Three Poems for Troubled Times: Abhi Tou Kuch Nahin Hua

Posted on January 13, 2011
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, People, Poetry
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Adil Najam

A cascade of horrible recent events, all involving an outpouring of violence – in thought, in words, in deed – and culminating in the brutal murder of Salman Taseer continues to haunt the Pakistani psyche. We are left numb in disbelief of a reality which we always knew: the dysfunctional divisions in society are not just a scar on the face of modern Pakistan, it is a bleeding wound that threats the very body politic of our fragile being.

The fanatical murder of Salman Taseer, and even more than that the reaction to it, has shaken us as we should have been shaken well before. As one tries desperately to make sense of the senselessness that surrounds us, this line from an old poem by Himayat Ali ShairAbhi tou kuch nahiN hua – keeps coming back to hound one’s senses. Indeed, this, along with two other poems – Obaidullah Aleem’s ‘Meyray shehr jal rahey hain, mairey loug marr rahen hain’ and Ahmed Faraz’s ‘Aaj aisa nahiN, aisa nahiN honay daina’ – resound today even though all three were written inn very different times for different (but not unrelated) crises. They are all worth a listen again:

Himayat Ali Shair: Abhi tou kuch nahiN hua

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Obaidullah Aleem: Meray loug marr rahey haiN

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Ahmed Faraz: Aaj aisa nahiN, aisa nahiN, honay daina

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All three were written in very different times – Aleem in 1971, Faraz and (I think) Shair in the 1980s – in different contexts and about different but very related challenges to the ones we face today. Each was a cry of pain and a warning to the nation. Warnings we did not heed. One listens to them today and one wishes we had paid attention then. One also wonders if, in fact, we are paying attention even today.

The self-righteousness and intolerance on everything that everyone seems to have is frightening. Even on the most minor things and even in our comments section, just disagreeing seems to be never enough; there seems to be a compulsion to be disagreeable and uncivil, and forever angry. The hatred we display for anyone who we do not agree with and the violence we justify on the basis of that hatred boggles the mind. Intolerance is everywhere.

Anyone we disagree with becomes not just a subject of  disagreement, but a fair target for slander and character assassination, verbal abuse, and ultimately murder. Indeed, there is a huge difference between venting anger with words and anger that leads to murder. But both lie on the same progression. A society that tolerates – and promotes – too much of the first will inevitably harvest too much of the latter.

It is good that at least some discussion has begun on what is happening to this society where everyone seems forever angry, forever incensed, and forever aggrieved, and forever at the tip of blowing up. But in proportion to the air of self-righteousness that pervades society the discussion is too little, and may well be too late. Some of the chest-beating is also self-serving and itself so angry as to lose its own meaning. But, at least, we are beginning to talk about things we have been ignoring for too long. That is a good sign. Maybe we should also do a little listening. It would be good to begin by listening to the reasoned words in these three poems. Reason is often the first casualty of anger. Ultimately, it is also the only antidote.

P.S. We are adding a fourth poem, sent to us by a reader, called Abhi kuch dair baqi hai by Shakil Jaffery:

35 Comments on “Three Poems for Troubled Times: Abhi Tou Kuch Nahin Hua

  1. Samdani says:
    January 13th, 2011 9:01 am

    Had not heard the first one before. It is very powerful:
    Abhi to kuch nahen hua
    Abhi to ibtida hai yeh

    Although it seems that what he was afraid would follow (anarchy) is now already there.

  2. Rafique says:
    January 13th, 2011 9:43 am

    A wise post. But probably wasted on your readers. You are speaking to a lynch mob, your reasonable and reasoned words are wasted.

  3. Kafir Per Pakistani Law says:
    January 13th, 2011 9:59 am

    @Adil Najam,

    You must have heard:

    Dear it all started when in 1974, good people i you could NOT standup against their beloved, popular, intellectual, charismatic leader Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

    Blood trail of Shahadat of Salman Taseer leads to Pakistan Parliamant and ends on hands of ZAB.
    Although, Malik Qadri pulled the trigger on ST, but it was ZAB who loaded the gun and handed it to Malik Qadri to fire.
    So, the real murderer of ST is NOT Malik Qadri, rather ZAB!

