Category Archives: Karachi

Dr Masuma Hasan: In Memory of the Legendary Fatehyab Ali Khan, Federal Urdu University, 30 September 2015

Dr Masuma’s speech at Federal Urdu University, 30 September 2015, as delivered: Mr Raza Rabbani, Dr Pirzada Qasim, Dr Suleiman Muhammed, members of the audience. Some friends had suggested that this meeting and debate to honour the memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan should be held, as it was held last year, in the University of Karachi. But Fatehyab was not only the first elected president of the Karachi University Students’ Union, he was also president of the Inter-Collegiate Body, so he represented the entire student community. Therefore, it was in the fitness of things that the Vice Chancellor decided to hold this event in the Federal Urdu University. Here, I want to praise Asif Rafique and the members of his team who have arranged this event with so much devotion and care. My association with Fatehyab lasted for 50 years ─ first as students in Karachi University and later during our marriage. In politics, there were very few who matched his integrity and honesty of purpose. Since his youth, he was in the forefront of every democratic movement in our country.

During his political career, he made numerous sacrifices, was persecuted and subjected to many deprivations. He faced trials and convictions by military courts, long prison terms and externments but never compromised on his political principles. He was fearless and never yielded to political threats or pressure of any kind and he had that remarkable courage to refuse which is found in few people. He never changed his political party. He joined the Pakistan Workers Party and when it merged with the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party, he remained its president until he passed away in 2010. Fatehyab was a people’s hero, a brilliant orator, and he wrote extensively on constitutional, political and contemporary issues. During the Movement for Restoration of Democracy, which was launched against Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship, he made his greatest contribution to politics. That decade saw the most relentless persecution of Fatehyab and all those who were fighting for democracy and the rule of law.

A consensus builder, he tried to bring all like-minded political parties on one platform so that, together, they should work against dictatorship and establish a democratic order in Pakistan. He always championed the supremacy of the 1973 Constitution, both from political platforms and in the courts of law.

In his personal life, Fatehyab was remarkably free of prejudice ─ religious, sectarian or social. Yes, he was prejudiced in favour of his political ideology. He used to smile and say that he was a nazaryati person. He was extremely cultured and soft spoken ─ even when he opposed somebody, he did so with utmost grace. There were no temptations in his life ─ not for power, pelf, authority, property or money. He was completely immune to such temptations.

What is the message of this meeting today? We must ask ourselves this question. We should not forget that if we see any institutional autonomy, emerging democratic values, some freedom of thought and expression, it is the result of the struggle waged by Fatehyab, his colleagues, and countless political workers whose names have faded from our memory. The young people of this generation cannot, perhaps, even begin to comprehend, how difficult and cruel that struggle was.

The quatrain you see on the screen behind you, was written by the late Habib Jalib for Fatehyab and his externed colleagues ─

Fiza mein jis ne bhi apna lahu uchal diya

Sitamgaron ne usey shehr se nikal diya

Yehi tu hum se rafiqan i shab ko shikva hai

Ke hum ne subh ke rastey mein khud ko dal diya

About politics in Pakistan, he often recited this couplet by Mohsin Bhopali:

Nairang-i-siyasat-i-dauran to dekhiye

Manzil unhe mili jo shareek-i-safar na the

But perhaps that is not true, because this large gathering testifies to the fact that true recognition belongs to those whose sacrifice and devotion we are celebrating today.

In spite of the trials and tribulations which he faced during his lifetime, Fatehyab was never disappointed. He used to read this verse:

Hame yaqin hai ke hum hain chiragh-i-akhir-i-shab

Hamare bad andhera nahin ujala hai

And that same light glimmers today on the faces of the students gathered here who are the future and hope of our country.

In Memoriam: Fatehyab Ali Khan (1936 – 2010): 3rd Anniversary

Fatehyab Ali Khan, President of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party and a legendary figure in the public and national life of Pakistan, passed away on 26 September 2010. A visionary in politics, his relentless struggle for democracy, fundamental freedoms, justice in society and the rule of law forms a glowing chapter in the history of our country. His support for the cause of the oppressed and under-privileged will long be remembered.

