Remembering Bari Nizami: The man who wrote NFAK’s acclaimed kalams
Bari Nizami’s real name was Mohammad Safeer.
The story goes something like this. He adopted the name ‘Bari’ in memory of his beloved and added the suffix of Nizami because he was follower Hazarat Nizamuddin Aulia.
He was a disciple of Syed Amanat Ali Shah Nizami of Mughalpura Lahore.
Bari Nizami was born on December 26, 1946 in Toba Tek Singh in a Sheikh family. He did his matric from Gojra High School but could not further his studies due to the pressing economic constraints.
Instead he became a Munshi in a cotton factory in Chichawatni.
Later on as the family shifted to Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) he became a bus conductor. Having a natural gift of writing poetry, he spent time in the company of leading poets in the city. That must have helped him better his skills and provide depth to his lines.
In 1991, he developed an infection in his eyes which proved fatal as he had no money for treatment and after suffering for 8 years, passed away in 1998.
He had also developed stomach ulcer and tuberculosis which affected his spinal cord. He was paralyzed and remained hospitalized for a prolonged period.
Far removed from the literary circles, Bari Nizami is known as the writer of some of the best numbers sung by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Among them ‘Kinna Sohna teinoon Rab Nay Banaya’, ‘Mast Qalandar’, ‘Dam Moula Hussain’, ‘Dil Maar janaay noon Key Hoya Sajnaa’.
People close to him bitterly complained how he did not get the fame and economic security he deserved.
He did get help from friends including Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan but it was not sufficient enough to support his family. It was basically the doctors community of Faisalabad which deserve credit for providing him all kinds of medical help.
He was married with three sons and four daughters. The family lives in a rented small house in working class locality in Faisalabad and has no source of income.
As a young man, he was allured by Zulifqar Ali Bhutto‘s slogan of ‘Roti Kapra aur Makaan’ and joined Pakistan People’s Party where he served as a member of the PPP’s district committee and would read revolutionary poetry at public meetings organized by the party.
However, he was among the first batch of PPP activists who were disillusioned with ZAB soon after the party swept the general elections in the West Pakistan in 1970.
Then he associated with the PPP rebel group headed by Mukhtar Rana. He was sent to jail for reciting a poem against Bhutto.
Bari’s vigour and his views didn’t change as Zia-ul-Haq replaced ZAB. According to his eldest son , Shakil Bari, his father was booked in seven cases during the ZAB government, 11 times under Zia and in six cases during the Benazir government.
He worked as a sub-editor for some time and also dabbled in trade unionism, serving as President of Rehri Chabrri Union. In the early 90s, he joined the Muslim League. It is said on the insistence of Qayyum Awan, a provincial minister and the then mayor of Faisalabad, Sher Ali.
During the Zia era, he went to Saudi Arabia for performing Hajj. Ten more similar visits followed and it is said that each time he went for Hajj, Bari Nizami would bring items from Saudi Arabia for sale here. It was said to be his main source of income.
Bari was given a declaration of a weekly ‘Bari Nizami’ by the district administration as a favour. It was a still born project, since he did not have the resources to run the paper.
Being a prolific writer, he wrote thousands of poems, Naats, Ghazals and Geets but his ‘Dewan’(collection) has not yet been printed. A manuscript is still lying with the family. One is afraid if it is not printed soon, it will be lost for good.
Although he was completely paralysed during his last days, he was mentally alert and continued writing poetry. He would always keep a pencil and a paper under his pillow and write whenever he felt the urge.
His last poem was ‘Koon Kisey Daa Ghum Laind Aay, Haar Koi Apna Kam Lainda Aay Kady, Kady Duniya Wich Banda Kalla Rah Jannda Aay, Aapnay Ghair Wee Ban Jainday Nay’.
Commented by Afzal Ahsan Randhawa, a leading Punjabi poet and fiction writer at the death of his friend, ‘poverty and misery is the fate of a writer in this country. It is the duty of the state to patronize them’.
“State failed to play the assigned role once more. No financial help, no medals . Not even the usual condolence messages.”
Zaman Khan is a journalist and former staffer at Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.