Tag Archives: Muhammad Ali Jinnah

The struggle for Pakistan and Bhagat Singh:

By Haroon Khalid

 

The independence achieved in 1947 ushered a new era for India and Pakistan, but with it, also marked the end of a legacy. For India and Pakistan, Congress and Muslim League respectively became the vanguard of independence from the British Empire. Whereas there is no denying the fact that both of them played a pivotal role in achieving freedom, nonetheless there were also other parties and movements, who had the laid groundwork for these two to build on. Without their impact and achievements, perhaps these two parties would not have been able to achieve the success that they eventually did. Post independence, the credit that should have been given to the former parties was taken away from them.

In India, the Indian National Congress was generally more receptive to political activists from other parties and movements, who also were able to shake the foundations of the British Empire. In Pakistan however, all of the former movements became a relic of the impure-Hindu-mixed past, which needed sifting. We ended up with fine grains starting with Muhammad Bin Qasim, coming to Babur and Aurangzeb, and ending with Muhammad Ali Jinnah. All the other characters were just not required anymore. So whereas in India, despite their differences, the Congress government was acknowledging the contributions of Bhagat Singh, M.N. Roy and other nationalist leaders, we were purging our historical narratives of these kafirs.

Recently I met an army official, whom I would not name for my own safety, who like me also follows the history Lahore. Talking about various obscure and neglected monuments, we reached to the Shadman Chowk (Bhagat Singh chowk), where Bhagat Singh was hanged. I asked him why we couldn’t own Bhagat Singh as a son of Lahore, to which he answered that since he was a Sikh. My dear friend, he was an atheist!

However it is not because of him being a Sikh or an atheist that we fail to own him. It is because nowhere in his struggle, he talks about Hindus and Muslims separately. Neither does he only talk about the plight of just one community. He talked about an entire nation, which composed of people from all religious hues and not. So it would have hardly made a difference had he been Muhammad Aslam or Bhagat Sadiq Ram. There would have been no room from him in the historiography of Pakistan’s Independence struggle. Students of history would have continued thinking that the role of Muhammad Bin Qasim in freeing the Muslims of British India from the British Empire (secretly working for the Hindu baniya) is greater than the role Muhammad Aslam’s hanging did. To further establish the point, let us leave Bhagat Singh aside for a moment and talk about practicing Muslims who also like him, gave up their lives for the independence of their nation but were later disowned or never acknowledged by an independent Pakistan.

The Gaddar Movement is an example of one such struggle which has been thrown off into the sea to keep the boat of Pakistani Nationalism afloat. Having originated from San Francisco and other British colonies, this movement had its roots in the Punjab because of the predominant role that the Punjabis played in it. Bhagat Singh’s father and uncles were also members of this movement, and it is argued that it became the source of the Naujawan Bharat Sabha. Contrary to the popular belief, there were many non-Sikhs involved. This was a massive movement which spread from USA into Canada, Mexico, Burma, Malaya and Japan. Indians living in these far away regions got together for the cause of the freedom of this land. It also found support in the Communist Russia and Afghanistan. In 1915, the Gaddaris established a Free Hindustan government-in-exile in Kabul. Its President was Raja Mohinder Pratab, whereas its Prime Minister was a Muslim, and a Professor of Arabic in Japan, Maulvi Barkatullah. He was also one of the founders of the Gaddar Party. It was his revolutionary literature that became the backbone of this movement. He died in San Fransico. Among other Muslims, who held important positions in the government-in-exile were Maulvi Ubaidullah (Interior Minister) and Maulvi Muhammad Bashi (Youth Minister). The callous treatment meted out to these towering Muslim personalities of their time leads one to question: is it then just because of the religious beliefs of Bhagat Singh that we fail to acknowledge him or is there something else?

