Habib Jalib was born on March 24, 1928 as Habib Ahmad in a village near Hoshiarpur, British India. He migrated to Pakistan after partition and worked as a proof reader in Daily Imroze, Karachi. He was a progressive writer and soon started to grab the audience with his enthusiastic recitation of poetry. He wrote in plain language, adopted a simple style and addressed common people and issues. But the conviction behind his words, the music of his voice and his emotional energy coupled with the sensitivity of the socio-political context is what stirred the audience.

Habib Jalib was one of the most renowned Pakistani revolutionary poet. A left wing activist and politician, he was a staunch democrat who opposed martial law, authoritarianism and state oppression.

He was a Marxist-Leninist and aspired to the ideals of Communism. He was a member of the Communist Party of Pakistan; later when the Communist Party was banned and started working under the banner of National Awami Party (NAP), Jalib joined the NAP. Due to his blunt expression of his beliefs, he suffered hard time all his life and spent most of time in Jails.

Habib Jalib was first imprisoned during the martial law regime of Ayub Khan due to his defiant views on Ayub Khan’s capitalistic policies. He wrote his legendary poem Dastoor during those days.

Criticizing those who supported Ayub Khan’s regime he said:
Kahin gas ka dhuan hae
kahin golion ki baarish
Shab-e-ehd-e-kum nigahi
tujhay kis tarah sarahein

In 1972 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto came to power, many of his colleagues were able to hit fortunes. He, on the other hand, kept his integrity and stuck to ideology. According to sources close to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, one day Habib Jalib went to Bhutto’s place to meet him. Bhutto on seeing him said that when are you going to come (referring to joining his political Party) Jalib said, “Have the oceans ever fallen in rivers”. As a result, he was imprisoned again along with other leftist thinkers like Mukhtar Rana, Afzal Bangash and Meraj Muhammad Khan.

Habib Jalib died on March 12, 1993.

His family refused the offer of the then government to pay for his funeral expenses. Qateel Shifai expressed his sorrow and grief in these words:
Apney sarey dard bhula kar auron ke dukh sehta tha
Hum jub ghazlain kehtey thay wo aksar jail main rehta tha
Aakhir kar chala hi gya wo rooth kar hum farzanon se
Wo deewana jisko zamana Jalib Jalib kehta tha

Jalib’s poetry reflected his vision and approach to life. He never deviated from his chosen path. His love for humankind, his sympathy for the underdog and his passion for the fellow-beings were reflected in his verses. What is quite significant and somewhat rare in a poet who is also charged with political ideology is his capacity to suppress his anger against the injustices and tyrannies that he witnesses in life.

Jalib himself remained a victim of a cruel social order. He was imprisoned for some time after being wrongly implicated in various crimes.

With no regular source of income he had a rootless existence but he never considered compromising with his tormentors and coming to terms with established order. And yet Jalib’s poetry only reflects his anguish. It is not an expression of his anger or frustration. At times it is pensive, couched in sarcasm but his typical soft melodious tone is always there. He believed that the Pakistani leaders should stop obeying the Westerners. His following famous poem reflects this.

Agar may farangi ka darbaan hota
Tho jeena kis kadar aasaan hota
Meray bachay bhi amreeka may parthay
Har garmi may main Inglistaan hota
Meree English bhi balaa ki chusth hotee
Balaa say jo na main Urdu-daan hota
Sar jhuka kay jo ho jaata sar main
Tho leader bhi azeem-u-shaan hota
Zameenain meree har soobay may hoteen
May wallah sadr-e-Pakistan hota

Some Poems In His Own Voice

. Zulmat Ko Zia
. Quaid-e-Azam Dek Rahe Ho Apna Pakistan
. Farangi Ka Jo May Darban Hota
. Mazaaray Laghaaray
. Wathan Ko Kuch Nahi Khathra
. Ye Munsif Bhi Tho Qaidi Hain
. Gal Sun (Punjabi)
. Mein Ne Uss Se Yeh Kaha
. Dastoor (Main Nahi Manta)

Till the end of his life in 1993, Jalib remained a member of the Communist Party of Pakistan. In 1994, the Communist Party of Pakistan merged with the Mazdoor Kissan Party to form the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party — which is the continuation of both the Parties in Pakistan.

Two members of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party — Shahram Azhar and Taimur Rahman— launched a music video reciting Jalib’s famous poem “Musheer Se” under the band title Laal, symbolizing Jalib’s struggle for the workers and peasants.

Laal band remastered and remixed, the greatest revolutionary poem in Pakistan’s history, ‘Dastoor’ in Habib Jalib’s voice[5] and included it in their album Umeed-e-Sahar (2009).

On 23 March 2009, President of Pakistan has given the highest civil award (posthumously) to the legendary poet, which was received by his daughter.

Solo artist Umair Salim composed his famous poem “Dastoor” in a musical track to tribute the poet on his death anniversary in 2009, followed by a music video portraying Habib Jalib’s life.

Books
. Sir-e-Maqtal
. Zikr Behte Khoon Ka
. Gumbad-e-Bedar
. Kulyaat e Habib Jalib