The other Punjab
Nadeem F Paracha
The other Punjab
NADEEM F. PARACHA
Ever since Pakistan’s tumultuous birth in 1947, much has been said and written about the topic of ethnic nationalism(s) in the country. This has always been a thorny and controversial subject because elements advocating the importance of exhibiting nationalism based on the linguistic and cultural injunctions of an ethnic community have always been dealt with suspicion by the state of Pakistan.
Illustration by Abro
If we keep aside the fact that more than 97 per cent of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, this same population is then not a homogenous lot. In fact, even within its religious homogeneity there are sectarian, sub-sectarian and intra-sectarian divisions, with some of the various groups rather antagonistic towards one another.
Pakistan is made up of various ethnic groups that have their own languages, historical trajectories, and cultural traditions. Picturing such a diversity as a threat (to the unity of the country), the state of Pakistan, right from the word go, has launched various projects to concoct ideas of a unified nationalism to overcome and neutralise identities based on ethnic moorings.
Punjabi nationalism over the years
Naturally, such projects have created tensions between the state and various ethno-nationalist groups who accuse the state of Pakistan of trying to whitewash their centuries-old ethnic heritages with (what these groups believe is) an ‘artificial ideology’ invented by the state.
What’s more, the antagonistic ethno-nationalist groups have for long maintained that the state enforces such an ideology to safeguard the political and economic interests of the ‘dominant ethnic communities’.
Till the late 1960s the so-called dominant ethnic groups were supposed to be the Punjabis and the Urdu-speakers (Mohajirs) who had a monopolistic influence on the workings of the armed forces, the bureaucracy and large economic enterprises (and thus politics).
In this scenario ethno-nationalism in Pakistan was thus mostly the vocation of non-Punjabi and non-Mohajir ethnic groups, mainly Bengali, Sindhi, Pakhtun and Baloch.
According to the narrative weaved by some prominent Sindhi and Baloch ethno-nationalists, after the separation of the Bengali-majority East Pakistan in 1971, the state began to gradually co-opt the Pakhtuns who then began to replace the Mohajirs as the other dominant ethnic elite (along with the Punjabis).
By the 1980s Pakhtun nationalists had lost considerable appeal among the Pakhtuns but the same decade saw the emergence of ‘Mohajir nationalism’.
Ethno-nationalists have continued to accuse the ‘Punjabi-dominated state’ of usurping the economic and political interests of the non-Punjabi communities, sometimes in the name of Pakistani nationalism and sometimes in the name of religion.
Academics studying the phenomenon of ethno-nationalism in Pakistan usually stick to tendencies such as Sindhi, Baloch and Pakhtun nationalisms (and, in the past, Bengali nationalism, and now even Mohajir nationalism).
Nevertheless, what gets missed in the more holistic study of the said issue is a nationalism that is actually associated with what is usually decried to be a hegemonic and elitist ethnic group: the Punjabi.
This is not due to there being not enough activism and literature available on ‘Punjabi nationalism’ as there is on other ethno-nationalist tendencies in the country.
The Punjabis have for so long been seen as the dominant ethnic group, very few scholars have actually got down to study curious occurrences such as Punjabi nationalism.
Also, compared to other ethno-nationalisms in Pakistan, Punjabi nationalism is a more recent phenomenon.
According to cultural historian, Alyssa Ayres (in her book, Speaking Like A State), Punjabi nationalism largely emerged in the 1980s. Part of it was a reaction to the emergence of the Saraiki language movement that looked to separate the Saraiki-speaking areas of the Punjab from the rest of the province.
Till the late 1960s, Saraiki was considered to be a dialect of Punjabi, but Saraiki nationalists disagree and treat their language as a separate linguistic entity.
Ayres suggests that many Punjabi intellectuals considered the Saraiki movement as ‘yet another attack on Punjabi.’ They bemoan the way Punjab as a whole has been lumped together as a hegemonic province. They complain that a Punjabi actually has to let go of his culture and adopt ‘alien languages’ (English and Urdu), if he wants to escape economic marginalisation.
Just as the purveyors of Sindhi, Baloch and Pakhtun nationalism of yore, ideologues and advocates of Punjabi nationalism too emerged from progressive backgrounds.
They did not attack the non-Punjabi ethnicities for denouncing Punjabis; instead, they turned in anger towards the elite sections made up of fellow Punjabis. They accused them of neglecting the Punjabi language and forgetting the Punjabi culture — first to appease the British, and then to the state-backed promoters of Urdu — just to maintain their personal influence and power.
Though literature in this context had begun to trickle out in the 1970s, it was the publication of three books between 1985 and 1996 that finally gave Punjabi nationalism its most cohesive literary shape.
The first was Hanif Ramey’s Punjab Ka Muqadma (The Case of Punjab). Ramay was a founding member of the PPP; and a leading ideologue behind the party’s populist concoction called ‘Islamic Socialism’ (late 1960s).
In his 1985 book, Ramay suggests that the Punjabis turned against the Bengalis to safeguard the interests of those who had imposed Urdu (‘a foreign language’) upon them (the Punjabis).
Ramay continues by claiming that had the Punjabis continued to respect and love their own language, they would have understood the sentiments of East Pakistan’s Bengalis, and would not have turned against them.
The book was promptly banned by the intransigent Zia regime.
The ban did not deter Syed Ahmed Ferani from authoring Punjabi Zaban Marre Gi Nahi (The Punjabi Language Will Not Die) in 1988. This is an even more radical expression of Punjabi nationalism. Here Ferani describes Urdu as ‘a man-eating language’ that made Punjabis kill fellow Punjabis and then people of other non-Urdu ethnic groups. This book too was banned.
The third major work in this context is a novel authored by Fakhar Zaman called Bewatna (Stateless) in 1995. Zaman, another former PPP man in Punjab, wrote an allegorical lament about how (he thought) the Punjabis (by adopting alien languages and cultures) have become aliens on their own soil. The novel, too, was banned.
Unlike certain more radical branches of non-Punjabi ethno-nationalisms, Punjabi nationalism (so far) has not been separatist and has remained largely a literary pursuit, only calling for the Punjabi language to be given its rightful place.
This nationalism’s scholars constantly evoke tales associated with various Punjabi Sufi saints and anti-colonial heroes to emphasise the point that the Punjabi culture was spiritual (instead of orthodox) and chivalrous (instead of hegemonic or exploitative).
In a landmark decision, the Lahore High Court (in 1996), overturned and lifted the ban on all three books.
Echoes of this nationalism can still be heard in the Punjab, though. In a TV talk show about three months ago, the current Defence Minister and a senior member of the ruling PMLN, Khawaja Asif (who hails from the Punjab city of Sialkot), lamented that all kinds of ‘alien cultures’ have been imposed in the Punjab.
He specifically mentioned the erosion of Punjab’s original culture and traditions that were being replaced by a culture imported by those (including fellow Punjabis) who have for long resided in Arab countries.
And though Khawaja Asif never called himself a Punjabi nationalist, his lament did bear the tone first set by Punjabi nationalists.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM, Sunday Magazine, May 31st, 2015
NADEEM F. PARACHA
According to many emails that I received after posting a blog in the wake of the terrible bomb attacks in Lahore last week, I was ‘spreading politics of ethnicity.’
I don’t know exactly what made these folks think this way, but the accusation does smack of an attitude demonstrated by many of my fellow countrymen when they are asked certain thorny questions regarding ideology and religion: they at once either label the questioner as being ‘anti-Islam’ or ‘anti-Pakistan.’
I am not the only writer in this country who has faced this kind of a barrage, mind you. Men and women like Dr. Pervz Hoodbhoy, Ahmed Rashid, Asma Jehanjgir, and late Akhtar Hamid Khan have had their share of such laminating labels bestowed upon them long before others like Hassan Nisar, Imtiaz Alam, Fasi Zaka, Irfan Hussain, Ayesha Siddiqua, Hassan Askari, Nazir Najee, Kamran Shafi, and myself became the Islamic Republic’s new batch of anti-Pakistan/anti-Islam devils.
Ironically, just what I meant in the blog, ‘Wake up, Punjab,’ was blatantly proven by the recent comments by Punjab’s Chief Minister and the president of the province’s ruling party, the PMLN, Shahbaz Sharif. Not only did the man conjoin the anti-Americanism of the Taliban with that of his own party, but he also pleaded for mercy from the terrorists specifically for his home province of the Punjab.
Why does Mr. Sharif want the Taliban to only spare the Punjab? Isn’t the Taliban issue a national menace that has affected the whole country? Sharif apologists defend his stance by suggesting that since Shahbaz Sharif is the Chief Minister of Punjab, he is likely to only talk about the Punjab.
If so, then Mr. Sharif and PMLN members from the Punjab should stick to their province, instead of dishing out the lofty tirades and sermons that they love to deliver on the corruption of President Zardari and the incompetence’ of the current PPP-ANP-MQM coalition governments in Islamabad and in other provinces.
Even if one gives Shahbaz the benefit of the doubt that he spoke strictly as the Chief Minister of the Punjab, how is one to explain his weak-kneed attitude towards the Taliban – an organisation which, along with its many clandestine foot soldiers in shape of assorted sectarian outfits, has been responsible for literally slaughtering thousands of common men, women and children in the mosques and bazaars of Pakistan.
These are monsters against which the military, political parties, and a majority of Pakistanis are fighting a deadly battle, losing numerous lives, both uniformed and civilian, in the process.
How can one explain Shahbaz’s insistence that the Taliban should spare the Punjab because the ‘PMLN too is anti-American.’ Was he suggesting that the PMLN endorses the Taliban ideology? An ideology of utter bloodshed, remorseless violence, coercion, and theological psychosis cloaked with rhetorical anti-Americanism and a demand for Sharia law? An ideology both the state and society of Pakistan have been at war with for the past five years of so?
What does Mr. Sharif mean by ‘anti-Americanism?’ How is his party any different from the parties the PMLN accuses of being ‘American stooges?’ Any high-profile official of American or western states who visits Pakistan is also met by PMLN chief Mian Nawaz Sharif. Why can’t he just shun them?
And how is ‘American interference’ that parties like the PMLN and Jamaat-e-Islami are always lamenting any different from Saudi interference? It was the US along with the Saudis who were the biggest donors to the anti-Soviet Afghan ‘jihad’ in the 1980s. What’s more, the Saudis were also the only other country (apart from, of course, Pakistan) that actually recognised the brutal tyranny of the Taliban under Mullah Omar and Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan (1996-2001).
Today, after facing the wrath and the madness of the monsters that it helped Pakistan create, the Saudis are willing partners of the US in its war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. So how come not a word is uttered by the PML-N against the Saudis as well?
Effective politics is first and foremost about policies derived from diplomacy and pragmatism and then implemented through a democratic consensus. Ideology works merely as a cover to communicate such policies on a populist level. There’s a lesson to be learned here by Shahbaz Sharif and the PML-N. PML-N’s popularity in central and upper Punjab is still rooted in the solid developmental work it did in that province between 1985 and 2007.
Its weakest link, however, has remained its ideology. Unfortunately, no matter how hard it has tried to sound like a national party, the PMLN’s ideology always seems to be stemming from the ethos of Punjab’s conservative sections. This ethos is the one that also informs the ideological make-up of the Pakistan Army and large sections of the province’s bourgeois and petty-bourgeois classes.
Over the decades it has been accused by Sindhi, Pushtun and Baloch nationalists of dictating (through the ‘establishment’ and the military) a homogeneous Pakistani nationalism, but one that is ingrained in the Punjabi industrial, bureaucratic and political elite’s worldview.
And therein lies PMLN’s ideological dilemma. This worldview is a strange brew of aggressive anti-India positioning; a scorning disregard for any attempt to give Sindh, Pakhtunkwah and Balochistan any worthy degree of political autonomy; an air-tight notion of political and cultural Islam that attempts to overwhelm the many other strains of the faith that exist in the country; and a stringent observance of public conservatism. Add to all this a new-found respect for democracy and claims of anti-Americanism and you have in your hands the ideology of the PMLN.
However, if you slightly alter this, wouldn’t one then get what, say, a reactionary political party like the Jamaat-i-Islami stands for?
Yes. But the difference is the PMLN’s legacy as a doer party. It is this and not entirely its ideology that is helping it bag votes in the Punjab. It is the doing bit that gets votes for other mainstream parties as well such as the PPP, ANP and the MQM.
Nevertheless, whereas the other parties mentioned have been pragmatic and progressive enough to let their ideologies evolve according to the needs of the time, the PMLN seems to be getting stuck in an ideological hole that it continues to dig for itself.
One moment it is quick to show off its new-found credentials as a modern democratic party working for the rule of law and constitutionalism; the very next moment one is baffled by the way this party continues to romanticise ideas and entities associated with the most reactionary strains of Islam.
For example, the PMLN is quick to make sure Lahore’s traditional festival, Basant, is banned because many people lose their lives. If so, many people also lose their lives during Ramadan. According to a research, the number of traffic accidents almost double every Ramadan about half an hour before the opening of the fast as motorists and bikers try to hurry back home. Does this mean that Ramadan too should be banned?
The PMLN government was even quicker to put restrictions on Punjab’s once thriving popular theatre scene and on the late night packages offered by telecom companies because they are ‘a bad influence on the youth.’
Meanwhile, Punjab Law Minister, Rana Sannullah, is seen (literally) holding hands with the chief of a banned sectarian organisation, and Shahbaz Sharif says his party’s ideology is close to that of the Taliban. Is this meant to imply that terrorists are a better influence on the youth? Is a suicide bomber exploding himself in public a better influence on the youth than a dance performance by Nargis on a Lahore stage?
Ban the theatre actors and dancers, curb night-time offers from telecom companies, put a stop to men wearing shorts in public (I’m serious), let hate-mongers make whirlwind tours of Lahore’s educational institutions, keep badmouthing the president, but at the same time sound meek, hopeless and even reconciliatory when it comes to brutal terrorists. Is this the PMLN’s idea of a ‘sovereign,’ just and democratic Pakistan?
Spurred on by one particular TV channel which itself has kept its own historical skeletons locked in the closet while lecturing the nation on sovereignty and a corruption-free Pakistan, the PMLN has begun to perform not for the people as such, but for TV audiences. And that is dangerous.
The PMLN’s growing self-righteousness that sounds so pleasant on TV cannot continue to get it votes. As mentioned before, it is the party’s legacy of being a resourceful political entity that can actually undertake developmental work that matters.
And come to think of it, it is easy to criticise the current PPP-led coalition government for struggling against the Taliban menace. But the truth is, the real failure in this respect is more obvious in the Punjab than anywhere else.
The Punjab government and those who support it should seriously start to rethink their priorities. Again, one of the easiest (if not also the laziest) things to do is to sound all lofty, high and mighty talking about sovereignty, independent judiciary, corruption, et al, on the TV; but all this starts to seem dizzying and fluff-like in the midst of loud, rude bomb attacks by men who are a million times worse than what the PMLN is so concerned about.
In parting, I would also like to sincerely advise the doings of certain TV channels whose policies are clearly echoing those of the PMLN. On these channels, amidst sounds and visuals of gory suicide attacks, death and destruction, one can still catch sheer hate-mongers masquerading as preachers, ‘scholars,’ talk show hosts and ‘security analysts.’
My question to these channels is, if you think that corruption and lack of accountability are not good for the country, then how good are those we see sprouting utter hatred and mischief in your studios? And anyway, accountability, like charity, should begin at home, shouldn’t it?
CURTSEY:DAWN.COM PUBLISHED MAR 16, 2010 06:18PM
Wake up, Punjab
NADEEM F. PARACHA
Another bomb attack in Lahore. What to expect from the PMLN government in the Punjab? Lip service condemning terrorism, of course. But, as usual, keeping in mind the Punjab government’s past record, the condemnation will be general and vague.
Even as the PPP-led coalition government in Islamabad will not hesitate to take names – they’ll point to the Taliban or the many sectarian organisations working as Al Qaeda’s foot soldiers – it is expected that the Punjab government under the PMLN will not.
Determining which forces are hell-bent on mutilating the country is not rocket science. But brace yourself (yet again) to be bombarded by the PMLN leadership and the usual intransigent suspects on TV channels talking generalised nonsense about terrorism and the ubiquitous ‘foreign hand,’ consequently drowning out the obvious involvement of any of the many extremist organisations running amok in Pakistan’s largest province.
But why the Punjab? Although it has been ravaged and broken by extremist terrorism for over two years now, political parties strong in the Punjab (such as the PMLN), the Punjabi-dominant electronic media, and fringe Punjab-based politicos such as Imran Khan have simply refused to acknowledge reality.
Still operating from the fanciful high pedestal of a superiority complex, a bulk of urban Punjab and its leadership continues to live in a stunning, air-tight state of denial.
Whereas in Karachi one can find a majority of common men and women unafraid to air their distaste for the extremists, and walls can be seen adorned with slogans such as ‘Taliban raj namanzoor’ (Taliban regime not acceptable), ‘Taliban sey hoshiar’ (beware of the Taliban), and, my favourite, a slogan found scribbled in a thick coat of black on a wall in a rundown lower-middle-class area of the city, ‘Mulla Omar dajjal’ (Mulla Omar the devil), one just cannot expect such voices and scenes in the Punjab, at least not in Lahore.
Why not? How can a province and a city (Lahore), devastated over and again and plunged into the depths of chaos and fear perpetrated by monsters such as the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and the province’s many clandestine sectarian organisations, simply refuse to face its most ubiquitous tormenters and demons? Why the fearful silence by its people, and why the spin, the vagueness, and ultimate derailing of the issue by the electronic media?
Punjab is suffering. And it is not only from extremist terrorism. It is as if every time its leadership and people attempt to awkwardly repress the obvious lashings of fear and confusion that cut viciously across the province whenever there is a terrorist attack, they become more vocal in their condemnation of the present government at the centre, incredibly investing more emotional and intellectual energy on abstract issues such as corruption, judiciary, and ‘good governance’ through passionate displays of TV studio and drawing-room nobility, rather than directly tackling their greatest enemy.
Funny thing is, they would readily accuse the president of corruption and the US and India for having nefarious designs on Pakistan without offering an iota of evidence, but would get into a long navel-gazing exercise asking for proof of militant involvement in a terrorist attack.
Again, why? Why in the Punjab? Are the Sindhis and Karachiites more enlightened, liberal, moderate or whatever? Some of my most intelligent friends are from the Punjab, as was my father. And so I keep asking these friends, why isn’t the Punjab fighting back this menace of extremism? Why have most of this province’s brightest minds allowed themselves to be pushed in the background by this new breed of neoconservative ‘intellectuals’ in the shape of TV talk show hosts, ‘journalists,’ ‘analysts,’ et al?
I will continue by relating two small but relevant incidents that may help clarify what I am rambling about.
In a province that has been witnessing nauseating bloodshed perpetrated by those who have a painfully narrow view of Islam and are least hesitant to slaughter innocent men, women and children in their pursuit of both heaven and the shariah, one of the Punjab’s leading politicians and ministers did not find anything wrong in accompanying the leader of a banned sectarian organisation during a recent election campaign.
The minister was PMLN’s Rana Sanaullah, who proudly stood beside a notorious leader of a banned sectarian organisation during a by-election rally in Jhang. This organisation openly sympathises with the Taliban.
Only in the Punjab can such an episode take place. Only in the Punjab can a minister can get away with holding hands with a myopic violent fanatic and, in the process, openly mocking and insulting the feelings of hundreds of Punjabis whose loved ones were brutally slaughtered by the extremists that the fanatic sympathises with. Only in the Punjab can his party then go around and ask for votes from the same people. Yes, only in the Punjab.
One can also mention a recent incident that involves Zaid Hamid to hit home the point I am trying to make.
Mr. Hamid, a hyperbolic TV personality who is an animated cross between a foaming televangelist and an impassionate right-wing drawing room revolutionary, has been on a ‘speaking tour’ of various colleges and universities of the country.
Known for openly holding (and advocating) gun-loving militarist hogwash, Hamid has turned distorting history and dishing out the most twisted conspiracy theories not only into an attractive art form, but a lucrative undertaking as well.
Hailed as a modern Saladin (of the armchair variety, I’m afraid) by his mostly urban, middle-class fans, and flogged as a hate-monger with links to the most rabidly anti-India and reactionary sections of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies by his many detractors, it has been very easy for Hamid to speak at Lahore’s private universities and colleges.
This included a visit to the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) that only two years ago was the scene of a lively students’ movement against the dictatorship of General Pervez Musharraf.
If the student body of the prestigious university found Musharraf’s action of dismissing a chief justice unbearable, I wonder what was so bearable about a man who is not only a self-claimed supporter of the ex-dictator, but also a proud war monger whose fans are famous of uttering insightful gems such as “if the Pakistan Army was really guilty of raping Bengali women in former East Pakistan, then they had every right to because Bengalis were traitors!”
Nonetheless, after smoothly completing his ‘Wake up, Pakistan’ speaking tour of Punjab’s campuses, Hamid and his entourage of trendy, designer reactionaries, made their way towards the country’s most ravaged province, the Pakhtunkhwa.
Faced by an insane spate of suicide and bomb attacks by extremists and the military’s war against the Taliban, the youth of the Pakhtunkwa province have shown great resolve to fight back. Student organisations in various state-run universities and colleges of the province have gone on to organise cultural functions that the extremists would term ‘haraam’ and ‘unIslamic.’
Just like the Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) in Balochistan, the Peoples Students Federation (PSF), and the All Pakistan Muttahidda Students Organisation (APMSO) in Sindh, students’ organizations of the Pakhtunkhwa have continued to fight a cultural war against extremism, even when a recent cultural function organised at a university by the BSO in Balochistan’s Khuzdar area was bombed by extremists.
So when Hamid and his army of patriots reached Peshawar University, he was confronted by loud groups of protesting students who wanted him banished from the campus.
The protest, perhaps the first of its kind faced by the likes of Hamid, was organised by the Peoples Students Federation (the student-wing of the Pakistan Peoples Party), the Pakhtun Students Federation (the student-wing of the Awami National Party), and the independent collection of liberal students under the Aman Tehreek umbrella. What’s more, also joining in the protest was the Islami Jamiat Taliba, a student organisation whose mother party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, ironically sympathises with the Taliban.
As the students threw stones at Hamid’s entourage and tried to chase him off the campus, the Aman Tehreek explained exactly why democratic student organisations had joined hands to throw him out.
“We have already suffered a lot due to the suicide bombers and militants and do not want people (in our city and campuses) who promote the extremists,” said an Aman Tehreek activist talking to Dawn.
In light of this example, it seems Punjab’s political leadership is out of sync with the prevailing psyche in Sindh, Balochistan, and the Pakhtunkhwa regarding Pakistan’s war against extremism.
The people and politicians of Punjab need to contemplate difficult questions before they can rid their province of the violence that it has had to face. More so, the confused mindset that is causing violence to be bred and sustained in the Punjab must be eliminated.
CURTSEY: DAWN.COM PUBLISHED MAR 08, 2010
Punjab's Faith factory
NADEEM F. PARACHA
Last year, while on a visit to Lahore I had to meet an industrialist at one of his factories.The discussion between us soon drifted towards politics. Just two days before our meeting, there had been a deadly suicide bomb attack in Lahore.
It was the (thirty-something and well-dressed) gentleman who began the proceedings, but he soon said something that left me scratching my head. He asked (in Punjabi),
‘So Paracha sahib, has the situation in Karachi gotten any better?’
After realising that his question was not tongue-in-cheek, I wondered what on earth he was talking about.
Here was a man surrounded by frequent sights and sounds of devastation inflicted by rabid groups of extremists on politicians, military men, police and innocent civilians, and all he was concerned about was ‘violence in Karachi’?
‘Sir, shouldn’t you be more concerned about Lahore?’ I asked, smiling.
He failed to get my drift: ‘Paracha sahib, why don’t you people do something about the MQM?’
By now my smile had turned into a polite laughter: ‘Sir, was it the MQM or the PPP that blew up the Sufi shrine in Lahore the other day?’
‘I know you’re not so naïve, Paracha sahib,’ he said, ‘you know who is behind all these terrorist attacks…’
‘Of course, I do,’ I replied. ‘These terrorists are the same monsters whom we have been nurturing in the name of jihad all these years and …’
He let out a loud burst of laughter: ‘What sort of a media man are you, Paracha sahib. These so-called terrorists are all enemy agents!’
I knew that was coming, right on cue.
‘Well said!’ I applauded. ‘Whenever there is violence in Lahore it is blamed on anti-Islam agents, but violence in Karachi is blamed on the MQM, the PPP and the ANP? Very convenient.’
Switching back to Punjabi, the gentleman gave me a sideways grin: ‘Paracha sahib, you are a Punjabi, so I wonder why the sympathy with the MQM? Is it fear?’
I then reverted back to speaking in Punjabi: ‘Sir jee, it is not fear. It is curiosity about the mindset of the people of Punjab. We are highly intrigued about how in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is our own people who in the name of Islam, are going about blowing up mosques, shrines and markets in the Punjab, but you continue living in a make-believe world of conspiracies. But what do we, Karachiites know. We are, after all gangsters, right?’ I smiled.
A strain of slight anger suddenly cut across the gentleman’s face: ‘We are more concerned about the corruption and the scoundrels in this government.’
‘Very noble of you, sir,’ I replied.
‘Give Nawaz Sharif 5 years and he will change the fate of this country!’ he announced.
‘But sir, Mian Sahib so far only gets votes from the Punjab. And anyway, isn’t a cousin of yours a member of the PML-Q?’ I asked.
He ignored the PML-Q remark: ‘Mian sahib will sweep the next elections …’
‘…in the Punjab,’ I interrupted. ‘Is Pakistan only about the Punjab then?’
He laughed and shook his head: ‘That’s the problem with you. Punjab is blamed for everything! What sort of a Punjabi are you?’
‘Wah, Sir jee,’ I said with a smile, ‘it is fine if you go on and on about the Mohajirs, Sindhis, the Pashtuns and the Baloch, but throw up your arms in shock when someone even mentions the Punjab?’
