Nisar Main Teri Galiyon Ke- A Translation

I could not find a translation of the complete nazm Nisar main teri galiyon ke on the internet while writing the previous post and have attempted my own translation of Faiz’s popular and, in present circumstances in Pakistan, a particularly apt nazm. The original nazm is reproduced below the translation. I have taken quite a few liberties in this humble attempt at translating this highly idiomatic  poem.


My salutations to thy sacred streets, O beloved nation!
Where a tradition has been invented- that none shall walk with his head held high
If at all one takes a walk, a pilgrimage
One must walk, eyes lowered, the body crouched in fear

The heart in a tumultuous wrench at the sight
Of stones and bricks locked away and mongrels breathing free

In this tyranny that has many an excuse to perpetuate itself
Those crazy few that have nothing but thy name on their lips
Facing those power crazed that both prosecute and judge, wonder
To whom does one turn for defence, from whom does one expect justice?

But those whose fate it is to live through these times
Spend their days in thy mournful memories

When hope begins to dim, my heart has often conjured
Your forehead sprinkled with stars
And when my chains have glittered
I have imagined that dawn must have burst upon thy face

Thus one lives in the memories of thy dawns and dusks
Imprisoned in the shadows of the high prison walls

Thus always has the world grappled with tyranny
Neither their rituals nor our rebellion is new
Thus have we always grown flowers in fire
Neither their defeat, nor our final victory, is new!

Thus we do not blame the heavens
Nor let bitterness seed in our hearts

We are separated today, but one day shall be re- united
This separation that will not last beyond tonight, bears lightly on us
Today the power of our exalted rivals may touch the zenith
But these four days of omniscience too shall pass

Those that love thee keep, beside them
The cure of the pains of a million heart- breaks


The original (source)

nisaar mai.n terii galiyo.n ke ae watan, ki jahaa.N
chalii hai rasm ki koii na sar uThaa ke chale
jo koii chaahanewaalaa tawaaf ko nikale
nazar churaa ke chale, jism-o-jaa.N bachaa ke chale

hai ahl-e-dil ke liye ab ye nazm-e-bast-o-kushaad
ki sang-o-Khisht muqayyad hai.n aur sag aazaad

bahot hai.n zulm ke dast-e-bahaanaa-juu ke liye
jo cha.nd ahl-e-junuu.N tere naam levaa hai.n
bane hai.n ahl-e-hawas muddaii bhii, mu.nsif bhii
kise wakiil kare.n, kis se mu.nsifii chaahe.n

magar guzaranewaalo.n ke din guzarate hai.n
tere firaaq me.n yuu.N subh-o-shaam karate hai.n

bujhaa jo rauzan-e-zi.ndaa.N to dil ye samajhaa hai
ki terii sitaaro.n se bhar gaii hogii
chamak uThe hai.n salaasil to hamane jaanaa hai
ki ab sahar tere ruKh par bikhar gaii hogii

Garaz tasavvur-e-shaam-o-sahar me.n jiite hai.n
giraft-e-saayaa-e-diwaar-o-dar me.n jiite hai.n

yuu.N hii hameshaa ulajhatii rahii hai zulm se Khalq
na unakii rasm naii hai, na apanii riit naii
yuu.N hii hameshaa khilaaye hai.n hamane aag me.n phuul
na unakii haar naii hai na apanii jiit naii

isii sabab se falak kaa gilaa nahii.n karate
tere firaaq men ham dil buraa nahii.n karate

Gar aaj tujhase judaa hai.n to kal baham ho.nge
ye raat bhar kii judaaii to koii baat nahii.n
Gar aaj auj pe hai taala-e-raqiib to kyaa
ye chaar din kii Khudaaii to koii baat nahii.n

jo tujhase ahd-e-wafaa ustavaar rakhate hai.n
ilaaj-e-gardish-e-lail-o-nihaar rakhate hai.n

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‘Keh sang-o-khisht muqayyad hain aur sag aazad’

Imran Khan, arrested last week under the anti- terrorism act after Islamist students handed him over to the police, is now lodged in a jail with hardened criminals.

