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The words of others

Faiz Ahmed Faiz with friends: Faiz’s poetry is now being used to advertise phones

Habib Jalib: anti-establishment

Opposition to the military regime was marked by a liberal ethos, a value-system that stressed constitutionalism, rule of law, and the independence of judiciary, rather than identifying with the politics of redistribution or attacking Pakistan’s problem uno supremo: poverty

My piece published in the Friday Times last week

For decades, Pakistan’s poets and writers have defied conventions and the almighty establishment. Rooted in the progressive writers’ movement, the literature of resistance was a pro-people ideology that kept redistribution of power and resources at its core. The great poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz was often jailed and kept on the margins of the literary and cultural establishment and castigated as a “foreign agent” and “anti-Pakistan.” Scores of other writers had to suffer torture and silencing by the state when they challenged its arbitrariness. Habib Jalib faced similar treatment and died a poor man after decades of acting as the poetic conscience of a nation.

It was the lyrical, direct poetry of Habib Jalib that stirred the street for decades, echoing the vision of the world from below. Jalib’s expression was popular and immediate, and could be related to easily by the average listener. During the rule of General Ayub Khan, from 1958 until 1969, Jalib particularly represented the public conscience when he chanted his poem Dastoor (Constitution), which was about Ayub Khan’s tailor-made “constitution.” Later, this work was utilised in support of Fatima Jinnah’s (the Quaid-e-Azam’s younger sister’s) campaign against the general:

Aisay dastoor ko,

Subh-e-baynoor ko,

Mein naheen manta,

Mein naheen janta

(I do not accept/I do not recognise/A constitution that resembles/A morning with no light).

In 2008, we saw the Punjab Chief Minister chanting these lines. The poetry has come full circle. While the Chief Minister’s […]

People of this Murderous City

The other day, I translated my poem in Urdu written after the events of 27 December, 2007. It has been published by this blog. I am reproducing it here.

In this island of grief
Where all journeys stand directionless
Fragrant Roses adorn your image
And, We, your murderers, impotent accomplices,
Cast guilty shadows across this barren land

O, the gifted leader, that inimitable image
You had given a new meaning to resplendence
Dragging your worn feet
and covering your bare head
You had borne invective upon invective
And the half-dead people of this city
gaped at your strength

This was the murder of all my visions
And all my dreams cracked
as you entered hades*,
beneath the weight of roses

Though a grave shall unfold its fragrance
We the ashamed,
fighting our tears
holding the placards of our dreams
Will analyse, compose elegies

And the bleeding wound shall scar
all the paths
The moon shall keep waxing
As the illumining candles of your tomb
reveal an endlessly humiliated Yazeed**

There is just a little request
Enact another wonder
what the city of Yazeed could not do
Forgive those
Who could not forgive you
and pushed you over the edge of Euphrates***

And today,
locked in the mist of wistfulness
gripping their torn shirts
they search for their forsaken hearts

* the underworld kingdom in Greek mythology inhabited by the souls of the dead.
** Yazeed (645 – 683), the second Umayyad ruler who established monarchy and killed Husain and his family members, the grandson of Prophet Mohammad who had challenged the principle of rule without the consent of the ruled.
*** The location of the legendary battle of Karbala.

The Urdu version can be read below. […]

February 13th, 2008|Poetry, Urdu|10 Comments