Habib Jalib

Habib Jalib (Urdu: حبیب جالب) was a Pakistani revolutionary poet, left-wing activist and politician who opposed martial law, authoritarianism and state oppression. Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz paid tributes to him by saying that he was truly the poet of the masses.[3]

Habib Jalib
حبیب جالب
Portrait of Habib Jalib
BornHabib Ahmad
(1928-03-24)24 March 1928[1]
Hoshiarpur, Punjab
Died12 March 1993(1993-03-12) (aged 64)[1]
Lahore, Pakistan
OccupationUrdu poet, Political activist
NationalityIndian (1928–1947)
Pakistani (1947–1993)
Literary movementProgressive Writers' Movement
Notable awardsNigar Awards
Nishan-i-Imtiaz[2] (Posthumously awarded on 23 March 2009)
ChildrenTahira Habib Jalib[2]

He spoked actively against military coups and administrators due to which he was jailed several times.[4]

Early life

Habib Jalib was born as Habib Ahmad on 24 March 1928 in a village near Hoshiarpur, British India. He migrated to Pakistan after the partition of India due to family pressure though he wanted to live in India and defied two nation theory.[5] Later he worked as a proofreader for Daily Imroze of Karachi. He was a progressive writer and soon started to grab the audience with his enthusiastic recitation of poetry. He wrote in plain language, adopted a simple style and addressed common people and issues. But the conviction behind his words, the music of his voice and his emotional energy coupled with the sensitivity of the socio-political context is what stirred the audience.[1]

Political views

Criticizing those who supported Ayub Khan's regime, he wrote:

کہیں گیس کا دھواں ہے
کہیں گولیوں کی بارش ہے
شب عہد کم نگاہی
تجھے کس طرح سراہیں
Kahin gas ka dhuan hae
kahin golion ki baarish
Shab-e-ehd-e-kum nigahi
tujhay kis tarah sarahein
There is smoke of teargas in the air
and the bullets are raining all around
How can I praise thee
the night of the period of shortsightedness [6]

Jalib could never reconcile with the dictatorship of Ayub Khan. So when Ayub enforced his tailor-made constitution in the country in 1962, which a former prime minister Chaudhry Muhammad Ali likened to the Clock Tower of Lyallpur, Jalib wrote the following poem:

Original Urdu English translation

دیپ جس کا محلات ہی میں جلے
چند لوگوں کی خوشیوں کو لے کر چلے
وہ جو سائے میں ہر مصلحت کے پلے
ایسے دستور کو، صبح بے نور کو
میں نہیں مانتا، میں نہیں مانتا
میں بھی خائف نہیں تختہ دار سے
میں بھی منصور ہوں کہہ دو اغیار سے
کیوں ڈراتے ہو زنداں کی دیوار سے
ظلم کی بات کو، جہل کی رات کو
میں نہیں مانتا، میں نہیں مانتا
پھول شاخوں پہ کھلنے لگے، تم کہو
جام رندوں کو ملنے لگے، تم کہو
چاک سینوں کے سلنے لگے، تم کہو
اس کھلے جھوٹ کو، ذہن کی لوٹ کو
میں نہیں مانتا، میں نہیں مانتا
تم نے لوٹا ہے صدیوں ہمارا سکوں
اب نہ ہم پر چلے گا تمہارا فسوں
چارہ گر میں تمہیں کس طرح سے کہوں
تم نہیں چارہ گر، کوئی مانے، مگر
میں نہیں مانتا، میں نہیں مانتا
The light which shines only in palaces
Burns up the joy of the people in the shadows
Derives its strength from others' weakness
That kind of system,
like dawn without light
I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept
I am not afraid of execution,
Tell the world that I am the martyr
How can you frighten me with prison walls?
This overhanging doom,
this night of ignorance,
I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept
"Flowers are budding on branches", that's what you say,
"Every cup overflows", that's what you say,
"Wounds are healing themselves", that's what you say,
These bare-faces lies,
this insult to the intelligence,
I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept
For centuries you have all stolen our peace of mind
But your power over us is coming to an end
Why do you pretend you can cure pain?
Even if some claim that you've healed them,
I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept.