  4. Kafir Per Pakistani Law says:
    January 13th, 2011 10:03 am

    Abhi tou kuch nahiN hua

    Abi agay agay dekhiay hota hay kia

    If Pakistan is to survive, then 2nd constitutional ammendment has to go and along with it PPC 298A,B,C.
    Otherwise fellow Pakistanis in part of country should get their Passports ready to visit other parts of today’s Pakistan!

  5. Ghani says:
    January 13th, 2011 10:19 am

    Thought provoking.
    I think the role of the media in fueling this culture of anger should also be explored. Have you noticed that no matter what the subject (from cricket to gajrella) the reporter is always angry that the “government is not ding enough”

  6. Durrani says:
    January 13th, 2011 10:58 am

    Very well said:

    naara-i-hubb-i-watan maal-i-tajarat ki tarhaan
    jinss-i-arzaan ki tarhaa deen-i-khuda ki baatein

  7. Tahir says:
    January 13th, 2011 11:10 am

    You ask: ” Each was a cry of pain and a warning to the nation. Warnings we did not heed. One listens to them today and one wishes we had paid attention then. One also wonders if, in fact, we are paying attention even today.”

    The answer is NO, we are still not paying attention. Only filling air space with silly chatter.

  8. Asif Ali says:
    January 13th, 2011 11:48 am

    @ Rafique
    what are you some sort of “Dr. No” sitting in front of echelon console ?
    how did you arrive to the conclusion that ATP readers are ” lynch mob”
    you are wrong if some how you were slightly right choice of wording in your comment makes you “pot” who is calling the kettle black

    @ kafir Sahib
    تسی بندے بنو ایہ ایک ھور نوا شوشہ کافراں والا شروع کرن لگے او ؟ اگے پاکستان وچ ہر طرح دے کافر تھوڑے نے
    ویسے میں تے اینجے تواڈے نال دل پشوری کرن لگان وان مینو پتا لگ گیا تسی مشوری کسے ھور چیز دی کرنے دے چکر وچ ہو
    میرا مشورہ منو تسی کوئی ہور گھر تآَڑو کیوں کے اس بلاگ تے بڑے بڑے سیانے بابے آندے نے اوہ تواڈے چکر وچ نئی پھسن گے

  9. Asif Ali says:
    January 13th, 2011 12:10 pm

    nice post btw this is same Himayat Ali Shair who has written one of my favorite song “na chura sako gey damnn” sung by madam noor jehan that was around 1968 i wonder when was this one
    and unforgettable patriotic song sung by Masood Rana and Shakuat Ali “jaag utha hai sara watan”

  10. Ghulam Ali says:
    January 13th, 2011 12:14 pm

    What is with the sudden poetryfest at ATP?

  11. ASAD says:
    January 13th, 2011 12:52 pm

    Adil, always glad to see poetry at ATP. Much more meaningful that the political chatter that fills the airwave and leads only to stale an stalemated debates in comments.

  12. Wasim says:
    January 13th, 2011 12:57 pm

    Why wouldn’t people be angry at all that is happening around them. I am damn angry. I am sorry your reason and poetry does no good. You have to take direct action against the goons who are taking direct action against you. Do to them what they are doing to you. That is the only solution.

  13. January 13th, 2011 7:42 pm

    We people have become callous and that is the reason we are in such a condition right now. I wouldn’t regard Government and politicians as only responsible for this poor plight of Pakistan but all of us are responsible. Everyone behaves carefree here !

  14. Hammad says:
    January 13th, 2011 9:20 pm

    I am sorry I do not agree with your approach. Like Wasim, I think we need to be MORE angry, not less. We have been quiet too long. I agree, apply their violence back at them. Laatoun kay bhoot batoon say nahin mantay.

  15. Daktar says:
    January 13th, 2011 9:50 pm

    Beautiful poetry and a beautiful post. Indeed, the level of intolerance and anger is frightening. And by everyone big and small. If only there was a national anger management program. But the justification of violence comes from this anger and anger and ideology can be a particularly dangerous mix.

  16. Idealist says:
    January 13th, 2011 10:08 pm

    A poem by Zehra Nigah
    Suna hai jungalon ka bhi koi dastur hota hai!!!