‘We have done so much for Pakistan!’ He announced proudly.
‘Were you the only ones?’ I asked.
‘Why do you think Pakistan’s enemies are targeting the Punjab? They know its’ importance.’ He said.
‘Oh, so do we,’ I replied. ‘But we, Pakistanis, are our own enemies. Those killing their own countrymen in the name of faith, politics, greed or ideology anywhere in Pakistan, are the enemy.’
‘Faith has nothing to do with this!’ He announced, now with a sterner expression.
‘Precisely!’ I said, ‘and yet we keep calling it faith!’
By now he had lost me: ‘What do you mean?’
‘Sir, Karachiites or as you would like to call us – gangsters – believe that the Punjab does not condemn extremists enough. It is as if by doing this they feel they would be condemning faith itself, is that true?’ I asked.
‘We don’t think these extremists are even Muslim!’ He shot back.
‘Well, they say they are the best Muslims out there,’ I replied. ‘And anyway, if you think they are not Muslim, then why not condemn them the way they should be?’
‘How come you guys don’t condemn the MQM or the PPP?’ he snapped back.
‘Oh, we do,’ I retorted. ‘Just the way political parties should be criticised. But then they have yet to blow up mosques, shrines and markets, if you know what I mean.’ I replied.
‘And the PML-N does?’ He asked, raising his voice a notch.
‘Absolutely not!’ I said. ‘It just doesn’t condemn extremists the way it should, that’s all. Is it fear?’
The argument ended when his cell phone rang and he excused himself.
I said goodbye and on my way out was met by his manager who gave some going-away gifts: beautiful unstitched fabric, a nice shirt and a cardboard box.
Curious about what was in it, I opened the box in the car and found 9 slim booklets – all of them were on how to become a better Muslim. Viola!
It seems that the industrialists are getting spiritually industrious as well.
The map man
Nadeem F. PARACHA
Rehmat Ali, Provided by the writer
Standard text books in Pakistani schools all describe Chaudhry Rehmat Ali as the man who coined the word Pakistan. He is also defined as being one of the main architects of the idea of a separate Muslim homeland in South Asia — an idea that was echoed some years later by poet and philosopher, Mohammad Iqbal, and eventually shaped into reality by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in August 1947.
Not much else is mentioned in these text books about Rehmat Ali. He is presented as a one-shot wonder, someone who came up with the name and idea of Pakistan but then just simply vanishes from the pages after 1940!
Late last year while going through some piles of books at a second-hand bookstore in Karachi’s Boat Basin area, I came upon a grubby thin publication called Pakistan: The Fatherland of Pak Nation.
This book that I ended up buying (for just Rs100) was a 1956 reprint of a 1934 pamphlet authored by Rehmat Ali. It’s a fascinating read! More so because it can actually help one understand the intellectual (and maybe even psychological) disposition of a vital character in the history of the making of Pakistan, but someone who never managed to get more than a paragraph or two in most text books.
How Rehmat Ali literally mapped the creation of a separate Muslim state
After reading the book one can also understand why this happened. The book reproduces a 1934 pamphlet that Rehmat Ali wrote when he was a student in England.
In it he outlines a theory that suggests that Muslims of the region should be working towards carving out their own sovereign homeland not only because a Hindu-majority India was detrimental to the political, cultural and economic interests of the Muslims, but also because such a homeland already existed across various periods of history.
After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, many religious parties picked up Rehmat Ali’s idea and began to claim that the seeds of Pakistan’s creation were first sowed by the invading forces of Arab commander, Mohammad Bin Qasim (in the early 8th century), but Rehmat Ali’s imagined history actually went back even further.
To him the separate homeland in the region that he was talking about first emerged in a time period he calls ‘The Dawn of History.’ Though he doesn’t attach any date or year to this, but with the help of a map (titled ‘Pakistan at the Dawn of History’), he explains how the civilisations that first emerged beside the mighty Indus and those that sprang up around the banks of River Ganges were somewhat separate.
But to Rehmat the ‘dawn’ fully appears in the 8th century when the Arab Umayyad Empire extended its reach into Sindh, situated on either sides of the mighty Indus. This he also explains with the help of a map. The Sindh part on the map is labelled as ‘Pakistan.’
Thus follow 13 more maps covering various periods from the eighth to early 20th centuries. The area that Rehmat Ali calls Pakistan expands and shrinks, enlarges and then contracts again across the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal era, and the early British period, and all the way till 1942.
The last of these maps is titled ‘The Pak Millat 1942’. The Pak Millat constitutes all of what is Pakistan and Bangladesh today; and pieces of Muslim-majority areas in central and north India which Ali describe as being ‘Usmanistan’, ‘Farooqistan’, ‘Siddiqistan’ and Haideristan.’
Rehmat Ali’s style of writing is almost frantic, impulsive and that of an alarmist, warning the Muslims of India that a Pakistan or ‘Pak Millat’ that he was purposing is already out there and needed to be reclaimed.
So in a way, instead of actually propagating a new Muslim homeland, Rehmat Ali was really asking the Muslims to reclaim (and declare) geographical areas that had always been their home.
When Rehmat Ali first published his pamphlet (and 13 maps), he was largely ignored by a bulk of Muslim political leaders and intellectuals in India. Some even saw him as being an overexcited youth lost in the mad haze of political fantasies, if not a downright crank!
Alyssa Ayres in her book Language and Nationalism in Pakistan quotes Jinnah, describing the pamphlet as ‘ravings of a student …’
One should be reminded that till Iqbal decided to (albeit tentatively) use Rehmat Ali’s word ‘Pakistan’ in 1940, Jinnah was still very much interested in maintaining a united India.
In fact, according to author and scholar Ayesha Jalal, Jinnah was still trying to work towards reaching a workable post-colonial relationship between the Muslims and the Hindus of region till the early 1940s!
Though the word that Rehmat Ali had coined (‘Pakistan’) eventually managed to stir the imagination of millions of Muslims and their leaders, its inventor was soon at loggerheads with most of these leaders.
According to famous historian, K.K. Aziz, Jinnah saw the name as a throwaway anomaly, and an impulsive invention of certain students (i.e. Rehmat Ali).
In a 1943 speech, Jinnah told a crowd in Delhi that before 1940 the word Pakistan had been used more by the Hindu and British press than by the Muslims; and that it was actually imposed upon the Muslims of India by these two communities.
However, in the same speech, Jinnah announced that he will embrace the word because now it had become synonymous with Muslim struggle in India.
Rehmat Ali had actually met Jinnah in 1934, only days after he had authored his pamphlet. According to K.K. Aziz, Jinnah, after noticing the restless and impulsive nature of the young ideologue, told him ‘My dear boy, don’t be in a hurry; let the waters flow and they will find their own level …’
Jinnah’s level-headed and unruffled disposition ran against Rehmat Ali’s impulsive and volatile personality. He remained in England during most of what became known as the ‘Pakistan Movement;’ and even after the creation of a Pakistan that he had first theorised in his explosive pamphlet in 1934, Rehmat Ali arrived in the new country almost a year after its formation.
He vehemently criticised Jinnah and his party (the Muslim League) for compromising the ‘full idea of Pakistan’ and getting only a portion of what he had envisioned (in his pamphlet).
Though Jinnah too wasn’t satisfied with what he got (as Pakistan), he (and the League) had decided to make the best of whatever they had managed to win.
Rehmat Ali continued to deliver his scathing criticism. But soon after Jinnah’s unfortunate death in 1948, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan (a close confidant of Jinnah), lambasted Ali and ordered him to leave the country.
Rehmat returned to England. Three years later he was found dead in his bedroom. He had passed away in his sleep. His body was found a few days after his demise. He was 55.
As Alyssa Ayres puts it in her book, Rehmat ended up becoming nothing more than a footnote in the history of Pakistan — a country that he had theorised had existed since the ‘dawn of history.’
Curtsey:Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 21st, 2015
My name is Pakistan and I’m not an Arab
NADEEM F. PARACHA
In 1973, my paternal grandparents visited Makkah to perform the first of their two Hajj pilgrimages.
With them were two of my grandmother’s sisters and their respective husbands.
Upon reaching Jeddah, they hailed a taxi from the airport and headed for their designated hotel.
The driver of the taxi was a Sudanese man. As my grandparents and one of my grandmother’s sisters settled themselves in the taxi, the driver leisurely began driving towards the hotel and on the way inserted a cassette of Arabic songs into the car’s Japanese cassette-player.
My grandfather who was seated in the front seat beside the driver noticed that the man kept glancing at the rear view mirror, and every time he did that, one of his eyebrows would rise.
Curious, my grandfather turned his head to see exactly what was it about the women seated in the back seat that the taxi driver found so amusing.
This was what he discovered: As my grandmother was trying to take a quick nap, her sister too had her eyes closed, but her head was gently swinging from left to right to the beat of the music and she kept whispering (as if in quiet spiritual ecstasy) the Arabic expression Subhanallah, subhanallah …’
My grandfather knew enough Arabic to realise that the song to which my grandmother’s sister was swinging and praising the Almighty for was about an (Egyptian) Romeo who was lamenting his past as a heart-breaking flirt.
After giving a sideways glance to the driver to make sure he didn’t understand Punjabi, my grandfather politely asked my grandmother’s sister: ‘I didn’t know you were so much into music.’
‘Allah be praised, brother,’ she replied. ‘Isn’t it wonderful?’
The chatter woke my grandmother up: ‘What is so wonderful?’ She asked. ‘This,’ said her sister, pointing at one of the stereo speakers behind her. ‘So peaceful and spiritual …’
My grandfather let off a sudden burst of an albeit shy and muffled laughter. ‘Sister,’ he said, ‘the singer is not singing holy verses. He is singing about his romantic past.’
My grandmother started to laugh as well. Her sister’s spiritual smile was at once replaced by an utterly confused look: ‘What …?’
‘Sister,’ my grandfather explained, ‘Arabs don’t go around chanting spiritual and holy verses. Do you think they quote a verse from the holy book when, for example, they go to a fruit shop to buy fruit or want toothpaste?’
I’m sure my grandmother’s sister got the point. Not everything Arabic is holy.
Even though I was only a small child then I clearly remember my grandfather relating the episode with great relish. Though he was an extremely conservative and religious man and twice performed the Hajj, he refused to sport a beard, and wasn’t much of a fan of the Arabs (especially the monarchical kind).
He was proud of the fact that he was born in a small town in north Punjab that before 1947 was part of India.
In the early 1980s when Saudi money and influence truly began to take hold on the culture and politics of Pakistan, there were many families (especially from the Punjab) that actually began to rewrite their histories.
For example, families and clans that had emerged from within the South Asian region began to claim that their ancestors actually came from Arabia.
Something like this happened within the Paracha clan as well. In 1982 a book (authored by one of my grandfather’s many cousins) claimed that the Paracha clan originally appeared in Yemen and was converted to Islam during the time of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh).
The truth, however, was that like a majority of Pakistanis, Parachas too were once either Hindus or Buddhists who were converted to Islam by Sufi saints between the 11th and 15th centuries.
When the cousin gifted his book to my grandfather, he rubbished the claim and told him that he might attract Saudi Riyals with the book but zero historical credibility.
But historical accuracy and credibility does not pan well in an insecure country like Pakistan whose state and people, even after six decades of existence, are yet to clearly define exactly what constitutes their nationalistic and cultural identity.
After the complete fall of the Mughal Empire in the 19th century till about the late 1960s, Pakistanis (post-1947), attempted to separate themselves from other religious communities of the region by identifying with those Persian cultural aspects that had reigned supreme in Muslim royal courts in India, especially during the Mughal era.
However, after the 1971 East Pakistan debacle, the state with the help of conservative historians and ulema made a conscious effort to divorce Pakistan’s history from its Hindu and Persian past and enact a project to bond this history with a largely mythical and superficial link with Arabia.
The project began to evolve at a much more rapid pace from the 1980s onwards. The streaming in of the ‘Petro Dollars’ from oil-rich monarchies and the Pakistanis’ increasing interaction with their Arab employers in these countries, turned Pakistan’s historical identity on its head.
In other words, instead of investing intellectual resources to develop a nationalism that was grounded and rooted in the more historically accurate sociology and politics of the Muslims of the region, a reactive attempt was made to dislodge one form of ‘cultural imperialism’ and import by adopting another.
For example, attempts were made to dislodge ‘Hindu and Western cultural influences’ in the Pakistani society by adopting Arabic cultural hegemony that came as a pre-requisite and condition with the Arabian Petro Dollar.
The point is, instead of assimilating the finer points of the diverse religious and ethnic cultures that our history is made of and synthesise them to form a more convincing and grounded nationalism and cultural identity, we have decided to reject our diverse and pluralistic past and instead adopt cultural dimensions of a people who, ironically, still consider non-Arabs like Pakistanis as second-class Muslims.
CURTSEY:DAWN.COM PUBLISHED JUL 28, 2013
Exit God, enter madness
NADEEM F. PARACHA
On Wednesday, 4th of July, a frenzied mob broke into a police station in Bahawalpur (South Punjab). The mob’s target was a ‘malang’ (vagabond), the sort that have been found in and around numerous shrines of Sufi saints in the sub-continent for centuries.
The malang, whom many people of the area also described to be a man not very sound of mind, had been taken into custody by the area’s police after some people accused him of desecrating the sanctity of the Muslim holy book, the Quran.
So on Wednesday as the malang sat behind bars at a police lock-up and as most of the cops kept giving him sideways glances, cracking vague, pitying grins at the malang’s state of mind and habit of talking to himself, the mob surrounded the police station, demanding that the ‘blasphemer’ be handed over.
The cops refused, pleading that the case against the man shall be decided by the courts. As if already surprised that their fellow Muslims in uniforms hadn’t lynched the ‘blasphemer’ themselves, the mob thrust forward in an attempt to break into the police station.
A few cops rushed out with batons and teargas canisters trying to push the mob back that by now had grown to over a hundred enraged men with an audience of another hundred or so onlookers who, as usual, hang around such situations like silent, inanimate zombies.
As one of the cops frantically pleaded for reinforcements from his superiors on the phone, the mob had already barged into the lock-up. They went straight for the room in which the malang was being held.
Newspapers reported that the room/jail was being guarded by two armed policemen. A reporter of an Urdu daily told me that the cops did raise and point their guns at the approaching mob and wanted to fire, but seeing they were heavily outnumbered they decided to simply block the way.
Of course, how could they have? They were not only brushed away but mercilessly beaten, as the mob finally broke into the room, got hold of the terrified malang, dragged him outside and began to beat him with fists, kicks, iron rods and sticks.
Some witnesses (the mesmerised zombies) told reporters that they could hear the malang screaming and pleading the mob for mercy. But the onlookers stood still and so did the bruised cops, praying that the promised reinforcements would arrive before the mob slaughtered the malang and send him to hell for insulting Islam – the ‘religion of peace.’
The reinforcements did arrive. But by then the mob had had its fill of vengeance and blood. It had battered a vagabond and a mentally disturbed person to death. And as if that wasn’t enough to quench its blood thirst, it set the limp, bloodied body of the man on fire!
Deluded as we have become about our religious and national identities and priorities, I’m sure after seeing flames rise from the evil blasphemer’s dead body, many pious men in the mob must have looked at the sky, trying to penetrate their blood-shot gaze into the seventh sky where God resides, expecting the Almighty to begin showering rose petals on them.
That didn’t happen, and no one was willing to suggest that in all probability God had actually been repulsed by the act.
Yet again, the nation heard and saw its faith and holy texts being ‘avenged’ not by God-fearing men, but by a mob of retarded, subhuman filth.
Almost all leading media outlets in the country carried the horrific story. And so did the western media that continues to scratch its head trying to figure out just how inflammable and helplessly retarded Pakistan’s state institutions, judiciary, politics and society have become.
The self-claimed ‘bastion of Islam’ has gradually mutated into becoming a bastion of deluded messiahs and mindless, violent ranting machines to whom anything, from incoherent malangs to the reopening of Nato supply routes, are conspiracies against Islam.
Even more than 24 hours after the gruesome incident, no-one seems to even know the murdered man’s name.
Who was he? Did he really desecrate the Quran? Or was he too a victim of the many reasons that usually drive conniving men to whip up hatred among impressionable, frustrated people to settle personal and economic scores against enemies by accusing him/her of blasphemy?
Or was the incident part of the 200-year-old battle between the Sunni Barelvi and Sunni Deobandi groups in the subcontinent in which both the sides have denounced each another as heretical?
Ever since the reactionary Ziaul Haq dictatorship began to give shape to laws that would eventually become to be known as the ‘Blasphemy Laws,’ it is believed more than 60 per cent of cases concerning one party accusing the other of blasphemy involve Barelivis and Deobandis pointing fingers at each other.
Various governments that took over after Zia’s demise in 1988, especially those belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the one run by General Pervez Musharraf, have made several attempts to repeal the laws that various moderate and liberal Islamic scholars have insisted has no precedence in the history of Islamic jurisprudence.
Javed Ahmed Ghamdi is one of the few well-known Islamic scholars in Pakistan who has publicly insisted that the country’s Blasphemy Laws have no precedence in the history of Islamic jurisprudence, and are entirely man-made (as opposed to being divinely ordained). In 2009, Ghamdi began receiving threats from the country’s various sectarian and Islamist organisations. He had to quietly go into hiding for which he flew out to Malaysia.
For example, during both the Benazir Bhutto governments (1988-91/1993-96), she hinted her desire to at least amend the controversial laws but her attempt was thwarted by religious parties even before she could put up the issue for debate in the parliament.
In the mid-2000s, the Musharraf dictatorship also tried its hand to repel the laws, only managing to push through soft, superficial changes.
In 2010, PPP legislator and current Pakistan ambassador to the US, Sherry Rahman, prepared a bill for the parliament that pleaded changes in the law, but nothing came from it – especially after veteran PPP man and governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by a crazed bodyguard who believed Taseer had committed blasphemy.
Taseer had sympathised with a poor Christian woman who was arrested after being accused (by those trying to convert her to Islam) for blasphemy.
Former Governor of Punjab and veteran leader of the PPP, Salman Taseer, who was gunned down by a crazed fanatic who accused him of committing blasphemy.
Religious outfits such as the fundamentalist Jamat-i-Islami (JI), the Deobandi Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) and the Barelvi Sunni Ittihad Council (SIC) have all been at the forefront of resisting any move made by non-religious parties to repeal or even amend the Blasphemy laws.
However, in the last decade or so, a number of sectarian and jihadist organisations along with some prominent media men too have jumped into the fray.
The year Taseer was murdered and there was talk of Sherry Rehman wanting to introduce her bill in the parliament, JI, JUI and SIC held a number of rallies across the country against the move.
Also present at the rallies were leaders from banned sectarian and militant organisations.
What’s more, well-known TV anchors like Aamir Liaqat and investigative reporter and ‘analyst’ Ansar Abbasi and some others in the media have been openly using air time and column space to not only blunt any move to even amend the controversial law, but to also (and actually) blame the victims of the law and mob action partaken in the name of Islam.
Another section of the civil society, the lawyers, still reeling from the euphoria of 2006-7’s ‘Lawyers Movement’ against the Musharraf regime, can now be seen stretching the residue of the movement into the religious domain.
A number of lawyers in various urban centres of the Punjab were caught on camera showering rose petals on Taseer’s murderer. Then, only recently, the Lahore Bar Council actually banned Shezan food products on its premises because ‘Shezan was owned and run by Ahamdis.’
Ansar Abbasi getting angry at a newscaster for repeatedly showing images of a woman being flogged by religious extremists in Swat in 2009. He first tries to suggest that the flogging might have been according to the ‘dictates of Sharia.’ Then he says he disagrees with those who are calling the act barbaric.
Apart from the fact that the controversial law has witnessed numerous cases in which men have tried to get rid of enemies for economic, sectarian and entirely non-religious reasons by misusing the law against them, another fall-out has been how this law has ended up actually encouraging people to take vigilante action.
When the mentally disturbed malang was murdered by the Bhawalpur mob, this was not the first time that such brutality had taken place in the name of protecting faith in Pakistan.
Interestingly, most cases involving mobs attacking those accused of blasphemy have taken place in central and southern Punjab. Over the past two decades Punjab as a whole has been going through a religious metamorphosis of sorts that is seeing a rise in not only overt religiosity and exhibitionism in the province, but a more rapid mushrooming of jihadi and sectarian outfits.
Civilian political and state institutions seem almost helpless to stem the tide, fearing retaliation and accusations of siding with the ‘blasphemers.’
Apart from the way Taseer was murdered and how Sherry Rehman and late Fauzia Wahab were threatened, the federal government (under a PPP-led coalition) and the one in the Punjab (run by the PML-N), seem clueless on how to keep the proliferation of hate literature and hate sermons in seminaries and mosques in check and under watch.
In fact, non-religious but right-wing parties like the PML-N and Imran Khan’s PTI haven’t shied away from cultivating links with certain sectarian outfits and personalities, some of whom have actually hailed vigilante action against ‘heretics’ and ‘blasphemers’.
PTI chief Imran Khan, giving a speech at a PTI rally. Seen in the crowd are flags of the Jamat-i-Islami and the banned sectarian organisation, Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP).
Punjab law Minister and PML-N leader, Rana Sannaullah, seen on stage with the leader of the banned SSP.
Image: Pakistani lawyers chant slogans in suppo
Lawyers in Lahore cheer for the killer of Salman Taseer outside a court. They had showered him with rose petals and hailed him as a hero. Many of them had also been part of the ‘Lawyers Movement’ against the Musharraf regime.
Famous TV religious anchor, Aamir Liaqat, was accused by the Ahamadi community for instigating violence against Ahmadis through his show. Four Ahmadis were murdered in Lahore in 2007 and the community accused Liaqat’s show. Though no legal action was taken, Liaqat, who was then a member of the MQM, was fired from the party. He was soon shown the door by the TV channel as well. However, this year the same channel decided to get him back and he is set to revive his show from this year’s Ramazan.
So who was the malang? What was his name? What did he do? The following is what I could gather from some reporters who were trying to decipher the same.
His name is still unknown, most probably because he came from a poor economic background. According to some reporters, he was well known by at least some of those who decided to kill and then set him on fire.
Many people of the area knew him as a vagabond who was not quite sane. It is still not known exactly who thought that this ragged looking and mentally disturbed man desecrated the holy book.
But one reporter told me that some people of the area were of the view that the malang was an ‘ashiq’ of Mansur Al-Hallaj – the famous 10th century Sufi saint, scholar and poet who was put to death by the authorities in Iraq for committing blasphemy.
A painting showing the hanging of Sufi saint and poet Mansur Al-Hallaj. He was hanged by Abbasid caliph, Al-Muqtadir in 922 CE, after the orthodox ulema and molvis at Muqtadir’s court accused Hallaj of committing blasphemy. In a fit of Sufi devotional rite, Al-Hallaj is reported to have shouted ‘An? l-?aqq’ (I am the truth). The ulema took the statement to mean that Hallaj was declaring he was God. Sufis, however, believe that Al-Hajjaj had simply reached the pinnacle of devotional consciousness and that Muqadir and his ulema got him executed because his unorthodox ways of teaching Islam had become popular with the masses and thus a threat to the Caliphate.
Details about the poor malang are at best sketchy and based on speculations, apart from the fact that he was mentally unsound.
It is also likely that even if this man actually had a family somewhere, it would hesitate to come forward.
Families of those arrested for blasphemy or killed usually become targets of harassment. The ordeal becomes like a nightmare that one fails to wake up from – until the defenders of the faith provide another hell-bound victim so the cycle begins again and the enthusiasm to kill and burn enemies of God remains as animated and constant as ever.
As one distraught friend of mine once prayed: ‘May Allah save Islam from Pakistan.’
Curtsey: DAWN.COM PUBLISHED JUL 05, 2012
The enigmatic Pakhtun
NADEEM F. PARACHA
Recently a Pakhtun friend of mine who is doing his doctorate in Anthropology from a European university emailed me the following: “Nothing has damaged us Pakhtuns more than certain myths about our character that were not constructed by us”.
We were exchanging views on how some self-proclaimed experts on Pakhtun history and character in Pakistan were actually using the stereotypical aspects of this character to deter the Pakistani state from undertaking an all-out military operation against religious extremists in the Pakhtun-dominated tribal areas of the country.
My friend (who originally hails from the Upper Dir District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) also made another interesting observation: “You know, these myths have been engrained so deep into the psyche of today’s Pakhtuns that if one starts to deconstruct them, he or she would first and foremost be admonished by today’s young Pakhtuns. They want to believe in these myths not knowing that, more often than not, these myths have reduced them to being conceived as some kind of brainless sub-humans who pick up a gun at the drop of a hat to defend things like honour, faith, tradition, etc.”
But in his emails he was particularly angry at certain leading non-Pakhtun political leaders, clerics and even a few intellectuals who he thought were whipping up stereotypical perceptions and myths about the Pakhtuns to rationalise the violence of extremist outfits like the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that has a large Pakhtun membership.
He added that in the West as well, many of his European and American contemporaries in the academic world uncritically lap-up these perceptions and myths. He wrote: “They are surprised when they meet Pakhtun students here (in Europe), who are intelligent, rational, and humane and absolutely nothing like Genghis Khan”!
There have been a number of research papers and books written on the subject that convincingly debunk the myths attached to the social and cultural character of the Pakhtuns.
Almost all of them point an accusing finger at British Colonialists for being the pioneers of stereotyping the Pakhtuns.
Adil Khan in Pakhtun Ethnic Nationalism: From Separation to Integration writes that in 1849 when the British captured the southern part of Afghanistan, they faced stiff resistance from the Pakhtun tribes there. The British saw the tribes as the anti-thesis of what the British represented: civilisation and progress.
This is when the British started to explain the Pakhtuns as ‘noble savages’ — even though in the next few decades (especially during and after the 1857 Mutiny), the colonialists would face even more determined resistance from various non-Pakhtun Muslims and non-Muslims of the region.
From then onwards, British writers began to spin yarns of a romanticised and revivalist image of the Pakhtuns that also became popular among various South Asian historians.
