ATP Mushaira: Raqs Zanjeer Pehn Kar Bhi Kiya Jaata Hai – Habib Jalib’s Poetry of Protest

Posted on November 23, 2007
Filed Under >Adil Najam, ATP Mushaira, People, Poetry, Politics
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Adil Najam

Habeeb JalibFor much of Pakistan’s history, Habib Jalib was a voice of rebellion. Often an angry voice, but always an honest voice. He wrote in the idiom of the people and the jalsa was as much a platform for his poetry as was the mushaira. He often wrote in the idiom of anger. But that idiom was a function of his subject matter – Pakistan’s beleagured politics.

Habeeb JalibJalib was a poet at heart but a political worker at heart. He was not only prepared to say what he believed to be right, but was willing to be beaten up for it (see picture below). He became a national figure with his poem Dastoor which was about Ayub Khan’s tailor-made ‘constitution’ and later with his support for Fatima Jinnah’s campaign against Ayub Khan:

Aisay dastoor ko
Subh-e-baynoor ko
Mein naheen manta
Mein naheen janta

During the Zia-ul-Haq era, his verses again became a popular anthem for those who opposed dictatorship:

Sar sar ko saba, zulmat ko Zia
banday ko khuda, kya likhnaa

Habeeb JalibHe died in 1993, but one has no doubt that if alive he would be on the streets protesting today. He was jailed by Ayub Khan, by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, by Zia ul Haq, and although he was released during the first Benazir Bhutto government, he was no less honest in his assessment of her performance:

Haal ab tak wahi hain ghareeboan kay
Din phiray hain faqat waziroan kay
maqrooz hai daise ka her Bilawal
paoon nangay hain Benazeeroan kay

We have featured the political poetry of Faraz and Faiz here in prior installments of ATP Mushaira, I wondered what Habib Jalib might have to say about what is happening in Pakistan today. I did not have to wonder long, this long-time champion had both foretold and fore-commented on these long before they actually happened.

His call to protest, even in the face of brutality and beatings, is best summarized in his famous movie song (sung by Mehdi Hassan to Rashid Atray’s music from the film Zarqa):

More poignant is this recording form a Mushaira, Jalib bazaban-i-Jalib:

ba-har-aalam Khuda ka shukr keeji-aye, unn ka kehna haiN
khatta kartaiN haiN hum jo shikwa-i-taqdeer kartaiN haiN

humarey dard ka Jilib madaawa hou nahiN sakta
keh harr qatil ko chaara-garr say hum taabir kartay haiN

FInally, here a recording that includes an interview with him and some of his most poignant works. Including the all-time great poem Dastoor (Mein nahin Manta).

Phool shakhooun pay khilnay lagay, tum kaho
Jaam rindoun ko milnay lagay, tum kaho
Chaak seenoun kay silnay lagay, tum kaho
Iss khulay jhoot ko, zehn ki loot ko
Mein nahin jaanta, mein nahin maanta

Also of note is the Likhna verses for current relevance:

Virsay mein humain, yeh gham hai milla
iss gham ko naya, kiya likhna

41 Comments on “ATP Mushaira: Raqs Zanjeer Pehn Kar Bhi Kiya Jaata Hai – Habib Jalib’s Poetry of Protest”

  1. November 23rd, 2007 2:22 am

    If Jalib was alive today, he would have said something similar for ATP management due to his biased comment policy. *grin*

  2. Sohail Agha says:
    November 23rd, 2007 4:42 am

    From Lahore Metblogs

    ”Road to democracy:Political Debate banned in Colleges”

    Heard somewhere something like: ”I felt my chains only when I moved”

  3. sid says:
    November 23rd, 2007 4:53 am

    Some more of his poetry that rings just as true today as it did, when he wrote it.

    Tum se pehle jo shakhas yahan takhat nasheen tha
    Us ko bhee Khuda honay pay itna hee yaqeen tha

    Dakuan da je saath na dinda pind da pehredar
    Aj paireen zanjeer na hund jit na hundi har
    Paggan apne gal wich pa lo turo pet de bhar
    Chadh jaye te mushkil lehndi bootan di sarkar

    If the dacoit had not had
    The village guard as his ally
    Our feet would not be in chains
    Our victory would not defeat imply
    Mourn with turbans round your necks
    Crawling on your bellies, comply
    Once the jack boot government is up

  4. MQ says:
    November 23rd, 2007 5:26 am

    The newly constituted Supreme Court today validated everything Musharraf did since November 3. I think, from now on Pakistan should adopt Kangroo as the insignia of the Supreme Court instead of the scales. No?

