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Visa rebuff to Pakistan’s Moneeza Hashmi ignores the Faiz family’s deep Indian connection

Moneeza Hashmi head of the creative and media wing of KASHF Foundation, Pakis­tan
Moneeza Hashmi was invited to the event in her capacity as the head of the creative and media wing of KASHF Foundation, Pakis­tan | Facebook

Faiz himself was born in undivided Punjab, British India, and married Alys in Srinagar, in a ceremony presided over by Sheikh Abdullah.

New Delhi: The treatment dealt out to Moneeza Hashmi, daughter of the famous Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, at the 15th Asia Media Summit in India has been condemned on various forums. She was barred from the conference on the grounds that her visa didn’t entitle her to attend any conferences other than one on her father.

That this treatment has been doled out to Moneeza in India is ironic, since even apart from her father’s undying popularity among the millions of poetry lovers, Faiz’s extended family has many, many links to India.

A graphical representation of the Faiz family tree |Siddhant Gupta

Faiz himself was born in undivided Punjab, British India, and married Alys in Srinagar, in a ceremony presided over by Sheikh Abdullah. Their daughters, Salima and Moneeza, were both born on what is now the Indian side of the border. Both have been part of events in India commemorating Faiz, as well as other events.

Alys Faiz, had a sister, Bilqis, who married another famous Pakistani poet, M.D. Taseer. Their son was Salmaan Taseer, the Shimla-born former governor of the Pakistani province of Punjab, who was assassinated in 2011 by his own bodyguard due to his controversial stance on the country’s blasphemy law.

Salmaan had a son with Indian journalist Tavleen Singh, Aatish, who is a British-born writer and journalist. Salmaan also had a well-publicised relationship with Indian actress Simi Garewal.

Promoting peace through cultural exchange

Faiz’s grandson and biographer and Moneeza’s son, Ali Madeeh Hashmi, in a very evocative piece writes about how his grandfather and family never differentiated between the two countries. The Faiz Foundation still continues to work for peace between India and Pakistan.

Storyteller and theatre personality Danish Husain, a friend of the family, said: “Although the issue was never addressed directly, there was always an underlying current. Whatever the institutional set up of the two countries, Saleema and Moneeza agreed that they would always work to increase acceptance of artists on both sides of the border. They have worked to further better cultural exchange between the two countries.”

Recalling an anecdote, Husain talked about the time he was heckled by officials at the border despite having a valid visa to perform in Lahore. It was Moneeza who came to his rescue. She reached out to the officials and convinced them that his work would add cultural value to the country.

“They have facilitated artistic endeavours, humanising people from both sides. They want people across the border to realise that most of our differences are artificial. They brought Indian theatre to Lahore, to acquaint the people of Pakistan with what is happening in the field of performing arts in India.”