ایسے دستور کو، صبح بے نور کو

میں نہیں مانتا، میں نہیں جانتا

Who moves in the shadows of compromise

Such a debased tradition, such a dark dawn

I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept

Habib Jalib, was a revolutionary poet who had the tendency of being vocal in his poetry for the resistance of suppressed people. He was a left-wing activist whose activism reflected in his literature. He was the voice of common men who are the victims of class struggle and oppressive deities that have been ruling the masses of people under authoritarian captivity where silencing voices and suppression was considered canonical. Jalib never used the covering of sweetness for the bitter truth of a society that holds the reality of capitalist triumphalism, he used words that give direct tidings of revolution and resistance.

The instigator and establisher of Martial law in Pakistan, Dictator Ayub Khan was extremely criticised by Habib Jalib due to his pro-capitalist policies and unconstitutional behaviour. After a year under the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan, in a live Mushaira aired from the Rawalpindi studio of Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation, Jalib deflected from the script about the scenic beauty of the country and about the metaphysical reasons of existence. He opted to speak about the tyrannies, the problems of common men, he chose to represent the sensitive sociopolitical issues of the state. But, his defiant voice resonated off radio speakers across Pakistan. Soon after taking over the power Dictator Ayub Khan called an indirect election of an executive president through an electoral college, instead of direct democracy. Fatimah Jinnah, sister of Muhammad Ali Jinnah participated in the elections but, because of rigging and strong campaign against her she was defeated. Jalib supported Fatima Jinnah and knew the plot of this story. He openly wrote against the Dictator and his despotic acts of promulgating the constitution. For which he was imprisoned.

An Anti CAA protester holds a placard with Jalib’s poetry, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Photo: The Quint

ں بھی خائف نہیں تختۂ دار سے

میں بھی منصور ہوں کہہ دو اغیار سے

یوں ڈراتے ہو زنداں کی دیوار سے

ظلم کی بات کو جہل کی رات کو

میں نہیں مانتا میں نہیں جانتا

I am not afraid of execution,

Tell the world that I am Mansoor (Mansoor al Halaj a Sufi saint who was assassinated on the accusation of blasphemy)

Don’t scare me from your jails

The tongue of oppression, the night of ignorance

I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept


Jalib’s rebellious nature and outspokenness never let him sit in peace and watch the state burning into the fire of sociopolitical tyranny, ignited by Dictator Zia-ul-Haq. Who snatched the pens of progressive poets, writers, and prisoned activists. He wanted to crush the civil society by his self-made doctrine which had anti-women laws, censorship, religious bigotry, and everything that could decay the civilised progressive society. But, Habib Jalib always resisted. He marched, he wrote, he spoke, he did everything to put up his opinion and to oppose the tyranny of Dictator Zia-ul-Haq.

یہ محل سراؤں كے باسی

 قاتل ہیں سبھی اپنے یارو

These people who live in palaces,

All are murderers, my comrades

-Zulmat ko  Zia

He never liked the idea of using religion to legitimise military oligarchy which has been a smart way for the establishment of the state to do political engineering for their power satisfaction. Because of progressive ideology against the regressive mindset he was labeled as a rebel and was imprisoned many times. He was an iconoclast, and a Marxist-Leninist with the ideas of communism, and a member of Progressive Writers Movement and Communist Party of Pakistan, in the spirit of Mansoor Hallaj who chanted the slogan, Anal- Haq ( I’m the truth, I’m God), which had also been used by Faiz in his poem, Hum Dekhenge. Speaking of Faiz, he termed Habib jalib as the “Poet of masses.”  Whereas Saadat Hasan Manto appreciated him by saying, “Jalib’s poetry has an emancipatory effect when experienced by the common man.”

Instead of shifting the focus towards romanticism and objectification of women unlike other traditional darbari poets, Jalib spoke for the rights of women. He wrote against patriarchy, which was channelized in almost every household, at institutions, on streets by religious clerics under the shadow of dictatorial figures because fusion of religion into politics was considered as an integral part of power politics. Habib Jalib supported the women’s movement protesting against dictator Zia-ul-Haq’s anti-women laws. He was once arrested and beaten up by police for reciting poetry against the rulers at a protest march by women activists towards Lahore High Court to submit an application against Zia-ul-Haq’s law declaring the woman’s evidence half of a man’s. In another incident, the Governor of West Pakistan, the Nawab of Kalabagh, invited actress Neelo to dance in front of Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran. She refused and as a consequence the police were sent to force and bring her, which led to her to commit suicide. This incident inspired Jalib to write a poem.

تو کہ ناواقفِ ادبِ غلامی ہے ابھی

رقص زنجیر پہن کر بھی کیا جاتا ہے

You are not aware of the protocol of a king’s court. Sometimes one has to dance with the chains on oneself.

-Raqs-e-Zanjeer (The dance of the chains)

Jalib beautifully crafted the voice of oppressed, tyrannical era of dictators, and the rights of women. Benazir Bhutto first lady Prime Minister of Pakistan when returned to her land from exile during the regime of Zia-ul-Haq who hanged her father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Jalib wrote a poem for her bravery.

ڈرتے ہیں بندوقوں والے ایک نہتی لڑکی سے

پھیلے ھیں ھمت کے اجالے ایک نھتی لڑکی سے

The people with guns fear an unarmed girl

She is the symbol of bravery without any weapon

Habib Jalib’s poetry has the substance of theory of socialism. He opposed the prevailing socioeconomic

system of capitalism, neo-colonialism, and feudalism.

Due to his unconventional views he was declared as anti-establishment, anti-state.

کھیت وڈیروں سے لے لو

ملیں لٹیروں سے لے لو

ملک اندھیروں سے لے لو

رہے نہ کوئ عالی جاہ

Confiscate the fields from the landowners

Take away the mills from the robbers

Redeem the country from its dark hours

Off with the lordly vermin

-Pakistan ka matlab kya

On the tombstone of Habib Jalib’s grave, it is written that ‘Habib Jalib, the poet of common people.’

As we remember Jalib as a people’s poet, we can see his literature being celebrated across the globe where the struggle and resistance against power mongers have been significantly historic. He had inked about resistance movements in Egypt, Iran, Palestine, Lebanon, and Vietnam, ranging from 1950 to 1970. With the passing time his poetry became sharper and more rebellious. Habib Jalib’s refusal of acceptance of despotism, his call to resist against intimidators, his language of revolution to call out feudal, his struggle for the protection of rights of women all of this is lyrically presented in is poetry and done through marches and protests by him. Whenever he spoke and he wrote the truth,  he was banned. Whenever he protested for the sufferings of people he was imprisoned. For all the woke poetry readers and leftists, Jalib is a luminous star in the galaxy of Urdu Literature..

He was awarded Nishan-i-Imtiaz and Nigar Awards by the government of Pakistan for his services in the field of literature.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here