Adil Khan complains that such an attempt to pigeonhole the Pakhtuns has obscured the economic and geographical conditions that have shaped the Pakhtun psyche. What’s more, the image of the unbeatable noble savage has been propagated in such a manner that many Pakhtuns now find it obligatory to live up and exhibit this image.
The myths associated with the Pakhtuns’ character have most recently been used to inform the narratives weaved by those who see religious militancy emerging from the Pakhtun-dominated areas in the north-west of Pakistan as a consequence of the state’s careless handling of the traditions of the ‘proud Pakhtun tribes’ (which may have triggered the ‘historical’ penchant of these tribes to inflict acts of revenge). Interestingly, the same myths were once also used by secular Pakhtun nationalists.
One of the most popular architects of Pakhtun nationalism, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, banked on the myth of Pakhtuns being unbeatable warriors to construct the anti-colonial aspect of his Pakhtun nationalist organisation, the Khudai Khidmatgar.
Earnest Gellner in Myths of Nation & Class in Mapping the Nation is of the view that though the Pakhtuns are an independent-minded people and take pride in many of their centuries-old traditions, they are largely an opportunistic and pragmatic people.
When Pakistan became an active participant in the United States’ proxy war against the Soviet forces that had entered Afghanistan, the Ziaul Haq dictatorship — to whip up support for the Afghan mujahideen — used state media and anti-Soviet intelligentsia to proliferate the idea that historically the Pakhtuns were an unbeatable race that had defeated all forces that had attempted to conquer them.
One still hears this, especially from those opposing the Pakistan state’s military action in the country’s tribal areas. But is there any historical accuracy in this proud proclamation?
Not quite. The truth is that the Pakhtuns have been beaten on a number of occasions. Alexander, Timur, Nadir Shah, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the British, were all able to defeat the Pakhtuns.
In the 2008 paper, Losing the Psy-war in Afghanistan, the author writes: ‘True, the British suffered the occasional setback but they eventually managed to subdue the Pakhtun tribes. Had the British wanted they would have also continued to rule Afghanistan, only they didn’t find it worth their while and preferred to let it remain a buffer between India and Russia. The Russians (in the 1980s) too would never have been defeated had the Soviet economy not collapsed — and it didn’t collapse because of the war in Afghanistan — and had the Americans not pumped in weapons and money to back the so-called Mujahideen.’
The paper adds: ‘… while Pakhtuns are terrific warriors for whom warfare is a way of life, they have always succumbed to superior force and superior tactics. The Pakhtuns have never been known to stand against a well-disciplined, well-equipped, motivated, and equally ruthless force.’
Curtsey: DAWN.COM-MAR 02, 2014
When the mountains were red
Nadeem F. Paracha
Bacha Khan (1890-1988): The father of modern Pushtun nationalism
Many Pakistani Pushtuns find themselves in a spot of bother when some political commentators and analysts define extremist organisations like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as an extension and expression of Pushtun nationalism.
Though religion has always played a central role in the make-up of Pushtun identity, Pushtun nationalism (especially in the 20th century) was always a more secular and left-leaning phenomenon. It still is.
This nationalism’s modern manifestation was founded on the thoughts and actions of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (Bacha Khan) and expressed through such left-wing parties as National Awami Party (NAP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and the Awami National Party (ANP).
However, for nearly three decades now, or ever since the beginning of the US/Pakistan/Saudi-backed ‘jihad’ against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Pushtun identity (at least in popular imagination) has been gradually mutating into becoming to mean something that is akin to being aggressive, fanatical and entirely religious.
Yet, till 2008 the county’s Pushtuns were enthusiastically voting for secular Pushtun nationalist parties like the ANP, and till even this day, there are a number of Pushtuns who are openly canvasing to eradicate not only religious violence and extremism from the Pushtun-dominated province of Khyber-Puskhtunkhwa (KPK), but also busy working towards debunking the belief that Pushtuns are by nature fanatical, driven by revenge and radically ‘Islamist’ in orientation.
Such Pushtuns point out the unique Pushtun-centric secularism of men like Bacha Khan and how left-wing parties like NAP were once KPK’s most popular exponents of electoral politics.
They blame the Pakistani ‘establishment’ for corrupting the notion of Pushtun nationalism by radicalising large portions of the Pushtuns through radical religious indoctrination and the Saudi ‘Petro Dollar.’
The idea was to neutralise Pushtun nationalism that had been the leading player in NAP, a party that also included Baloch and Sindhi nationalists, and was suspiciously eyed (by the establishment) to have had separatist and anti-Pakistan sentiments.
In the last decade or so – especially ever since extremist violence gripped the country, and with the KPK and the tribal areas that surround the province becoming the epicentre of this violence – various Pushtun parties, groups and individuals have been aggressively using political, social and cultural platforms to challenge the perception that religious extremism found in certain Pushtun-dominated militant outfits have anything to do with Pushtun culture or nationalism.
But so far it has been an uphill task and unfortunately the word Pushtun continues to trigger images of bushy, violent fanatics exploding themselves up in markets and mosques or beheading ‘infidels’ in the hills and mountains of KPK and the tribal areas.
But how many know that most of the hilly, rugged areas that have been held and have become bases of extremist outfits in KPK and its surrounding areas, were once bastions of militant Maoist groups?
This slab of history has been forgotten in the noise emitting from those who only have a superficial understanding of Pushtun nationalism and continue to equate it with religious fundamentalism.
Post-1947 Pushtun nationalism empathised with Sindhi, Baloch and Bengali nationalisms (and vice versa), all of whom exhibited concern that the Pakistani state’s centralising tendencies and emphasis on adopting a single variant of Islam, language and culture were cosmetic and artificial constructs to undermine and eliminate thousands of years of the history and dynamics of Pushtun, Sindhi, Baloch and Bengali cultures.
These nationalists saw state policies to be an extension of Punjab’s economic and political hegemony. They eventually came together to form the National Awami Party (NAP).
Formed in 1957, NAP included pioneering Pushtun, Baloch, Sindhi and Bengali thinkers and politicians.
NAP’s founding members included: Former Muslim Leaguer and socialist, Mian Ifikharuddin; Sindhi scholar and nationalist, GM Syed; Pushtun nationalist and thinker, Bacha Khan; Pushtun nationalist, Abdul Samad Achakzai; Bengali leftist leader, Maulana Bhashani; and Baloch nationalist, Ghaus Baksh Bezinjo.
A number of intellectuals also joined the party, including popular Urdu poet and activist, Habib Jalib.
It described itself to be a socialist-democratic party working towards achieving democratic reforms and greater autonomy for the country’s non-Punjabi and non-Mohajir populations and provinces – even though NAP also included Mohajir and Punjabi activists who were once associated with the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) that was banned in 1954.
NAP was thus radically opposed to the ‘One Unit’ – a state-backed initiative that had clumped together all of West Pakistan as one province (most probably to equal and neutralise the Bengali majority in East Pakistan).
When the 1956 Constitution promised to hold Pakistan’s first ever direct election based on adult franchise by 1958, the NAP was poised to bag the most seats in West Pakistan as well as in the Bengali-dominated East Pakistan.
The other two major parties of the era, the Muslim League and the Republican Party, were both besieged by infighting, whereas religious parties like the Jamat-i-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) did not have much electoral support. NAP stood out to be the most organised outfit at the time.
However, the promised elections never took place. Field Martial Ayub Khan imposed Martial Law through a military coup in 1959 and banned all political parties.
NAP leaders were released from jail when Ayub lifted the ban on political parties and authored a new constitution in 1962.
NAP returned to agitate and demand for provincial autonomy, removal of the One Unit, the holding of direct election, and the adoption of a non-allied policy in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
However, by the time of the 1965 Presidential election, some cracks began to appear in the party.
Due to the growing hostility between the time’s two communist powers, Soviet Union and China, various leftist parties of the world began experiencing splits.
But NAP, in spite of the fact that a pro-China (Maoist) and a pro-Soviet faction had emerged in it as well, remained intact.
Nevertheless, when the pro-US Ayub regime’s foreign policy began to tilt a bit towards communist China, NAP leader, Maulana Bhashani, a pro-China figurehead, insisted that NAP begin to support Ayub.
So though on the surface NAP remained to be a united front, beneath the veneer its leaders had begun to disagree among themselves on the question of supporting Ayub.
When Ayub set out to compete with Fatima Jinnah in the 1965 Presidential election, the Bhasahni faction of NAP supported him whereas the Wali Khan faction opposed him and backed Jinnah instead.
In 1966, when the 1965 Pakistan-India war ended in a stalemate, Ayub’s young Foreign Minister, Z A. Bhutto (the initial architect of Pak-China relations), resigned, accusing Ayub of ‘losing the war on the negotiating table.’
Bhutto’s animated antics in this respect were hailed by leftist student groups and eventually he gallivanted towards finding a position for himself in NAP.
But since NAP was packed with veteran leftist and nationalist figureheads, Bhutto decided to form his own socialist party, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
Though a Sindhi, his party (formed in 1967) attracted the interest of various socialist and Marxist ideologues from the Punjabi and the Urdu-speaking communities. Many of them had been with NAP but were alienated by the party’s aggressive anti-Punjab stance.
In 1967 the split in NAP became an open secret. During its on-going analysis on how to achieve a socialist revolution in Pakistan, the NAP leadership failed to come to a common consensus.
The pro-Soviet faction (led by Bacha Khan’s son, Wali Khan), suggested working to put Pakistan on a democratic path and then achieve the party’s goals of provincial autonomy and socialist policies by taking part in an election.
The pro-China faction led by Bhashani disagreed and advised supporting Pakistan’s growing relationship with China. The faction also rejected democracy and labelled it as being a tool of the bourgeoisie. Bhashani instead advocated that the party should ally and work with peasant groups to initiate revolutionary land reforms.
The pro-Soviet NAP became NAP-Wali while the pro-China one became NAP-Bhashani.
The largest student party at the time, the left-wing National Students Federation (NSF) that had become the student-wing of NAP too suffered a split with the majority of NSF groups taking the Maoist line.
Most of these however began to associate themselves more with the politics of the PPP, whereas two new student groups, Pushtun Students Federation (PkSF), and Baloch Students Organisation (BSO), came under the umbrella of NAP-Wali.
It was NAP-Wali that became the bigger faction, mainly due to the fact that the party’s main Pushtun, Baloch and Sindhi leadership (sans GM Syed) decided to join the Wali faction.
Also, whereas the pro-Soviet student and trade unions also attached themselves to the Wali faction, most Maoist groups, instead of backing the Bhashani faction, decided to attach themselves with Bhutto’s PPP.
But soon a third faction in NAP appeared. A more radical group within NAP-Wali broke away in 1968 and decided to adopt the Maoist strategy of achieving a socialist revolution through an armed struggle and organising peasant militias.
Thus was born the Mazdoor Kissan Party (Worker & Peasants Party) that held its first convention in Peshawar in 1968.
Populist leftist politics reached a nadir in Pakistan in the late 1960s. Leftist student groups like the NSF and the National Students Organization (NSO) controlled most of the country’s student unions, and along with labour unions, PPP and NAP-Wali successfully agitated against the Ayub dictatorship and forced him to step down.
The PPP made crucial inroads in the Punjab and Sindh provinces, whereas NAP-Wali gained momentum in KPK (former NWFP) and Balochistan.
The Bengali nationalist party, the Awami League (AL), rose to become a major force in former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
The trend was reinforced in the results of the 1970 election in which Bhutto’s PPP swept Punjab and Sindh, NAP-Wali bagged a number of seats in KPK and Balochistan, and AL won 98 per cent of the seats in East Pakistan.
The Mazdoor Kisan Party (MKP) refused to take part in the election. Inspired by the beginning of the Maoist Naxalite guerrilla movement in India and Mao’s ‘Cultural Revolution’ in China, MKP activists, led by former NAP leader and Pushtun Maoist, Afzal Bangash, traveled to Hashtnagar in KP’s Charsadah District and began to arm and organise the peasants against the local landlords.
MKP’s manoeuvres in this respect were highly successful as its activists joined the area’s peasants and fought running gun battles with the mercenaries hired by the landlords and against the police.
As the area of influence of MKP’s struggle grew, another communist, Major Ishaq Mohammad, joined MKP with his men.
Unlike Bangash and most MKP cadres, Ishaq and his men were not from the KPK. They were from the Punjab.
Ishaq had been a Major in the Pakistan Army before he was jailed and dismissed after he had taken part in an abortive coup attempt against the government of Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951.
The coup attempt that was headed by General Akbar Khan was planned in league with the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP). It was nipped in the bud and its main leaders were all arrested and jailed.
Both men led MKP to spread its influence across various rural and semi-rural areas of the KPK and gained the support of the area’s peasants and as well as some tribal elders.
MKP’s guerrilla activities continued to grow and gather support and their fighters even managed to ‘liberate’ some lands by ousting the landlords.
MKP fighters with their Pushtun peasant army were gaining ground when after a Civil War, East Pakistan broke away and became the independent state of Bangladesh in 1971.
Angry officers of the Pakistan army, who blamed General Yayah Khan (who had replaced Ayub in 1969) for the break-up, invited Bhutto’s PPP to form the government of what remained of Pakistan.
The PPP enjoyed a majority at the centre and in Punjab and Sindh Assemblies, whereas NAP-Wali was able to form coalition governments in KPK (with JUI) and in Balochistan.
Relations between the pro-Soviet Pushtun nationalist and chief of NAP-Wali, Wali Khan, and the pro-China Bhutto, were anything but cordial.
Scholar and historian, Ishtiaq Ahmed, who was a friend of Afzal Bangash, suggests that in a secret meeting between the MKP leadership and Bhutto, Bhutto assured that his government will not take action against MKP guerrillas in KPK that was now under the rule of the NAP-Wali coalition government.
Encouraged by Bhutto’s promise and believing him to be a kindred Maoist soul, MKP increased its attacks on landlords and the police in rural and semi-rural areas of the KPK.
Encouraged by its victories in KPK, MKP dispatched Major Ishaq to generate a similar movement and struggle in the poverty-stricken rural areas of South Punjab.
But since the Punjab in those days was the electoral bastion of the PPP, the Bhutto regime came down hard on the MKP in the Punjab and was able to crush its plans to initiate guerrilla warfare in the region.
With Bhutto distracted by the police action against MKP in South Punjab, labour unrest in Karachi (also initiated by MKP-backed labour unions), and intelligence reports that the NAP-Wali government in Balochistan was helping arm Baloch nationalists (allegedly supported by Iraq and the Soviet Union), the NAP-JUI coalition government in KPK unleashed a brutal crackdown against the MKP.
Heavy fighting between mercenary militias formed by landlords backed by the police and MKP guerrillas erupted in Charsadah and surrounding areas, as the KPK government attempted to retake the land that the MKP fighters and the Pushtun peasants had brought under their control between 1968 and 1972.
About 200 sq. miles of land was under MKP’s control when the KPK government began to send wave after wave of armed policemen against the guerrillas.
Some MKP members blamed NAP-Wali of protecting the interests of the landlords while others suggested that it was NAP-Wali’s coalition partners, the JUI, that were to be blamed.
MKP accused NAP-Wali of using Pushtun nationalism and the JUI of exploiting Islam to protect the economic interests of the landlords who had 9allegedly) bankrolled their electoral campaigns during the 1970 election.
NAP-Wali and JUI accused MKP of becoming a tool in the hands of the Bhutto regime to stir up trouble in KPK – even though the MKP movement was present there almost four years before Bhutto came to power in 1972.
The MKP movement was finally crushed in 1974, not by the NAP-JUI government as such, but by the Bhutto regime.
In 1973 Bhutto dismissed the Balochistan government, accusing it of fostering separatist Baloch tendencies and groups. The KPK government resigned in protest, giving Bhutto the opportunity to install his own men in the two provinces.
He then moved in against MKP.
The blow that MKP received in KPK triggered an intense debate within the party. One section urged that since MKP had gathered large support from Pushtun peasantry, it should join electoral politics.
Those opposing the idea suggested that there was no room for ‘bourgeois democracy’ in Maoism and that the suggested move would reduce MKP into becoming a Pushtun nationalist party.
Yet another group in the party maintained that in spite of the losses suffered by MKP in 1973-74, its guerrilla campaign should continue.
Major Ishaq however had already begun perceiving MKP to be a militant expression of Pushtun nationalism. In 1976 he broke away from the party, returned to Punjab and formed his own faction of the MKP.
The Bhutto regime and the military that was already fighting a Baloch nationalist insurgency in Balochistan, arrested and jailed NAP-Wali’s Pushtun and Baloch leadership. He then influenced the courts to ban NAP.
When the Bhutto regime was toppled in a right-wing coup by General Ziaul Haq (July 1977), MKP’s influence in the KPK was receding and NAP-Wali failed to reorganise itself, leaving politics in the KPK wide open.
As Zia ended the military operation in Balochistan and allowed the Baloch insurgency’s main components to leave the country (in spite of the fact that he was staunchly opposed to their leftist ideology), he then moved to neutralise Pushtun nationalism as well.
Taking advantage of NAP’s withering status and the banned party’s anti-Bhutto sentiments, and also of MKP’s factionalisation, he then used the opportunity of using Saudi and US funds (that began to pour in after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979), to set-up recruitment and indoctrination centres and madressas in KPK to prepare fighters for the ‘anti-Soviet Afghan jihad.’
Afghan jihadists (Mujahideen) were given aid and space in the KPK and interestingly, one of the first Pakistani fighters that were inducted into the ‘jihad’ where those peasants and tribal Pushtuns who were radicalised by the MKP in the early 1970s.
Trained by the MKP and bred on the sayings of Mao and Marx, these fighters were shown the glitter of the American Dollar and the Saudi Riyal, then indoctrinated in the ways of jihad, promised a glorious hereafter and converted into becoming mujahids.
Over the years, these early Pakistani fighters who fought in Afghanistan would take the memories of their Maoist past with them, and would eventually be replaced by Pushtuns with little or no memory of such a past at all.
To them being a Pushtun always meant being a Jihadist. This way the state was successful in absorbing the left-leaning tendencies of Pushtun nationalism into the Pakistani state’s obscurantist paradigm of Pakistani nationhood.
On the other end, attempts were made by former NAP leaders to revive the party after the fall of the Bhutto regime.
And though it was the Zia dictatorship that had squashed the treason cases against NAP leaders, Zia soon came down hard on leftist forces and NAP’s reformation was thwarted.
Nevertheless, when PPP’s new chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, returned from exile in 1986 and began taking the Zia dictatorship on, some former Pashtun, Baloch and Sindhi NAP leaders finally managed to revive the party, this time calling it the Awami National Party (ANP).
By the late 1980s, however, after ANP’s Baloch and Sindhi leaders broke away and formed their own nationalist groups, ANP watered down the old NAP’s Marxist rhetoric and became exclusively a secular and left-liberal Pashtun nationalist party.
Ever since the 2008 election, it has been in the forefront of the Pushtuns’ identity battles with Pushtun-dominated extremist outfits, trying to eradicate the now overwhelming militant Islamic factor from the foundations and make-up of Pushtun nationalism.
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com
Curtsey.DAWN.COM August - 3 - 2013
NADEEM F. PARACHA
Amajority of political analysts and journalists, especially those based outside the Sindh province, continue to sound rather presumptuous while commenting on the politics of Sindh. Much of this is due to certain sticky myths that have been constructed over the years by various state security institutions, political parties, media outfits and even political elements operating within Sindh itself.
One such myth is that Sindhi nationalism has never manifested itself as a widespread movement/insurgency (like the Baloch and Bengali movements).
Sindhi nationalism in Pakistan’s context emerged almost about the same time Pushtun, Baloch and Bengali nationalisms had begun to flex their respective muscles — i.e. soon after the state and government of Pakistan introduced the ‘One Unit’ in 1954.
‘One Unit’ was a controversial project launched by the federal government of Pakistan to merge the four provinces of West Pakistan into one unit. Sindhi, Baloch and Pushtun nationalists saw the move as an attack (by the ruling elite) on their cultural autonomy and democratic right to retain their ethnic identities.
Sindhi nationalism was not separatist; or at least not as much as Bengali and Baloch nationalist movements. Sindhi nationalism was/is largely based on the writings and thoughts of GM Syed, even though over the decades (and especially after Syed’s death), Sindhi nationalism has continued to fragment into various tendencies across classes and between anti-feudal and non-feudal strains.
A scholar and a politician, Syed, through a series of books between the 1950s and early 1970s, painstakingly constructed an elaborate historical narrative of Sindh and its people. His expansive thesis presented Sindh as an ancient land whose people have always been one of the most pluralistic and secular under both Hindu as well as Muslim regimes. He suggested that Sindh’s pluralistic tradition was carried on by a number of Sufi saints after Sindh came under Muslim rule.
In 1966 Syed formed a cultural organization called the Bazm-e-Sufian-i-Sindh. Driven by a number of Sindhi intellectuals, the Bazm proposed that Sindhis could not be integrated by the state of Pakistan due to the stark cultural differences that they had with what became known as ‘Pakistan ideology’ (a term first used by the fundamentalist Jamat-i-Islami in 1967).
The Bazm then went a step further when it published a controversial study in late 1966 that stated that Raja Dahir (the 8th century Hindu ruler of pre-Islamic Sindh) was actually a hero to many Sindhis and that it was Muhammad bin Qasim (the Arab Muslim commander who defeated Dahir and conquered Sindh) who was the actual usurper!
Ironically, apart from the Pakistani state, Syed could also not reconcile his politics with a fellow Sindhi, Z A. Bhutto. Bhutto and his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), experienced a meteoric rise (in the late 1960s) when Syed’s narrative had begun to take hold among Sindhi youth. Syed did not applaud Bhutto’s rise in spite of the fact that Bhutto was a declared progressive; to Syed, if one brushed off Bhutto’s leftist notions from the surface, underneath was a man wilfully doing the bidding for the ‘Punjabi ruling elite’.
Syed’s analysis had deemed Pakistan to be a state that was destined to fragment. But it wasn’t until 1972 that Syed openly called for the separation of Sindh. Though Sindhi nationalism, popularised and intellectualised by Syed, did not express itself violently (as Baloch nationalism/separatism), it finally did culminate into an insurgency of sorts against the state of Pakistan in 1983.
Some historians believe that what history records as the 1983 MRD movement was actually an armed uprising of Sindhi nationalists.
MRD (Movement for the Restoration of Democracy) was a PPP-led anti-Ziaul Haq initiative. But parts of it in Sindh (especially in 1983) took the shape of a Sindhi nationalist movement participated by youth wings of the PPP and various Sindhi nationalist organisations.
Many of the nationalists had understood the execution of a Sindhi prime minister (Bhutto) by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship (in 1977) as a show of ‘Punjabi chauvinism and arrogance.’ But in an ironic twist, the main political and intellectual architect of modern Sindhi nationalism, GM Syed, did not take part in the movement.
In fact, at the expense of annoying a number of his supporters, Syed saw the MRD movement as yet another PPP-led initiative to ‘exploit Sindhi sentiments and keep them attached to the federation.’ Also, perhaps he did not feel that the movement was the true representation of the kind of Sindhi nationalism that he was advocating.
Hundreds of Sindhis were killed by the military-led operation and some Sindhi nationalist leaders also claimed that whole villages were razed during the movement. To some, Sindhi nationalism (during the MRD movement) had exhibited its first expression of an armed insurgency.
Another myth associated with Sindh’s political history is that the MQM was created by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship.
Academics specialising in the politics of Sindh, such as Amir Ali Chandio and Dr Tanvir Tahir, trace the formation of Mohajir ethnicity way back to the 1960s. From the 1960s onwards, when the Mohajirs had begun to be dislodged from the Punjabi-dominated military-bureaucratic elite, a number of movements emerged calling for a Mohajir province. In fact, one of the first to do so was Syed Haider Kazmi’s faction of the left-wing, National Students Federation (NSF) in 1969.
Then Mohajir nationalism again reared its head during the language riots in Karachi in 1972, but the fact is few Mohajirs took the notion seriously, as they were still firmly embedded in the concept of federalism, and (like the Punjabis) repulsed by ethnic nationalism — until the 1978 formation of All Pakistan Mohajir Students Federation (APMSO) by Altaf Hussain.
The much overlooked reason behind APMSO’s process of giving birth to MQM (in 1984) is largely an economic one. It has little to do with Zia encouraging the formation of a Mohajir nationalist party to subdue the PPP and Sindhi nationalism, even though he might have tried to do so after MQM’s creation.
According to famous Sindhi scholar, Ibrahim Joyo, ‘Punjabi economic hegemony’ increased immensely in Sindh during the dictatorship of Ziaul Haq. This situation had a negative impact on the interests of Karachi’s leading business communities (Memons, Gujaratis and other non-Punjabis). The concern saw some leading business members of these communities form an organisation called the Maha Sindh (MS) in 1983.
It was an organisation set up to protect the interests of Karachi’s Memon, Gujarati, Sindhi and Mohajir businessmen and traders from — as one Mohajir businessman termed at the time — ‘the invasion of Zia-backed carpetbaggers from Punjab.’
Celebrated Sindhi intellectual, Khaliq Junejo, suggests that Maha Sindh encouraged the formation of a ‘street-strong’ Karachi-based party. It can be argued that it is this aspect of the MQM’s formation that sometimes gets mistaken into meaning that the party came about with the help of the Zia regime. This is so because the business communities in Karachi (stung by Bhutto’s nationalisation policies) were anti-Bhutto and had hailed his overthrow by Zia in 1977.
But by the early 1980s, however, they had been deluded by Zia’s supposedly ‘pro-Punjabi’ economic manoeuvres in Sindh and felt the need to have their own political outfit. It was then that Maha Sindh was further financed by Karachi’s Mohajir, Gujrati and Memon business communities (as a pressure group) , and by 1984 the group eventually became the MQM.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM — PUBLISHED JUN 02, 2012
Back to G M Syed?