There was another Muslim, who played an important role in this movement. This was Syed Rahmat Ali Shah, the first Martyr of this struggle. He was captured near Ferozpur, and then executed in the Montgomery (Sahiwal) Jail. His body was interred in the graveyard in front of the Jail, as nobody came to claim it in the required period. His grandsons today live a life of abject poverty in a small village on the Sundar-Raiwind road called Sultan-keh. They know that their grandfather was an important person, because their father had been called to India once, where he was given an award and a picture on behalf of his father. They say that the name of their grandfather is also written at the entrance to their ancestral village of Wazir Keh in India.

A strategy that the Gadaris had adopted was of secretly passing on revolutionary literature to the Indians in the British Army. In a lot of instances this proved to be a successful tactic, as quite a few regiments revolted against the authorities. One such example was the 5th Native Light Infantry Singapore Case, which included 2 regiments of Infantry, both of them dominated by Muslims. The Gaddar Movement was supporting all sorts of Independence struggle, which were targeted against the British authorities, which is why they also lend their hand to the Khalifat Movement. Mujataba Hussain, aka Mool Chand of the Gaddar Movement played an important role in this Singapore case, where a lot of the Muslim personnel were sympathetic to the cause of the Khilafat. Similarly there was another person from Gujrat called Mian Qasim Mansoor, a rich trader, who financed the scheme. This particular case caused a lot of problems to the authorities. Finally when it was crushed, all the officers had to face Court Martial and many of them were executed on the 2nd of March 1915.

The Gaddar Movement unlike the movement of the All India Muslim League was not a predominant Muslim struggle, but a cause for all the oppressed people of India, who wanted to get rid of the British yoke. The focus of this article has been on a few prominent Muslims in the movement to shed a light on the fact that the Muslim League was not the first political party to have attracted the Muslims. Much before this party was to become a prominent player in the Indian political sphere; secular movements like the Gaddar were already involving Muslims. However when the Muslim League came to power, it downplayed the role of all the other parties, which could have possibly undermined its thesis. However the struggle it claimed to have won single handedly would not have been possible without the sacrifices of Barkatullah, Syed Rahmat Ali, Mujataba Hussain, Mian Qasim Mansoor and Bhagat Singh.

Following in his footsteps by Haroon Khalid

My friend Iqbal Qaiser, a Punjabi intellectual, sometime ago, made an interesting comment. He says that the names of some people are recorded in the history because of the monuments that they have built. Shah Jahan is one such character, remembered because of the Taj Mahal and not vice versa. However, there are others because of whom some spaces become important. Baba Bulleh Shah belongs to the second category of people.

Bulleh Shah’s Murshed or his spiritual leader Shah Inayat, was from Lahore, whereas he used to live in Kasur. To meet his master Bulleh Shah used to travel frequently between the two cities. The route taken was the same Ferozpur road that drives through the Chungi Amir Sadhu, Ichra, Mozang and then Lahore. On a car today the journey is likely to take no more than one and half an hour, however in his days, when commuting toke place via, a cart, or on foot, it would have been a much more difficult task. In a Punjabi book called ‘Dhondla Chanan’ written by Iqbal Qaiser in 1992, he mentions that on his way to Lahore Bulleh Shah used to spend some time at a village called Amir Sadhu.

Upon taking a left turn from the Chungi, facing DHA, after a couple of left turns one needs to take a left on small road. This would lead us to a mosque called the Bulleh Shah Masjid. This mosque now stands on the spot where Bulleh Shah used to spend his time resting. Adjacent to an open ground, where there are two banyan tree, with a few graves under it, this mosque is no meaning a remarkable architectural construction. Next to it is a small complex, with a couple of rooms, where the current Gaddi Nasheen sits. This mosque is meant to honor the legacy of Bulleh Shah, and this is what he had to say about his adorers.