    Suna hai Jungalon ka bhi koi dastuur hota hai!
    Suna hai sher ka bhi jab pait bhar jae to wo,
    hamla nahi kerta!
    Suna haijab kisi naddi k pani men
    baye k ghonslay ka gandumi saya larazta hai,
    to naddi ki ro.peli machlian usko
    parosi maan leti hain!
    Hawa kkay taiz jhonke jab darakhton ko hilate hain
    to mena apne ghar ko bhool ker
    kawway k andon ko paron men thaam leti hai,
    Suna hai ghonsaly se jab koi bacha giray to
    sara jungle jaag jata hai!
    Naddi men baar ajae, koi pul toot jae to
    kisi lakri k takhtay per
    gulehri, sanp, cheetah aur bakri
    sath hote hain!
    Suna hai jungalon ka bhi koi dastur hai.
    Khudawanda, Jaleel o Mautber, Dana o Bina, Munsif o Akbar,
    hamare shehar men ab
    Jungalon ka hi koi dastuur naafiz kar !!

  17. Humaira says:
    January 14th, 2011 12:18 am

    This race for everyone to get angrier than everyone else can only lead to more violence. It is amazing how in one case after the other people resort to justifying why their anger or violence was ‘deserved’ without any sense that some violence is just wrong in itself.

    I think what has shocked so many of us after Salman Taseer is seeing the extreme form of this attitude. But what we saw was the same thing that you have been writing again and again, vigilantism and burning people and hanging people and murdering people and abusing people and attacking people you do not like. I wonder after seeing all that over and over again, why are we surprised.

  18. Meengla says:
    January 14th, 2011 1:18 am

    Calling these religious fanatics even ‘mullah’ is not correct, though I too have often loosely used the term. It is more like the political face of an extreme version of ‘Islamists’ which has not been able to come to power via the ballot box in Pakistan and so has decided to let go of any pretense of following any ‘rules’ and is now resorting to killing of anything which stands in its way to power. And these fanatics have tasted ‘victory’ after murdering Taseer, after seeing the govt. retreat (never forget Rehman Malik’s boast about shooting any blasphemer himself! Rehman Malik is Pakistan’s interior minister), and after seeing that all they have to confront are a few thousands in the blogspace on their (the fanatics’) path to power.
    Warning signs were aplenty in these aged-poems. Now are the clarion calls.

  19. Daktar says:
    January 14th, 2011 3:00 am

    @Meengla and others.

    Let me first say that there is NO MORAL EQUIVALENCE between the religious fanaticism and violence of the extreme right and anger of the left. So, I certainly do not adhere in any way to the Hamid Mir nonsense of two extremes, nor does this post. But having said that, there is this larger issue of anger in society that is beyond left and right and feeds off the violence that is already there . The religious right has ‘harnessed’ that violence and made it ‘legitimate’ by using religion and society has begun buying into that. And that is the problem. How do you DELEGITIMIZE their violence. And not just their violence but all violence, including that in the name of religion. That, I think, is the challenge that these poems are grappling with. I tend to agree that you can never deligitimize that violence without first dismantling the legitimacy of all violence.

    Sorry for the convoluted argument, but I do think this is one of our biggest challenges today.

  20. Tariq Ali says:
    January 14th, 2011 3:16 am

    I think the best one is the one you quoted last week:
    roz aik cheez toot jaati hai

  21. shahbaz says:
    January 14th, 2011 5:30 am

    Is there a more clear recording or text of “Abhi tou kuch nahiN hua?”

  22. T.S. Bokhari says:
    January 14th, 2011 5:59 am


    Well said dear! The problem, I agree with you, is the delegitimization of the intolerance. But this cannot perhaps be done either by liberalization or moderation now in the extant scenario as this requires deep analysis.

    Just see some people are celebrating the murder of ST by accusing him of blasphemy against the prophet of Islam’s person, but they remain somewhat reticent when the terrorists destroy mosques, kill namazies and other people indiscriminately in the name of islam. So there is apparently a clash between extreme devotion to the person of the messenger and that for the message he brought or those for whom he brought it.

    Now if we go back in Islamic history and recount the clash between Yazid and Hussain, we see the same phnomenon – Yazid banking on literal Islam and Hussain on his relationship with the person of the prophet. Yazid epitomized this clash when he is stated to have said, “I would use Hussain’s naana’s sword against him” and he was apparently successful in using that sword by getting a fatwa-e-qatl against Hussain from the mullah of the time. The history is repeating itself today in the Pakiland leading to the dialectics of islam, the Karbala, but with three players – Aashiqaan-e-Rasool, Aashiqaan-e-Islam (the khaarijites) and the Jokers (like interior minister, Rehman), called the PPP government of Pakistan. Let us see what comes off.

