Habib Jalib

  1. Dastoor

  2. Zulmat ko Zia

  3. Hukamran ho gaye kaminay

  4. Mein ne uss se ye kaha

It is said that there were two spaces which dominated in protesting against Ayub’s dictatorship. The court, where Justice Malik Mohammad Rustam Kiyani who served as the Chief Justice of West Pakistan from 1958-1962 and the other was Mochi Darwaza (literal translation: Cobbler’s Gate – Mochi Gate is a historical gate built by the Mughals and is one of the 13 gates of the old walled city of Lahore) where Habib Jalib would be reciting his revolutionary words against the dictatorship.

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Dastoor (Constitution):

During the reign of General Ayub Khan, Murree – a mountain resort town within the Rawalpindi district of Pakistan, used to organize a mushaira (Poetic Symposium) which was Presided over by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and it was here, following the approval of the 1962 constitution that Habib Jalib recited his iconic poem, Dastoor (Constitution) for the very first time. Given the history Ayub administration had with Habib Jalib, the symposium was not covered by the state run radio station and neither was it printed in any newspaper. But this poem spread like wildfire throughout the city as it openly challenged the rule and constitution put in place by Ayub Khan. This poem became an anthem of resistance for the people of Pakistan. Such is the significance of this poem, that Dastoor is probably amongst one of urdu language’s finest revolutionary poems talking about state oppression, which still holds a lot of relevance even in contemporary times.

دیپ جس کا محلات ہی میں جلے

چند لوگوں کی خوشیوں کو لے کر چلے

The light which shines only in Palaces

Burns up the joy of the people in the shadows

وہ جو ساۓ میں ہر مصلحت کے پلے

ایسے دستور کو صبح بے نور کو

Derives its strength from other weaknesses

That kind of system, like dawn without light

میں نہیں مانتا ، میں نہیں جانتا

I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept

میں بھی خائف نہیں تختۂ دار سے

میں بھی منصور* ہوں کہ دو اغیار سے

I am not afraid of execution

Tell the world that I am a martyr (Mansur-Al-Hallaj*)

کیوں ڈراتے ہو ذنداں کی دیوار سے

ظلم کی بات کو ، جہل کی رات کو

How can you frighten me with prison walls?

This overhanging doom, this night of ignorance

میں نہیں مانتا ، میں نہیں جانتا

I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept

پھول شاخوں پہ کھلنے لگے ، تم کہو

جام رندوں کو ملنے لگے ، تم کہو

‘Flowers are budding on branches’, that’s what you say

‘Every cup overflows’, that’s what you say

چاک سینوں کے سلنے لگے ، تم کہو

اس کھلے جھوٹ کو ، ذہن کی لوٹ کو

‘Wounds are healing themselves’, that’s what you say

These bare-face lies, this insult to intelligence

میں نہیں مانتا ، میں نہیں جانتا

I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept

تم نے لوٹا ہے صدیوں ہمارا سکوں

اب نہ ہم پر چلے گا تمہارا فسوں

For centuries you have stolen our peace of mind

But your power over us is coming to an end

چارہ گر دردمندوں کے بنتے ہو کیوں

تم نہیں چارہ گر ، کوئ مانے مگر

Why do you pretend you can cure pain?

Even if some claim that you’ve healed them

میں نہیں مانتا ، میں نہیں جانتا

I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept

* Mansur-al-Hallaj (858-922) was a Persian mystic, poet and teacher of Sufism, who is best known for saying: “I am the Truth (Ana-al-Haq), which many at that time saw as a claim to divinity, while others interpreted it as an instance of mystical annihilation of the ego which allows God to speak through the individual.   

Habib Jalib lived to see the downfall of Ayub Government in 1968-69, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s socialism integrated into democracy through the 1970s and Zia-ul-Haq giving Pakistan it’s third military dictatorship (General Yahya Khan took over from General Ayub Khan until the separation of Bangladesh in 1971). It is widely believed that the seeds of a lot of situations Pakistan is faced with today were planted at the time of Zia-ul-Haq who went on to become the President of Pakistan from 1978-1988. Censorship, hardline right wing ideology, domination of the public life, Hudood Ordinance (punishments of whipping, amputation and stoning to death for new criminal offences related to adultery and fornication), the Soviet War and the general ‘Islamisation’ or ‘Sharisation’ of the Pakistani society. To further strengthen the grip on power, he replaced the National Assembly of Pakistan with a ‘majlis-e-shura’ or a consultative council. He banned all political parties in 1979 and set up the majlis-e-shura in 1981. This majlis was to act as a board of advisors to the President of Pakistan and assist in the process of country’s Islamisation. In reality, majlis-e-shura’s purpose was only to endorse decisions which were already taken by Zia led government.   

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Zulmat Ko Zia (Darkness as Light)

Habib Jalib wrote another masterpiece Zulmat ko Zia (Darkness as Light) during Zia’s martial law. This poem directly refers to Zia-ul-Haq (Zia means light) and asks him on how one might be compelled to call him a savior in these dark days. Zia-ul-Haq thought of himself as the savior of Pakistan and Habib Jalib rightly questions him on how one could be obliged to sing praises for him when he has only thrown Pakistan deeper into chaos. The poem also points out that Zia-ul-Haq’s rule over Pakistan was not something new, perhaps referring to the times he had seen under the military rule of General Ayub Khan and General Yahya Khan. It is worth noting that during General Zia’s 10 year rule, Habib Jalib spent most of his time in jail but this did not deter him from continuing to write against the oppression and the injustice.