NADEEM F. PARACHA
Last week newspapers reported a series of bomb attacks on railway tracks in the Sindh province. The attacks were owned by an obscure organisation called the Sindhudesh Liberation Front. The name took a lot of non-Sindhis by surprise. Why would there be an angry Sindhi movement when there have already been two Sindhi prime ministers and, what’s more, a Sindhi president is currently at the helm of the federation?
However, according to Sindhi nationalists, the original architect of Sindhi nationalism, the late G M Syed, is back in vogue amongst the new generation of Sindhi nationalists. Back in the 1960s, G M Syed, an accomplished scholar and politician, painstakingly constructed an elaborate historical narrative of Sindh and its people. It presented Sindh as an ancient land whose people have always been one of the most pluralistic and secular under both Hindu as well as Muslim rule.
The narrative goes on to suggest that during the long Muslim rule in the region, Sindh's pluralistic tradition was carried on by a number of Muslim mystics (Sufi saints) and have continued to demonstrate a passionate attachment to these mystics. Syed's narratives on Sindh may now have become common knowledge to most Pakistanis, but this was not always the case.
In fact, just like Pashtun nationalist, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, and many Baloch nationalist thinkers, Syed too was constantly put on the spot by the state for preaching 'unpatriotic' and 'anti-Islam' ideas. Syed was a magnet for all sorts of ironies. During the Pakistan Movement he steadfastly stood with Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah. But soon after independence, he became one of the first prominent men to decry the hegemony of the 'Punjab-dominated elite' over other provinces.
Another irony that Syed could never reconcile his politics with was the Bhutto phenomenon. Z A Bhutto, a Sindhi, and his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), experienced a sudden, meteoric rise (in the late 1960s) when Syed's narrative had begun to take hold among Sindhi youth. Syed did not applaud Bhutto's rise in spite of the fact that Bhutto was a Sindhi and a declared progressive.
Bhutto's leftist but nationalistic rhetoric did not sit well with Syed. To Syed if one brushed off Bhutto's leftist notions from the surface, underneath was a man willfully doing the bidding for the 'Punjabi ruling elite’. Syed's analysis had deemed Pakistan to be a state that was destined to fragment. And just like his Baloch, Pashtun and Bengali nationalist contemporaries, Syed too blamed the myopic view of the ruling elite for this.
He accused the civil and military members of the elite for undermining the cultural histories and traditions of the many ethnicities that resided in Pakistan. He accused them of undemocratically imposing upon the 'oppressed ethnicities' a cosmetic version of nationhood. Syed's suspicion of Bhutto turned hostile when Bhutto used a constitutional process to reinforce the kind of nationhood and faith Syed had accused the establishment of imposing.
To Bhutto it was the dictatorial way that this concept of nationhood had been imposed that made East Pakistan break away and repulsed the non-Punjabi ethnicities. Syed disagreed. To him Bhutto was merely giving 'Punjabi hegemony' a constitutional sheen. In 1973 he finally called for an independent Sindh (Sindhudesh).
In April 1979 when, through a sham trial, the Ziaul Haq dictatorship sent Bhutto to the gallows, Syed termed Bhutto's tragic demise as a great loss to the establishment. Mocking the establishment's arrogance Syed remarked 'today they (the establishment) have killed their own, best man.'
With Bhutto out of the way and a reactionary Punjabi general ruling the roost, did Syed finally make Sindhis rise for Sindhudesh?
No. Even though Sindhis did rise, especially during the 1983 MRD movement in which hundreds were killed and whole villages were razed to the ground by army tanks, Syed did not support the uprising.
This time another Bhutto had appeared, Benazir. To Syed here was another popular Sindhi who was willing to clean up yet another mess created by the establishment so the federation could be saved; a federation Syed had no hope in. Recently a young Sindhi (and PPP voter) told me that the 'establishment' has started playing a game in Sindh which even the PPP won't be able to check.
On further inquiry he explained that some sections of the intelligence agencies believe that they can subdue Sindhi nationalism the way they did Pashtun nationalism and the way they are trying to suppress Baloch nationalism, i.e. by crudely injecting a puritanical strain of Islam into what are almost entirely secular nationalisms.
'Look what has happened in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa', said the young Sindhi. 'Look how sectarian organisations are roaming freely in Balochistan. They (the 'agencies') are now helping fanatics to build madressas in Sindh as well so that Syed Sain's legacy and those of the Sufis in Sindh can be replaced by mullahs and extremists’. Or in other words, by those who are ideological and political 'allies of the military-establishment’.
To the young Sindhi, Syed’s Sindhudesh Liberation Movement was a reaction to this.
CURTSEY:DAWN.COM :PUBLISHED MAR 10, 2012
Sindh saves the day
NADEEM F. PARACHA
Photo by Eefa Khalid/Dawn.com
Plans are afoot to build the world’s first ever international Sufi university near Bhit Shah in Sindh.
The main purpose of the institution would be to promote interfaith and intercultural education to tackle extremism in the country.
Such a thought and project could only have come about in Sindh. Especially in the context of what Pakistan has beengoing through in the last many years.
Not only have the country’s other provinces - especially the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) – become central targets of horrid terrorist attacks by extremist organisations, the Punjab in particular has also been witnessing a steady growth of faith-based conservatism within its urban middle and lower middle-classes.
When extremists (calling themselves ‘Punjabi Taliban’) attacked the famous Sufi shrine, Data Darbar in Lahore late last year, economist and political analyst, Asad Sayeed, made a rather insightful observation.
He said that had such an attack on the Darbar taken place twenty years ago, thousands of Lahorites would have poured out to protest.
But not anymore. The attack on one of Punjab’s most popular Sufi shrines was simply treated as just another terrorist attack.
Though it is now clear that the Wahabi/Deobandi extremists have been going around blowing up Sufi shrines frequented by the majority Barelvi Muslims, the Barelvi leadership has looked elsewhere, putting the blame on the ever-elusive ‘foreign hands.’
Journalist and intellectual Khaled Ahmed once wrote a telling tongue-in-cheek article about the annual gathering of the Dawat-i-Islami in Multan.
The Dawat is the Barelvi equivalent of the Deobandi Tableeghi Jamat. Both these outfits are considered to be non-political organisations who are more interested in evangelizing their respective versions of Islam and its rituals. One should also mention that both these (sub-continental) strains of Islam accuse one another of being ‘flawed Muslims.’
Ahmed wrote how after Dawat’s huge congregation in Multan, when police found some bullet-riddled bodies of Dawat members, the outfit’s main leadership simply refused to acknowledge the glaring evidence that pointed towards the involvement of an opposing Sunni sect’s organisation in the murders.
Ahmed adds that Dawat leaders began babbling about ‘outside forces (RAW, CIA, Mossad)’ who wanted to create disharmony between Pakistan’s Barelvi majority and the Deobandi and Wahabi sects. Barelvis: From moderate to militant
One can understand the above-mentioned episode as an example of the confusion Barelvi spiritual leadership has gone through since the 1980s.
From its inception in the 18th century and until about the mid-1980s, the Barelvi sect was largely apolitical in orientation, non-Jihadist and followers of some of the most relaxed dictates of the Hanafi madhab – the first of the four main Islamic schools of law that is also considered to be the most moderate.
‘Barelvi Islam’ (as it is sometimes called) is purely a sub-continental phenomenon that fuses elements of Indian Sufism with the folk and populist strains of various cultures that exist in the sub-continent.
It is also called the ‘folk Islam’ of the region in which a high degree of tolerance exists between various faiths, sects, classes and ethnicities and in which the puritanical aspects of other Islamic sects are eschewed and even rejected.
The Sufi shrine and an intense reverence of the Prophet (PBUH) play a central role in Barelvi Islam. Its populist and moderate make-up helped it become the majority Sunni sect amongst the Muslims of the sub-continent.
Two of its leading opponents have been the Sunni Deobandi sect (also a product of the subcontinent) and the Saudi-inspired Wahabism.
Both have accused Barelvis of ‘adopting Hindu rituals and practices’ and assorted ‘heresies.’
In spite of being the majority sect amongst Sunni Muslims in Pakistan, ‘Barelvi Islam’ hardly ever had a coherent political expression in shape of a mass-based political party or organisation.
Its spiritual leadership remained pro-Jinnah (unlike Deobandi organizations of undivided India), and various Pakistani political leaders have continued to appeal to the symbolism and lingo associated with various populist aspects of Barelvi-ism.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was the most successful in this respect.
Bhutto was also one of the first leading Pakistani political figures to undertake the act of regularly visiting various famous Sufi shrines in Sindh and Punjab.
Barelvis are in the majority in Sindh and the Punjab, whereas Deobandis are largely centred in Khyber Pakthunkhwa and in the Pushtun-dominated areas of Balochistan.
Until the 1970s Barelvi-ism also prevailed among many of Sindh and Punjab’s urban middle-classes, especially those who considered themselves to be progressive and likely supporters of secular politics.
However, the arrangement in this context was suddenly disturbed with the arrival of the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in 1977.
Dipped in the political Islam of scholar and Jamat-i-Islami (JI) chief Abul Ala Mauddudi, Zia soon moved towards infiltrating the spiritual and political nerve centres of Barelvi-ism in an attempt to ‘reform’ them.
Barelvi dominance across the country’s religious landscape reminded him of Z A. Bhutto’s populism (which he, like JI, considered to be ‘vulgar’ and ‘un-Islamic’), and from 1979 onwards Pakistan under Zia also became one of the leading client states of Saudi-generated Wahabi propaganda and aid.
Stunned by the ‘Islamic revolution’ in the Shia-dominated Iran in 1979, Saudi Arabian monarchy and its Wahabi Sunni religious elite began seeing Pakistan’s Barelvi-dominated make-up as venerable to Shia-ism’s revolutionary symbolism and also of socialist propaganda, especially with the arrival of Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
At least that was one of the reasons used by Zia and his Saudi allies to draw the United States into giving Pakistan billions of dollars worth of aid and arms.
With the aid also came Wahabi propaganda literature and preachers who along with Pakistani Deobandi and Wahabi spiritual and political groups began setting up madressas and mosques.
These madressas operated as institutions that would indoctrinate young Pakistanis - most of whom were immersed in the non-Jihadi traditions of Barelvi-ism - and prepare them for Jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan.
Bralevi tradition had also not been very kind to the ulema and the clergy.
To address this, Zia also began describing famous Sufi saints as ulema and banned (in the media) all criticism and humour aimed at the clergy.
The Afghan war, Saudi propaganda, the mushrooming of Deobandi and Wahabi madressas and televangelists, and a concentrated campaign by the Zia regime to equate the dictatorship’s capitalist-Islamist makeup as something in accordance with the Shariah and with ‘Jinnah and Iqbal’s vision,’ had a telling impact on Pakistan’s religious sociology.
In the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa many moderate and progressive Deobandi strains that had prevailed in the province began sliding into the sect’s more radical dictates, coming closer to the puritanical Wahabi and Salafi ideas about faith.
This slide was celebrated by the Punjab-dominated military as a successful blow to the secular and ‘treacherous’ Pukhtun separatist tendencies.
In the Punjab, the province benefited the most from Zia’s Punjab-centric capitalist maneuvers. This coupled with unprecedented remittances coming from Pakistanis who had begun going to Arab Gulf states to work from the 1970s onwards, gave birth to new moneyed classes.
Many from the petty-bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie sections began moving away from their Barelvi heritage and towards more puritanical strains of faith.
Their Barelvi past now reminded them of their lower status and economic modesty, whereas they began relating their enhanced economic standing with the adoption of the more puritanical strains of Islam.
That’s why the growth of puritanical Islamist and sectarian organizations that Punjab saw under Zia, a lot of their local funding came from Punjab’s nouveau-riche and petty-bourgeois trader classes.
Interestingly, it was also the same classes that also pushed the Barelvi leadership to become more conservative and radical. Those sections of the Punjabi petty-bourgeoisie that stuck to Barelvi-ism encouraged their spiritual leadership to compete with the Puritanism and radicalism of the growing number of Deobandi and Wahabi groups.
This trend saw the first ever emergence of radical Barelvi groups. In the early 1980s, the Dawat-i-Islami was formed to counterbalance the growth of the Deobandi Tableeghi Jamaat that had begun making deep inroads into Punjab’s bourgeoisie and the military.
The Dawat discouraged the Barelvis from indulging in antics associated with the region’s folk Islam, emphasising an increased reverence of holy personalities and encouraging holding of recitals of naats and milads instead of quwalis and dhamals. The last two became associated with the practices of the lower-class Barelvis.
In 1992, emerged the Sunni Thereek (ST). A Barelvi outfit that emerged from the splintering of the oldest Barelvi Islamic political party, the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan (JUP).
Such occurrences did not really help the Barelvi sect defend its traditions in the face of the state-sponsored Deobandi and Wahabi onslaught - rather, these organisations began turning Barelvi-ism into an equally anti-pluralistic and militant political phenomenon.
Sindh saves the day?
By the 1990s, Zia’s manoeuvres and Saudi involvement in reshaping Pakistan’s religious tradition had seen Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab become hostage to various violent Deobandi/Wahabi outfits and new-born Barelvi reactionary-ism.
The Punjab also saw a rise in the use of reactionary political and religious narratives within its lower-middle and middle-classes, whereas in Balochistan attempts were being made (by intelligence agencies) to neutralize secular Baloch nationalist militancy with the help of puritanical evangelical outfits. The agencies had already done this successfullyin Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the 1980s.
But what happened in Sindh? Barelvi-ism in Sindh (outside Karachi) has always been a lot more secular and pluralistic than the Bareilvi-ism in the Punjab.
Its sociology in Sindh heavily revolves around the staunchly secular historicity that the province’s famous scholar, GM Syed’s literary work generated.
He described a highly pluralistic and secular reading of Sufism as being the cultural and religious make-up of the Sindhis and it is this narrative that still rules the roost in the province’s social and religious psyche.
This is one of the reasons why Zia completely failed to impose his version of Islam here. Also, just like the majority of the Baloch who equate puritanical Islam with the ‘Punjabi civil-military elite,’ so does the socio-political discourse in Sindh.
On the other hand, in Karachi, though Zia-backed Deobandi and Wahabi radical outfits did manage to find a foothold, two things have always worked against these outfits here.
The first is the fact that the sprawling ethnic, sectarian and religious diversity found in Karachi actually absorbs and neutralizes any attempt by an outfit to impose its version of Islam.
Secondly, MQM, a party that first emerged as a mohajir nationalist group, adopted almost the same populist Barelvi symbolism and lingo as Bhutto did in the 1970s.
Also, the other two big political parties in the city too are secular: the PPP and ANP.
Though the Sunni Thereek (ST) has managed to infiltrate some sections of MQM’s support, ST is Barelvi and anti-Taliban (albeit reactionary).
In spite of the rampant crime and ethnic tensions that are a constant in Karachi, it will not be an overstatement to claim that Karachi along with the rest of Sindh today stands to be perhaps the only (ragged) sanctuaries in present-day Pakistan that are (comparatively-speaking) largely free of the factors that have created opportunities in the Punjab and KP for violent extremist activity as well as for reactionary conservatism to now become a mainstay in Punjab’s bourgeois psyche.
Stuck in the middle
NADEEM F. PARACHA
Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/Dawn.com
In 2008 director Kim Bartley constructed an up-close and personal documentary called ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.’ In it he suggested that the right-wing military coup that toppled Venezuelan President, Hugo Chávez in 2002, was both advocated and then celeberated by a string of private television channels owned by that country’s elite. With the help of a series of images and sound bytes taken from talk shows and news programs on these channels, the documentary reveals how the media promoted demonstrations against Chávez, and how the programming on these channels created an anti-Chávez climate leading to the day of the coup.
According to the Venezuelan TV channels, the coup, led by conservative politicians and backed by some military personnel, was pulled off in the name of “democracy.” However, the overwhelming agitation and response by Chávez’s main constituency comprising of the urban working classes and the rural peasantry managed to crumple the new government within a week, paving the way for Chávez’s return. It rudely rendered as biased and sensationalist the claim of the electronic media that had insisted that Chávez’s toppling was a popular undertaking. The claim was nothing more than upper and middle-class wishful thinking propagated by the channels as “revolutionary” and “democratic” action.
The documentary is just too close to what we have been witnessing in Pakistan in the last many years. This is not to suggest that President Zardari is Chávez – far from it – but the bulk of the Pakistani electronic media is certainly the bastion of new urban middle-class aspirations. It is a stark reflection of what certain quarters of the country’s urban middle-classes (especially in the Punjab), are metamorphosing into. In a queer twist and case of irony, people who were demanding radical action in the name of democracy, free media and the judiciary during the Musharraf dictatorship, most of them have had a class history of backing military dictatorships, staunch politico-religious initiatives and social conservatism.
So what made entities like PML (N), Jamat Islami, the electronic media, and political minnows like Imran Khan pose as the new ambassadors of revolutionary politics in Pakistan? There are two interesting theories that may answer the above question. The first view is that in countries like Pakistan, whenever a progressive or populist political party manages to graduate from the streets to the corridors of governmental power and gets assimilated by the politics of pragmatism, an ideological vacuum appears. Consequently, entities that are inherently conservative readjust and repackage their ideological orientation by giving its conservatism a face-lift and start expressing it in a language that was once strictly the linguistic and symbolic gesture of Cold War-era leftists. Mind you, the irony is, during the Cold War the leftists were gleefully bludgeoned by the same urban classes and political entities who today are claiming fresh revolutionary ground in Pakistan in the name of democracy and the judiciary.
The second theory in this respect is closely-knitted to the above one. It suggests that 2007’s triumphant lawyers’ movement and the agitation exhibited by PML-N, is a symptom of an unprecedented occurrence in which the largest province of Pakistan, the Punjab, has for the first time found itself largely outside the power circles of state and government. This theory suggests that parties such as the PPP, ANP and MQM that prospered more outside the Punjab in the last fifteen years, have discovered that if together they are able to win most seats in the Khyber Paktunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh, they can still manage to construct a coalition government at the centre without the need to do well in Punjab. And the reason why the radical action and language being heard from Punjab’s streets and drawing-rooms today is coming from conservative/rightist elements is because it was largely bourgeois conservatism that flourished in the Punjab as the dominant psyche ever since the 1980s.
So, ever since the Musharraf coup in 1999 and especially after the formation of the PPP-led coalition government in 2008, this conservatism increasingly found itself alienated by a new-found regional alignment at the centre, thus the reaction. Can this mean that the current trend of “radicalism” among various so-called ‘middle-class forces’ that is being portrayed as a nationwide phenomenon by the electronic media, is basically a chant confined to the Punjab? Can this also mean that even if there were some genuinely progressive elements in this convoluted ideological malaise, they have completely failed to avoid hijacking bids by reactionary elements (JI), Imran Khan and democratic-conservatives (PML-N)? The progressive/populist uprising against the Ayub Khan dictatorship in 1968 and the rightist/Islamist movement against the Z A. Bhutto regime in 1977 were both a national phenomenon, encompassing participation of all the four provinces. The celebrated 2005-2007 lawyers’ movement wasn’t. So does this mean the lawyers’ movement too was largely a provincial (Punjabized) phenomenon?
A college friend of mine who was a member of a Baloch students’ outfit once told me that to the Baloch a Punjab-free Pakistan is what sugar-free biscuit is to a diabetic! He added: “Pakistan’s ideology is the issue of urban Punjabi middle-classes.” Today if I meet him I’d suggest he sit up and take notice because the middle-class he is talking about is (mainly through the media) all set to dictate the country’s political and ideological discourse more than ever. Also this discourse, though still confined to urban Pakistan, is going to further fatten itself due to the rapid urbanization of the population of the country. This fact is bound to isolate political parties whose main vote banks lie in rural and semi-rural areas of the country. Thus, progressive provincialism-friendly federalist parties like the PPP may continue to loose electoral ground to PML-N and certain right-wing upstart parties such as Imran Khan’s Thereek-i-Insaf (TI). All is still in the making.
Though on the surface the expected emergence of dominance of middle-class sentiments in Pakistani politics may be seen as a positive game changer, but it is not necessarily a positive prediction. At least not if the middle-class political discourse in Pakistan fails to update and evolve into something that is less elitist, Punjab-centric and closely knitted with the increasingly damaged (but still dominant) ideological outcome of years of political mating routines between the military, the mullah and the trader classes. Such an evolution is not an impossibility; MQM has proven it (though in its own topsy-turvy manner), and PML-N (at least Mian Nawaz Sharif) seems to understand the need for such an evolution.
Unfortunately, new parties with the potential to affect middle-class discourse in an evolutionary manner in the Punjab (such as the TI), seem to be heading for the same ideological quicksand in which former middle-class expressions like the Jamat-i-Islami (JI) lost their way. The urban middle-classes will have to realize that they may hate the populist rural-ism of parties like the PPP but their own political urbanism in this context is not so enlightened an alternative.
CURTSEY:DAWN.COM — PUBLISHED JUL 28,
Student Politics in Pakistan
A Profile by Nadeem F Paracha
Columnist for Daily Dawn and Chowk.
Though each of these factions remained popular, but when campus poll votes started to split between these groups, IJT was finally rewarded with the opening it had been looking for. In
INDEPENDENT WORK- Student politics in Pakistan: A celebration, lament & history
Student politics in Pakistan has had a history of mixed shades. Though extremely tumultuous, it is also a history of rich democratic traditions. Before student unions were banned by the Zia-ul-Haq dictatorship in 1984, their activities were conducted through regular annual elections in universities and colleges. Student parties that participated in these elections played an important role in looking after vital academic, cultural and political interests of the students. Event though student electoral activity was revived again soon after the first Benazir Bhutto government took over in 1989, it was banned once more by the first Nawaz Sharif government in 1992, citing growing cases of violence in universities and colleges.
Detractors of the ban maintain that Zia’s actions undermined and damaged the nursery-like potential of student politics of putting out astute, urban and middle-class political leadership into Pakistan’s political landscape, but the ban consequently set into motion the depoliticalization of the country’s student culture, an event that can have a telling impact on the quality and nature of future political leadership in the country.
1950s: All Left and nowhere to go
In 1947 the only established student organization in the newly created country of Pakistan was Muslim Students Federation (MSF), the student wing of the ruling Muslim League.
However by 1950 the situation in MSF started to reflect the fragmentary nature of the its mother party that had remained intact as a powerful political party until 1948, but had begun to disintegrate soon after coming to power as Pakistan’s first ruling party. It broke into various self-serving groups.
Consequently, MSF too started to fracture into factions (MSF, MSF-Union, etc.); so much so that certain disgruntled members of MSF encouraged by a few progressive members of the Muslim League got together with varied small left-leaning independent student groups and formed the Democratic Students Federation (DSF).
Though not exactly conceived as a left-wing organization, and more as a student platform constructed to address the growing number of problems being experienced by the students in a country facing serious teething problems, DSF’s ideological orientation quickly turned left. This was mostly due to the progressive and left-leaning point of reference of most of its leadership. Some of the leading members of DSF in this era were (Dr.) Mohammad Sarwar, (Dr.) Haroon Ahmed, (late) Hassan Nasir, Abid Manto, A T. Naqvi and Hassan Naqi.
After establishing itself in all the main colleges and universities in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, DSF, apart from pushing the government of the day to be more sympathetic and responsive towards the many academic issues facing the students, also started to exhibit support for various progressive causes through demonstrations and rallies. These included showing solidarity with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Eygpt over the Suez Crisis, and rallies against Britain, Israel and the United States.
DSF also showed its displeasure over Pakistan’s growing role in supporting the West against the Soviet Union and its satellite states, and demanded that the government take a more independent stance in its foreign policy.
By 1951, DSF began to sweep student union elections in almost all major universities and colleges in the country. Its main counterparts in these elections, the MSF, had lost most of its electoral steam and influence due to factionalization. In fact some prominent MSF factions actually ended up supporting DSF.
As DSF grew in size, influence and confidence, so did its voice against the rapidly pro-West and anti-Soviet establishment, so much so that the organization started to be associated with the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP), of which one DSF sympathizer, Hassan Nasir, actually became an active (and legendary) member.
The panicky regime responded to the rising influence of leftist thought and politics on the campuses and coffee houses by first banning the CPP, accusing it of being involved in Major General Akbar Khan’s abortive coup attempt against the government of (late) Liaqat Ali Khan (the “Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case”), and then, attempting to thwart DSF by erecting a parallel student organization.
Failing to unite the many MSF factions to tackle “the DSF menace,” the government funded the creation of a pro-establishment student party, calling it the National Students Federation (NSF).
Still unable to inflict any serious dents in DSF’s structure and strength, the government eventually banned it all together.
The 1954 banning of the CPP and DSF was also said to be a part of the Pakistan government’s mimicking of the highly dramatic anti-communist/anti-Socialist moves and purges in the United States during the peak of the infamous era of “McCarthyism” in the early and mid-1950s.
The DSF leadership’s response to the banning was to bring together some disgruntled MSF factions and independent student clusters, and along with former DSF members and student groups operating in former East Pakistan, form the All Pakistan Students Organization (APSO).
APSO became a large gathering of diverse student groups both from the right and the left sides of the ideological spectrum. It was never an electoral alliance, but rather worked as a pressure group. But its existence was short-lived. After a few rallies in Karachi that turned violent due to overenthusiastic police action, APSO too was banned by the government.
Meanwhile, and most interestingly, some DSF members managed to infiltrate the establishmentarian National Students Federation (NSF) and (by 1956), “hijacked” it to completely change the ideological orientation of the organization, eventually turning it from being pro-establishment and conservative, to becoming increasingly independent and left-leaning.
In fact, by the early 1960s, NSF would become the country’s leading progressive student party.
The hijacking and change of ideological course in the NSF was first initiated by former DSF leaders like Hassan Naqi and (in the late 1950s), by progressive student leaders like (Dr.) Syed Ehtisham.
The irony is, as the bickering regimes of quarrelling Muslim League starlets and former ML turncoats were concentrating on keeping the CPP and DSF quiet (both had gone underground), NSF that was initially constructed as a pro-establishment student organization, changed its ideological shape and started wining student union elections just as DSF had done in the early 1950s.