Jalib was banned from official media but he remained undeterred. He rather started a tirade against the tyranny with more resolution. It reached its zenith when Fatima Jinnah decided to contest elections against Ayub Khan. All democratic forces rallied around her and at her election meetings, Jalib used to recite his fiery poems in front of an emotionally charged crowd. His most popular poem at that time was:

ماں کے پاؤں تلے جنت ہے ادھر آجائو
Maan kay paon talay jannat hai idhar aa jao
The paradise is under the feet of the mother. So come into her fold.

Habib Jalib's poems used in Pakistani films

In another incident which has become a part of the resistance folklore of the country, the Governor of West Pakistan, the Nawab of Kalabagh, invited filmstar Neelo to dance in front of Shah Reza Pahlavi of Iran. She refused and as a consequence the police was sent to force and bring her, which led to her attempting to commit suicide. This incident inspired a poem by Jalib, which was later included by Neelo's husband Riaz Shahid in the film Zarqa (1969). The poem was titled Raqs-e-Zanjeer (The dance of the chains):[7]

تو کہ ناواقفِ ادبِ غلامی ہے ابھی
رقص زنجیر پہن کر بھی کیا جاتا ہے
Tu kay nawaqif-e-aadab-e-ghulami hae abhi
Raqs zanjeer pehan kar bhi kiya jata hai.
You are not aware of the protocol of a king's court. Sometimes one has to dance (before them) with the chains on oneself.
  • The above Nazm/Song was included in film producer Riaz Shahid's film Zarqa (1969) in Mehdi Hassan's vocals which became a super-hit film song among the public in 1969 in Pakistan.There is very interesting background to this above film song.Film actress Neelo actually had an anguished real-life, above mentioned event sometimes earlier, before being selected to perform a dance while tied in chains in a jail when a sad and painful film song is being played in the background sung by Mehdi Hassan.This heart-wrenching and emotional film song was especially written by Habib Jalib for Neelo based on events in the past life of Neelo herself.So naturally she could emotionally relate to this film song.The net result was a very effective acting performance by Neelo in this film dance.To top it all off, film music director Wajahat Attre composed a superb tune befitting the occasion.[8]
  • " Zulm Rahay Aur Amn Bhi Ho, Kaya Mumkin Hai Tum Hi Kaho" Sung by both Noor Jehan and Mehdi Hassan in film Yeh Aman (1971), lyrics by Habib Jalib and music by A. Hameed.[9] This film song also became very popular.

Bhutto's government

In 1972 Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to power in Pakistan after the 1971 war with India and a new independent country called Bangladesh emerged from former East Pakistan.Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto came to power in former West Pakistan, thereafter called simply Pakistan.

After Bhutto's death, Habib Jalib wrote the following poem:[10]

ٹوٹا ہے کہاں اس کا جادو

اک نعرہ بنا ہے اس کا لہو

ثابت ہوا دھڑکن دھڑکن پر وہ شخص حکومت کرتا تھا

لڑتا تھا وہ اپنے جیسوں سے ہم سے تو محبت کرتا تھا

His magic has not been broken

His blood became a slogan

It has been proved, that he ruled his people's hearts

He used to fight with the people like him (Feudal Lords), but with the (poor) people like us, he used to love.

Zia-ul-Haq's martial law

During General Zia-ul-Haq's dictatorship, Jalib wrote a poem on Zia,[11] in which he asked how he could write darkness as Zia ( Zia literally means light in Urdu).

ظلمت کو ضیا، صر صر کو صبا، بندے کو خدا کیا لکھنا
Darkness as light, Hot desert wind as a morning breeze
How can I write a human as God?