Today is his third death anniversary and Mr Justice Rana Bhagwan Daas (R) and Senior journalist Mahmood Sham oversaw a debate competition held in Karachi University (please see further details below) in Fatehyab’s honour.

Fatehyab’s family migrated from Hyderabad Deccan to Pakistan after the Partition and settled in Shikarpur and Karachi. His bold stand against injustices in the local education system made him prominent at a very early age. Gifted with unusual organizing skills, persuasiveness and charm, he joined the National Students Federation and soon assumed leadership roles in the student community. He was elected as Vice President of Islamia College Students’ Union (at that time the president of the union used to be an official), President of Karachi University Students’ Union and Chairman of the Inter-Collegiate Body. He was a brilliant debater in both Urdu and English.

During the students’ movement against Ayub Khan’s martial law, when political parties were quiet spectators, Fatehyab shot to fame as a national figure and the leader of the movement. He was tried as Accused Number One and convicted by a military court in 1961. After he had served his sentence in Bahawalpur Central Jail, along with other activists, he was twice externed from all parts of the country, except Quetta. He was denied a passport to study abroad by the regime and ultimately took up law as his profession in Karachi.

Fatehyab was in the forefront of all movements against dictatorship in the country. His greatest contribution to politics came during the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD). He was a fearless fighter against Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship. The Mazdoor Kissan Party, of which he was president, was a member of the MRD alliance. On 12 August 1983, he courted arrest in Empress Market Karachi as part of MRD’s civil disobedience campaign. He worked tirelessly to organize and spread the movement and to develop a consensus for the alliance to work from a common platform in the future, which was not to be. The decade of the 1980s was a period of internments, externments, and numerous prison terms for Fatehyab. He was the only signatory of the MRD declaration who was tried and convicted by a military court. However, he never yielded to pressure and never compromised on his political principles.

Fatehyab served his prison terms in the 1980s in Karachi and Sukkur jails but whenever he found respite, he turned his attention to The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, of which he had become a member in 1972. In 1980, Ziaul Haq had taken over the Institute through a presidential ordinance, turning it virtually into a government department. Between prison terms, he led a determined and courageous legal campaign to get the Institute restored to its original independent and non-official status. After many setbacks, his persistence triumphed and the presidential ordinance was declared ultra vires of the Constitution by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1993.

In 1995, Fatehyab was elected as Chairman of the Institute’s Council, a position he held until 2009. As Chairman, he jealously guarded the independent character of the Institute, countering all pressure with the strength of his own personality. Free from traditional prejudices, Fatehyab was a great supporter of the rights of the marginalized, including the women’s movement, and stood by every initiative for women’s empowerment.

He was a prolific writer and has left behind a rich archive consisting of numerous constitutional petitions filed by him against martial law, articles on constitutional and international issues, political analyses and statements. These documents reflect not only his own commitment and contribution but also the dilemmas of the times in which he lived.

fatehyab Ali Khan invitation

Ishrat Ghazali, Advocate High Court, President Mazdoor Kissan Party, Karachi Division

E-mail: ghazaliishrat@gmail.com

Mob: 0300-2854142

Benazir Bhutto 1953-2007: a tribute

Remembering the Daughter of the East

Today it was Benazir Bhutto’s third death anniversary. When we were growing up in Pakistan at the height of General Zia’s military regime’s power, everyone believed that Benazir would return to depose the tyrant and restore democracy: this was gospel.

Therefore,  it was difficult for me to let the day of BB’s death pass without some form of remembrance of her personality on this site.

After all it is our purpose to provide a place from where the voice of the mazdoors and kissans, the “people”, of Pakistan can be heard.

Pakistan’s people looked to BB to pull their country out of the doldrums. Continue reading

Condition of widows in Pakistan

Dr Masuma Hasan

Being a widow is not a stigma in Pakistan either in religion or under the law. Marriage in Islam, which is the religion followed by the majority of the population, is not considered as sacrosanct. It is viewed as a civil contract between two individuals which can be dissolved. Thus the extreme sanctity attached to marriage in certain other religions does not operate to turn a widow into an outcast or be held responsible for her husband’s death. Traditionally, widows have been encouraged to re-marry and marriage to a widow has always been considered as an honourable act.