Some officials within the ruling circles eventually did begin to sound the alarm, but by then it was too late. In 1958, the eleven-year-rule of assorted Muslim League factions and other establishmentarian groups of feudals and bureaucrats came to an end when Field Marshal Ayub Khan imposed the country’s first Martial Law.
Though DSF and CPP continued to be put under duress, their gravest tragedy arrived in 1959 when DSF sympathizer and CPP activist, Hassan Nasir, was arrested by the Punjab police, taken to the Lahore Fort and tortured to death.
Student Union Elections (West Pakistan) 1950-59 – Leading parties & approximations of the number of elections won:
1: Democratic Students Federation (DSF) – 50%
2: National Students Federation (NSF) – 35%
3: Muslim Students Federation (MSF) – 10%
4: Islami-Jamiat-Taleba - 5%
* Approximations gathered from student union election data at University of Karachi, Dow Medical College, Islamia College (Karachi), SM College Karachi, Punjab University, Government College Lahore, Gordon College Rawalpindi.
1960s: Revolutions and then some
In a quirky twist, just as the majority of the country had actually celebrated the initial arrival of Ayub Khan’s martial law, so did almost all student groups. Just as most people were now exhausted with the unsettling power plays of politicians and the rising corruption witnessed in the 1950s _ a time when the students were constantly harassed and subjugated _ most of them felt a sense of relief with the overthrowing of the many (similar looking) “civilian governments” of the preceding decade.
However, still very much under the umbrella and influence of the United States and set to further push in stark capitalism in and around the country’s economics, the Ayub regime maintained the ban on the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP), even though the DSF did start to trickle back in on the campus political scene, albeit as a far less influential group, especially in the event of the rise of NSF.
By the early 1960s, NSF had dramatically ascended to become Pakistan’s leading and largest progressive student party. But unlike DSF, which in the advancing years got more and more associated with the pro-Soviet CPP, NSF remained largely independent and held a wider ideological base encompassing leaders and members ranging from communists, socialists, socio-democrats and left-liberals. It became an all-round progressive entity joined, supported and patronized by all shades and shapes of the left.
NSF also maintained its winning streak in student union elections, galloping towards victory in almost all major universities and colleges. But this time it had a tougher opponent in the making and not just depleted MSF factions or a struggling DSF.
At the start of the 1960s, the student wing of the right-wing politico-religious party, the Jamaat-e-Islami finally announced its complete entry into the spectrum of Pakistani student politics.
Even though the Jamat’s student wing, the Islami-Jamiat-Taleba (IJT), had a presence in educational institutions in the 1950s as well, it was less aggressive in asserting itself and spend more time in trying to check DSF and NSF’s rampant influence.
By the late 1950s, many colleges and universities had already started to report clashes between NSF and the IJT, and by 1961, the later was turning out to be a tough electoral competitor for NSF.
However, NSF remained to be the student group with the most attractive and forceful electoral pull and influence in student union elections right up till 1968.
IJT’s main aim was to limit NSF’s far-reaching ideological and electoral sway on campuses, and for this it challenged NSF both through the ballot and at times otherwise.
Though somewhat unable to check NSF’s electoral strength for much of the 1960s, IJT did succeed in firmly rooting itself as the largest and main opposition student party, especially in universities and colleges of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Karachi.
By 1962 both of the main left and right student parties of the country (NSF and IJT), had more or less turned against the Ayub dictatorship, (NSF due to the regime’s continuing pro-US foreign policy and emphasis on capitalism, and IJT for the regime’s modernizing policies which the organization saw as being “anti-Islam”).
On the other end, MSF tried to reunite its many factions when Ayub created a Muslim League comprising of his supporters amongst the feudal/landed and the burgeoning capitalist elite. But soon this Muslim League too split when a group pf Muslim Leaguers opposed to Ayub formed the Council Muslim League. Ayub’s league became the Convention Muslim League. MSF decided to support the pro-Ayub Muslim League (Council).
MSF never really managed to wrest any significant electoral influence in student union elections, but did start to gather a relatively stronger support base in colleges of Rawalpindi and Peshawar.
Some of the top leaders emerging from MSF were Raja Anwar and Ammanullah. They represented the progressive wing of the student organization and eventually joined the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in 1967. Raja Anwar went on to become a minister and advisor in the first PPP government (1971-76).
In a rare show of unity, both NSF and IJT opposed Ayub Khan’s Presidential candidature against his challenger, Fatima Jinnah, in the controversial 1964 Presidential elections. IJT was at the forefront of holding demonstrations against Ayub (when he defeated Jinnah), accusing the dictator of rigging the polls. This improved IJT’s electoral performance in student union elections, especially in Karachi and Lahore, even though NSF still reigned supreme as the country’s leading student organization and continued to win the bulk of student union elections in the country’s main colleges and universities.
Also, after a brief respite during the 1964 Presidential elections, clashes between NSF and IJT returned to the fore. Paralleling the start of the celebrated students’ movement in the United States and the West that began taking shape in 1964, the spark in Pakistan in this respect was set alight by the aftermath of the country’s 1965 war with India. The official media had thumped in hard a skewed perception of the war, proclaiming that the country’s armed forces had dealt India a hard, decisive blow. But when the Soviet Union brokered a peace treaty between the two countries, the opposition parties claimed that “Pakistan had lost on the negotiation table what its forces had won in the field.”
At once there were demonstrations against the treaty by NSF, IJT and even MSF. Also against the treaty was Ayub’s dynamic young Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He made a passionate speech at the United Nations (UN) against the treaty and the United States (which, though allied to Pakistan, had put an arms embargo on the country, whereas the Soviet Union continued to arm India). The only support coming to Pakistan was from its newest friend, the Peoples Republic of China.
Bhutto was eased out of the cabinet by Ayub mainly due to his speech at the UN. He was welcomed back as a hero by thousands of common Pakistanis and students. NSF was the first student party to hail Bhutto as a hero, and even though NSF had progressives and leftists of all shapes and sizes, it started moving closer to China instead of the Soviet Union in ideological orientation. DSF had by now become staunchly pro-Soviet and communist in nature, whereas NSF got nearer to the left-leaning, pro-China Bhashani faction of the National Awami Party (NAP).
As Bhutto’s stature grew and he became one of the main opposition leaders in West Pakistan, NSF galvanized around him, seeing in him a potential catalyst for an actual socialist revolution in the country. NSF also became the most active student organization in arranging and participating in the violent 1967 and 1968 anti-Ayub student protests in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. They were amply supported (especially in Punjab), by members and supporters of MSF that had turned anti-Ayub after the war. Already the leading student organization, it was no surprise that NSF hit a peak in student union elections between 1965 and 1968. However, with further growth in size and standing, also came NSF’s first round of factionalization.
With the international Sino-Soviet split over the leadership of the international socialist movement getting deeper, it tore and split many leftist parties around the world, putting them into separate Chinese and Soviet camps. The affects of the tear also reached the highly volatile progressive student groups in Pakistan. DSF remained to be pro-Soviet, but a majority of NSF leadership moved towards the Chinese camp (Maoist), leaving the pro-Soviet membership of NSF to continue as a much smaller organization. The main pro-China factions of NSF became NSF (Meraj) and NSF (Kazmi), whereas NSF (Rashid) became recognized as being pro-Soviet, even though it claimed to have remained independent of both Chinese and Soviet influence. NSF (Meraj) moved in the closest to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and one of its leaders, Meraj Muhammad Khan, became a founding member of Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party in 1967. Meraj, (along with veteran leftist ideologues, J A. Rahim and Dr. Mubashir Hassan), become an important member of PPP’s “socialist intellectual wing” and a minister in Bhutto’s first cabinet in 1972.
Apart from Meraj, other major NSF leaders of the anti-Ayub movement also included Saeed Hassan, Tarek Fathe, Fatehyab Ali Khan, Ameer Ahmed Kazmi, (Dr.) Rashid Hassan, Nawaz Butt and Sibghatullah Qadri. NSF (Meraj) and NSF (Kazmi) were the strongest in Karachi, whereas interestingly, though still the strongest student party in most universities and colleges of Lahore and Rawalpindi, NSF remained somewhat intact and faction-less in the Punjab. One of the reason maybe the shape MSF was taking after 1965. It too had become a huge supporter of Z A. Bhutto and along with NSF played a significant role in the anti-Ayub movement.
What’s more, many MSF members were radicalized during the movement and in 1969-70, an influential progressive portion of MSF eloped with some leaving members of NSF (Meraj) and evolved into a separate NSF faction called NSF (Bari). This faction of NSF was also influenced by some progressive former Muslim League leaders who (in the 1950s), along with intellectuals like Hanif Ramay, were one of the first in the country to float the idea of “Islamic Socialism.”
Islamic Socialism became an important plank of the first PPP manifesto.
After reaching a peak in 1968 and eventually helping Bhutto’s PPP drive out Ayub Khan, exhaustion started to set in NSF across all of its factions. Event though these factions remained on the left sides of the ideological divide, further fissures appeared among them. NSF (Mearj) was staunchly pro-PPP and pro-China, very nationalistic, anti-India and also anti-Mujib-ur-Rheman, the nationalist leader of former East Pakistan. NSF (Kazmi) was also pro-Bhutto and pro-China, but more subtle about its views on the happenings in East Pakistan. NSF (Rashid) somewhat remained associated with the National Awami Party (NAP), and was more likely to get into alliances with new-found nationalist student organizations, such as the Marxist Baloch Students Organization (BSO).
The BSO emerged in 1967 as a fall-out of the “second Balochistan insurgency” in 1962-63. It soon dug in deep in educational institutions in Balochistan and also managed to have an impressive presence in Karachi where it allied itself with various NSF factions in student union polls across the 1970s and 1980s. NSF (Bari) was the least radical of the NSF factions. Unlike other NSF splinter groups which remained firmly on the left, NSF (Bari) was in the center and was seen more of a progressive-liberal group instead of being staunchly socialist. An NSF faction, Sindh National Students Federation (SNSF) also emerged in educational institutions in the interior of the Sindh province. It soon became the strongest left-wing/progressive student group there.
1969, IJT for the first time swept student union elections in a major university when it finally defeated NSF in the union elections at the University of Karachi. Student Union Elections (West Pakistan) 1960-69 – Leading parties & approximations of the number of elections won:
There was concern in Islamabad about the electoral revival of progressive student parties in Karachi, Sindh, Northern Punjab and Peshawar, especially of left-leaning/progressive alliances like USM and Punjab Progressive Students Alliance. The government felt that these alliances might be used by MRD in its upcoming protest movement, even though student organizations
1: National Students Federation (NSF) – 60%
2: Islami-Jamiat-Taleba (IJT) – 35%
3: Muslim Students Federation – 3%
3: Democratic Students Federation (DSF) - 2%
* Approximations gathered from student union election data at University of Karachi, Dow Medical College, Adamjee College, Islamia College (Karachi), SM College Karachi, Punjab University, Government College Lahore, Gordon College Rawalpindi, Polytechnic College Rawalpindi.
1970s: Left vs. Left vs. Right
All factions of NSF celebrated the sweeping victory of the PPP in the 1970 general elections.
They saw Bhutto’s and PPP’s victory as the climaxing of their struggle against dictatorship (Ayub Khan, Yayah Khan), and the arrival of socialism in Pakistan. However, there was a mixed reaction among the factions regarding the landslide win of Mujib-ur-Rheman’s Awami League in former East Pakistan. NSF (Meraj) in particular was the most vocal in condemning Mujeeb for holding separatist views. NSF was also instrumental in tackling Bhutto’s detractors in IJT, whom the Jamaat-e-Islami had used to attack PPP rallies and spread anti-Bhutto propaganda, claiming that Bhutto was a non-believer and if his party wins, his socialist regime will “destroy Islam.” A number of clashes took place between NSF and IJT over such issues before the 1970 general elections, and when the Jamaat and IJT increased their attacks and slandering campaigns, the PPP formed its own “Peoples Guards” created by plucking “street fighters” from various NSF factions and MSF.
These brigades of young fighters armed with clubs and knives started to accompany Bhutto and various other PPP leaders during the election campaign and worked as tough bulwarks against riotous Jamaat and IJT instigators. The most violent clashes between the two groups took place in the streets of Lahore and the Punjab University in 1969 and early 1970. Subsequently, by late 1972, these young PPP brigades would eventually evolve into becoming PPP’s own student wing, the Peoples Students Federation (PSF).
On the student electoral front, IJT repeated its victory in the 1970 student union elections at the University of Karachi with the NSF factions coming in a close second. By 1970 IJT had started to make crucial electoral inroads at the Punjab University as well, coming in a second to NSF. NSF (especially NSF-Kazmi, NSF-Rashid and NSF-Miraj), however maintained their winning ways in most colleges in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, a feat NSF had been repeating for more than a decade now.
But the growing ideological tussle between NSF (Miraj), NSF (Rashid), NSF (Kazmi), NSF (Bari) and SNSF started to take its toll on leftist politics on campuses like never before. This helped IJT to once again win University of Karachi union elections in 1971 (its third consecutive victory here); and manage to clearly triumph in the student union elections at the Punjab University for the first time. However, the same year (1971), NSF and IJT were united in lamenting the Pakistan Army’s defeat at the hands of their Indian counterparts and the subsequent dismemberment of the country when former East Pakistan nationalists (backed by India), broke away to create Bangladesh after a vicious civil war against the West Pakistan Army.
However, NSF were upbeat when in 1972, the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government began implementing its reformist and socialist policies. NSF (Rashid) and NSF (Kazmi) once again swept the 1972 student union elections in almost all major colleges in Karachi. But this time they had to ally themselves with left-wing nationalist student groups, BSO and the newly formed, Pakhtun Students Federation (PkSF), the progressive Pushtun student party of the Wali Khan wing of the National Awami Party (NAP). However, once again making the most of the factionalization in NSF, the IJT won again in the student union elections at the Punjab University and University of Karachi, but unions at major colleges in Rawalpindi remained in the hands of NSF factions.
1972 was also the year when the Pakistan Peoples Party’s student wing, the Peoples Students Federation (PSF) started to make its way into mainstream campus politics. At the end of 1972, alarmed at the rise of “unIslamic activities” at the University of Karachi, the IJT began giving shape to a sort of campus moral police called the “Thunder Squad.” The squad, mostly made up of IJT’s muscle men, would start roaming the university’s premises looking to “correct wayward students.”
They claimed this is the kind of “moral cleansing” the students of University of Karachi had been voting the IJT into power for. 1973 turned out to be a rather ironic year for NSF. Even though Bhutto had put his socialist polices in high gear, he was constantly pushed by the PPP’s “socialist intellectual wing” to further accelerate and widen the scope of his government’s polices. The wing leaders also protested the growing number of feudal lords joining the party. Accusing the wing leaders of hotheadedness and impracticality, Bhutto’s response was to start purging the leadership of the wing. The biggest casualties of the purge were PPP’s most senior ideologue, J A. Rahim, and the party’s youngest minister, Miraj Muhammad Khan. All NSF factions condemned the purge and finally withdrew their support for the PPP government.
The continuing factionalization of the student left and the fall-out of the purge dealt NSF its most serious electoral blow thus far. It once again lost to the IJT at the University of Karachi and the Punjab University and struggled to maintain its hold even in colleges in which it had been winning student union elections for more than decade. In a cruel twist, NSF (Meraj) was almost wiped out as the other NSF factions had to bank unconditionally on BSO and PkSF to merely survive the debacle. 1973 also saw the further splitting of NSF factions, when discontented members of NSF (Rashid), NSF (Bari) and NSF (Kazmi) formed the Liberal Students Organization (LSO). What’s more, the SNSF in interior Sindh was now up against the newly formed student wing of the separatist G M Syed’s Jeeay Sindh Movement, the Jeeay Sindh Students Federation (JSSF).
The year also saw BSO plunging itself forward against Z A. Bhutto when his government’s strong-arm tactics against Baloch nationalist parties in the Balochistan Assembly triggered the beginning of the “third Balochistan Insurgency” in the remote mountains of the arid province. A number of BSO members joined the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a militant Marxist-Nationalist guerilla group fighting for an independent Balochistan, even though it insisted it was only fighting for the Baloch people’s democratic rights. Bhutto’s growing tendency towards authoritarianism had not only disheartened the left-leaning student groups, but also gave momentum to the Islamists and conservatives who had otherwise been wiped out in the 1970 general elections. IJT continued with its upward momentum when it yet again won the student union elections at the University of Karachi and the Punjab University in 1974. It also made deeper inroads in colleges where it was still trailing behind NSF. However, in the 1974 student union elections at University of Karachi and Punjab University, IJT got its toughest fight in four years from the progressives. NSF (Kazmi), NSF (Rashid) and NSF (Bari) came together with Liberal Students Organization (LSO), BSO, PkSF and the fast emerging student wing of the PPP, the PSF to form the Progressive Alliance.
It was now being felt that after wining four consecutive elections in these two universities, IJT was becoming complacent and its “Thunder Squads” were becoming increasingly violent and unpopular. In fact the squad had gotten into some serious clashes with NSF and PSF at the two universities. The Progressive Alliance had also accused the IJT of co-opting senior faculty members at the universities and using them to influence the election results. Though it is true that by now a majority of faculty members at the two universities started exhibiting sympathies towards IJT, the accusation that they were influencing election results was laid to rest when the Progressive Alliance now led by LSO, routed the IJT at the University of Karachi and across all colleges in the city in the 1975 student union elections. This was IJT’s biggest defeat in Karachi in five years. The same year at National College, a group of ex-IJT members led by one Altaf Hussain, began contemplating the creation of a “Mohajir” students’ front. Splitting the right-wing vote and thus affecting IJT’s vote bank in Punjab’s colleges was the emergence of Anjuman-e-Taleba-Islam (ATI), a student organization loosely associated with Shah Mhamood Noorani’s Jamiat-Ulema-Pakistan (JUP). It had been formed in Karachi in 1969 as a reaction to the increasing left-wing activity in Pakistan’s politics and educational institutions. By 1975 it had risen to become an electoral force in various collages of Southern Punjab.
1975 also saw the Gordon College student union in Rawalpindi, that had remained to be a bastion of progressive student groups (DSF, NSF) ever since the 1950s, finally fell to the IJT. The IJT won again here in the 1976 student union elections, led by leaders such as Shaikh Rashid Ahmed and Javed Hashmi. However, the Progressive Alliance returned to power at the University of Karachi in 1976, with the alliance still led by LSO and comprising of NSF (Kazmi), NSF (Rashid), NSF (Bari), PSF, BSO and PkSF. Joining them was also Punjabi Students Association (PSA), a liberal student party formed in Karachi to look after the political and academic interests of Punjabi speaking students. 1976 was also the year of general elections.
Though aggressively and passionately supported by progressive and left-wing student groups (especially NSF), before and during the 1970 elections, this time none of the NSF factions were ready to support the PPP. They had been angry with Bhutto ever since he purged hard-line leftists from his party in 1973, and then send in the Army to act against Baloch nationalists. They also accused Bhutto for rolling back the PPP’s original socialist manifesto and alienating the leftists by inducting feudal lords and capitalists in his post-’73 cabinet, and then caving in to the pressure of Islamists by proclaiming the Ahmadiyya community as non-Muslims in 1974.
The only progressive student group willing to support the PPP was, of course, the party’s own student wing, the PSF. PSF had established it self well in universities and colleges across Pakistan. And even though it was able to win student union elections single handedly in interior Sindh and in some colleges of Rawalpindi, it had to get into alliances with other progressive/socialist student groups in Karachi and Lahore. Interestingly, however, in 1976, it started to emerge as the strongest student organization at the University of Peshawar. Two of its frontline leaders of the time were Jehangir Badar and Qasim Zia. The aftermath of the 1976 general elections was tumultuous. The nine-party opposition grouping, the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) that was led by the Jamaat-e-Islami, accused the Bhutto regime of rigging the polls.
To counter the PPP’s proclamations of “Islamic Socialism”, the PNA had run in the elections on the platform of “Nizam-e-Mustapha” (Prophet’s system/Islamic Sharia). Right away the PNA began a movement of mass protests against the PPP government. Many of these protests turned violent in Karachi and Lahore, enough for Bhutto to send in the Army and impose a curfew in the disturbed areas. Mass anti-PPP demonstrations were organized by IJT at University of Karachi before it was shut down, while the movement in the Punjab was given great impetus by IJT activists at the Punjab University and Gordon College.
Using the disturbances as a pretext, Bhutto’s handpicked General, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (a closet Jamat-e-Islami sympathizer), imposed the country’s second Martial Law (5 July, 1977). In the 1977 student union elections, the IJT regained the turf it lost to Progressive Alliance in the 1975 and 1976 elections at the University of Karachi. In this year’s election NSF (Bari) and NSF (Rashid) were wiped out just as NSF (Meraj) was in 1973. Most of their leadership split and joined either LSO and PSF as some would go on to join the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organization (APMSO) in 1978. NSF (Kazmi) was the only NSF faction left standing. Though a much smaller organization, some quipped that at least it was now the only NSF. And even though NSF (Kazmi) was associated with a senior former progressive student leader, Ameer Ahmed Kazmi, and had, like all other NSF factions, stopped supporting the PPP from 1973 onwards, Kazmi himself would join the PPP and become a Federal Minister in Benazir Bhutto’s first government in 1989.
When Zia brought in members of the Jamat-e-Islami to form his first cabinet (to help him “Islamize Pakistan”), IJT’s “Thunder Sqauds” went on a rampage, harassing and physically manhandling their opponents at the University of Karachi and Punjab University. In 1978, NSF, PSF, LSO and DSF formed the Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (PPSA) at the Punjab University, Gordon College, Rawalpindi and the newly built Quied-e-Azam University in Islamabad. Gaining sympathy due to Zia’s harsh crackdown on PSF and NSF members and the rising cases of violence and harassment by the IJT, the PPSA routed IJT in the 1978 student union elections in Rawalpindi, Islambad and in many colleges of Lahore. This was the IJT’s biggest defeat in Punjab ever since it started to dominate student politics in the province in 1971.
DSF which had almost vanished under the shadow of the bludgeoning NSF, started to reemerge in 1976 when some Marxist students got BSO, PkSF and Jam Saqi’s SNSF together to reform the veteran student party.
In the University of Karachi student union elections of 1978, the Progressive Alliance (now comprising of NSF, PSF, DSF, BSO, PkSF, and PSA), almost regained control of the student union. But this was also the year when incidents of violence between IJT and the progressives increased dramatically. Also in 1978, Altaf Hussain’s All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organization (APMSO) finally came into being. It was a small group of former-IJT members who were then joined by a few progressive members loitering from the break up of two NSF factions in 1977. It claimed to hold progressive views and wanted to work for the Urdu speaking students (Mohajirs), whom it claimed were bitten by Bhutto’s quota system and “Punjab’s political and economic hegemony.” Despite the violence (usually involving PSF and NSF against IJT), the University did manage to hold its 1979 elections. The elections saw the Progressive Alliance defeat IJT on a number of union posts, but the union’s top slot was won by IJT’s top man at the varsity, Hussain Haqqani.
It was Hussain Haqqani (who many years later would join PML (N) and then the PPP), who introduced the usage of latest weaponry at the University. Even though he never carried a weapon himself, he moved with a well armed group of Thunder Squad members led by the infamous, Rana Javed. Haqqani’s opponents also accused him of being “on CIA and the ISI’s payroll.” When Zia hanged Bhutto and both PSF and NSF started to aggressively protest against the dictatorship, Zia increased the harassment and punishments against the members of the two student groups. With the help of arrests, jailing and torture, coupled with the violent pressure added by IJT, the dictatorship finally managed to dismember the Progressive Alliance.
Meanwhile in the Punjab, the Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (PPSA), went on to once again defeat IJT at the Quied-e-Azam University in the 1979 student union elections, and then won back Gordon College for the progressives which they had lost to IJT in the 1976 elections. Student Union Elections 1970-79 – Leading parties & approximations of the number of elections won:
1: Islami-Jamiat-Taleba (IJT) – 45%
2: Progressive Alliance (National Students Federation; Liberal Students Organization; Peoples Students Federation; Baloch Students Organization; Pakhtun Students Federation; Democratic Students Federation; Punjabi Students Association) – 25%
3: Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (National Students Federation; Peoples Students Federation; Democratic Students Federation) - 20%
3: Anjuman-Taleba-Islam (ATI) – 10%
* Approximations gathered from student union election data at University of Karachi, Dow Medical College, Adamjee College, Islamia College (Karachi), NED University, Karachi, Punjab University, Government College Lahore, Gordon College Rawalpindi, Polytechnic College Rawalpindi, Quied-e-Azam University Islamabad, Peshawar University.
1980s: The levy breaks
Further emboldened by Bhutto’s downfall and the Jamat’s growing influence in Zia’s Martial Law regime, the IJT started devolving from being a democratic-conservative student group into a group with growing fascist tendencies. At times it became uncontrollable even for its mother party the Jamat-e-Islami!
PSF, now under tremendous pressure from arrests and harassment by the Zia dictatorship, too became a lot more violent, but for different reasons. Many of its members were jailed, tortured and even flogged, sometimes simply for raising a “Jeeay Bhutto!” slogan. From this pressure cooker emerged one of PSF’s most notorious leaders in Karachi, Salamullah Tipu. Every day dozens of PPP and PSF workers were being arrested and thrown into cramped jails and since 1978, thousands of them had been jailed across Pakistan. Colleges in interior Sindh and Rawalpindi, The Quied-e-Azam University and the Peshawar University were the most vigorous venues of PSF’s anti-Zia activism.
PSF had risen appreciably at the Peshawar University, and it was in Peshawar that some PSF leaders saw IJT members receiving AK-47s and TT pistols from Afghan traders who had started to arrive into the NWFP after the takeover of Afghanistan by Soviet forces. These IJT members then got the same traders to meet with IJT workers arriving from Karachi. It is said that since arms from the United States had also started to pour in for the so-called anti-Soviet “Mujahideen” groups, many of them were sold at throw away prices (by Pakistani middlemen and related Afghan traders) to the visiting IJT workers.
