Habib Jalib’s widow dies, with a wish unfulfilled

Mumtaz Begum was laid to rest next to her legendary husband in the Miani Sahab graveyard.

Ali Usman January 07, 2014
“It was my mother’s wish to have something named after our father in Punjab, but this wish was not fulfilled during her lifetime,” says Habib Jalib’s son Yasir. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: The proverbial inspiration associated with every man’s success finds no exception in the case of legendry revolutionary poet Habib Jalib whose widow Mumtaz Begum, aged 79, died in Lahore on Monday.

“She was the inspiration behind most of Jalib’s songs that he wrote for Punjabi films,” says Tahira, Jalib’s daughter while talking about her mother. She praises her mother as a mentor to Jalib who is referred to as the ‘poet of the masses’.

“Many of his Punjabi poems were, in fact, written or corrected by our mother. She wasn’t highly educated but had great taste for Punjabi poetry and he loved her very much,” Tahira told The Express Tribune at the family’s modest house in Lahore.

She also complained about the attitude of Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif who often quotes from Jalib’s poetry in his public speeches. “The chief minister couldn’t even spare five minutes to call us and condole the death of a lady whose husband he so often quotes,” she said.

When The Express Tribune correspondent arrived to condole the death of Jalib’s widow, some mourners were offering Fateha for the departed soul. She was laid to rest next to her legendary husband in the Miani Sahab graveyard.

Habib Jalib, who passed away in 1993, was survived by a widow and eight children. One of his daughters passed away a few years ago. Five siblings live in the family house, while the eldest son, Nasir, lives separately. Tahira, the eldest daughter, runs a small driving school and the youngest son, Yasir, owns a poultry shop.

Recognising Jalib

“There is not a single road, library or hospital in Punjab named after him,” Tahira said, adding that the establishment had tried to muzzle Jalib’s voice because of his revolutionary ideas.  “It was my mother’s wish to have something named after our father in Punjab, but this wish was not fulfilled during her lifetime,” said Jalib’s son Yasir.

“In Peshawar, the Awami National Party government had named a road after Jalib, but his home province still hasn’t named anything after him,” Yasir said, adding that the family didn’t want financial aid, but only the fulfilment of their late mother’s wish: recognition for Jalib at the state level.

Yasir, however, thanked former president Asif Ali Zardari for sending PPP leader Raja Riaz to their home to condole. He also recalled how PML-Q chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had facilitated them in getting the house they currently reside in.

The family only started getting royalty on Jalib’s books after the court took notice — 20 years later. Still they find it difficult to make ends meet.

Talking about her own aspirations for getting her father’s contributions to Urdu and Punjabi poetry recognised, Tahira said she wanted to establish a museum for Jalib. “I wish to set up a small museum and show Jalib’s lovers how our mother inspired him,” Tahira said.

“I still have his sherwani, shoes, glasses and other belongings, and a collection of photographs,” she said. “I have reserved this room for the purpose,” Tahira added pointing towards a small room with many pictures of her father.

Sara Hasan, a granddaughter of Jalib, said that after Nazeer Akbarabadi, Jalib was the only Urdu poet who could attract huge crowds. “Faiz Ahmad Faiz, who is said to be the greatest poet of the last century, once said that he was ashamed of standing before Jalib because Jalib’s poetry had inspired more people than anyone else’s.


Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2014.


Mirza | 8 years ago | Reply

Jalib has no parallel in Urdu poetry. It is understandable that a rightwing leader would not recognize the revolutionary greats like Jalib. This is the reason most progressives do not vote for Zia and Mush's remnants. Jalib would always live in our hearts.

Aysha M | 8 years ago | Reply

RIP, Great work, ET, for acknowledging the ignored.

Shame on Sharifs

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