  5. Nayab Khan says:
    November 23rd, 2007 6:19 am

    It is unfortunate …
    Just sit back and think, if you are told to manage your area where you live (just 100 houses around yours), will you be able to keep everyone happy? One house will say they want to dig thru the road while others opposing it, one will want to move the electricity poll and others opposing it, one would want town guards to sit outside their house others want the same for them. Who would you satisfy?, Just a few houses can make a big mess, can you manage a small city? or a big city one like faisalabad? or a province or a country?
    We as Pakistanis enjoy alot of freedom, doing whatever we want most of the times. In britian you have to pay 20Lakh Rs to get permission for just one meter extension to make more space in your washroom. There is freedom of speech but there are also restrictions and strict laws if you make any descriminating comments.Now compare it with Pakistan where there is a mosque every half a mile away which would put their loud speakers on and criticise the mosque next doors, politicians saying whatever they like, even if it is against national interests (Nuclear issues). As I know whats happening inside i can assure you the Media in Pakistan today is more independent then most of the western countries.

    It is good to have freedom, but for some it might mean looting the nation!. I think PCO is well justified after the oppositions behavior and the media’s bias criticism or government and defaming of army.
    PJ Meer and Shahid should actually be hanged! They make things more dramatic and tragic using strong words. And i think, showing dead bodies on tv is discusting, they had no shame at all!

  6. Israr says:
    November 23rd, 2007 9:41 am

    Nayab Khan Zakhmoon pe Namak Mut chirr kye,

    Virsay mein humain, yeh gham hai milla
    iss gham ko naya, kiya likhna

    If you want to Justify this , you can afterall our nation can somehow justify what happened to Mukhtaran Mai, and many other gang rape, This is gang rape of the nation but there are among us that can rejoice this . No this should not be called Just Kangroo courts Instead the name of Islamic republic be ” Banana Republic of Musharrafistan , dehli walay al turki, Or give Abdul Hameed Dogar and His clan
    Khaki Wardi, ( I would only give them one chance if later they come back and say they were under the gun, remeber they may not be willing participants.)

  7. Daktar says:
    November 23rd, 2007 10:05 am

    Wonderful and poignant stuff. In the end Jalib was on the right side of every major political moment in Pakistan’s history. Worthy tribute and reminder for all of us.

  8. Reza Kamran says:
    November 23rd, 2007 11:10 am

    Habib Jalib was a master poet. How can we forget him?

  9. November 23rd, 2007 11:35 am

    waah jee waah

  10. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    November 23rd, 2007 11:35 am

    @ understanding Adnan Siddiqui’s comment:
    Zuba’n Hamari ne samjha yehan koi Majroh
    Ham ajnabi ki terha, Apnayhi watan mein Rehay

    @Jalib aik Nazar mein,

    Kissi Zamany mein, wohi app kay Habib
    Aaj wo sabkay , Jalib Bantaiy jatay hein
    Zulm itna hay shab-o-roz keh aay Rafay
    Ghareeb hi Ghareeb-tar Bantaiy jatay hein

  11. Watan Aziz says:
    November 23rd, 2007 11:48 am

    Well, I have to admit, I come from Iqbal’s corner.

    And I will also admit my general ignorance of (about) Habib. And the best I know of him is from this forum, which seems to be brimming with his fans.

    So, help me get to know him better by raising a question and a compare / contrast with Iqbal.

    Does the voice of protest need to be accompanied with an answer or a solution? The sampling I have here is of protest; a vital exercise in a community so that they can breath. But does not Iqbal present a problem with a greater sense of purpose and direction?

    We can (and should) protest, but if it not presented with a positive solutions, a sense of uplifting, a sense of direction; have we accomplished much, except for having a ‘feel good’ feelings?

    If anyone can introduce me to the solutions Habib has offered, along with his strong voice of protest, I will be much obliged.

    Pakistan Zindabad
    Pakistan Pa’indabad

  12. Naseer says:
    November 23rd, 2007 12:41 pm

    I have had the pleasure and honour of an exclusive recital of Jalib with a couple of friends in attendance.
    Heraing the kalaam after such a long time bought memories back.
    It would take a couple of Zia cum Musharrafs combined to invoke a Jalib in this century.

  13. November 23rd, 2007 1:06 pm

    Watan Aziz

    The comparison between the two poets is difficult. Iqbal’s poetry is at another level and seeks to address higher questions as well as some earthly concerns.

    Jalib was a poet of the masses and a communicator par excellence. This is why his diction is simple and easy to relate to – but this is not to say that he was a poet of lesser merit.

    His vision was pretty close to people’s aspirations: redistribution of wealth and resources (like land), a people’s democracy (as opposed to an elitist system of government) and justice for all.