Back at the University of Karachi, the Progressive Alliance had capitulated and finally folded under government repression and the strong armed tactics of the now well armed IJT. The alliance also lost a member, Qadeer Abid, when in 1980, NSF clashed with IJT and Qadeer was mercilessly shot dead, allegedly by the time’s leading IJT henchman, Rana Javed. Getting in touch with the same Afghan traders in Peshawar who had been supplying arms to IJT members, a group of PSF activists from University of Karachi bought themselves a cachet of AK-47s and TT pistols as well. This group was led by the notorious Salamullah Tipu, a former member of NSF (Kazmi), who later joined PSF and became a self-claimed defender of “Bhuttoism.” He also belonged to PSF’s militant wing that propagated an armed rebellion against the repressive Zia dictatorship. But foremost on his mind was to “give IJT a taste of its own medicine in Karachi.”
With the Progressive Alliance in tatters and member student parties trying in vain to come to grips with Zia’s repression and IJT violence, Tipu headed back to the University of Karachi. The same year (1980), when an Army Major’s jeep arrived at the University, members of PSF, NSF and BSO, set it on fire. The next day Tipu and a group of PSF militants emerged on the campus, roaming in a car with a PPP flag (a crime of sorts in those days), and shouting “Jeeay Bhutto!” slogans. Seeing Tipu, a senior IJT leader, Hafiz Aslam, whipped out a TT pistol and fired at his car. He fired twice, but missed. Tipu braked, rushed out of the car with a recently bought AK-47 fell Hafiz with a burst of bullets. Hafiz died on the spot, his gun lying besides him. The chaotic violence that began with men associated with the time’s IJT leader at the Karachi University, Hussain Haqqani, gunning down an NSF worker, (Qadeer Abid), and then PSF’s Tipu reciprocating the murder by shooting dead a senior IJT member, coupled with frequent fist fights and gun battles and the burning of an Army Major’s jeep by the progressives … all this created one of the most uncertain situations before student union elections at the University of Karachi.
The top slots of the union had been won by the IJT in 1979, but by 1980 the IJT with the help of government repression had tendered the Progressive Alliance a most damaging blow. The withering away of the six-year-old Progressive Alliance saw the student groups of the now defunct coalition, NSF, LSO and PSF field individual candidates, while the nationalist/regional parties of the alliance (BSO, PkSF), along with JSSF and APMSO fielded joint candidates. IJT easily won the top slots of the union, while the rest of the seats were divided between PSF, LSO and the regional student parties. NSF failed to win a single seat. In the neighboring NED University, PSF and NSF gave a tougher fight, but IJT managed to hold on to power, albeit with a dwindling minority. Elsewhere in Pakistan, IJT swept the elections in most Lahore colleges and at Punjab University, while the Punjab Progressive Students Alliance held on to power in the colleges of Rawalpindi, while again taking the Quied-e-Azam University for the third consecutive year. At University of Peshawar, union seats were split between IJT, PSF and PkSF.
The following year (1981), turned out to be one of the most tense and dramatic for student politics in Pakistan, especially in Karachi. Salamullah Tipu, against whom the IJT had lodged a case for killing Hafiz Aslam, escaped to Peshawar along with a group of PSF activists. From Peshawar this groupe secretly crossed the border into Afghanistan. They walked and hitchhiked their way in to Kabul which was then under the control of Soviet troops and a Soviet-backed communist government led by Babrak Karmal. There they were met by the sons of the slain former Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Murtaza Bhutto and Shanawaz Bhutto had escaped to Kabul when Bhutto was arrested and hanged by the Zia dictatorship in 1979. In Kabul they had formed an anti-Zia guerilla front called Al-Zulfikar Organization (AZO) with the backing of the pro-Soviet Afghan government.
Bulk of AZO’s membership was made up of activists from PSF’s militant wing who had escaped Zia’s wrath by slipping into Kabul. Among them was also Raja Anwar, a former student radical belonging to MSF, who in 1965 had become a Bhutto loyalist and then made a minister by Bhutto. After Bhutto’s fall, Anwar had taken charge of PSF’s militant cells, organizing various rallies and action against the Zia regime between 1977 and 1980. He eventually escaped to Kabul to join AZO.
But by the time Salamullah Tipu and his group arrived in Kabul, Anwar already had had a falling out with Murtaza Bhutto and on latter’s request thrown into a Kabul jail by the Afghan intelligence agency, KHAD. AZO had pulled off a number of bank heists and an assassination, and attempted to slay the Pope who was visiting Karachi in early 1981. Anwar suggested that AZO terminate its operations and support Z A. Bhutto’s young daughter, Benazir Bhutto, who had begun to lead an affective campaign against Zia with the help of the anti-Martial Law alliance, the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD). Murtaza disagreed and threw Anwar into a Kabul jail.
Meanwhile, Salamullah Tipu and his group of PSF militants were provided training by KHAD before they slipped back into Pakistan and hijacked a domestic PIA flight. The flight was first taken to Kabul Airport where Tipu and his men provided a list of political prisoners that they wanted the Zia regime to release. These included a number of PPP and PSF activists and a few NSF members, all of whom had been loitering in various Pakistani jails ever since 1977 and 1978. On the Pakistani government’s initial reluctance to comply, Tipu executed a Pakistani army man who was on the plane, mistaking him for being part of Zia’s intelligence agencies. He wasn’t. The murder caused panic in the Zia camp which was already under tremendous pressure by the growth of the MRD movement. After thirteen days, the demands were met when the hijackers forced the plane to fly to Damascus, Syria. Most of the political prisoners were released, some of them traveling to Kabul, others to Syria and Libya.
Tipu’s fellow hijackers too decided to travel to Libya after the hijacking, whereas Tipu traveled back to Kabul. Ironically AZO’s gory triumph turned out to be a damaging blow to MRD, as Zia now repressed the movement more brutally than ever. Hundreds of anti-Zia activists were rounded up and tried in military courts; these also included some leading PSF activists from Karachi’s Lyari area who were eventually hanged to death. At the university of Karachi, with the Progressive Alliance now defunct, the IJT renewed its violence against PSF and NSF. In response, a senior NSF leader, Zafar Arif, pleaded for a brand new alliance of progressive student groups to challenge the government’s repression and IJT’s hegemonic ways. A meeting was held at Zafar Arif’s home and United Students Movement (USM) came into being. The new progressive coalition included NSF, PSF, DSF, BSO, PkSF, PSA and APMSO. The LSO however, which was a leading party in the old alliance had stopped functioning after 1980.
A two-pronged strategy was chalked out by USM. The first involved the alliance to work as a new united electoral group against right-wing student parties like IJT in student union elections at University of Karachi, NED University and in all the major colleges across the city. Secondly, the new alliance also decided to take IJT head-on in other matters and for this USM planed to arm itself as well as the IJT had already done. Tipu had armed PSF a year before, and the student party now got BSO and NSF members to get in touch with the Afghan arms suppliers who had also sold arms to the IJT. Whereas the Jamat-e-Islami had funded IJT’s arms buying spree, and was also helped in this pursuit by the Jamat’s connections with “mujahideen” commanders like Gulbadin Hykmatyar, the USM had to struggle to generate funds. Various PPP leaders were requested to dish out money, while certain other opposition party leaders belonging to Baloch and Pushtun nationalist parties were also approached.
Groups of PSF, NSF and BSO members traveled to the NWFP and Balochistan and brought back catches of AK-47s and TT pistols. The arms were stashed in hostel areas controlled by PSF and BSO at the University of Karachi and NED University. The strategy also included working against the government which was believed to have let lose intelligence agents working together with certain high ranking IJT members. Then, as expected, violence erupted on the day of the 1981 student union elections in Karachi. To neutralize IJT’s armed wing, the Thunder Squad, a group of USM militants led by PSF’s Boro Baloch and Shireen Khan entered the University of Karachi (from NED) to counter Thunder Squad members there.
Soon, a gun battle ensued between the two groups. Armed IJT members holed themselves up at the varsity’s student union offices while the USM men climbed on top of an opposite building. The firing was intense and went on for about half an hour. The outcome was bloody. There were injuries on both sides but an IJT member was critically injured. He later died in the hospital. The 1981 student union election results in Karachi saw USM sweeping the elections at NED and most major colleges of the city. Bulk of the seats were won by PSF and NSF members, while nationalist student groups like BSO pitched in. However, the IJT (albeit only barely) managed to hold on to the union at University of Karachi.
The same year the IJT members shot dead a USM activist at the university. Ironically the dead student was a former Thunder Squad member who had quit IJT and joined USM. Elsewhere in the year’s student union elections, the Punjab Progressive Students Alliance notched up yet another victory at the Quied-e-Azam University in Islamabad and in colleges in North Punjab, while IJT once again bagged colleges in Lahore and the Punjab University. The start of 1982 saw members of a small component party of USM, the APMSO, being denied entry to the University of Karachi by IJT. The APMSO was formed by a group of former IJT members who quit in 1974 and formed a nationalist student party for the Urdu speaking students of Karachi in 1978. The APMSO described itself as a progressive party when it joined USM in 1981. It was still not in a position though, to offer winnable candidates to USM in the student union elections.
Fearing that it will not be able to withstand the pressure that was being applied on its members by IJT, it asked its larger USM contemporary parties for arms. PSF and NSF offered to sell them a limited number of arms for defense purposes. The student union elections of the year turned up similar results as they did in 1981 with USM component parties winning the majority of union slots at NED, Dow Medical College and in various other colleges of Karachi, while giving a tougher time to IJT at the University of Karachi. Lahore colleges and the Punjab University were swept as usual by IJT while the Punjab Progressive Students Alliance once more held on to power at the Quied-e-Azam University. PSF and PkSF finally toppled IJT in the union elections at Peshawar University. And though there were incidents of violence, 1982 remained to be a comparatively less violent year. However, by now, almost all major student organizations were well armed, with reports of IJT even getting itself a couple of rocket launchers which it stashed in the rooms of the hostel areas that were controlled by the party at the University of Karachi.
like PSF and NSF had already been involved in various anti-Zia activities. Advisors to the Sindh government under the governorship of General Abbasi warned the regime that even though the Jamat-e-Islami had been supporting the Zia dictatorship and using IJT to subdue leftist politics and sentiments in educational institutions, the 1981 and 1982 student union elections proved that IJT’s influence was fast receding. The advisors also warned the government that this situation will not only increase the level of violence on campuses, but this violence may turn outwards as well against the government.
As the government was reviewing these warnings, 1983 witnessed the eruption of the second MRD movement, especially in interior Sindh where protest rallies turned violent and the province eventually getting engulfed by a mini-insurgency. It was a PPP led movement amply activated by PSF cadres across the interior Sindh. The movement was soon joined by Sindhi nationalists as well. Most of these were student members of the JSSF who had opposed their mother party, the Jeeay Sindh Movement’s negative stance towards the MRD movement. These students soon went on to form the breakaway Jeeay Sindh Progressive/Tarakee-Pasand Students Federation (JSPSF).
The intensity of the violence was such that Zia had to send in the Army with tanks. Hundreds of protesters and insurgents were killed. Thousands were jailed and tortured. Many PSF and JSPSF activists, especially from areas like Dadu, Moro and Larkana hid inside the thick forests near Dadu and many would become notorious dacoits in the coming years. There were no student union elections held in interior Sindh in 1983, while in Karachi they were postponed. In the Punjab IJT was given a tough fight by the progressives at the Punjab University, while PSF swept the elections in colleges in semi-urban areas of the province. The Punjab Progressive Students Alliance still being led by NSF, PSF and groups of liberals under the DSF banner, once again swept the elections in Rawalpindi colleges and the Quied-e-Azam University, while PSF bagged the largest number of union posts in the elections at Peshawar University.
Some PSF militants who had joined Murtaza Bhutto’s AZO in 1980 and did not move to either Syria or Libya, returned to Karachi. Some were arrested and tried by military courts and some hid. They reported that Salamullah Tipu too had had a falling out with Murtaza Bhutto and had been jailed in Kabul. In early 1984 news arrived that Tipu had been hanged by Kabul authorities. He had become a threat to Murtaza who was said to have become increasingly paranoid. However, Raja Anwar was released and he went into exile in Germany. He returned soon after Zia’s assassination to become an accomplished author and journalist. Tipu is still buried somewhere in Kabul, while his PSF counterparts who helped him hijack the PIA plane and then moved to Libya are still said to be residing there. Just before the 1984 student union elections in Karachi, the government announced that it is banning student politics. It cited growing cases of violence as a reason. Of course, the decision was based on reports that anti-government student alliances like Punjab Progressive Students Alliance and USM had gained great electoral and political momentum and may in the future be in a position to initiate a students’ movement, the sort that helped topple the Ayub Khan dictatorship.
The regime’s plan to repress progressive student groups through its allied party, the Jamat-e-Islami’s student wing the IJT had left IJT in the clutches of uncontrollable violence so much so that the support it had managed to gather through student union elections in the 1970s, now stood eroded, triggering a sympathy wave for the anti-IJT student organizations. The devastating defeats the IJT suffered in the 1981 and 1982 student union elections in the colleges of Karachi and North Punjab and at the Quied-e-Azam University and the Peshawar University reflected well the scenario.
The most ironic fallout of the ban was the way IJT reacted to the interdiction. It defied its mother party’s approval of the ban and joined opposing student groups when they right away began a protest movement against the government’s decision. IJT demanded its mother party to withdraw its support for the Zia regime. Karachi saw the most aggressive exhibition of protest rallies, where in the course of two months protesting members of IJT, PSF and NSF burned dozens of government cars and buses and fought street battles with riot police. Under pressure from its student wing and now conscious of the negative fallout the party had started to suffer from supporting Zia, the Jamat-e-Islami pulled back the more blatant aspects of its support for the dictatorship. However, it came to a compromise with the regime and continued giving it indirect support. One of the conditions it aired for this support was that the regime continued allowing IJT to exist in universities and colleges. This deal saw IJT suddenly withdraw from the anti-ban movement as the regime began a fresh round of harassment and arrests against USM and Punjab Progressive Students Alliance. The student parties of the two alliances that suffered the most from this new cycle of state-sponsored aggravation were PSF, NSF, BSO and PkSF.
At the University of Karachi, the harassed students retaliated by forcefully taking over hostel areas that were formerly held by IJT. Expecting retaliation from IJT, new caches of arms were brought in and stored inside hostel rooms. In the hectic process, PSF and NSF also handed out APMSO a small number of arms. This was to be APMSO’s first experience of owning sophisticated weaponry. In the winding months of 1984, the police reacting to reports that anti-government student groups were “planning an armed uprising” at the University, entered the campus in heavy numbers. As they tried to evacuate USM militants from the hostels by lobbing tear gas shells, and firing in the air, the students retaliated with loud bursts from AK-47s and TT pistols. The police fired back and the duel turned into an almost two-day-long siege. Hundreds of rounds of machinegun and pistol fire were used by both sides and the police had to call for constant reinforcements to finally smoke out the determined USM militants. Foremost among the militants were activists from PSF, NSF, BSO and PkSF. Surprisingly apart from the many injuries on both sides, there were no deaths.
The following year, 1985, saw the Zia dictatorship announcing to hold general elections. He had already got himself elected as “President” through a dubious referendum and a limp handpicked national assembly (Majlis-e-Shura). But to keep progressive and opposing parties away from the elections, Zia decided to hold “party-less elections.” The idea was to get as many Zia loyalists as possible in the new assembly. The opposition MRD parties led by the PPP boycotted the polls, which, as expected, were won by Zia loyalists and members supported by the Jamat-e-Islami. And ironically, even though the polls had been held on non-party basis, Zia was quick to sponsor the uniting of various Muslim League factions on a single party platform led by the new Prime Minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo . Thus was born another “king’s party” version of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML). The first had been the pro-Ayub Pakistan Muslim League (Convention) in the 1960s.
The impact of the elections and lifting of Martial Law (even though “President Zia” was still a General in the Army with the power to dismiss the government with a stroke of a pen), saw the new “democratic regime” allowing the revival of student union elections in the country’s colleges and universities. However, these too were now supposed to be on non-party basis. At least in theory. Because most student union elections held that year were actively participated by established student organizations. In Karachi no student union elections were held at the University of Karachi in 1985, but most colleges of the city did manage to hold them. PSF and NSF picked up most union slots at Dow Medical College, NED University, Saint Patrick’s Govt. College and DJ Science College, while the IJT was the leading party in colleges like Islamia College, Urdu College, National College and Premier College. Most interesting was the beginning of APMSO’s status as a viable electoral group, as for the first time candidates associated with the organization managed to bag a few seats in alliance with PSF, NSF, BSO and PkSF.
In the Punjab, IJT swept clean the Punjab University, while Progressive Students Alliance retained its hold over Quied-e-Azam University in Islamabad. No elections were held in the NWFP. In the interior Sindh, union seats in colleges and universities in Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Khairpur and Sukker were split between PSF and JSSF. The pattern was repeated in 1986, even though in Karachi elections could only be held in a handful of colleges because the city was suddenly engulfed by riots when a female student of a college was crushed to death by a public transport bus. The death of the Urdu speaking girl and the riotous reaction that the accident sparked hastened the process of senior APMSO leaders led by Altaf Hussain forming the Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM), which also became the APMSO’s mother party. Resentment was already brewing within Karachi’s Urdu-speaking/Mohajir majority populace against the arrival of a large number of Afghan refugees who had been pouring into Pakistan ever since the start of the Afghan civil war in 1979. Much of the city’s public transport business fell in the hands of the Afghan refugees, and many Afghan refugees were also accused of running clandestine businesses involving the sale of guns and drugs. Most of the refugees were Pathans and since Karachi already had a significant Pathan population (people who had first arrived from the NWFP province during the Ayub regime), the troubles soon turned into vicious Mohajir-Pathan riots.
These riots in which both sophisticated and crude homemade weapons were used and hundreds of Karachiites lost their lives was one of the first signs of the fallout of Pakistan’s involvement in the CIA backed anti-Soviet insurgency in Afghanistan. Because along with the Afghan refugees and millions of dollars worth of US aid for the war effort pouring in, also came mass corruption in the government, guns, ethnic tensions and violence, and the easy availability of destructive drugs like heroin. Pakistan’s involvement in helping raise local militias and fighters for the civil war also included the making and turning of madressas/religious schools into indoctrination and recruiting institutions, further radicalizing Islamist groups including IJT.
The post-riots scenario saw MQM rise as the representative party of the Urdu speaking population of Karachi (which were in a majority). This did not bode well with right-wing parties like Jamat-e-Islami (JI) and the Jamiat-Ulema-Pakistan (JUI) that had been strong in the city before MQM’s rise. MQM’s accelerated elevation that year also saw a two-fold rise in the ranks of APMSO. A number of former Urdu speaking student activists of IJT and NSF rushed in to join this once small component student party of the progressive USM alliance. However, within the Jamat-e-Islami, which the Zia regime (or vice versa), had started to distance itself from, there were murmurings that the MQM had been formed by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the notorious ISI, “to neutralize Jamat in Karachi.”
1986 also saw the return of Benazir Bhutto from exile. A rally outside the Lahore airport that was organized by PSF soon turned into one of the biggest processions the city had ever seen. Millions of Lahorites thronged the streets and roads of the city, accompanying Benazir’s procession, as more joined in when she held her first public rally in Pakistan after 1980. The massive turnout seen at the young PPP leader’s rally encouraged MRD to announce the beginning of a new anti-Zia movement. Only a day after the rally, PPP activists and supporters held protest marches in Lahore. In one such march four people were shot dead by the police. Two of the dead belonged to PSF. Benazir followed her Lahore triumph with an equally massive rally in Karachi. Now nervous about the large crowds Z A. Bhutto’s daughter was attracting, the Zia/Junejo regime put her under house arrest. The arrest sparked another round of protests in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Karachi. The runoff between protesters and police in Karachi’s Lyari area turned into a gun battle between the police and PSF activists.
The radicalization of various Islamist groups by the Zia regime’s involvement in the Afghan Civil War also saw a large faction of the right-wing student group, Anjuman-Taleba-Islam (ATI), become the Sunni Thereek. Some ATI members also joined the militant sectarian anti-Shia group, the Pakistan Sipah Sehaba. Weary of IJT’s reaction and the violent lessons learned from the 1986 Mohajir-Pathan riots, the APMSO started to arm itself heavily. It had been previously sold and supplied a limited number of arms by PSF and NSF militants in 1982-83, but this time a group of APMSO activists traveled to the Jamshoro University near Hyderabad and bought a heavy cache of AK-47s from JSSF members. The weapons were stored at Altaf Hussain’s resident in Karachi and in a few hostel rooms at the University of Karachi that the APMSO managed to borrow from PSF and BSO.
In 1987, fresh local elections were held across Pakistan. MQM candidates swept the elections in Karachi, while PPP candidates working under the name of Awam Dost Panel managed to bag the most seats in city councils in interior Sindh, Punjab and the NWFP. This set alarm bells ringing in Islamabad. The Zia dictatorship had spend millions of Rupees in a campaign to repress and cripple the PPP, using intelligence agencies, the police, student organizations like IJT and various “pocket journalists” but failed to stop the supportive wave that had started building around the PPP. In the few colleges where student union elections were held in 1987 in Karachi, APMSO and PSF came up trumps, and at the Quied-e-Azam University in Islamabad and the Peshawar University, PSF swept clean the elections. This was also the last time the Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (now led by PSF), will be seen in action. It would be disbanded in 1988. The USM in Karachi too was winding down as an alliance.
The same year, the PPP announced a long list of political activists that had been loitering in jails ever since the early 1980s. Many among them had been declared missing as well, feared to have been tortured to death. Most of them belonged to PSF, whereas there were also names on the list of student activists belonging to NSF and BSO. Most of the activists who were known to be in jails were all described by the Zia regime as being either “terrorists belonging to AZO” or “Soviet agents.”
In 1987, the pro-Zia Pakistan Muslim League (PML) revived the Muslim Students Federation (MSF). MSF had splintered into various factions in the 1950s, before reuniting as the student wing of the pro-Ayub Pakistan Muslim League (Convention), in 1962. It split from PML (Convention) in 1965 and was taken over by its progressive wing that decided to oppose Ayub and support Z A. Bhutto. Many MSF leaders later joined NSF and the PPP. MSF withered away once again the 1970s, and when it was revived in 1987, it at once went out to wrest control of the many Lahore colleges and the Punjab University where the IJT had ruled supreme for more than a decade.
The same year two killings took place at Karachi’s Sindh Medical College. The College had been throwing up mixed results in student union elections ever since the late 1970s. On the left, both PSF and NSF commanded solid support, whereas on the right side of ideological spectrum, IJT and to a certain extent, ATI had been equally strong. PSA which had largely remained progressive ever since its inception a decade ago, was now said to be “infiltrated” by pro-Zia operatives who had “hijacked” the party towards becoming more chauvinistic and expressive about its “Punjabiat.” In a clash with IJT, some of its members shot dead an IJT member. In retaliation, the PSA member accused by IJT to have carried out the killing was himself shot dead the same year by IJT.
In 1988, unable to halt the PPP wave and with the “state-sponsored” formation of MQM backfiring, Zia blamed Junejo’s government. At once he dismissed a government he himself had so carefully constructed through dubious methods and elections. Also, with the Afghan conflict also coming to a conclusion, Zia had started to find himself pressed against the wall more than ever.
A PSF leader at University of Karachi, Najeeb Ahmed, had a few scuffles with policemen posted at the University. He then led PSF into a number of clashes with IJT before being arrested. Najib had been arrested on a number of occasions before as well, and had been leading PSF at the University since 1986. By 1988 he had emerged as the student organization’s top man in Karachi.
Also in 1988, USM’s dissolution was complete when both PSF and APMSO decided to leave the alliance. Out of the remaining parties of the alliance, NSF wanted to retain the alliance but when other component parties of the coalition, BSO, PkSF and PSA also left, NSF then attempted to unite with the remnants of DSF to form a new progressive front. But by now, DSF was simply too weak.
The thinking behind PSF, BSO and PSA was that the growing status of APMSO had already started to erode IJT in Karachi and the changing scenario required new tactics in which USM did not fit anymore. And the scenario did change. In August 1988, a military aircraft carrying General Zia-ul-Haq exploded in mid-air over South Punjab city of Bhawalpur. It was a meticulously planned assassination. Not only Zia was killed, with him was his Army’s top brass, and the American ambassador to Pakistan.
First the finger was pointed at AZO backed by the Afghan intelligence agency, KHAD. But by 1988 AZO was as good as over. Then the Soviet KGB was blamed. But somehow, the accusation that struck the loudest chord among the public was the one that blamed the American CIA. It was said that at the fast approaching end of the Afghan Civil War that ended in the defeat of Soviet forces, Zia had become a liability for the US. And when he expressed his desire to continue and stretch his tenure as a General and absolute ruler of the country, the US used CIA to put him out of the picture. All this was, of course, speculation, as till even twenty years after the incident nothing conclusive has emerged as to who really was behind Zia’s assassination.
Zia’s end paved the way for elections based on party basis, the first of its kind ever since Zia overthrew Z A. Bhutto in 1977. Fearing a PPP sweep, the Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI bankrolled an electoral alliance of conservative parties led by the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and also joined by the Jamat-e-Islami. The front was called the Islamic Democratic Front (IDF), or the Islami Jamhoori Itehad (IJI). Despite many incidents of rigging, especially in the Punjab, the PPP emerged as the leading party, though it failed to gain a two-thirds majority. To help it gain a government-forming majority in the parliament, the PPP offered an alliance to MQM which it agreed and Benazir Bhutto became the first ever woman Prime Minister of a Muslim country.
While lifting the many political and social curbs imposed by the eleven-year-old Zia dictatorship, the new PPP government also lifted the ban on student politics that was imposed by Zia in 1984. 1989 became the year when “officially recognized” student union elections were held across universities and colleges after a four year gap. In the 1989 student union elections in Punjab, MSF toppled the IJT in a majority of colleges and universities in Lahore and surrounding cities including the Punjab University that had been a bastion of IJT’s electoral influence and power ever since the mid-1970s. In Rawalpindi, Okara and Southern Punjab, IJT faced heavy defeats delivered by PSF followed by the ATI. At the Quied-e-Azam University in Islamabad, PSF allied to NSF and DSF came up as the leading student party in the elections. At the Peshawar University, PSF routed the IJT, as PkSF came a distant second.
