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On Habib Jalib

Kazim Aizaz Alam has sent this piece on the great poet for publication at Jahane Rumi.

I was recently introduced to someone who had been a companion of Habib Jalib. Khurshid sahib now works at the Karachi-based afternoon paper, Qaumi Akhbar, and sometimes reminisces about the good times he shared with people associated with the film industry. Being a film/theatre reporter for 59 years now (yes, he started his journalistic career in 1950!) Khurshid sahib has come in touch with every notable film star, director, writer, poet, musician and singer of Pakistan.

One of his dear friends was Habib Jalib. According to Khurshid sahib, whenever Habib Jalib was in town, his Vespa (that he still drives) would serve as the poet’s conveyance. Last time when he met Jalib sahib, he was in Karachi for a book-launch ceremony. In those days there used to be a UBL hostel in Saddar. The then president of the UBL was Jalib sahib’s fan who had arranged his stay at the hostel. Khurshid sahib picked him up from there and took to the Arts Council of Pakistan where the ceremony was to take place. He clearly remembers that Jalib sahib’s health was not good and he looked too frail. The poet walked into the venue with the help of Fehmida Riaz and Khurshid sahib. Benazir Bhutto was the chief guest and was accompanied by Begum Nusrat Bhutto. He says that both the distinguished ladies rushed forward and welcomed the ageing poet with utmost respect. Such was Jalib sahib’s regard that despite his bitter criticism of Benazir Bhutto’s policies during her first government, she had come to pay homage to the great revolutionary. […]

February 8th, 2009|Poetry, Urdu, Urdu Literature|4 Comments

The pampered Islamabadites

My piece published by Himal Southasian

Mahboob Ali

Islamabad is a very peculiar urban space. Though no longer a town, it is still struggling to become a city. Arguably, it is the most ‘inhabitable’ place in Pakistan, and ranks far ahead of several other capitals in Asia and Southasia, nearly all of which are plagued by pollution, traffic jams, crime cartels and civil strife. Islamabad, despite the disturbances and security threats that became endemic during 2007, remains largely aloof from this pattern – at least for now.

Located in the foothills of the Margallas, and boasting green spaces and forests intertwined among the folds of the city, Islamabad appears almost surreal against the densely populated rest of Pakistan. Built during the early 1960s by Pakistan’s developmentalist dictator, General Ayub Khan, Islamabad was seen as an antidote to politicised Karachi – which, in any case, was a bit too far from the Punjab and the NWFP, the popular bases for Pakistan’s powerful military. Laid out as a model city with the help of Greek architects, this city of the exclusive was formally born in 1965. Nearby Rawalpindi was already the seat of the army’s headquarters, and its proximity to the new capital was certainly intentional.

The new city’s layout was divided into sectors, numbered streets and broad avenues that are called ramna, using the Bengali term. The civil bureaucracy of federal united Pakistan moved here, and thus the sleepy town suddenly emerged as a new urban settlement in line with the earlier planned emergence of Chandigarh. In Islamabad, roads would empty out after sunset, and the national capital would be oddly deserted on all public holidays. After all, for decades none of the residents actually belonged to this city. […]

October 17th, 2008|Personal, Published in Himal Magazine|5 Comments