    This is a classic poem that also says a lot on what he thought to be the meaning of Pakistan:

    Roti, kapda aur dawa
    Ghar rehne ko chhota sa
    Muft mujhe talim dila
    Mein bhi Musalmaan hoon wallah
    Pakistan ka matlab kya
    La Ilaha Illalah

  14. bhitai says:
    November 23rd, 2007 3:13 pm

    Dear Dr. Najam,

    a small correction:

    One of the misra from his qat`a on Benazir should read :

    ‘Her Bilawal hay dais ka maqrooz’

  15. November 23rd, 2007 5:54 pm

    Jalib saab was the voice of the voiceless, the man of the masses and he stood tall always. The people of Pakistan should take cue from such a hero who never bowed, Pakistan misses him dearly for another Jaliob will never be born.

  16. Asad says:
    November 23rd, 2007 6:56 pm

    Qateel Shifai on Jalib’s death -

    Apney sarey dard bhula kar auron ke dukh sehta tha
    Hum jub ghazlain kehtey thay wo aksar jail main rehta tha
    Aakhir kar chala hi wo rooth kar hum farzanon se
    Wo deewana jisko zamana Jalib Jalib kehta tha

  17. Viqar Minai says:
    November 23rd, 2007 7:32 pm

    What I really admired in Jalib was his refusal to bend on his principles. He was fiercely independent; the “Hasrat Mohani” of my generation. They don’t make thm like him any more.

  18. Tahir Ahmed says:
    November 23rd, 2007 8:22 pm

    Jalib is immortal.


    Buleh Shah Aasin Murna Naheen
    Gor Paya Koi Hor

  19. Muse says:
    November 23rd, 2007 9:18 pm

    I was just introduced to Habib Jalib’s works today, and logged on to ATP to find this great post with more information about this legend. People of my young generation really need to be in touch with those revolutionary giants who paved the way of dissent and protest for us in Pakistan. Thank you for informing us with this post.

  20. Watan Aziz says:
    November 24th, 2007 2:50 am

    @Pak Teahouse

    Khet waderon se le lo
    Milen luteron se le lo
    Mulk andheron se le lo
    Rahe na koi Alijah

    Now compare this with Iqbal’s works
    Jis khet say dekhan ko moyasar na ho rozie
    uss khet kay har khosha e gandam ko jila dou

    Both are discussing issues of equity and justice, but Iqbal’s reasoning is predicated on a precondition: the welfare of dekhan. Only and only if, dekhan is not being served, take the drastic step.

    Mere “Khet waderon se le lo” is not a solution to the problem. And the land reforms in PK and other countries like Zambawie have done nothing for tillers of land, because mere taking away is angry man’s action without purpose.

    (And please, when I make this ‘nakas’ attempt; I am in no way trying to take away honors from Habib. Anyone who spend 1 day in jail on matter of principle, is a principal par excellon. Habib, it seems is a standard by himself. We should all be lucky and proud to have a Pakistani like him.)

    Unless you offer a positive solution to the problem, that not only solves the first problem, but also has a purpose of general uplift; it is purposeless.

    Do we want to feel good or make a contribution to humanity?

    Pakistan Zindabad
    Pakistan Pa’indabad

  21. baber says:
    November 24th, 2007 11:12 am

    The second video, its nawab bugit hugging jalib. I di’t know Nawab Sahib used to attend mushira’s.
    Waited long to see something about Jalib on this site… was always faiz and ghalib here. Jalib represents a true activits, a pakistani poet, people’s poet. Nodoubt even Faiz called him awami-shahir of that generation. Jalib will never be forgetten.
    Aur Sab Bool Gay Haraf-e-Sadaqat Likhna
    Ray Gayeh Kaam Humarah he Bagawat Likhna

  22. baber says:
    November 24th, 2007 11:35 am

    For mushi
    Ek Sakhs ke hootoon mudhat say ruswah hay watan duniya bar may
    Hay deedahwaroon is zilat ko kismet kah likha kiyah likhna

  23. Sohail Agha says:
    November 24th, 2007 2:49 pm

    Renal failure of Munir A. Malik by-military-agencies-lead-to.html

  24. November 24th, 2007 11:17 pm

    Please note that the last video has been changed. The new video includes an insightful interview with Jalib and a selection of some of his most famous poems, including Dastoor (written during the Ayub Khan regime).

