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

  1. Complicated says:

    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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