Jalib’s Pakistan

March 12, 2011 was Habib Jalib’s 18th death anniversary. Jalib was not just a revolutionary poet, a Marxist-Leninist, a political activist but he was a visionary who wanted Pakistan to be a country free of military dictatorships, religious fanaticism and class differences. Urdu poet Qateel Shifai summed up Jalib sahib’s life beautifully in these words:

Apney saarey dard bhula kar auron ke dukh sehta tha,
Hum jab ghazlain kehtey thay woh aksar jail mein rehta tha,
Aakhir kaar chala hee gaya woh rooth kar hum farzaanon se,
Woh deewana jisko zamana Jalib Jalib kehta tha.”
(He hid his own anguish and languished for others,
When as we rhymed for damsels and composed lilting songs, he was the one who pined behind the bars,
Now at last he is gone, leaving us sane and mandarins behind,
The one who went by the name Jalib).

Jalib sahib was committed to freedom of expression and he was not afraid to voice his opinion. He was imprisoned in General Ayub Khan’s time for the first time because he vociferously opposed the General’s capitalist policies, which were only beneficial for a handful of families. Despite the relative success of Ayub’s economic policies, the bitter truth was that the masses kept suffering and kept getting poorer. It was because of the rise in sugar prices that a mass movement finally made General Ayub resign but another military dictator, General Yahya Khan, replaced him. Jalib was against the oppression in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and wrote his hauntingly beautiful poem ‘Bagiya Lahu Luhan’ (The Garden is full of blood). It was not just during military rule that Jalib went to jail but Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, too, imprisoned him along with some of his leftist friends. When General Ziaul Haq came to power, Jalib sahib was again vocal about his disastrous policies and challenged his orthodox views. Jalib had a keen eye and long before others would say it, he wrote how it was not Islam in danger but the vested interests of our ruling elite, who invoked the religion card at the drop of a hat. He also challenged the mullahs and how they never questioned the rich but always preached to the poor, whose fate could not change through prayers.

The rising tide of fanaticism that has gripped Pakistan, its manifestations clear in the assassinations of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, need to be swept away by revisiting Jalib and his ideas. The new generation needs to discover what Jalib stood for and why it is important in order to save our country from an abyss of darkness. Had Jalib sahib been alive, he would have been the first one to stand on the barricades and recite a new poem for an enlightened future of Pakistan. Jalib’s poetry is about resistance and we definitely need to resist religious extremism.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


Popular posts from this blog

Religious extremism in Pakistan (Part V)

Freedoms and sport

The myth of September 6, 1965