Habib Jalib–A Tribute

Yesterday (March 12) was the death anniversary of Habib Jalib (1928-1993). Jalib was born Habib Ahmed in a village near Hoshiarpur, British India.  He migrated to Pakistan at Partition and worked as a proofreader for the “Daily Imroze” in 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 sociopolitical context is what stirred the audience” (Wikipedia).

One of his most famous poems, “Dastoor”, was written in 1962 after Ayub Khan enforced his tailor-made constitution in the country.  A rough English translation reads:

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.

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