In the Balochistan province, various factions of BSO swept the student union elections in the Baloch speaking areas of the province, whereas the PkSF and PSF emerged as the leading parties in the province’s Pushtu speaking areas. The process of the reputation of IJT becoming dented had begun when its mother party was supporting the Zia regime and when IJT was accused of “doing the Jamat’s and the dictatorship’s dirty work in universities and colleges.” It seemed the disillusionment with IJT was now complete and gaining from this mood the most were PSF and MSF, even though MSF’s mother party, the PML was allied to the mother party of IJT in the conservative anti-PPP alliance, the Islamic Democratic Front. Upbeat by the good results it had produced in student union elections in the Punjab and the NWFP, PSF was confident of gaining a lot of ground in Sindh as well. In all the major colleges and universities in the interior of Sindh, PSF easily swept aside the JSSF and IJT. In Karachi PSF did extremely well in colleges like Sindh Medical College, Dow Medical College and St. Patrick’s Govt College where in a loose alliance with NSF and BSO it bagged the bulk of the union seats. At NED University, union seats were split between APMSO and PSF, whereas at Premiere College, National College, SM College, Adamjee College and most importantly, the widespread University of Karachi, the APMSO routed the IJT, with PSF coming in second in terms of the share of votes.
The IJT it seemed had been completely whipped out.
Student Union Elections 1980-89 – Leading parties & approximations of the number of elections won:
1: Islami-Jamiat-Taleba (IJT) – 35%
2: Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (PPSA) (National Students Federation; Peoples Students Federation*; Democratic Students Federation) - 30%
3: United Students Movement (USM) (National Students Federation; Peoples Students Federation; Baloch Students Organization; Pakhtun Students Federation; Democratic Students Federation; Punjabi Students Association; All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organization**) – 30%
3: Anjuman-Taleba-Islam (ATI) – 5% * PSF was part of Punjab Progressive Students Alliance from 1977 till 1987 and United Students Movement from 1980 till 1987. It participated in elections independently in interior Sindh, NWFP and South Punjab.
** APMSO was part of USM from 1980 till 1987. It took part in the elections independently after 1986.
* Approximations gathered from student union election data at University of Karachi, Dow Medical College, Adamjee College, Islamia College (Karachi), NED University, Karachi, Sindh Medical College Karachi, Punjab University, Government College Lahore, Gordon College Rawalpindi, Quied-e-Azam University Islamabad, Peshawar University.
1990s: Till the last breath
The euphoria of routing out IJT’s influence in major colleges and universities through the ballot was short lived. In Karachi, sensing the withering away of IJT, both APMSO and PSF tried to muscle in to fill the gap left behind IJT’s stunning electoral defeat. This soon led to a series of violent clashes between the two triumphant groups. The clashes occurred at the University of Karachi, NED University, Dow Medical College and Sindh Medical College. By early 1990 the nature and intensity of the clashes turned even more violent with both the parties using sophisticated weapons. The bloodiest episode of the already gory tussle took place at the gymnasium of the University of Karachi. An intense exchange of fire between the two groups at NED University saw PSF activists pushing their APMSO counterparts back into the premises of the neighboring University of Karachi. Then suddenly their was a lull in the firing when PSF militants ran out of ammunition. A frantic call was made to their comrades in charge of the student union at the Sindh Medical College who were asked to send out a fresh supply of bullets. Meanwhile, the APMSO men who were pushed away into University of Karachi, took advantage of the lull by reentering NED and starting to fire at the hostel area from where the PSF militants had been shooting. It is about 35 minutes drive from Sindh Medical College to NED, but this lull was enough for APMSO gunslingers to reach their PSF foils and haul them into their custody. PSF men were taken to the gymnasium of the University of Karachi. It was reported there was around six who were captured and brought here, while another four who were with them NED had managed to escape being captured. The captured were then put in a huddle in the middle of the basketball court, as the APMSO militants surrounded them. The captured were then asked to make a run for it, and when they did, the APMSO gunmen opened fire, mercilessly killing all the PSF militants who were captured.
The incident shocked the city. Instantly a fresh round of gory violence broke out between the two groups in almost all major colleges of the city. A number of students from both sides were killed. The violence put a tremendous strain on the already shaky ruling PPP alliance of which APMSO’s mother party, the MQM, was also a partner. The MQM finally decided to quit the alliance and join PML and Jamat-e-Islami in the opposition. Even though dozens of students lost their lives in the violence, the most prominent demise was that of Najeeb Ahmed the strong-armed leader of PSF in Karachi and who was also accused of killing some of APMSO’s most formidable militants of the time. He was ambushed by a group of APMSO men and shot multiple times. He died a few days later at the hospital.
Due to the violence no student union elections were held in 1990 in Karachi or the rest of Sindh, because in the interior Sindh, the bloody tussle had devolved into ethnic violence between the Sindhis and Urdu speakers. In the year’s student union elections in the Punjab, MSF once again routed IJT at the Punjab University and in colleges of most central Punjab cities. PSF was the leading student group in student union elections in Northen Punjab, Southern Punjab and Islamabad. At the Peshawar University it once again won most of the posts in the university’s student union. However, at the Punjab University and most colleges in Lahore, tension between MSF and IJT were reaching a breaking point.
Due to troubles in Karachi and Sindh and accusations of mismanagement, President Ghulam Ishaq Khan still empowered by the constitutional power Zia had created for himself to dismiss a government, pulled off what was called (by the PPP), a “constitutional coup”. He dismissed the PPP government and announced new elections which were won by the conservative alliance of “Ziaists,” the IJI. The new government was led by former Punjab Chief Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, who had also become the leader of PML after a faction under former Prime Minister, Muhammad Khan Junejo broke away and formed PML (J). Nawaz’s faction would soon evolve into PML (N).
By 1991, the IJI was facing a split when a component party of the alliance, the Jamat-e-Islami (JI), started to accuse Nawaz for failing to fully implement the Islamic Shariah law he promised he would after coming into power. JI’s break from IJI became imminent when the tension between its student wing, the IJT, and the student wing of PML, the MSF, boiled over. A vicious series of clashes took place at the University of Punjab between the two groups when MSF, now in control of the varsity’s student union for two years running, started using strong-arm tactics to eradicate IJT militants from the university.
A number of activists from both student parties lost their lives as the violence spread across other colleges and universities of Lahore, Gujranwallah and Rawalpindi. The same year the United States Army launched an attack from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait against Sadam Hussein’s Iraq when the later invaded Kuwait. The Nawaz Sharif government supported the American action. As a reaction the IJT along with NSF and PSF organized huge protest rallies against the United States and Israel. This would also be the one of the last big events to involve NSF that had been one of the country’s leading progressive student organizations ever since the 1960s. It had steadily started to lose influence from the mid-1980s onwards, pushed into a corner by progressive student parties like PSF, secular-ethnic student parties like APMSO and secular-conservative student groups like MSF.
Meanwhile another formerly leading progressive student party, the DSF, that had first faded away in the early 1970s and then was revived in the later part of the decade, had again fallen away by the late 1980s. By the start of the 1990s it had all but completely withered away. The violence in universities and colleges in Lahore and central Punjab left the government postponing student union elections in the Punjab in 1992 and the situation had still not become normal in Karachi and Sindh to hold the elections that were postponed in 1991. But this didn’t stop the provincial government of Sindh now under Chief Minister Jam Sadiq Ali, a PPP turncoat, to start an obsessive round of harassment against PPP workers and leadership. His government was allied to the MQM and both (in accordance to their ally in Islamabad, i.e. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s PML), turned 1992 the most repressive year for the PPP ever since Zia’s death. In fact the MQM now became notorious for running the city of Karachi as a fiefdom and the party was run like a mafia outfit. Apart from PPP workers, dozens of journalists too were targeted.
APMSO now became a nursery for providing manpower to MQM’s militant wing. Through violence it had kept IJT at bay in almost all major universities and colleges of Karachi, and after the fall of the PPP government in 1991, the many battles of muscle that it seemed to have been losing against PSF, were reversed to their advantage. Nawaz Sharif’s PML was still very much the party of the “establishment.” It had deep links with the Army and remnants of Zia loyalists in the intelligence agencies. It had used Jam Sadiq and MQM to suppress the PPP in Sindh, but when MQM’s harassing activities also saw some APMSO and MQM militants kidnapping and torturing some army men, the Army responded by complaining to Nawaz Sharif, suggesting that an operation was needed against MQM. Nawaz agreed and sanctioned the start of the operation in Sindh that also included the Army taking action against the growing number of dacoit gangs roaming the forests outside Dadu and Moro. Of course, much of the operation was concentrated on MQM.
Army men and Rangers rolled in as the intelligence agencies also tried to tackle MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s almost untouchable status. The agencies began by exploiting a rift developing in the MQM. The results of this rift and clandestine agency maneuvers in this respect appeared when the Army operation entered Karachi. A party calling itself MQM (Haqiqi) and led by some leading MQM leaders most of whom like Altaf Hussain were former APMSO members, emerged and attacked some of MQM’s main strongholds with sophisticated weapons. Supported by paramilitary forces like the Rangers, MQM (H) soon overran much of MQM’s stronghold areas. The aftermath of the intense gun battles between the two groups saw the arrest of numerous MQM and APMSO activists as many (including Altaf Hussain) went underground.
Due to the Army operation, there were no student union polls in Sindh in 1992. And even in the Punjab, because of the escalating violence between MSF and IJT student union elections were held only in a handful of colleges. In fact the Nawaz Sharif government was thinking of banning student politics once again, the way they were banned by Zia in 1984. The ban did arrive right before the fall of the Nawaz Sharif government in early 1993. His government too fell to the whims of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who dismissed the government on grounds of corruption, nepotism and violence. New elections were held in which Benazir Bhutto’s PPP returned to power. But in line with a “deal” between Nawaz, Benazir, the Army and the Presidency, Ishaq Khan was asked to resign and which he did. Benazir managed to get her own party man, Farooq Ahmed Laghari, elected as the new President, while she once again became Prime Minister. Though her arrival did allow the majority of student organizations to continue maintaining a presence in universities and colleges, she did not lift the ban on student politics that was slapped by Nawaz Sharif.
Nawaz Sharif’s ouster gave the IJT an opening to reestablish its supremacy in Lahore and Central Punjab’s major universities and colleges that had been overrun by the MSF both through the ballot and the bullet. Meanwhile in Karachi, the new PPP government decided to continue the operation against MQM that the Nawaz government had sanctioned. Between 1993 and 1996, thousands of MQM and APMSO militants were arrested and hundreds lost their lives in gun battles against the Rangers, police and MQM (H). And even though the government largely succeeded in neutralizing MQM’s militancy in Karachi, the University of Karachi and the city’s major colleges remained bastions of APMSO.
In “unofficial” student union elections in Lahore and Central Punjab in 1995, candidates backed by the IJT regained the ground the party had lost between 1989 and 1992. In Northern Punjab and Islamabad PSF and MSF gained the most seats, whereas in Southern Punjab, PSF swept clean the student union elections, defeating both IJT and MSF. In the NWFP, especially the Peshawar University, PSF maintained its grip.
1996 saw the fall of the second Benazir Bhutto government, dismissed by her own President, Farooq Ahmed Laghari. The accusations laid down were once again corruption, mismanagement and growing incidents of violence. The breaking point came when Benazir’s elder brother Murtaza Bhutto, the former head of the AZO, was shot dead by a police party just outside his resident in 1996. He had been opposing the PPP government and had formed his own faction, PPP (Shaheed Bhutto). Many believed he had “played into the hands of the clandestine intelligence agencies working against the Benazir government.” Bhutto’s fall paved the way for the election of the second Nawaz Sharif and PML (N) government. PML (N)’s return saw MSF muscling its way back to regain the turf at many Central Punjab colleges and the Punjab University that it had lost to IJT between 1994 and 1996. A fresh round of clashes between the two groups ensued. With no elections held under the ban, the bullet did all the talking in the absence of the ballot.
In Karachi, the MQM and APMSO, though badly bruised by the Army operation, started to slowly trickle back into the mainstream scheme of things. However, right away it went for the throat of MQM (H). The remnants of MQM’s militant wing and a new generation of APMSO cadres fell upon MQM (H) with a vengeance. By 1999, the Nawaz Sharif government had had a falling out with the judiciary and the Army and was accused by the mainstream press of exhibiting arrogance and using strong-armed tactics to subdue opposing journalists. In October 1999, he was eventually toppled in a military coup led by General Pervez Musharraf.
There is no doubt that Nawaz had become unpopular among large sections of the public. In fact, soon his party’s own student wing, the MSF, would turn against him and start supporting the new “Kings party,” the PML (Q), after it came to power in the 2002 general elections. Student Union Elections 1990-96 – Leading parties & approximations of the number of elections on:
1: Peoples Students Federation (PSF) – 40%
2: Muslim Students Federation (MSF) -35%
3:Islami Jamiat-Taleba (IJT) – 25%
4: Anjuman-Taleba-Islam (ATI) – 3%
5: National Students Federation (NSF) – 2%
* Approximations gathered from student union election data at University of Karachi, Dow Medical College, Adamjee College, Islamia College (Karachi), NED University, Karachi, Sindh Medical College Karachi, Punjab University, Government College Lahore, Gordon College Rawalpindi, Quied-e-Azam University Islamabad, Peshawar University.
National Students Federation (NSF).
Peak Years: 1960-79.
Ideology: Marxist (1960s-70s); Progressive (1980s-90s-2000s).
Factions: NSF-Meraj (1967-73); NSF-Kazmi (1967-80); NSF-Rashid (1971-80); NSF-Bari (1972-77).
Peak Years: 1971-84.
Ideology: Islamist (1960s-70s-80s-90s-2000s).
Peoples Students Federation (PSF)
Peak Years: 1977-1996.
Ideology: Socialist (1970s-80s); Progressive (1990s-2000s).
All Pakistan Muttahida Students Organization (APMSO)
Peak Years: 1988-
Ideology: Ethnic-Socialist (1970s); Militant-Ethnic (1980s-90s); Liberal (2000s).
Muslim Students Federation (MSF)
Peak Years: 1947-50; 1989-97
Ideology: Populist (1960s); Conservative (1970s-80s); Populist-Conservative (1990s-2000s).
Democratic Students Federation (DSF)
Peak Years: 1950-57
Ideology: Marxist-Leninist (1950s-60s-70s); Socialist (1980s)
Baloch Students Organization (BSO)
Peak Years: 1972-86
Factions: BSO (Azad), BSO (Mengal) and BSO (Hai). BSO (Hai).
Ideology: Marxist (1960s); Marxist-Nationalist (1970s-80s); Nationalist (1990s-2000s).
Pashtun Students Organization (PSO)
Ideology: Nationalist-Marxist (1970s-80s); Nationalist (2000s).
Punjabi Students Association (PSA)
Ideology: Conservative (1980s-90s).
Imamia Students Organization (ISO)
Ideology: Conservative (1970s); Shia-Islamist (1980s-90s-2000s).
Peak Years: 1975-87
Ideology: Conservative-Islamist (1970s); Sectarian (1980s-90s).
Jeay Sindh Students Federation (JSSF)
Ideology: (1970s); Militant-Ethnic (1980s-90s).
Factions: Jeeay Sindh Tarakee Pasand Students Federation (JSTPSF)
Insaaf Students Federation (ISF)
Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (PSA)
Member Parties: National Students Federation, Democratic Students Federation and Peoples Students Federation.
United Students Movement (USM)
Member Parties: National Students Federation, Democratic Students Federation, Peoples Students Federation, All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organization, Baloch Students Organization and Pukhtun Students Organization.
· Student Resistance: A History of the Unruly Subject: Mark Edelman Boren.
· Migrants and Militants: Fun and Urban Violence in Pakistan: Oskar Verkaaik
· The Pakistan People's Party: Rise to Power: Philip E. Jones
· Campus Lockdown: Basim Usmani (Guardian)
· The Terrorist Prince: Raja Anwar
· Guns, Slums & Yellow Devils: LAURENT GAYER
· 'Student politics had no hidden agendas:' Shahzada Irfan Ahmed (The News)
· Violence per se: Aoun Sahi (The News)
· A major student victory: Minerva (Journal)
· Whose Party: Abbas Zaidi (The Nation)
· Chingari: Periodical of the Democratic Students Federation (1981-1982).
· Jaddo-Jihad: Periodical of the United Students Movement (1981)
· Pakistan: Between Mosque And Military: Hussain Haqqani
· Students & the Nation: S. Zia. Abbas
· The Times and Trials of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy 1951: The First Coup Attempt in Pakistan: Hasan Zaheer.
· A Journey to Disillusionment : Sherbaz Khan Mazari
· Politics of Identity: Ethnic Nationalism and the State in Pakistan: Adeel Khan
*The author was a member of Peoples Students Federation (PSF) at St. Patrick's Govt. College, Karachi, in 1985-86, and National Students Federation (NSF) at the University of Karachi between 1988 and 1990.
Source :URL: http://nadeemfparacha.wordpress.com/student-politics-in-pakistan-a-celebration-lament-history/
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Pakistan cricket: A class, ethnic and sectarian history
NADEEM F. PARACHA
The negative evolution
Right from the moment of its sudden inception in August 1947, Pakistan began to experience a number of socio-political fissures.
The country constituted various distinct ethnicities, religions, Islamic sects and sub-sects.
Instead of harmonising the cultural, ethnic and sectarian differences through a democratic mechanism, the state tried to bulldoze them aside with the help of an ideology that was singularly constructed by the state (as opposed to being designed through a democratically achieved consensus).
Today, Pakistan’s wobbly status as a country with extensive religious, ethnic and sectarian/sub-sectarian tensions and violence is a continuation of a negative evolution triggered by the blunders in this respect that were committed by the state, the governments, religious leaders and ideologues.
These elements treated Pakistan as a lab where political and religious experiments could be conducted without concern. They were almost entirely unable (or unwilling) to predict the kind of long-term impact that their myopic tinkering and careless excursions into the territory of social engineering would eventually have on the fate of the country.
The negative evolution in this context has (so far) unfolded in three different phases. The initial tensions in the society were based on class differences till ethnicity eschewed the class factor and replaced ‘class war’ with ideological and political conflicts fought on the basis of ethnic identities.
Ethnic tensions (when they began to exhaust themselves from the late 1980s) were replaced with fissures in the polity on sectarian and sub-sectarian lines.
All three fissures – class, ethnicity and sectarian/sub-sectarian – are not entirely exclusive. Buried within each are echoes of the other.
One interesting way of understanding the trajectory of Pakistan’s negative evolution in this context is by studying the country’s cricket culture.
Cricket in South Asia is much more than just a game. In India and Pakistan (and to a certain extent in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh), cricket is like what football is in most Latin American countries.
Cricket in this region reflects the socio-political mindset of a country’s polity. This also includes the game (or the team) reflecting (or being directly affected by) social, political and economic fissures present in a country.
Every Test playing side in South Asia has exhibited this.
For example, the vicious civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated state of Sri Lanka and the country’s Tamil minority (1980-2011) impacted the Sri Lankan cricket for decades.
In his autobiography, former Pakistan cricket captain, Imran Khan, writes how during Pakistan’s 1987 tour of Sri Lanka, the Pakistan team had to continuously face hostile crowds and biased umpiring.
Khan suggests that the Lankan state’s war against the Tamil Tigers was going badly and society was faced with violence. There was tension around the playing venues and the state was desperate for a Test victory to soften the blow of the raging civil war.
A Sri Lankan Tamil invades the ground with a Tamil Tigers’ flag and runs towards a shocked Sri Lankan cricketer.
In India, when a concentrated protest movement was developing against Indira Gandhi’s increasingly autocratic government in the 1970s, Indian politics went into a tailspin.
There was widespread rioting, growing incidents of corruption and crime and the Indian society stood precariously polarised.
The tension crept into the Indian cricket team as well that was touring England in 1974.
Reports began to come in about how the members of the team were bickering among themselves and were not entirely focused on cricket.
India lost the series 3-0 and then to cap it all, one of the team’s batsmen, Sudhir Naik, was arrested for stealing some shirts from a London store.
As Indira was busy contemplating to enforce tougher measures to curb the movement against her, the Indian cricket team saw itself being asked to leave a reception held by the Indian Ambassador to England.
The Ambassador was angry that the team turned up 40 minutes late and had asked it to go back. The team returned to its hotel, disgusted.
Then captain, Ajit Wadekar, began to accuse some senior players of the squad of being government stooges and ‘Patuadi’s men.’
In 1975, the year Indira imposed an emergency and assumed almost dictatorial powers, Wadekar was dropped and replaced by M A. Khan Pataudi as captain.
As trouble against the government brewed in India, the country’s cricket team lost the 1974 series to England 3-0. In the second innings of the Lord’s Test, the whole team was bundled out for just 42 runs.
Examples of how a South Asian cricket team can so vividly reflect a country’s ups and downs, dynamics and divides are a plenty.
But we will be going into more detail in this context regarding Pakistan only. We will try to follow how Pakistan cricket shadowed the negative evolution of Pakistan’s class, ethnic and sectarian/sub-sectarian fissures.
A class apart
Pakistan inherited very little by way of industry and infrastructure when it separated from the rest India to become an independent country.
One of the first tasks of its founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was to encourage Muslim industrialists, professionals and bureaucrats to move (from India) to Pakistan and help the government to construct the new country’s economic infrastructure.
The state was willing to give extraordinary help and leeway to these men. But a majority of Pakistanis were poor and many did not appreciate the state’s overt reliance on rich men.
That’s why leftist organisations like the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) and its student-wing, the Democratic Students Federation (DSF), managed to make early in-roads on the side of the peasants and the working classes in (what the communists believed) was an emerging class war in Pakistan.
When Pakistan gained international Test cricket status in 1952, the country’s cricket board chose an Oxford-educated and well-to-do man to lead the country’s first Test side.
Abdul Hafeez Kardar was a haughty and authoritarian man. He was to lead a team, most of whose members were not only extremely inexperienced, but they also came from economic backgrounds that were way below that of Kardar’s.
Most of the players could not even afford to buy their own playing kit and had to borrow things like bats, gloves, pads and even shoes from friends and others.
Nevertheless, Kardar led the team well and under him Pakistan was able to win a string of Test matches.
Abdul Hafeez Kardar: Haughty but effective.
Though the team remained largely stable during Kardar’s reign (1952-58), tensions between players on basis of class kept coming up.
In his autobiography, Pakistan’s classic opening batsman, Hanif Muhammad, laments the fact that in spite of Kardar being an inspirational captain, he could not shed his aristocratic baggage and demeanor.
Hanif explains how Kardar destroyed the career of one of his (Hanif’s) brothers, Raees Muhammad.
Hanif writes that Raees was as talented as he was. However, (according to Hanif) since his family did not come from a very educated and well-to-do background, Kardar continued to play Maqsood Ahmed in place of Raees.
Maqsood came from an established middle-class family and was Kardar’s ‘drinking buddy.’ Though Hanif and his brother too liked their drink, Kardar could not get himself to play Raees because that would have meant dropping Maqsood.
Thus Raees became the only one from the five Muhammad brothers who failed to play Test cricket for Pakistan.
Pakistan team in England in 1954. Though under Kardar it was hailed as the most promising new side in the world, the team also suffered from ‘growing class tensions’.
The Pakistani state’s patronage of industrialists reached a peak during the Ayub Khan dictatorship (1958-69).
When he took over power (in a military coup) in 1958, he at once set Pakistan on the course of state-backed capitalism in an attempt to quicken the country’s economic progress.
A select group of families were given an open filed to set up factories and other businesses. Though Ayub did achieve the economic advancement that he was hoping for, the fruits of this procedure failed to trickle down and benefit the majority of the Pakistanis. Economic/class gaps between Pakistanis grew even more rapidly under Ayub.
In 1962, the Pakistan cricket board decided to create ‘another Kardar.’
Kardar had retired in 1958 and was first replaced by Fazal Mehmood and then by Imtiaz Ahmed.
In spite of the fact that Hanif had risen to become the team’s leading and most experienced batsman, he was ignored and the young, 24-year-old Javed Burki was made the captain for Pakistan’s 1962 tour of England.
Burki was an Oxford graduate, was the son of a military man and came from an upper-middle-class family in Lahore. What’s more, since Ayub was a military man himself, the board chose a senior army officer as the team’s manager who could hardly tell the difference between cricket and football!
In their respective autobiographies, Hanif Muhammad and Fazal Mehmood, both praise Burki for his batting talents but lambast him for being arrogant, snooty and insulting towards the players.
As Pakistan began to lose one Test match after another on the tour, Burki surrounded himself with a select group of players through whom he would communicate with the rest of the players.
Hanif writes that Burki looked down upon the lesser educated and poorer players, whereas Mehmood claims that Burki would only talk to him through the manager.
Nevertheless, Burki’s team lost the series 4-0 and he was finally replaced by Hanif.
When the Ayub dictatorship began being cornered by a violent leftist students and labour movement, socialist parties like the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), National Awami Party (NAP), and the Awami League, rose to become the country’s three main civilian forces.
The echoes of the commotion also began to be heard in the country’s cricket team.
For example, when young opener Aftab Gul made his Test debut in 1969, he was already known as a radical student leader at the Punjab University.
Students used Pakistan’s matches against England in 1968 to protest. Crowds often invaded the grounds in Karachi and Lahore, rioted and chanted slogans against Ayub.
Students invade Karachi’s National Stadium during a Test match against England in 1968.
Debate and politics based on concepts like class war and class conflict reached a peak in Pakistan during the anti-Ayub movement in the late 1960s.
The debate then turned politics in the country on its head when (during the 1970 election), leftist parties wiped out old establishmentarian parties and right-wing religious groups at the polls.