According to the latest Census (1998), in a population of 132.4 million, there were 2.7 million widows in the female population of 69 million. The largest number, 442,179, were found in the age bracket 75 years and above, followed by 416,773 in ages 60 to 64 years, and 326,176 between 50 to 54 years. However, Pakistan’s population in 2010 is estimated at over 170 million so the number of     widows has also increased.

Supportive influences

The law of the land, as embodied in the Constitution of 1973, and all previous constitutions, does not discriminate between the rights of women and men. The Constitution guarantees equal rights to both and rules out discrimination on the basis of sex. It empowers the State to make special laws for the protection of women and children and take steps to ensure the full participation of women in all spheres of national life and protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child.

A widow inherits one-fourth of her husband’s property if she has no children, and one-eighth of his property if she has children. The Government has made humane provisions for the widows of its employees. After the death of a Government employee, his widow receives the family pension until her own death. Widows of lower paid employees also receive a one-time grant for rehabilitation from the official Benevolent Fund. In the private sector, which works for profit, there are no universal rules governing support for widows of deceased employees, but given the culture of philanthropy, some short-term provision is probably made. Continue reading

In memoriam: Fatehyab Ali Khan 1936-2010

Fatehyab Ali Khan speaking in 1962

Fatehyab Ali Khan, Chairman of the Council of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs from 1995 to 2009, passed away on 26 September 2010. He was a legendary figure in the public and national life of Pakistan. A visionary in politics, his struggle for democracy, fundamental freedoms, justice in society and the rule of law forms a glowing chapter in the history of our country. His support for the cause of the oppressed and under-privileged will long be remembered.

Fatehyab’s family migrated from Hyderabad Deccan to Pakistan after the Partition and settled in Shikarpur and Karachi. His bold stand against injustices in the local education system made him prominent at a very early age. Gifted with unusual organizing skills, persuasiveness and charm, he joined the National Students Federation and soon assumed leadership roles in the student community. He was elected as Vice President of Islamia College Students’ Union (at that time the president used to be an official), President of Karachi University Students’ Union and Chairman of the Inter-Collegiate Body. He was a brilliant debater. Continue reading

Aurat Foundation’s response to the floods

(By Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairman, Pakistan Institute of International Affairs)

The Indus River floods almost every year. After the flood recedes, the people living along its banks repair their homes and shops and pick up the threads of life again. In some years, the flooding is acute and the government, civil society and other donors mobilise to bring relief to those left homeless and destitute.

Dr Masuma Hasan

This year, the floods have been described by some, as the worst natural disaster in the history of mankind. Devastation? Tragedy? Calamity? None of these words truly describe the magnitude of what has struck disaster-prone Pakistan. As if terrorism and the war against it had not caused misery and displacement enough. It is estimated that 20 million people have been affected by the monsoon rains and the Indus flood which has broken dykes and embankments and submerged millions of acres of land. Hundreds of towns, villages and hamlets have been evacuated. People are on the move, desperately seeking a patch of dry ground and the means of survival.

The impact of this disaster will be felt for generations to come. The gains Pakistan’s economy, infrastructure, industry, health and education sectors had made have been washed away by the angry Indus. Heritage sites have been destroyed. Sludge covers the land, many feet deep. Crops, livestock and fodder have been lost, public and private records of governance, education, businesses and landownership have drowned. Stocks of grain and rice have been swept away. Who will sow the next crop? Epidemics and disease threaten our land. Continue reading

Land and the politics of ethnicity

Politically motivated targeted killings, sectarian violence, forced occupation of other people’s property, illegal bulldozing of poor settlements, an increasing crime rate and an increasingly helpless and corrupt administration, are making Karachi ungovernable. There are many local, national and international causes for this state of affairs. However, a major cause is the politics of ethnicity and the close link it has unwittingly acquired with the trillions that can be made from the land and real estate business.

According to the 1998 Census, 48 per cent of the city’s population is Urdu speaking, 14 per cent is Punjabi speaking, 12 per cent is Pashto speaking and about 9 per cent is Sindhi speaking. The rest of the population speaks all the remaining languages of Pakistan. Continue reading

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