Benazir Bhutto's government

After General Zia-ul-Haq's death in 1988, Benazir Bhutto came to power and released Habib Jalib. Disappointed at the state of the nation, when asked if he felt any change after democracy, he said:

حال اب تک وہی ہیں فقیروں کے
دن پھرے ہیں فقط وزیروں کے
ہر بلاول ہے دیس کا مقروض
پاؤں ننگے ہیں بے نظیروں کے
Haal ab tak wahi hain faqiroan kay
Din phiray hain faqat waziroan kay
her Bilawal hai Dais ka maqrooz
paoon nangay hain Benazeeroan kay
The status of the poor is still the same
the days of the ministers have indeed changed
every Bilawal (name of the only son of Benazir Bhutto) of the country is under debt
while Benazirs (i.e the poor) of the country walk without shoes


Habib Jalib died on 12 March 1993. Qateel Shifai expressed his sorrow and grief in these words: Original Urdu:

اپنے سارے درد بھلا کر اوروں کے دکھ سہتا تھا
ہم جب غزلیں کہتے تھے وہ اکثر جیل میں رہتا تھا
آخر چلا ہی گیا وہ روٹھ کر ہم فرزانوں سے
وہ دیوانہ جس کو زمانہ جالب جالب کہتا تھا

English Translation: Forgetting his own profound sorrows, he grieved and wrote for suffering masses!

We composed our ghazals and poems but he languished in prisons for suffering classes!

Alas, he has just walked out from our congregation! (protesting our inaction) O that selfless soul who spoke for the suffering classes! And was greeted as Jalib Jalib**

    • During MUSHAIRAs – a traditional poetry recital gathering – audience used to welcome and ask for his enthralling poetry by calling his takhalus (pen name) twice.

Romanized Urdu:

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


He mainly wrote about the evils brought upon society by corruption and inequity. An example is:

فرنگی کا جو میں دربان ہوتا
تو جینا کس قدر آسان ہوتا
میرے بچے بھی امریکہ میں پڑھتے
میں ہر گرمی میں انگلستان ہوتا
مری انگلش بھی بلا کی چست ہوتی
بلا سے جو نہ میں اردو دان ہوتا
سر جھکاکے جو ہو جاتا 'سر' میں
تو لیڈر بھی عظیم الشان ہوتا
زمینیں میری ہر صوبے میں ہوتیں
میں واللہ صدرِ پاکستان ہوتا
Farangi ka jo main darbaan hota
Tho jeena kis kadar aasaan hota
Meray bachay bhi amreeka may parthay
Main Har garmi may main Inglistaan hota
Meree English bhi balaa ki chusth hotee
Balaa say jo na main Urdu-daan hota
Sar jhuka kay jo ho jaata sir main
Tho leader bhi azeem-u-shaan hota
Zameenain meree har soobay may hoteen
May wallah sadr-e-Pakistan hota

Tum se pehle woh jo ek shakhs yahan takht-nasheen tha uss ko bhi apne khuda hone pe itna hi yaqeen tha
Some poems in his own voice

Recent tributes

Laal band remastered and remixed the revolutionary poem "Dastoor" in Habib Jalib's voice and included it in their 2009 album Umeed-e-Sahar.

On 23 March 2009, President of Pakistan awarded the highest civil award (posthumously) to the legendary poet, which was received by his daughter, Tahira Habib Jalib.[2]

See also


  • Sir-e-Maqtal2
  • Zikr Behte Khoon Ka
  • Gumbad-e-Bedar
  • Kulyaat e Habib Jalib
  • Is Shehar-e-Kharabi Main
  • Goshay Main Qafas K
  • Harf-e-Haqq
  • Harf-e-Sar-e-Daar
  • Ehad-e-Sitam


  1. Profile of Habib Jalib Retrieved 27 February 2018
  2. "Posthumous awards for Jalib, former Dawn editor". Dawn (newspaper). 23 March 2009. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  3. Faiz Ahmed Faiz's quote as a tribute to Habib Jalib in an article Retrieved 27 February 2018
  4. https://www.dawn.com/news/1320048
  5. http://www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv13n2/poetry.htm, Retrieved 27 February 2018
  6. Habib Jalib on metblogs.com website Retrieved 27 February 2018
  7. Mujahid Barelvi (10 June 2011). "Habib Jalib's poem for film actress Neelo". The Friday Times (newspaper). Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  8. Soundtrack of film Zarqa (1969) on IMDb website Retrieved 27 February 2018
  9. Soundtrack of film Yeh Aman (1971) on IMDb website Retrieved 27 February 2018
  10. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Recollections and Remembrance, p139, Retrieved 27 February 2018
  11. Video on YouTube, Habib Jalib's poem on General Zia-ul Haq, Published 19 November 2010, Retrieved 27 February 2018
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