  25. MQ says:
    November 25th, 2007 7:33 am

    Another poem of Habib Jalib that echoed the sentiments of people at that time went something like this (it was when the prices of wheat flour and other essential commodities had increased):

    Saath (60) ropay man hai atta
    Aur us par bhi hai sannaatta
    Adam, Gohar aur Dawood
    Banay haiN Birla aur Tata
    Sadar A’yub zindabad

    1. He spelled Ayub with the Urdu letter A’in and not Alif, which is a plural of A’ib meaning bad, defect or sin.
    2. Gohar in these lines is Ayub’s son who was believed to have amassed wealth and had joined the club of Pakistani industrialists Adamjis and Dawoods

  26. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    November 25th, 2007 11:01 am


    @ yes I remember Ayub was called Uyub, but for
    No.2, did really Gohar became as rich as mentionned ??
    he is alive and well !!

  27. baber says:
    November 28th, 2007 3:57 pm

    Wow the last video was awesome. Thanks Adil

  28. Daktar says:
    November 30th, 2007 1:02 am

    Just re-listened to the last video. The second nazm is amazing. Seems like it is written fro Gen. Musharraf today by some commenters on this blog:

    mein nay uss yeh kaha
    yeh jo dass crore hain
    jehl ka nichor hain
    bay-shaoor loog hain
    zindagi ka roog hain

    Tou khuda ka noor hai
    Aql hai, shaoor hai
    Tairay he wajood say
    mulk ki nijaad hai
    Tou hai mehr-i-subh-i-nou
    Tairay baad raat hai
    Boltay jo chand hai
    Sabb yeh shar-pasand hai
    In ki hainch day in ki zabaan
    In ka ghoot day galla

    Das crore yeh gadhay, jin ka naam hai awam
    Kiya banain gay hukmraan
    Tou yaqeen hai, yeh gumaan
    Apni yeh hai sada, SADR TOU RAHAY SADA

    I wish someone can translate this into English. I am not good that that. But, “SADR TOU RAHAY SADA”

  29. dai says:
    February 16th, 2008 3:12 am

    How sad that so many men of power were scared of a poet and that too in country of 90% so called illiteracy.

  30. aese dastoor ko says:
    April 7th, 2008 3:55 pm

    i like habib jalib and more poet who gave us a good poetry

  31. Saad says:
    April 12th, 2008 10:52 pm

    excellent videos and poetry

    Specially second one

  32. nudma says:
    April 20th, 2008 6:21 am

    if this nation can see and forget those days which are critically carved by this poet and many other poets then what PAKISTAN is facing now is nothing…………………. we will win

  33. April 21st, 2008 1:50 pm

    Is main koi shaq nain k Habib Jalib Pakistani Darti pay Mazmat ka aik bot barra kirdar thay.Mager ham nain unain un ke Zindgi main anso or danday diay.
    Hanan Ali Abbasi

  34. Misbah ul Mustafa says:
    April 29th, 2008 3:48 pm

    Jalib was one of the legendary of subcontinent. Alas! what we did with him. It is a matter of grief and sorry for us that we not only disregarded our great history but also defamed our contemporary assets of thought and vision. In this game religion is used wrongly be the so called religio-political elite of our country.

  35. syed ali raza zaidi says:
    November 7th, 2008 2:26 am

    habib jalib in my view was one of the bravest poets that have ever been on this planet. He really is an asset of the Urdu poetry. He must be given the esteem that he owes and the people who are naming different cities, airports and many other things on their leader’s name should also name a few on their most devoted worker and an ideological poet who wrote things like “ik nihatti ladki….”

  36. lexkhan says:
    January 14th, 2009 5:21 pm

    with SHAMEFULL heart i have to admit as Pakistani, we don’t deserve such a Great and visionary poet.

  37. Adnan Ahmad says:
    March 11th, 2009 9:20 pm
  38. Nadeem Chaudhry says:
    March 16th, 2009 5:55 pm

    I had the distinct honor of sharing some time with Mr.Jalib during his last days. Once upon visiting his home,in a slum at “Kot-Lakhpat /Qainchi Area” on Ferozepur Rd. (not far from the estates of the Sharif Brothers) I noticed that his home was no more than 800 square feet. I met one of his two jobless sons, and asked Mr.Jalib to use his good name and respect to get him a job . I noticed a deep sorrow in his eyes and he said:” My son is no different from the teeming millions with no connections”.
    I can’t help but recall Mr.Jalib’s verses about the Judges:
    “Yeh Munsif Bhi to Qaidi Hain; Humain Insaaf Kiya Dain Ge”
    “Likha Hai en Ke Chehron Per Jo Hum Ko Faisla Dain Ge”

  39. kamran shafiq says:
    August 19th, 2009 8:50 am

    He was really great & bold poet one of two (FAIZ). I never forget him & i think we never have this kind of poet in future.
    I salute him.
    kamran shafiq

    December 2nd, 2009 1:30 pm



  41. Complicated says:
    December 23rd, 2009 6:57 am

    He was a great poet but now he is not with us 16 years before he died and now we need him more then the past

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