Poem of a Political Prisoner

Habib Jalib: The Right to Resistance


That lamp that only shines in palaces

and cares only for the joys of a chosen few

which breeds the protection of their gains

such a system, like a dawn bereft of light

I refuse to accept, I refuse to know


I am not afraid of the ones on thrones

I too am Mansoor, the martyr, go tell the enemy

why do you try to scare me with prison walls?

This kind of oppression, like darkness of the heart

I refuse to accept, I refuse to know


Flowers are blooming on the branches, so you say

every drinker’s cup overflows, so you say

wounds within chests have healed themselves, so you say

these bare-faced lies, this insult to the mind

I refuse to accept, I refuse to know


For centuries you have robbed us of peace

no longer will your false promises fool us

why do you pretend to be the healer of those in pain?

You are no healer, even if some accept, but…

I refuse to accept, I refuse to know


Habib Jalib, a renowned Pakistani revolutionary poet, is born in 1928, spends much of his life in prison and homeless on the streets. Expressing his beliefs openly, he pays heavily for it: a constant refusal to accept the policy of power leads to imprisonment year after year.

In 1988, when Benazir Bhutto came to power, Habib Jalib is released. Even then, he still says:

Haal ab tak wahi hain ghareeboan kay

The status of the poor is still the same

When Habib Jalib passes away in 1993, his family refuses a government offer to pay for funeral expenses. A voice of dissent still echoes in the world: ‘your power over us is coming to an end’.


See: Nita Awatramani, Habib Jalib: The Right to Resistance. www.urdupoetry.com (2006) and Malangbaba: awaam ka sha’ir-malangbaba.blogspot.com (2008).


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