Niazi (said) that Imran was being kept in a cell with common criminals, some of them suspected of murder and other violent crimes.

Imran was taken to Dera Ghazi Khan from Lahore where he was held by radical Islamist students during a protest on Wednesday and handed over to the police, who charged him under the anti-terrorism act. (link)

Yet, Musharaff would have the world believe that the so called emergency is against the Islamists and that Pakistan is on the road to democracy! This is what he said on Nov 3:

“Pakistan is at a critical point. Terror has also taken roots even in Islamabad. Hardliners are spreading fundamentalist ideas about Islam across the country,” he said.

These are the lines by Faiz that immediately come to mind.

Keh sang-o-khisht muqayyad hain aur sag aazad

(That stones and bricks are locked up, and dogs free). (translation by via sankarshan)

The full nazm, the famous nisar main teri galiyon pe ai watan ….here

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Why the Military Coups in Pakistan?

Tarek Fatah writing at the National Post points to the changes within the Pakistani army since the 1958 coup staged by Ayub Khan.

Most of us who were born in the “Land of the Pure” have gotten used to men in uniform bullying their countrymen into submission. But what happened in Pakistan last week was unique, even by Pakistani standards. General Pervez Musharraf — who staged a coup in 1999 overthrowing an elected government and proclaimed himself president of the country — staged yet another military coup on Saturday, this time to forestall any future possibility of a challenge to his power.

What differs today from 1958 is justification; the spectre of communism has been replaced by the spectre of Islamic extremism. There is another difference of note. The Pakistani Armed Forces of 1958 and that of 2007 are vastly different entities. The professional army led by Sandhurst-trained officers in 1958 has been replaced by a vast military-industrial machine that is led by a network of immensely wealthy officers commanding a million men recruited from the poorest of the poor. They are ill fed, ill-equipped and demoralized.

When the Pakistani President claims that Pakistan has sacrificed nearly 1,000 soldiers in the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, he is referring to the ordinary Pakistan ” sipahi,” not the officer who treats these men like latter day slaves. Pakistani officers have rarely fought in battles. Earlier this year when a colonel, two majors and 300 troops were confronted with a dozen jihadis, the Pakistani colonel surrendered without a fight.

So why does Musharraf want to cling to office? The answer lies in the massive US$20-billion business operations ranging from corn flakes to cement production, from missile production to municipal taxation, that the Pakistani Armed Forces are involved in.

Pakistani analyst Ayesha Siddiqa writing in her book, Military Inc., notes that General Musharraf alone has real estate holdings of over US$10-million. His only job has been that of an army officer. Her book is banned in Pakistan. The country’s military is more of a holding company that runs businesses, hotels, shopping malls, insurance companies, banks, farms and an airline as well.

For 50 years the Pakistan Armed Forces have justified their interventions by depicting civilians as incompetent and corrupt and insisting that only they have the capacity and capability of managing the country of 150 million people.

read the complete article (Thanks to HD for the link)

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Pakistan is on the Road to Democracy

via the Emergency imposed by a military dictator. A sad day for the country, and the sub- continent.

Addressing Pakistan’s ‘friends in the West, especially the European and the United States,’ Musharraf said Pakistan needs time to achieve the level of democracy and civil liberties that the Western nations today enjoy. “We too are moving towards your level of democracy and civil liberties, which you have achieved in centuries. We are doing it well. Please give us time,” he said.

Benazir Bhutto has rightly called this ’emergency’ a euphemism for martial law:

“This is martial law and not Emergency,” she told Dawn News. “The President has declared Emergency to avoid averse ruling from the Supreme Court. We want the martial law to end and constitution to be revived,” she said.

