Remembering Habib Jalib’s political struggle
By Zaib Azkaar Hussain
Karachi: Sensitive political issues in poetry make verse more of rhetoric, but Habib Jalib was among the genre of poets who took up political issues and blended them with verse to turn their message into a highly profound and poignant one.
Born in 1928 in Hoshiarpur, Indian Punjab, Habib Jalib life was spent in trying to nurture a classless society for all people. Jalib’s widow, while talking to The News on phone, asserted that her husband’s most precious legacy was his commitment to his cause, and he continued to propagate his message till his demise on March 12, 1993, in Lahore.
Jalib was never scared of standing up to oppressors and military dictators, and when he stood up against the Ayub Khan regime, his poetry rejected the dictatorÂ’s dispensations. The phrase “Aisay Dastoor Ko, Subh Benoor Ko, Mein Naheen Maanta, Mein Naheen Jaanta” reverbetrates with revolutionaries even today.
In the Bhutto era, when he disagreed with the policies of the then regime, he wrote: “Larkane Challo, Warna Thanay Challo.” Owing to these lines, the government had to face serious political opposition from the masses.
Jalib was a poet who never compromised on principles, and it was at the peak of his poetic career that General Zia-ul-Haq imposed Martial Law in the country. Jalib was among the first ones to oppose dictatorship, and despite all efforts made by the Zia regime, the voice and poetry of Jalib spread through various public and underground meetings, and created awareness amongst the against the negative impact of military dictatorship in Pakistan.
At that very point in time, when the citizens had lost their right to freedom of expression, Habib Jalib was invited several times by the Karachi Press Club to present his poetry. His recitals would last for hours, and a large number of political leaders, activists, lawyers, doctors, writers, journalists, women activists, human rights activists, workers, trade unionists and people from other walks of life attended would be riveted by each and every word that he uttered.
Jalib had to face incarceration several times, and by different rulers, due to his fiery poetry and political ideology that did not serve the cause of the oppressive classes in the country. He was kept under detention during the Ayub Khan regime, while he was also imprisoned in 1972 when the Pakistan
People’s Party (PPP), headed by Z.A. Bhutto, came into power. Other political leaders rounded up included leaders of leftist parties, such as Mukthar Rana, Afzal Bangash, Meraj Muhammad Khan, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, and others.
In the Zia era, he strongly resisted dictatorship, and again pleaded the case of restoration of democracy in Pakistan, to the extent that he even painted the PPP as a victim party in that era. He openly supported the PPP leadership, and when Benazir Bhutto came into power, he wrote: “Wohi Halaat Hain Faqeeron Kay, Paaon Nangay Hain Benaziron Kay”.
Till recently, no concrete steps were taken by successive governments to rehabilitate and financially assist the widow and daughters of Jalib. Tahira Habib Jalib, daughter of the revolutionary poet, narrated that while President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, had promised to financially assist the family, actual help came from the Punjab government led by Mian Shahbaz Sharif, who provided and maintained the provision of a monthly stipend of Rs25,000. Jalib’s widow lamented, however, that some of Jalib’s close relatives were “exploiting” his name to extract financial benefits.
Source: The News