However, from within this debate of class conflict and the need to turn Pakistan into a revolutionary socialist state, also emerged groups asking for the democratic recognition of the country’s various ethnic communities and the autonomy of regions dominated by the Sindhis, Baloch, Pushtun and Bengalis.
Though the Bengali Muslims of India had enthusiastically accepted the creation of Pakistan, and East Bengal became the eastern wing of Pakistan (East Pakistan), the Bengalis were the first to accuse the country’s Punjabis of monopolising the military, the bureaucracy, sports and economics.
They also feared that the state of Pakistan was not introducing democracy because that would make the Bengalis the majority ruling group.
The Bengalis also complained that in spite of the fact that East Pakistan was contributing the most to the economy, it was the country’s poorest region.
They accused the Punjabi ruling elite of being racist towards them and hell-bent on keeping talented Bengali sportsmen from the country’s hockey and cricket teams.
In 1971, a vicious civil war erupted in East Pakistan between Bengali nationalists and the military.
As the civil war was raging, the Pakistan cricket team was touring England in June-July of 1971.
After the second Test match, a charity organisation in London planned to auction a cricket bat signed by English and Pakistani players to raise money for those affected by the civil war in East Pakistan.
It came as a shock to the charity organisation when a group of Pakistani players led by Aftab Gul refused to sign the bat.
Gul was a Maoist and unlike the pro-Soviet Marxists in Pakistan, the pro-China leftists in the country had been squarely against Bengali nationalists.
Fearing that the event would be turned into an embarrassing episode by the British media, the Pakistan captain, Intikhab Alam and the team management requested Gul and his posse to sign the bat.
But the men refused, saying that they were not willing to do anything that would benefit the ‘traitors’ (Bengalis). They only came around when the government of Pakistan ordered them to sign the bat. But Gul still refused and was almost sent back home.
Aftab Gul was already known as a radical leftist student leader when he made his Test debut in 1969. He refused to sign a bat in 1971 that was to be auctioned to help those affected by the civil war in East Pakistan. He said he didn’t want to help ‘(Bengali) traitors.’
But class conflict in Pakistan cricket was already being replaced by a growing rivalry between player’s belonging from the country’s two major cricketing centres: Lahore (capital of Punjab) and Karachi (capital of Sindh).
Though Lahore had a Punjabi majority, Sindh’s capital Karachi had a majority of Mohajirs (or Muslim Urdu-speakers who had migrated from North Indian regions after the creation of Pakistan).
The majority of the players in the country’s cricket team had almost always been Punjabi and Mohajir. The quality of cricket in Karachi and Lahore was such that it became very tough for Bengali or Sindhi players to enter the squad.
The Pushtun and Baloch did not say much in this respect because in those days cricket was not very popular in the areas dominated by the two ethnic groups.
Already in 1969 when Saeed Ahmed (a Punjabi) was dropped as captain, Mushtaq Muhammad (from Karachi) was booed by the crowd at a Test match in Lahore.
The Lahore press had alluded that Saeed’s dismissal had been ‘engineered by the Karachi lobby.’
It wasn’t true. Ahmed, though a terrific batsman, was a mediocre captain.
The populist Sindhi, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, became Pakistan’s first elected head of state and then government in 1972. His party had won a sweeping majority in Punjab and Sindh (but not in Karachi).
The Mohajirs, who had been part of the ruling elite in the 1950s, had begun to see themselves gradually being ousted from the corridors of power by the Punjabis and then the Pushtuns (during the Ayub Khan regime).
Their paranoia of being sidelined was further aggravated when Bhutto decided to make Sindhi Sindh’s official language.
The Mohajirs protested and claimed that they were becoming the new Bengalis and that Pakistan’s politics was being stung by ‘provincialism.’
The Urdu print media in Karachi began to echo the Mohajirs’ concerns and this then spilled over into cricket as well.
Though the team had a number of players from Karachi, the media began to highlight the case of one, Aftab Baloch.
Aftab came from a mixed Baloch and Gujrati-speaking family in Karachi and was a prodigious batting all-rounder.
He made his Test debut in 1969 at the age of 16 but was not played again until the Karachi press picked up his case.
He continued to perform well in domestic cricket and the press claimed that the ‘Lahore lobby’ was keeping him out of the side.
The cricket board responded by selecting him for Pakistan’s 1974 tour of England but he wasn’t played in any of the three Tests.
However, Baloch was finally given another Test against the visiting West Indian side in 1975. He scored a 50 in Lahore but was inexplicably dropped for the next Test in Karachi.
The press again cried foul, but its campaign for Baloch gradually faded away along with the man.
Karachi’s Aftab Baloch: A victim of the ‘Lahore lobby?’
In 1976, Karachi’s Mushtaq Muhammad replaced Intikhab Alam as captain, but during his very first Test as captain (against New Zealand in Lahore), he had to fight tooth and nail with the selectors to keep his Karachi compatriot, Asif Iqbal, on the side.
Like Mushtaq, Iqbal was a regular fixture in the team, but had lost form during the West Indies series. Mushtaq also pushed for the inclusion of another Karachi player, the then 18-year-old Javed Miandad.
The Lahore press accused Mushtaq of favoring Karachi players. But the accusation did not stick because both Iqbal and Miandad scored centuries and Pakistan won the Test.
Nevertheless, the ethnic issue hardly ever rose again in Pakistan cricket during Mushtaq’s captaincy (1976-79), and the team struck a fine balance between talented Lahore players and the equally talented ones from Karachi.
For example, when the team went for a 5-month tour of Australia and the West Indies in 1976-77, the following was the regional make-up of the squad:
The 1976-77 squad.
The team under Mushtaq managed to keep a fine balance between Karachi and Lahore players. Sadiq Mohammad (Karachi) and Majid Khan (Lahore) symbolised this by forming one of the most successful opening pairs in Test cricket for Pakistan.
But what were these Karachi and Lahore lobbies that the press often talked about?
Mostly what the press meant were the cricket associations in Karachi and Lahore who were empowered by the cricket board to run and develop cricket clubs and cricketers of the two main centres of cricket in the country and generate new talent for first-class sides and for Pakistan.
The associations also competed for funds and helped the national selection committee to spot emerging new talent.
However, as politics based on ethnicity proliferated the country from 1973 onwards, tussles, allegations and counter-allegations between Lahore and Karachi associations increased.
Members of both the associations regularly used the Urdu print media to propagate their point of view and accused each other of promoting Punjabi and/or non-Punjabi players.
But it wasn’t only about the Mohajirs of Karachi and the Punjabis of Lahore.
During the 1976 series against New Zealand, the second Test was to be played in Hyderabad (in Sindh). The Sindhi press lamented that though Pakistan’s Prime Minister was a Sindhi (Bhutto), there wasn’t a single Sindhi player in the cricket side. As a response, during a reception, the government gifted Sindhi dress, caps and ajrak to members of the Pakistan and New Zealand sides.
Some players (from both sides) even wore the clothes and posed for the cameras.
Miandad, a Gujrati-speaking Mohajir from Karachi, walked around in a Sindhi cap and told the press that since Karachi was in Sindh, he considered himself a Sindhi.
In July 1977 a reactionary military coup toppled the Bhutto regime and imposed a harsh military dictatorship.
But General Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship could not stem the politics of ethnicity. In fact, a sense of depravation (especially among Sindhis) grew two-fold because Zia was a Punjabi and had toppled a Sindhi Prime Minister.
Karachi’s Mohajirs, who had opposed Bhutto initially, welcomed Zia’s arrival but they were equally suspicious of the Punjabis as well.
In 1978 when the Indian cricket team visited Pakistan, a young cricketer from Karachi, Amin Lakhani, was given a side game against the Indians.
Incredibly, Lakhani, a left-arm leg-spin bowler, took a double hat-trick and was praised by veteran Indian spinner, Bishen Singh Bedi.
The Karachi press and the Karachi Cricket Association demanded that Lakhani be given a chance in the third Test of the series.
He was named in the 14-man squad but on the eve of the Test, injured his hand and could not make the final 11.
The press, however, suggested that Lakhani was fine and that the selectors had lied about the injury. The Karachi press then went ballistic when Lakhani wasn’t picked in the squad that was to tour New Zealand and Australia in 1979.
The selectors dismissed the accusation of the ‘Punjabi bias’ by the Karachi press suggesting that the team’s captain (Mushtaq) and vice-captain (Asif Iqbal) were both from Karachi.
Lakhani never played for Pakistan.
But this was nothing compared to perhaps the ugliest ethnic spat that took place in Pakistan cricket.
In 1980 when Asif Iqbal (who had replaced Mushtaq as captain) resigned from the game (after losing to India in 1979), the cricket board’s new chairman, Nur Khan, recalled Mushtaq and asked him to become captain again.
Mushtaq declined but suggested the name of the then 24-year-old Javed Miandad for the post.
This must have bothered senior players like Zaheer Abbas and Majid Khan, but since both had performed poorly against India, they were concentrating more on retaining their place in the side.
Miandad won his first series as captain (against Australia), but lost the next two. The board and the selectors retained him as captain for the 1982 series against the visiting Sri Lankan team.
Shortly before the series, Miandad was quoted by the press as saying that the senior players in the team were not co-operating with him.
Majid Khan took offense and invited nine players to his home in Lahore and told them that he was going to refuse playing under Miandad. He said that Zaheer had agreed to do the same.
Soon, all the players at the meeting gave Majid the green signal to add their names and signatures to the letter of protest that Majid was planning to hand over to the board.
Apart from Majid and Zaheer, the rebel brigade included Mudassar Nazar, Imran Khan, Sikandar Bakht, Mohsin Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz, Wasim Bari, Iqbal Qasim and Wasim Raja.
The board decided to side with Miandad and he led a brand new team against the Lankans in the first Test of the series at Karachi’s National Stadium.
The ethnic angle to the whole episode first emerged when groups of youth in the stadium’s general stands began to raise slogans against the rebels (calling them ‘anti-Karachi’ and ‘Punjabi thugs’) and burned posters of Majid, Zaheer and Imran.
The Karachi press then went into overdrive accusing Majid of playing into the hands of the ‘Lahore lobby’ who wanted to topple Miandad’s captaincy just because he was from Karachi and a non-Punjabi.
Even the fact that the rebel lot had included four players from Karachi (Mohsin, Qasim, Sikandar, Bari) and even Zaheer, though a Punjabi, was settled in the city, could not deter the press from seeing the episode as a case of ‘Punjabi chauvinism.’
Four of the 10 rebels: Mohsin, Sarfraz, Bari and Mudassar during the rebellion (1982).
Pressured by the Karachi press, two of the Karachi players, Mohsin Khan and Iqbal Qasim broke away from the rebels and rejoined the team. Wasim Raja, though a Lahorite, also decided to break away.
By the third Test of the series, Zaheer, Imran, Mudassar, Sarfraz and Bari also decided to rejoin the team, leaving only Majid and Karachi’s young pace bowler, Sikandar Bakht, standing (and stranded).
Now, it was the turn of the Lahore press to react. It accused the board and Miandad of coercing the rebelling players’ domestic teams to ban them. The players were employed on healthy salaries by the banks and airlines (PIA) that they played for in domestic tournaments.
The Lahore press also accused Imran Khan of betraying his cousin Majid by accepting a lucrative new playing fee from the board.
As the issue got uglier, Miandad resigned as captain after the third Test but on the condition that he was willing to play under any player, except Majid Khan.
The board decided to appoint Imran Khan as the new skipper.
Since the politics of ethnicity (as a protest tool) became stronger during the Zia dictatorship in the 1980s, it kept affecting the country’s cricket as well.
But each episode in this respect came with the kind of contradictions that one saw in the Miandad controversy.
For example, throughout Khan’s captaincy, the Karachi press accused Khan of undermining Karachi players like Iqbal Qasim and Qasim Omar, and forcing his Lahore contemporary, Abdul Qadir’s entry into the team.
Meanwhile, the Lahore press lambasted Khan for persisting with Karachi’s Mansoor Akhtar, despite the fact that the batsman was continuously failing to live up to his batting potential.
The Karachi press claimed that Khan was also undermining Miandad’s seniority, and yet, when Miandad became Khan’s Vice Captain in 1986, he became one of the most influential decision-makers on the side after Khan.
Former Australian captain, Ian Chappell, described the Khan-Miandad combination as one of the most powerful think-tanks in cricket.
But as the politics of ethnicity began to recede after the demise of the Ziaul Haq dictatorship in 1988, its last major jerk in cricket came during another rebellion against Miandad’s captaincy in 1993.
Miandad had replaced Khan in 1992 after the latter retired. But he faced a players’ rebellion in 1993 that was led by Lahore’s Wasim Akram and South Punjab’s Waqar Yunus.
Miandad accused Imran of pulling the strings of the rebels and the Karachi press lambasted Khan of the same.
In his autobiography, Miandad suggests that Khan was doing this to get back at him because he (Khan) believed that Miandad had tried to stir a mini-rebellion against Khan after Pakistan had won the 1992 Cricket World Cup.
1992 Cricket World Cup.
Comrades in arms (and then some): Miandad and Imran at a press conference in 1988. Both were the leading mainstays of Pakistan cricket across the 1980s.
Victories under Mushtaq’s and Khan’s captaincies added to the popularity of cricket in Pakistan beyond Karachi and Lahore.
For example, in the 1980s for the first time players from the Pushtun areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (former NWFP) and from small towns and villages of the Punjab began to make a mark.
This, along with the changing nature of politics in post-Cold War Pakistan, would also witness some unprecedented changes in the country’s cricketing culture.
The faith bait
Till the arrival of Zia in July 1977, the nature and culture of Pakistan’s cricket teams were quite like that of the society. Faith hardly played a major role outside one’s home or mosque/shrine, and never in matters of business, arts and sports.
However, it is also true that even during the height of the Zia dictatorship in the 1980s – when draconian laws were being introduced in the name of Islam, and extremist and sectarian organisations were emerging with the help of the state – the impact of these laws and emergences would not be fully felt by the polity and society of Pakistan till after Zia’s demise in August 1988.
What the Zia regime initiated through certain constitutional amendments, laws and a project of social engineering that (for the first time) saw the state providing space and patronage to a number of evangelical and Islamist organisations, worked as the seed that bloomed into the proliferation of the radicalisation and conservatism witnessed in the Pakistani society from the mid-1990s.
This trend is also apparent in the culture of the country’s cricket team across the 1980s and early 1990s.
Though things like celebrating victories with champagne and beer in the dressing rooms of stadiums in Pakistan stopped after 1977, the practice largely continued whenever Pakistan won a game abroad.
The practice of attending parties and clubs (when on tour) also continued and the faith of a player remained to be a strictly personal matter.
Also, there remained great tolerance within the team on matters of religion and morality.
For example, in Mushtaq’s team of the 1970s, a majority of players liked to drink. But then there were those who didn’t, like Majid Khan, Imran Khan and Iqbal Qasim.
Similarly, whereas Imran Khan, Wasim Raja and Sarfraz Nawaz were notorious for being ‘womanisers’ and ‘party animals,’ there were also those who were very private about their lives, such as players like Majid and Asif Iqbal.
Differing moralistic dispositions hardly ever became a bone of contention between players.
Mushtaq and Imran celebrating a victory in 1976.
Sadiq enjoying a beer after Pakistan squared the series against Australia in 1976. In the background is Imran Khan, who took 12 wickets in the match.
This tradition continued under Imran’s captaincy in the 1980s. A majority of the players loved to party (like their skipper), but then there were also those who partied as well as mixed their faith with sport.
For example, Miandad often performed the wazu (Muslim ambulation) before going in to bat and Abdul Qadir regularly prayed five times a day. Yet, both also had a keen sense of having fun (of all kinds).
Never were their spiritual practices exhibited by them in public as something that was morally superior compared to the other players.
Imran and Sarfraz at a nightclub in Melbourne, Australia (1981).
But by the late 1980s Zia’s ‘Islamisation’ project – which, in a way, was using faith to actually institutionalise the act of exhibiting moral self-righteousness – had begun to kick in.
Its first echo in the cricket team rang in the shape of Qasim Umar.
Qasim Umar was a dashing young batsman from Karachi. He had cemented his place in the side in the early 1980s with a string of good scores.
Though not particularly religious at the time, Umar struggled to fit into a squad whose members were outgoing, had raging hormones and (as Umar would later claim), ‘drank too much.’
Umar was unable to bond with the players. But the straw that finally broke the camel’s back in this regard was when during Pakistan’s tour of Australia in 1986, captain Imran Khan admonished Umar for playing rashly in a crucial ODI game.
According to Umar, Khan insulted him in front of other players in the dressing room even though he (Umar) had scored a 50.
After returning to Pakistan from the tour, Umar at once contacted a few journalists to tell them that he would not be playing under Khan’s captaincy.
He told the press how Khan had insulted him, but then went on to suggest that his main issue with Khan’s team was a moralistic one.
He said that the captain and his team were a bunch of womanisers who often brought women into their hotel rooms. But what shocked the press was not this, but what Umar went on the claim.
He accused the team of being habitual users of hashish/marijuana and that the players often took the drug along with them hidden in batting gloves.
It was Khan and his team’s good luck that they had been performing well and the press and the board dismissed Umar’s accusations as hogwash.
In fact, it was the same team that Zia would use to smoothen Pakistan’s ties with India (‘cricket diplomacy’). Ironically, though Zia’s regime was imposing one myopic law after the other in the country, he gave his approval to the board to hush Umar up in spite of the fact that he was behaving exactly the way Zia was.
Even if what Umar claimed was entirely true, why did he have to critique Khan’s captaincy on moralistic grounds? The team was playing good cricket and its extracurricular activities did not include any more serious mishaps, such as match-fixing.
But it seems Umar was fooled into believing that if he used the Islamic card against Khan in Zia’s Pakistan, the press and the regime would be more sympathetic towards his grudge against Khan. It wasn’t and Umar was banned for life.
He joined the conservative Islamic evangelical outfit the Tableeghi Jammat in the 1990s.
In the late 1980s newspapers were rife with reports about how members of the public had begun to use Zia’s draconian laws and policies to settle their scores with those that they resented. Islam became a weapon in the hands of the bitter and the exploitative.
A number of Islamist outfits had already made in-roads in the politics and sociology of Pakistan by riding on the 1980’s Islamisation process.
But as most of them were highly militant, it was the evangelical movements that managed to reap the most success within the country’s mutating social and cultural milieu.
The evangelical groups also benefited from another unprecedented trend that began emerging within the urban middle-class youth of Pakistan: Never before did young Pakistanis exhibit so much interest in religion and religiosity as did the generations that grew up in much of the 1990s and almost all of the 2000s.
The evangelists that had started to attract the middle and lower middle classes began constructing feel-good narratives and apologias for the educated urbanites so that these urbanites could feel at home with religious ritualism, myth, attire and rhetoric, while at the same time continue enjoying the fruits of amoral modern economic materialism and frequent interactions with (Western and Indian) cultures that were otherwise described as being ‘anti-Islam.’
The largest evangelical group in this respect was also the oldest. The ranks of the Tableeghi Jamat (TJ), a highly ritualistic Sunni-Deobandi Islamic evangelical movement, swelled.
But since the TJ was more a collection of working-class and petty-bourgeoisie cohorts and fellow travelers, in the 1990s it also began to attract the growing ‘born again’ trend being witnessed in the county’s middle and upper-middle classes.
A book that was published by the Tableeghi Jamat in the 1990s to be specifically distributed among urban middle-class Pakistanis, sportsmen and showbiz personalities.
Cover of the May 1996 issue of the Herald. The main story was about Imran’s emergence as a ‘reborn Muslim’ and the formation of his political party.
The Pakistan cricket team first began to mirror the above trend in the late 1990s. The TJ approached the team in 1998 through former cricketer Saeed Ahmed who had joined the outfit in the mid-1990s.
He managed to ‘gift’ the players with audio recordings of lectures given by the outfit’s leading members.
Stylish left-handed opening batsman, Saeed Anwar, became TJ’s first recruit. He had lost his baby daughter (at birth) and had understandably fallen into deep depression. Like TJ members, he also grew a lengthy beard.
According to a former Pakistani player who was in the managerial crew of the Pakistan squad that travelled to South Africa for the 2003 World Cup, Anwar became a completely changed man.
He told me: ‘Saeed Anwar was a mild-mannered, gentle and quiet man. But on that tour (South Africa, 2003) he developed a habit of popping strange questions based on faith and morality. Once he barged into the dressing room and loudly asked the players, ‘is a woman who has committed adultery liable to be put to death?’ As usual, most players just kept quiet or inaudibly slipped out. But I finally confronted him and asked him what this question had to do with cricket? He was livid! That was the first time I had seen such rage in him. He accused me of being a bad Muslim and was literally foaming at the mouth. However, our manager, Shahryar Khan, had a quiet word with him, and the next day he came to my hotel room and apologised.’
In his most recent book, The Cricket Caldron, Shahryar Khan explains how on the same tour, Anwar told the players that angels would descend and help Pakistan win the Cup.
After Pakistan was knocked out in the very first round of the tournament, Khan jokingly asked Anwar whatever happened to the angels that he claimed would help the team to win. Anwar replied: ‘They didn’t come because we (the team) are bad Muslims.’
Saeed Anwar during the 2002 World Cup in South Africa.
By 2003, Mushtaq Ahmed and Salqlain Mushtaq too had become TJ members, and so did Waqar Yunus but he soon bolted out.
But it was the dashing batsman, Inzimamul Haq, who became TJ’s biggest catch – especially when he was appointed as captain in 2003.
Much has been written about how under Inzimam, more than half of the Pakistan team became ardent followers of the TJ and how he allegedly began favoring players who adhered to his beliefs and rituals.
Much has also been said about how tensions developed between Inzimam and tear-away fast bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, whose demeanor and disposition as a player and personality echoed the flamboyant antics of the Pakistani players of yore.
Shoaib Akhtar and Inzimamul Haq: Tensions ran high between the two.
What is only coming out now, however, is how the environment in the team was also experiencing the effects of the sectarian and sub-sectarian tensions that had become a disturbing norm in Pakistani society and polity in the 2000s.
Violence against Shia Muslim community and non-Muslim population had been (and still is) on the rise ever since the late 1990s. And so is violence between Pakistan’s Sunni Barelvi and the more puritanical Sunni Deobandi sub-sects.
It is the latter aspect of the sectarian conflict in Pakistan that seemed to have made its way into the team.
The TJ members adhere to a particularly strict and highly ritualistic strain of the Deobandi school of thought.
But more interestingly, one of the first conflicts in the team in this context seemed to have taken place between Inzimam and Younis Khan, both of whom followed the Deobandi strain.
In his book, Shahryar Khan, mentions how Inzimam was never comfortable with Younis. Though according to Shahryar, Inzimam was always weary of Younis replacing him as captain, there was something else as well between them that didn’t bode well with Inzi.
The irony is that Younis was perhaps the most religious member of the team, ever since he made his debut in 2000. He prayed regularly and fasted even during matches in the month of Ramazan.
But unlike the players who eventually followed Inzimam into the TJ, Younis was extroverted, very social but preferred to keep his faith to himself.
In a 2007 interview, he complained that he could not understand why this batch of players were so anti-social and refused to interact with people and players from other countries.
He was never comfortable with Inzimam’s insistence on holding public prayers on foreign grounds or rhetorically uttering certain religious tit-bits during post-match presentation ceremonies.
Apart from Shoaib Akhtar, Younis didn’t do that and neither does another player who (unlike Younis) completely fell-out with Inzimam: Misbahul Haq.
Till the mid-1980s, a majority of players in the team came from urban backgrounds (Karachi and Lahore).
But as mentioned earlier, after Pakistan began to win more Tests and ODIs than ever under Mushtaq Muhammad and Imran Khan, cricket’s popularity grew beyond the major cities and reached small towns and villages of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KP) and the Punjab.
Most players emerging from these areas were not as urbane or educated as the ones from Lahore or Karachi.
Shahryar Khan writes that from the late 1990s, the bulk of the Pakistan cricket team began being dominated by men from small towns.
They formed a clique and were highly suspicious of players who came from bigger cities and (especially) were more educated.
Khan suggests that Inzimam was an extremely insecure captain. Apart from always suspecting Younis Khan of trying to dethrone him as captain, he was also unwilling to make those players who were more educated, a part of his team. He thought that their ‘modern outlook’ and educated backgrounds would be detrimental to the team’s environment.
Salman Butt was the most educated player in Inzimam’s side and the most urbane. But Inzimam never felt threatened by him because (at the time) Butt was too young and, more so, had fallen completely in line with Inzimam’s Tableeghi dictates.
Misbahul Haq made his Test debut in 2001 at the age of 26. But he lost form and was dropped in 2002. But in spite of performing consistently in domestic tournaments and being on the radar of the selectors, he was never selected.
Khan writes that it was Inzimam who made sure Misbah remained out. Why?
Misbah comes from an urbane middle-class family in Mianwali (Punjab). He is an MBA and like Younis keeps his religious beliefs to himself.
But that’s not all why Inzi and his Tableeghi mentors preferred to keep Misbah out.
A news report in a national Urdu daily last year suggested that Misbah, who belongs to the Barelvi Sunni sub-sect, refused to have anything to do with the TJ and that’s why Inzimam and company made sure he never got back on to the side. It is also believed that Saeed Ajmal (also a Barelvi) was also kept out.
Not Inzi’s men: Misbah, Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar and Younis.
For over 200 years, the Barelvi and Deobandi Sunni Muslims have been at loggerheads in the region. But the Barelivis (who are in majority in Pakistan) are a lot less strict than the Deobandis.
But in addition of being a Barelvi, Misbah prefers to keep his faith a private matter and is not demonstrative at all about his beliefs, unlike the TJ members who consciously make it a point to flaunt and exhibit their beliefs.
However, in 2007, when Inzimam retired, Misbah was at once recalled to the side and ever since has not only graduated to become Pakistan’s captain, but perhaps also it’s most successful batsman in the last five years.
CURTSEY:DAWN.COM SEP 19, 2013 04:12PM
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com
He tweets @NadeemfParacha