Dictators, tin pot or not, BTW, make good topic for satire. There is no dearth of parodies on Mush at youtube. Sample one below (in biting, earthly Punjabi). And if you understand Punjabi, you would note the religious right wing overtones in the song. Nonetheless, it is enjoyable.

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Why BB’s return is good for Pak

aaye haath uthaaye hum bhii
hum jinhe rasm-e-dua yaad nahin
Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Writing for The Jang, Raza Rumi explains the popular sentiments demonstrated in the reception to Benazir Bhutto on her return, something that has got overshadowed by the subsequent bombings.

The foreign media, usually proficient in the rant on Talibanisation, gun-totting radicals and burqas were also at a loss on how to comment on this day. The castle of stereotypes on Pakistan had fallen: men and women were dancing spontaneously, often together on the loud, tacky party songs. There were very few burqas, no guns and no favourite signs of a west-hating native populace. This was a day heralded as a watershed in our recent times, from the left to the right and from the khaki to the mufti. Not because there was a revolution in order but that the real face of the many millions, who aspire for better livelihoods in a secular framework, had been rediscovered.

Raza blogs here.

In the same newspaper, Imtiaz Alam, points to the support that BB has mobilized among the younger generation of Pakistanis (though I wonder how he got to that 85% figure when he states that “above 85 per cent of those present at the rally were below the age group of 25 years”)

Both the hearty welcome along with the bloody tragedy make the October 18, 2007, a unique day in our political calendar: the magic of the majority support of the people that vindicated one of its most popular leaders yet the even more widespread anguish the nation expressed over the tragedy during the three-day mourning period declared by the steadfastly liberal PPP. Due to a focus on comparison of numbers between this rally and the one in 1986, which Ms Bhutto has exceeded far above her own record of 1986. It is important to note that in comparison to the participation of youth in 1986 rally — above 85 per cent of those present at the rally were below the age group of 25 years.

They even lack a sense of what they are in fact endorsing or strengthening, by vilifying Ms Bhutto. On the other hand, the masses are pragmatic and learn their lessons or form views through their own experience. Their cognitive process perceives the Bhuttos to have been persecuted from the start from the hanging of the elder Bhutto to two brothers’ being murdered, a mother’s loss of memory ending with Benazir’s vilification and dismissal of two governments resulting in her husband’s incarceration for eight long years leaving her to single-handedly raise parent her children.

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Who bombed BB?

Journalist Ahmed Rashid points to speculations that it was not the jehadis, but some people within the regime who have targeted Benazir Bhutto:

there is speculation that the attack was not carried out by Islamists, but by certain groups within the regime who don’t want Bhutto in the country. The leaders of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party are accusing the government and the intelligence services of not having done enough to prevent the attack.

In a piece that appeared in last week’s LRB, Tariq Ali offered an insightful views on “Pakistan at Sixty”.

The European and North American papers give the impression that the main, if not the only, problem confronting Pakistan is the power of the bearded fanatics skulking in the Hindu Kush, who as the papers see it are on the verge of taking over the country. In this account, all that stops a jihadi finger finding the nuclear trigger is Musharraf. Alas, it now seems he might drown in a sea of troubles and so the helpful State Department has pushed out an over-inflated raft in the shape of Benazir Bhutto…

The notion that the soon-to-return Benazir Bhutto, perched on Musharraf’s shoulder, equals progress is as risible as Nawaz Sharif imagining that millions of people would turn out to receive him when he arrived at Islamabad airport last month. A general election is due later this year. If it is as comprehensively rigged as the last one was, the result will be increased alienation from the political process. The outlook is bleak. There is no serious political alternative to military rule.

and in an interview with Democracy Now, he points to an aspect that goes pretty much unmentioned in the Western coverage on BB: (link via American Leftist)

In the way that she’s — everyone knows that she and her husband went in power incredibly corrupt. The evidence is there. And in a country where the ordinary people are already alienated from the political process, to inflict this on them isn’t going to improve matters.

and the always acerbic Ardeshir Cowasjee has a trenchant criticism of Musharraf’s ordinance that enabled BB to return:

THE New York Times, August 6, 2003: ‘Bhutto Sentenced in Switzerland —A Swiss magistrate has found former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her husband guilty of money laundering.

