Did we forget the people’s poet?

Osama Siddiqui

If we look at the current situation of Pakistan in terms of politics, oppression and human rights, we would definitely need to recall the revolutionary literary works of our legendary writers and poets for inspiring and motivating the social and political activists and youth in connection with the struggle against multiple types of injustices being faced by common and ordinary people these days.

While discussing this, we would surely talk about the great poet, Habib Jalib, who was also a progressive writer and a left-wing political activist and always stood against the authoritarianism and undemocratic moves of the rulers for which he was jailed several times. But despite the highly resilient life history of Jalib, do the folk, especially the youngsters remember him? I think, most of us have forgotten him which is not a positive sign in such a challenging era. Hence, the purpose of this article is to throw light on his determination against different issues to inspire the youth and activists.

Well, Habib Jalib was born in a middle class family of the Hoshiarpur district of Indian Punjab on March 24, 1928. His father was a shoe maker by profession. During the partition of the united India in 1947, his family migrated to Pakistan and got settled in Lahore.

To many people who lived during the period of 1960-80, would remember that Jalib was not an ordinary figure at that time while Faiz Ahmed Faiz – the famous poet, used to call him the poet of the masses for the reason that he was very much popular among the people.

If we try to know about the political thinking of Jalib, we would learn that he was always against every kind of oppression whether it was from a dictator or a democrat, whereas he never underestimated himself and he knew that the message of his poetry reaches from the poor to the rich – from Karachi to Peshawar.

Jalib was actually very much against dictatorship and always reacted to military coups. He strongly supported Fatima Jinnah in opposition to General Ayub Khan. He was not only stunned but got upset when Fatima Jinnah lost the presidential election of 1965, because she was well supported by most of the democratic leaders of the East and West Pakistan, including Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rahman, Bacha Khan and Wali Khan.

If we try to learn about the political ideology of Jalib, he was politically very closer and attached to Wali Khan that’s why he joined the National Awami Party (NAP). Similarly, when General Ayub Khan pressurized Bhutto to leave politics and move abroad, this was Jalib who wrote a poem in Bhutto’s favor of which essence was that the people of the country were asking for his leadership, so he must not go overseas.

Because of his aggressive and bold poetry in response to the General Ayub Khan’s dictatorship, once Jalib was jailed by the dictator’s government. Here, there is an interesting story that he had no money to pay his house rent at that time, but the Jalib’s father asked him for rent to which he replied that he was going to jail and there was no need to pay the rent and he (the father) had to deal with the house rent etc.

It is worth mentioning that Jalib also had spent time with a number of political giants in Hyderabad Jail during the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s regime. More than 50 people were arrested during those days on the orders of Hyderabad Tribunal, including political stalwarts like Wali Khan, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and Ataullah Mengal etc. There, they all used to arrange study circles and political discussions to further strengthen their movement against dictatorship and oppression.

Although, Jalib was released when the Bhutto’s government was overthrown by General Zia-ul-Haq in 1977, but then he openly opposed the General Zia’s martial law by strongly supporting the Benazir Bhutto’s struggle for restoring peace and democracy in the country and also wrote poetry in her favor which is much popular till date.

Here, it is pertinent to note that he was very clear about his political positioning. He had joined the NAP with the stance that it was a highly progressive, liberal and democratic platform and wanted to have closer relations with the neighboring countries. He also firmly believed that NAP wanted to establish a strong and vibrant democracy and political culture in Pakistan through elections and educating the people.

Continuing the discussion, a very astonishing point is that, today the Jalib’s poetry is recited by landlords and capitalists on different occasions in Pakistan who consider themselves as political leaders, hence, it does not suit them as Jalib was in fact, the voice of the poor, the voice of the strugglers and of course, the voice of voiceless, oppressed and deprived communities.

Therefore, it is necessary for the nation to learn from the exemplary personality of Jalib. In this connection, it is also greatly important to convey his universal message to our younger population through teaching his selfless struggle at the educational institutions. Furthermore, his thinking and philosophy should also be portrayed through plays and acts, so that we may transform our youngsters into resilient and courageous citizens.

The writer has done MSc Business and Management from the Cardiff University, United Kingdom and BBA from the Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar. He has keen interest in cricket, films and the history of South Asia, particularly the Subcontinent. He may be reached at: osamasiddiqui21@yahoo.com.

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