    Sorry for the rambling, but what else can we do in this scenario, but wait and see and find catharsis in blogging.

  23. Nadeem Ahsan says:
    January 14th, 2011 6:37 am

    The most telling message for us came from VP Joe Biden-

    “Societies that tolerate such actions wind up being consumed by those actions”.

    Intolerance has seeped into the DNA of the silent majority. It is spreading its tentacles like cancer. For some, we may be on the cusp of something big. For others, it may be too late. The genie is out of the bottle. Societies cannot be made to change on a dime.

  24. aamir says:
    January 14th, 2011 9:27 am

    These poems are ok, but as a matter of fact its very sad that you had to dig through last 30 years to find something like this. every time i hear about an act of voilence i wonder what happened to our poets, writers, artists ……. are they alive? is any body there? why there is such a graveyard silence? why no body says anything? or are they scared too. may be just speech less, numb.

  25. Kashifiat says:
    January 14th, 2011 3:56 pm

    Sorry – I disagree – Basically “extremism” is not only in one side, all “fanatics” are not only religious people, all “bigots” are not those who love their faith. Support to “Violence” is not from Taliban Supporters.

    Discussion- should be open we need to see the other side of the coin also. e.g. in Karachi power game is revolving around MQM, PPP & ANP, are these organization has any religious ideology- everyone know what is happening & who is responsible. Govt Corruption cases – NRO – are for all these types of evils, religious people are responsible or secular – liberal lobbies.

    Let pick another case from Karachi, a young lady (who was reported as messager) was raped by gangsters of young people all belongs to hifi society amongst these no one was religious.

    An extremist liberal who drunk on Governor house, who is calling again & again “Kala qanoon” who is calling ulema as “Jahil” & said “I put them at my toe” have insulting, arrogant behavior towards religious people, who supported Musharaf regime. I don’t want to discuss his family personal life style which is very well known & easily available at cyber space. What we call above all – Innocence???

    All this is Liberal Fascist-ism. This lobby is taking “Actions” in the results everyone is seeing “Reaction”. Both sides are extremists – even above post also has extremist views. All blames on one side- single track, single mind & approach.
    This is what we call “Liberal Extremism” which is increasing & need to control as advised by Waseem

  26. talat says:
    January 15th, 2011 4:42 am

    @Kashfiat says

    “This is what we call “Liberal Extremism” which is increasing & need to control as advised by Waseem.”

    I don’t think Waseem’s post implied this. Any how, too much of any thing is bad. However, going on rampage in the sacred name of Islam is the worst thing one can do.

    Just imagine Sunny Jamaat walas celebrating the murder of ST by Qadri when they are themselves being murdered in hundreds in their shrines and mosques by Wahabi Taliban by holding them as Mushrikin-e-Islam. Is that to be celebrated?

  27. Kamal says:
    January 15th, 2011 4:56 am

    This liberal extremism stuff is nonsense and a way for the real extremists to deflect blame. There is NO liberal extremist who is blowing innocent people in suicide bombs. There is no liberal extremist who is murdering governors of provinces in the name of jahalat disguised as religion. There is no liberal extremist who is advocating killing people in the name of liberalism. This propaganda of ‘liberal extremists’ is just a phrase used by supporters of murderers and extremists to distract attention.

  28. T.S. Bokhari says:
    January 15th, 2011 6:18 am

    Sorry! On reading the fair copy I found some serious errors in my previous post, which may better please be replaced by the following:


    Well said dear! In fact the very term ‘extremist’ to describe the religious barbarians is sheer nonsense. In moral terms logically speaking if religion is a good thing why should its extreme be bad. In fact it is not a question of degree or intensity of an action that is important but what is important is it being ethically moral or immoral. Barbarism in the name of religion as in the name of liberalism. But liberalism denoting essentially a civilized form of culture, based on the belief of humanism, it is by its very essence a negation of violence as described beautifully by Bulleh Shah in his couplet:

    مسجد ڈھا دے مندر ڈھا دے، ڈھادے جو کجھ ڈھیندہ
    اک بندے دا دل نہ ڈھاویں رب دلاں وچ رہندا

  29. Kashifiat says:
    January 15th, 2011 8:00 am

    True Golden Examples of Liberal extremism & barbarianism, Actions are totally against the claim of civilian

    Lal Masjid operation, Karachi 12th May incidents of 2004 & 2007, Baluchistan Operation- Murder of Bugti, target killings in Khi by MQM, PPP & ANP workers & supporters, Appreciation & support of Drone attacks, Opening of sales houses for Pakistani & Arab people to US, allotment of three military air bases to US AF for attacking people of Afghanistan, misplaced people, removal & showing reservations in restoration of chief justice is not extremism, even a minister who can’t recite sura ikhlas is not extremism, who is proven corrupt – NRO made for whom? for any religious identity, who made this law Musharaf – a liberal, even US is worried about corruption of NGOs which are lead by liberal so called Civil society which is also morally corrupt.