Dharam Sal dhardwaye rehnde, Thakar daware thug,

Wich maseet kosete rehnde, ashiq rehan alag

Traders (read those who cheat) live in Dharam Sal, Frauds in Thakar daware,

Uneducated live in the mosque, lovers stay aloof

Much has changed around the complex, yet with the open ground and the trees, this place retains its essence of centuries past by. Minus the buildings, the complex and the graves, the rest of the location is exactly how Bulleh Shah would have seen it.  Today not even the inhabitants of this mosque know the historical significance of this site. The name of the mosque is coincidental to them.

About 20 years ago, this place became the site of another incident. A young teenager belonging from the area decided to spend his chilla of 40 days inside a grave, just outside the mosque. This was to mark his rite of passage. His name was Baba Ilyas, who eventually became famous as Saeen Guttu. He interred the grave. A small hole was made where his face would have been, and a thread was passed through it. From the outside the string used to be pulled, and the occupant of the grave used to do the same from the inside, to confirm that he was alive. Accompanying his grave was also some food and water. After 40 days the man reappeared from the grave, alive, and became a living Saint. This incident was widely covered by the newspapers of that time.

Saeen Guttu is still alive, and I happened to meet him, when I visited the mosque. He claims to be in his early 30s, even though he looks much older. He supports a grey beard, and has round features. He was skeptical of us, as he claimed he was harassed by the authorities, once he successfully completed the chilla, so he doesn’t allow us to take his pictures. He plans on repeating the same thing, but wouldn’t disclose the details, because of the negative reactions he is likely to encounter by the authorities, he tells us. His father and grandfather are buried in the same ground, and locals pay homage to them regularly. One day he is also likely to be elevated to the same status. I was expecting Saeen Guttu to be some sort of a local Saint, but that didn’t happen. In fact the new peer was a Kashmiri Butt by the name Baba Murtaza. I asked him a few questions about the incident and this is what he had to say.

He remembers the incident of Saeen Guttu, as he was present when it happened; in fact both of them are neighbors. Saeen Guttu became a Peer but he could not handle it. He became lazy, always asking for people to do his things. He started thinking of himself as being larger than people, so eventually he was disposed, and was replaced by this gentle fellow. Baba Murtaza is a medical practitioner, or as some people would say a quack. Now finally, (as if he is doing all of us a favor) he has taken up the ‘business’ of Peer Mureedi. He was surrounded by his admirers, doing different chores for him, while he went on and on about his role as a Peer. Saeen Guttu also was one of his devotees, according to him. He remained the sole spoke-person for everyone present, while I was there.

History is replete of examples, where a prominent character is taken up by various, divergent school of thought, to bring legitimacy to their claim. The case of Muhammad Ali Jinnah would also be an interesting study in the context of Pakistani context, where all political parties (including those, which were vehemently against him) claim to be his rightful successor. The poetry of Bulleh Shah was an attempt to break away from the institutional nature of religion, however after his death, and the ascendancy of his status, the very same people he criticized have taken up the cause of his vision and claim.

 

 

The day Himalaya cried by Haroon Khalid

Today, more than 3 decades have passed to the death of Zulifqar Ali Bhutto; however we still haven’t been able to, as a Nation-State, establish his real stature in the character of Pakistani history. Not that for any politician, it is possible to have universal acceptability across the board, nonetheless there are people in the history of humanity, who have been able to get themselves acknowledged from all hues of various sects, and ideologues. People may disagree with their methods, their opinions, but they are unable to deny them their niche in world politics. Politicians or reformists like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Nelson Mandela all conform to that league of individuals, who altered the course of events, and as a result left indelible mark in the history books. Does Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto belong to that exclusive group of people? This is a question for the political science pundits to answer, however what we can say that even today Bhutto remains the most controversial names in the political history of Pakistan.

