Pakistan has undergone various highs and lows since the end of Cold War. In these two-decades, not only Pakistan’s domestic politics experienced drastic changes but regional and international scenarios have changed as well. Interestingly, in the prevailing dynamics, one may find Habib Jalib’s poetry still relevant and appealing. In this writing, I will try to relate some of his poetry in the current situation.

In the turbulent period of Cold War when Pakistan was mainly ruled by military dictators and, similar to other dictatorial regimes, citizens were bound to accept whichever policies were imposed on them. People who were faithful to dictators enjoyed all blessings and others who were dissidents faced torture and trial. Jalib’s political inclination was towards socialism and, like every other leftist of that time, he was against imperial powers – mainly the US. Additionally, rulers of our country sought refuge in the American rather than the Soviet camp. Thus, it forced Jalib to pen against the US-Pak alliance which he deemed evil. Today, after the US invasion of Afghanistan, right wing groups such as Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) have been sweeping the masses with anti-American rhetoric. However, it is important to note here that JI preferred the US camp during the Cold War. As Pakistan moved to fight for US in Afghanistan and its impact started affecting socio-political fabric of Pakistan, Jalib wrote:
Hum larain amrikiyoon ki jung kyun
Or karain apni zameen khoon rung kyun

(Why we should fight America’s war
And turn our land red with blood)

Balochistan’s conflict is as old as Pakistan. Military operations against Baloch nationalists have further exacerbated this conflict. Jalib was always ominous about Balochistan. He cautioned that Balochistan might have the same fate as East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. I would say that if we had taken his warning seriously, today, Mama Qadeer would not have to march to Islamabad for the grave issue of missing persons. His poem ‘Jag meray Punjab’ is still appealing to us to take stand for the rights of Baloch people.
Inhi chalan se hum se juda Bengal hua
Poch na is dukh se jo dil ka haal hua
Roko ye selaab k Pakistan Chala
Jag meray Punjab k Pakistan Chala

(For the same reasons Bengal was separated from us
Don’t ask me how my heart torments because of this pain
Stop this torrent lest we lose Pakistan
Wake up my Punjab lest we lose Pakistan)

The recent Tharparkar incident has astounded the whole country. More than 100 children have died and many are on the verge of death. Unfortunately, despite catastrophic losses of innocent lives, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is defending its poor governance by claiming this incident to be an ‘exaggeration’. One can recall Jalib’s magnificent poetry which befits PPP and other corrupt and inept political leadership.
Hukmuran hogaye kaminay log
(The mean people are ruling us)

Since our state has decided to negotiate with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), some clerics have become celebrities on news channels. Specifically, Abdul Aziz Ghazi – the burka avenger of Lal Masjid — has become the lead defender of Taliban’s Sharia. Indeed his notion of Sharia is nothing more than a fallacy. Despite this fact, he is given every chance on media to inculcate his brand of Sharia. I recall Jalib’s poem which suits Abdul Aziz and his ilk.
Bahut mein ne suni hai aap ki taqreer Maulana
Magar badli nahin ab tak meri taqdeer Maulana

(Maulana I have paid a lot of attention to your speeches
But it has not changed my fate yet)

Unfortunately, Jalib is not alive today but his verses still depict realities of our society. In the end, I would like to quote Allama Iqbal here whose saying perfectly epitomizes the state of Pakistan’s political and societal structure. He said, ‘Nations are born in the hearts of poets, they prosper and die in the hands of politicians’.

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