    //There is no liberal extremist who is advocating killing people in the name of liberalism.\\

    Who demanded the military operation in Lal Masjid, who are the supporters of Drone attack, who killed more than a 50 people in a day (May 12th), who supported the Swat operation. Who is asking to kill those who has other opinion on ST murder, who is supporting US in killing Muslims its all are so called “Extremist liberals”

    Support of Mix gender race in Lhr, support of vulgarity & obscenity in the name of fashion shows, support of Basant in the name of culture where people killed with bloody thread (manjha) & in Musharaf era wine was short , drinking vine in governor house is not extremism,

    The problem with liberal extremist views is that they are highly intolerant clan. LE don’t want to listen any thing from other side, just want to impose own definitions & own versions, they have narrow vision & are short sighted.

    No one is supporting suicide bombers but on the other hand if drone attacks will continue & liberal fascist-ism will support & become instrumental in promotion of vulgarity, society will face reactions against above all mentioned ‘actions’

    Pakistan always faced the allegations of corruption in Liberal lobby dominance

  30. Kamal says:
    January 15th, 2011 10:01 pm

    Nonsense again.
    You obviously do not know what liberalism is and are just indulging in propaganda. Most of the examples you give have nothing to do with liberalism.
    Lal masjid, despite its name, was a den of thugs and violent criminals. This was a police action, there were kidnappers in there who had been kidnapping foreigners in Pakistan. Plain and simple. They were given ample time to surrender to teh authorities but they were thugs and that is all they were. Otherwise, why in hell was there so much amunition and firearms in a place of worship?

    Bugti’s murder again had nothing to do with liberalism. It was a political murder by a dictator. Unless of course you think of Bugti as some great religious saint. Same with your other examples, they are silly rants of a sophmore who has no idea of what he is talking about. The US may aspouse to liberal values (actually it does not, it is a conservative country and much of its politics, certainly or Republicans, is more like the Jamaat-i-Islami) but that does not mean that anything a ‘liberal’ does is for liberalism. The examples you give are bad political actions which most liberals disagree with – clearly the liberal position all over USA and Europe is AGAINST the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the drone attacks.

    Please, please stop spreading lies and insulting our intelligence. People DO support suicide bombers and murder. Anyone who supports Qadri and the namoos drama is doing exactly that.

  31. Kamal says:
    January 15th, 2011 10:04 pm

    Have some sense, for your own sake.
    Basant. That is the best you can do. Flying a kite is NOT the same as gunning down a person. And even drinking wine is not the same and blowing up a mosque. Those of you who support blowing up mosques have far more to answer for, I am sure, than anyone who sips wine!

  32. Taufiq says:
    January 15th, 2011 10:24 pm

    The poems are quite wonderful. I listened to Himayat Ali Shair’s ‘Abhi to kuch naheen howa’ a few times. It is quite haunting, although I think it was originally written about Karachi killings and MQM in Zia’s time, no?

  33. January 15th, 2011 10:29 pm

    We are adding a fourth poem, sent to us by a reader, called “Abhi kuch dair baqi hai” by Shakil Jaffery:

    Please scroll to end of post to read it. Click on the image to get to a larger, more readable, image.

  34. Daktar says:
    January 15th, 2011 10:37 pm

    I do not think the new poem you have added is same caliber as the other. Again, this only has no anger, only slogans.

    The one by Himyat Ali Shayer is the best in this regards. It clearly identifies a possible solution: ‘siyasat-i-moaash’ (political economy, economics of peoples lives).

  35. ASAD says:
    January 17th, 2011 10:49 am

    Your point about all of us being too angry was proved in the Quaid i Azam cricket finals yesterday when the two teams got down to abusing and literally fighting with each other and had to be fined. A shame.

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