For some, he represents the liberator, who, for the first time, made the down-trodden realize their strength. To others he emblemizes a beacon of hope and change, which quickly blew off, once the winds of power blew in. There are people, who think of him as a Pan-Islamic Muslim leader, who had immense foresight, and was capable of uniting the Muslim countries on a single platform. Some qualify him as the first real populist leader of Pakistan, who gave politics of the country its contemporariness, before which it was a vocation only for the elite to be played in drawing rooms. I have met and read about people who believe that had, Bhutto not been assassinated, the condition of Pakistan would have been much better than the nightmare it finds itself in today. I have also come across people, who believe that it was due to Bhutto’s impractical socialist economics that the period of rapid growth and development, which had begun during Ayub’s tenure ended, which makes him the culprit who cut the roots of development, which were expanding fast during the military regime. In between these myriad and heavily guarded points of views lay the real significance of this slain leader, the truth. The purpose of this article however is not to form a consensus across these various shades of thoughts, neither is it to establish a permanent unalterable opinion of Bhutto. It is to rather underscore, the cultural implications of this watershed event. The impact it had on the people. What Bhutto meant to the people.

Having grown up in an environment where hagiography of Bhutto was a daily routine, I still was never able to ever grant any individual that larger than life status. However over the years that I have spend under the shadow of these narrations, I have come across a number of stories, which force me to draw similarities between lives’ of much acknowledged Saints and Bhutto. The first instance of course is his Mazaar at Garhi Khuda Baksh, which could also be called the Makkah of a new religion that may be, coined PPP. Devotees from all over the country fill into this tiny village, throughout the year, and in large numbers during the times of the death anniversaries. All the activities that take place there are similar to the ones that are taking place at the tomb of any Saint.

Around a year ago I was researching for an article that I wrote on Wasti Ram, who’s Smadh still exists, outside the wall of Lahore Fort, facing the Minar-e-Pakistan. I read that during that time period Ravi still used to flow from nearby. Every year the river would inundate causing havoc for the inhabitants of the city. When Wasti Ram (a Hindu Saint) settled at that location, where his smadh stands, the river changed its course. Here a natural event is related to life of an individual, to establish his authenticity as a chosen one in front of the people. I hear a similar story resonating from Sindh, which easily elevates the status of Bhutto from a politician to a Saint, attributed to perform miracles.

The Indus throughout its course was once inhabited by a species of crocodile called Gavial, also known as the Indian Gharial. This reptile has a sleek but long snout, and can grow up to a height of 4.5 m. In mature male Gavials, who are bigger than the counterpart, there is a bulbous mass known as the ghara, right at the tip of the snout. The Indian Gharial, which was unique to South Asia, is extinct in Pakistan. No scientist has seen one for over 25 years now. In 2008 it was reported that someone had seen a Gavial in the Nara Canal, which sprouts from the Sukkur Barrage. As a result, a team of scientists from WWF, which included Dr Masood Arshad reached the spot to confirm the claim. They spend days going up and down the 100 kilometer Canal, during low flow of water but found none. To make sure, they interviewed around 8-10 people from the local fishermen community. The eldest of them narrated that the last Gharial was killed when Bhutto was hanged. If this statement contains any veracity than today also marks the death anniversary of the last of the Gharials. There is no need to point out that this is an apocryphal claim, however the underlining is the cultural tones that this statement illuminates. A larger event is related to the death of a politician, similar to the case in Wasti Ram. My uncle Dr Masood Arshad pointed this event out to me, when I was telling him of another Bhutto story that I heard.

