President Ayub Khan - Curious Character!

In 1960s, at a poetry session (mushaira) at Liaquat Bagh, Rawalpindi, as a fabulous dewy evening was in the middle of its best verse, Habib Jalib walked to the microphone, and started reciting his poem!

Those were the times of the strictest of Field Martial Ayub Khan’s martial law. Though the Liaquat Bagh was known for hard-hitting political speeches and awami shaeri, police ka pehra was fanned out far and wide. While some other poets were reciting funny poems, Jalib decided to target Ayub’s new constitution. As he began his dabang poem, Dastoor, and the poets suddenly fell silent, the police force slowly closed in. Jalib recited, “Deep jiska mehellat hee main jaley/ Chand logon kee khushyon ko le kar chaley/ Aese dastoor ko/ subh-e-be-noor ko/ main naheen manta/ main naheen janta….”

As Jalib, having come to the climax of his brave, renowned poem, stood up to leave, people woke up from their reverie, and started their high-pitched wah wah. In that mood, the people refused to let him go. So, he yielded to their request, and sat down to recite more of his poetry. After the mushaira was over, Jailb was soon arrested for his bold poetry!

Ayub’s orders!

Even Jalib’s new poetry book, Sar-e-Maqtal had been totally banned, with all of its copies picked up from the markets. It’s said that when Jalib was eventually set free, he immediately walked to Liaquat Bagh, where a mushaira was in progress, and recited the same poem, Dastoor to a full house!

Ayub Khan believed in the furtherance of the media, but on his own terms. In 1964, he introduced television in Pakistan, full of progressive programs. He, later, presented a presidential award to the hard-hitting theatre writer, Khwaja Moeenuddin, who had given us brilliant and meaningful plays like Ta’leem-e-Balighan, and Mirza Ghalib Bandar Road Par. He had introduced a Tasweeri Khabarnama of government’s weekly performance, which used to be shown before every film show in the cinemas.

In 1964, a famous Pakistani film, Khamosh Raho was screened. Jameel Akhter had directed the film, from Riaz Shahid’s story and dialogues, where some of the songs, directed by Khalil Ahmed, had been written by Habib Jalib. In this iconic film, one of the famous songs was the title number, Khamosh Raho, a typical Jalib number against the times. The other famous song, crooned by Ahmed Rushdi, was Main naheen manta, Main naheen manta!

Yes, his poem Dastoor! The film censors had passed the poem with just one change. The first line was now, “Tum naheen charagar, koee maney magar, main naheen manta, main naheen manta!” It was an explosive film, and yet, the poem had been included!

Just one example of what a curious character President Ayub Khan was!