ایک حشر بپا ہے گھر گھر میں

دم گھٹتا ہے گنبد بے در میں

ایک شخص کے ہاتھوں مدت سے

رسوا ہے وطن دنیا بھر میں

ابلیس نما انسانوں کی اے دوست ثنا کیا لکھنا

ظلمت کو ضیاء صر صر کو صبا

بندے کو خدا کیا لکھنا

Calamity stricken in every home

The air is suffocating in my own home

Because of the misdeeds of an individual (Refers to Zia-ul-Haq here)

The motherland is being ridiculed in the whole world

How can I write praise for a devil manifested as human?

How can I write of this dark night as dawn and these toxic fumes as breeze?

How can I write of a human as God?

حق بات پر کوڑے اور ذنداں

باطل کے شکنجے میں ہے یہ جان

انساں ہیں کے سہمے بیٹھے ہیں

خون خار درندے ہیں رقصاں

اس ظلم و ستم کو لطف و کرم

اس دکھ کو دوا کیا لکھنا

ظلمت کو ضیاء صر صر کو صبا

بندے کو خدا کیا لکھنا

For the truth you are flogged and imprisoned

This life is caught in the grip of lies

Human beings are cowering in terror

Blood sucking monsters are dancing

How can I write of this cruelty as kindness and this disease as cure?

How can I write of this dark night as dawn and these toxic fumes as breeze?

How can I write of a human as God?

ہر شام یہاں شام ویراں

آسیب ذدہ رستے گلیاں

جس شہر کی دھن میں نکلے تھے

وہ شہر دل برباد کہاں

صحرا کو چمن بن کو گلشن

بادل کو ردا کیا لکھنا

ظلمت کو ضیاء صر صر کو صبا

بندے کو خدا کیا لکھنا

Every evening here is one of desolation

Every road and alley is struck with calamity

We searched for a city with hope in our hearts

Where is that city now, my devastated heart?

How can I write of this desert as a rose garden and this cloud as silver lining?

How can I write of this dark night as dawn and these toxic fumes as breeze?

How can I write of a human as God?


اے میرے وطن کے فنکاروں

ظلمت پےنا اپنا فن وارو

یہ محل سراؤں کے باسی

قاتل ہیں سبھی اپنے یاروں

ورثے میں ہمیں یہ غم ہے ملا

اس غم کو نیا کیا لکھنا

ظلمت کو ضیاء صر صر کو صبا

بندے کو خدا کیا لکھنا

Oh artists of my homeland

Don’t sacrifice your art to this darkness

Those people who live in palaces

All are murderers, my comrades

We have inherited this grief from the past

How can I write of this grief as new?

How can I write of this dark night as dawn and these toxic fumes as breeze?

How can I write of a human as God?

Perhaps Habib Jalib’s greatest contribution to the people of Pakistan was that his poems spoke to them in a language they understood. The poems narrated the issues and the social-political environment to the common people and this is what made him so convincing. Habib Jalib’s words still ring true today because they still narrate the challenges Pakistan faces today. Pakistan today, is going through a time where voices which question the oppression, injustice and inequality are being repressed or are being pushed to the backbenches. Habib Jalib never shied away from speaking and writing the truth and he reminded as that no matter what price we had to pay, we should never let go off writing the truth,  

دینا پڑے کچھ ہی ہر جانہ سچ ہی لکھتے جانا

مت گھبرانا مت ڈرجانا سچ ہی لکھتے جانا

Continue to write the truth regardless of the price you have to pay for it

Don’t be scared, don’t be frightened, continue to write the truth

باطل کی منہ زور ہوا سے جو نہ کبھی بجھ پائں

وہ شمعیں روشن کر جانا سچ ہی لکھتے جانا

Those flames which the evil mouth cannot put out

Keep lightening those flames, continue to write the truth

پل دو پل کے عیش کی خاطر کیا دینا کیا جھکنا

آخر سب کو ہے مر جانا سچ ہی لکھتے جانا

For the temporary comforts, what is there to give, what is there to bow to

Eventually all of us have to die, continue to write the truth

دینا پڑے کچھ ہی ہر جانہ سچ ہی لکھتے جانا

مت گھبرانا مت ڈرجانا سچ ہی لکھتے جانا

باطل کی منہ زور ہوا سے جو نہ کبھی بجھ پائں

وہ شمعیں روشن کر جانا سچ ہی لکھتے جانا

پل دو پل کے عیش کی خاطر کیا دینا کیا جھکنا

آخر سب کو ہے مر جانا سچ ہی لکھتے جانا

لوح جہاں پر نام تمہارا لکھا رہے گا یوں ہی

جالب سچ کا دم بھرجانا سچ ہی لکھتے جانا

Continue to write the truth regardless of the price you have to pay for it

Don’t be scared, don’t be frightened, continue to write the truth

Those flames which the evil mouth cannot put out

Keep lightening those flames, continue to write the truth

For the temporary comforts, what is there to give, what is there to bow to

Eventually all of us have to die, continue to write the truth

This universe will bear your name

Jalib, breath the truth, continue to write the truth



Jamhoor Publication