A couple of months ago, I was having a discussion with an Uncle of mine, Tahir Manzoor. He told me that around 1995-6, while he was sitting in the chamber of a lawyer from Gujranwala, Malik Basit, he happened to meet a person, who voluntarily gave up talking after the hanging of Bhutto. The person would only communicate through writing, citing that in a country where a leader like Bhutto can be hanged, there is really nothing much to talk about. My Uncle however had no whereabouts of that person, and neither Malik Basit. It was told to me that the age of that person was somewhere around 35 then. I asked a few PPP people around, but nobody knew about him. I also asked a few people in Gujranwala, but in vain. After much effort I found the number of Malik Basit. Malik Basit, who is a member of PPP still practices law there and has his chamber 152, is in the District Courts Gujranwala. He also has some land in Kot Bhutta, which is nearby. Malik Basit confirmed that this man Abdul Bari Rajput, who belonged to the village of Amenabad, had relinquished talking after the murder of Bhutto. He used to visit his chamber regularly, and would never write until spoken to. He would keep a small pad and a pen with him all the time, and would retort in Urdu anybody’s queries. He would intake minimum food and drink. During the early days of PPP in power, the Health Minister from Gujranwala was Chaudary Ishaq. Abdul Bari was attached to him, as a worker of the Party. Sadly, Abdul Bari recently passed away, and did not utter a word till the day he died.

To Gujranwala, also belonged Parvez Yaqub, aka Parvez Masi, who immolated himself for the release of his beloved leader. He died on 1st October 1978. When Bhutto was imprisoned, there was wide agitation throughout the country, in which students were the vanguards. Universities and colleges were shut down in Sindh. From Lahore, Faisalabad, and Gujranwala, party workers performed self-immolation, of which Yaqub Masi became the first one to die. He was followed by five others. From Lahore, a female Begum Naseem also tried to burn herself outside the Mochi Gate, but she was saved by the spectators. She still lives here.

From Gujranwala, let’s travel to Lilyani, Kasur to meet another fanatic, Rana Muhammad Jamil. He was introduced to me by my friend Iqbal Qaiser. Rana Jamil belongs to a well-off landlord family from Lilyani. His father was a Patwari. All his sons, with the exception of Rana Jamil have well to do jobs in the Government and other organizations. His son runs a successful local business. Representative of his family also are part of the District Council. Even today all of them are loyal to PPP, however in his love and devotion for the party Rana Jamil surpasses all. He is still alive, and roams around the streets of Kasur, with a PPP flag in his hand, and another one draping his shoulder. Still raising slogans in favor of PPP, he openly abuses Zia-ul-Haq, Musharraf, and Nawaz Sharif. This makes him a source of entertainment for the children, and a source of embarrassment for his family. He is known to go to PML-N meetings, where he slurs the party and its followers, which no one, however, seems to mind. Not even the police and the local MNAs and MPAs escape his tirade.

Every year on Bhutto’s and Benazir’s death anniversary he travels to Garhi Khuda Baksh on public transport and attends the celebration there. According to him, he was present in Karachi, when the bomb blast almost killed Benazir. At the time of the funeral he declared his allegiance to Zardari, only if he follows in the footsteps of his predecessors, a trait, he doubts the President has. In his 70s, this man is popular around this area.

Before Bhutto’s assassination, while he was still kept in jail, Nusrat and Benazir Bhutto once traveled to Kasur, to visit the tomb of Bulleh Shah. On their way back, they stopped over at his khoti for tea, a crime for which he was later picked up by the authorities. After being missing for a couple of months, he was found naked in Lahore by his family. He has been mentally unstable since then, which nonetheless has not been able to put away the smile on his face. He narrated to us the following verses:

Bhutto Larkane wala

Baba Sewan alea

Zardari nu saai rasta wekha

Baba Sewan alea’

Bhutto ceased to be a politician the day he died. He became a legend, got incorporated into folk tales, myths, and became a cult, a creed, even a caste. Many people use the name Bhutto at the end of their names. This devotion which only increases over time is akin to how many reformers were made Saints after their death. Bhutto already seems to have achieved that level. Therefore to me, it’s not important to establish his right position in history. History is for mortals, and he has broken that barrier. He is part of a legend. No matter what status historians give him, Bhutto would remain to be a source of inspiration for many. For many years to come, people would keep on singing his songs, and narrating the events of his bravery. His devotees would always keep him alive. I am not sure that such myths and legends are attached to the group of leaders mentioned in the beginning of this article, but if they are not, than doesn’t Bhutto even surpass them?