They were given six-month suspended jail terms, fined $50,000 each and were ordered to pay US$11m to the Pakistani government. The six-year-long case alleged that Ms Bhutto, who lives in exile in London and Dubai, and her husband, Asif Zardari, deposited in Swiss accounts $0m given them by a Swiss company in exchange for a contract in Pakistan. The couple said they would appeal.’

Swissinfo (, Oct 9, 2007: ‘Amnesty spells trouble for Swiss Bhutto case — … Daniel Zappelli, the general prosecutor of Geneva, is facing a quandary. Should the politician and her husband stand trial now that Bhutto has been granted an amnesty by her own country?…The couple was first convicted of simple money laundering in 2003 by a Geneva investigating judge who handed down a six-month suspended sentence.

The Bhuttos appealed against the magistrate’s decision but were later accused of  more serious money laundering offences…

One positive — nay, excellent — factor to emerge from the promulgation by a man unable to relinquish power of the disgusting National Reconciliation Ordinance, which has had the opposite effect to reconciliation as far as the people are concerned, is the reaction of the literate and illiterate 170 millions of Pakistan.

They know they have been duped, that they do not know the truth, and have no fear in saying so in no uncertain terms. This ordinance, promulgated by a man who preaches enlightened moderation, stands equally ignominious and abominable (for different reasons) as the Hudood Ordinances of the reviled President General Ziaul Haq.


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Unsecular Ambiguities of Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Pervez Hoodbhoy, physicist, scholar, activist, has a most dispassionate appraisal of Jinnah’s attitude towards the secular state in the current issue of EPW (“Jinnah and the Islamic State: Setting the Record Straight”; Issue : VOL 42 No. 32 August 11 – August 17, 2007). He concludes that Jinnah’s attitude was at best ambiguous and often suited towards the inclinations of his immediate audience. The oft quoted part of his speech:

“You are free to go to your temples; you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”

made on 11 Aug 1947 regarding the attitude of the state towards non Muslims, Hoodbhoy feels is a valiant but insufficiently grounded attempt to project Jinnah as a secularist.

I think it is pointless to seek a consensus on the nature of the state that Jinnah wanted for Pakistan. He certainly did not want a theocracy or a Taliban state, nor one in which the non-Muslim minorities would be persecuted and harassed (as they are today). But Jinnah’s statements at different times and circumstances are far too widely spread out to conclude anything substantial beyond these truths. Not being sufficiently wellversed in Islamic history or theology, Jinnah’s allusions to establishing an Islamic state in Pakistan cannot be taken seriously. The future of Pakistan – how secular or how Islamic it is to be – can only be decided by the citizens of the country that Jinnah made.

In a related post comparing the speeches of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Jawaharlal Nehru, this blogger had observed:

Anti- Nehruvians who currently dominate the Indian scene blame Jawaharlal for the statist model of development that India followed, his perceived “softness” on Kashmir and for “pampering the minorities”.

In the same vein, Jinnah may also be held responsible for some of the faults in Pakistan today- for creating a State based on religion, and also for not having reared the next line of leadership.

But death deprived Jinnah the time and possibility of leading Pakistan- something that he shares with Mahatma Gandhi, which is probably the reason for the adulation that the Quaid e Azam still gets in Pakistan, like Gandhi gets in India, compared to the rather beleagured stature of Jawaharlal Nehru in India today.

In Pakistan, the view is that the country did not live up to the ideals of the Quaid e Azam.

In India, it is Jawaharlal Nehru who is blamed for not living up to the possibilities of India.

Hoodbhoy’s article just goes to underline how onerous the task for liberals in Pakistan is, with a very fragile defence for secularism in the speeches and writings of Pakistan’s last Congressman.

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