes and these 60 events had to run simultaneously from noon onward on each day in each Hall. Thus, it was impossible for the audience to attend all the 60 events, which were all very meticulously organized and thus, the audience had to perforce pick and choose various events of their own choice in accordance with the schedule devised by the organizers. If two programmes of their choice were fixed at the same time, but in different Halls, they had to drop one of them. This time entry to all events was free and without tickets, on a first-come, first-serve basis (except the mega-musical events by iconic singers). This was a very good gesture by the organizers to allow maximum participation of the public in this festival of international importance. Hence, long queues were seen particularly at Hall No 1, where more important events were organised. Javed Akhtar, the Indian lyricist, stirred controversy by saying that a huge segment of Pakistan wants to have good relations with India and that is totally understandable, not because the Indians are saints, but because the Indians were more progressive industrially and agriculturally than the Pakistanis. So, it was natural that an average Pakistani would like to have a cordial relationship with an Indian citizen, he continued. Javed Akhtar should have known that the Faiz festival had nothing to do with politics, and his entire mission was to unite the world on a single platform of love. Moneezah Hashmi, and Saleema Hashmi, the daughters of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, were the main organizers of this grand show who selected events, which could further the vision and mission of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Moneeza revealed that in the future, she would also be a part of the panel with foreign delegates, which will be moderated by Adeel Hashmi. “Poets and artistes of India will also be included in the said panel.” Habib Wali Muhammad’s son Rizwan Wali Muhammad came to Pakistan from America after 40 years. A delegation of Qawwals from the Sabri family came from the UK and performed their art, while Kathak dancer Farah Yasmeen Shaikh had come from the US to participate in the Faiz Mela. Shafqat Amanat Ali performed his various musical items, which had become popular with music lovers. According to the schedule, Ajoka Theatre was to present its famous play ‘”Aanhi Mai Da Sufna” on the first day of the event. There were a total of 30 performances on the second day of the festival. According to the schedule of the Faiz festival, well-known local personalities, including Dr Arfa Sayeda Zehra, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, poet Ali Mazhar, Fazal Jatt, Irfan Khoosat, Imran Abbas and Dr Sughra Sadaf, were also present at the event who took part in various discussions involving people, culture, art and literature. Some unrest was created due to non-vacation of the Halls when an event ended with the result that the next badge of the audience for the next event were kept standing in long queues outside the Halls who could not gain entry due to non-vacation of the Halls by the audience of the earlier events. The Organizers will, I hope, chalk out some way to resolve this difficulty by the next year. By and large Faiz festival 2023 was a tremendous success The star non-Pakistani participant in this Festival was poet Javed Akhtar who headed the Indian delegation. He paid glowing tributes to Faiz Ahmad Faiz, his great poetry, his concern for the poor and downtrodden, and the universality of his message for all human beings. But at the same time, he asserted that one’s spoken language is a culmination of words from different languages and hence, the claim of speaking a single “pure language” is not only untrue but also impractical. He was right in saying that language imbibes influences from other languages which is a long and ongoing process. But his implication that Pakistanis want to keep Urdu clear of accepting influences from other languages by making it a “pure language” was a fallacy of his mind which has no basis. It is clear that in India there are deliberate attempts to “sinsicritize” (by substitution of Arabic, Persian and Turkish roots in the Urdu language with the appropriate Hindi words) under planned official patronage as an extension of their policy of Hindutwa. The Urdu language is almost universally spoken or understood in the entire sub-continent and no other local or official language can boast this popularity. Urdu would further enrich itself by assimilating words of foreign as well as local languages like Sindhi, Balochi, Punjabi and Pashto languages as we amalgamate more thoroughly with the culture of our people who speak these languages. No mechanical or coercive method under some state direction would be allowed to change the genesis of Urdu, which is today the most spoken or understood language all over the world. Javed Akhtar’s second disclosure in this festival took everyone by surprise when he said that the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks are roaming freely in Pakistan. And upon his return to India, he said, he felt like he’d just won the ‘Third World War’, by which he meant that he had scored a political victory from a purely literary platform. He should have known that the Faiz festival had nothing to do with politics, and Faiz himself derided the game of politics and his entire mission was to unite the world on a single platform of love, and compassion for fellow human beings on the pristine principles of human rights and justice. This political statement of Javed Akhtar raised from a purely literary platform was discordant and extremely controversial which raised many a brow even from Indian citizens. Javed Akhtar’s consistent comparison of India’s progress against Pakistan from a literary podium was indicative of his strong rancour and contempt for the people of this country, which did not behove of a poet with his claims of universal love and brotherhood. Had he come to Pakistan to cultivate love and goodwill, he should have restrained from indulging in politics which was absolutely not an issue. I am tempted to think that Javed Akhtar’s frequent appearances on YouTube before a politically charged Indian public and drawing their applause for his political slights against Muslims and Pakistan have made him more of a propagandist than a poet. Even his range as a poet is limited to being a film lyricist like many others in India. The writer is a former member of the Provincial Civil Service, and an author of three books.