Category Archives: MRD

Dr Masuma Hasan: In Memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan: I.A. Rehman’s Address on ‘The Politics of Dissent’

Fatehyab did not give up. Perhaps he did not know how to do that …

The beautiful and historic library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs was packed to capacity when Ibn Abdur Rehman, better known as I.A. Rehman, spoke on The Politics of Dissent in memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan. The younger members of the audience had to stand throughout the session. I.A. Rehman is the Secretary General of The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and is one of the leading human rights defenders in Pakistan. He is the founding chair of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy and received the Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2004. Fatehyab’s was a most powerful voice of dissent in politics in Pakistan and, therefore, it was appropriate that Rehman Sahib should have spoken on this subject in his memory.

Throughout his life, Fatehyab fought for fundamental freedoms, democratic values, political morality and decency in public life. He was only 25 years old when he led the movement against Ayub Khan in 1961, which spread throughout West Pakistan, while the political parties sat on the fence. He was interned, externed and imprisoned throughout his political career but he never lost his sense of humour. See past posts on this event here, here and here.

During the agitation against Ziaul Haq’s tyrannical regime, he was one of the nine signatories of the declaration of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD, 1981). During this movement, he sacrificed and suffered, worked tirelessly and also brought the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party (PMKP), of which he was president, into mainstream politics. He never compromised on his principles and never bartered his political ideology for any material gain. Contrary to the familiar custom in Pakistan, he never switched political parties and remained president of PMKP until his death in 2010.

According to Rehman Sahib:

The politics of dissent began on the very morrow of independence with stirrings in both religious and non-religious camps. The challenge from the religious right has run through all the six decades of independence from success to success for its warriors have followed a policy of nibbling at state power bit by bit. Its 22 points won it the Objectives Resolution; it won a major battle when Islamic provisions were inserted in the 1956 constitution and again when it forced Ayub Khan to restore the words ‘Islamic Republic’ that he had deleted from the constitution-like document prepared and enforced in his personal discretion; it persuaded the PPP founders to string democracy, socialism and religion together in their rosary; it facilitated the government’s acquisition of authority to decide who is a Muslim and who is not and it cheered Ziaul Haq as he created religious courts with powers to usurp the functions of the legislature. The holy warriors’ march has not ended. Now the religious groups claim to have raised a madrassa force that, according to them, could seize the reins of power any time. Still, the politics of the religious parties does not fully qualify for the label of dissent; it is more in the nature of catalytic action in support of the religious strand in the ideal of Pakistan.

He stated that the religious right was successful because, to a considerable extent, the non-religious centrist parties were reluctant:

to challenge the state’s drift.

Rehman Sahib traced the narrative of evolving dissent among centrist and leftist parties, leading to the formation of the Pakistan National Party in 1956 and later of the National Awami Party. By 1957, an alternative narrative had emerged due to the ground work done by provincial and regional parties. The PPP government, which took over what was left of Pakistan in 1971, offered a promise of change for dissidents but its own lack of tolerance for other political parties closed the space for the politics of dissent. Since 1977, this dissent has been confined to agitations for restoration of democracy. The politics of dissent has now been taken up by the small left of centre parties and nationalist parties in Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The politics of dissent, said Rehman Sahib, has not been the exclusive concern of opposition parties. A great part has been played by persons and groups “that have done politics without assuming the title of political parties” such as poets, and four categories of activists – students, lawyers, journalists and women. He mentioned the fire of dissent which was kept burning by poets like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Gul Khan Naseer, Sheikh Ayaz, Amir Hamza Shinwari, Qalander Mehmand, Habib Jalib, Ahmad Faraz, Fehmida Riaz and Kishwar Naheed and others who have sustained “the dignity of dissent and the beleaguered forces of sanity” with their songs of freedom, resistance, justice and hope.

Rehman Sahib described Fatehyab Ali Khan as a “restless activist who succeeded in carving out a role for himself in any situation for challenging the status quo and the conventional wisdom behind it. He was a star in the extraordinarily brilliant galaxy created by the National Students Federation and his stewardships of the Karachi University Students Union is one of the glorious chapters in Pakistan’s history of students movements.”

He brought his zest for change into politics which he preferred to making money as a lawyer and he supported any political cause which sought support. During the Zia period, he was one of the most consistently active leaders of the MRD and he propped up the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party when the Hashtnagar agitation had fizzled out and the party broke into factions:

Fatehyab did not give up. Perhaps he did not know how to do that.

Rehman Sahib spoke about Fatehyab’s “long and distinguished career in the politics of dissent,” saying that “I pay respect to Fatehyab Ali Khan not only because he was the head of the Institute that has hosted this event, and which he saved from being gobbled up by sarkari qabza groups, but because I can present him as a representative” of those“ who stood their ground in the face of tyranny and refused to succumb to blandishments and bribe.”

Finally, what has the politics of dissent achieved in Pakistan, he asked? Most political dissidents have been maligned and punished for their leftist inclinations. Although they never came to power, these dissidents have left their unmistakable mark on the growth of progressive ideas, on people’s linguistic and cultural rights, land reforms and an independent foreign policy. They fought for civil liberties and human freedoms and offered an alternative to the establishment-sponsored mindset.

How different Pakistan’s history might have been, he lamented, if the voices of dissent had been heeded:

But then all those who dismiss ideas of change as heresy close the path to their progress.

The questions Rehman Sahib fielded related mostly to the victimization of leftist parties. On a lighter note, as I looked around the audience, I was delighted to see the Station House Officer of the Artillery Maidan Police Station. He addresses me as maan ji.


In Honour of Fatehyab Ali Khan: Dr Kamal Hossain Speaks at PIIA

One of the all time greats of South Asian history spoke at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs today – 24 September 2012. Dr Kamal Hossain is a celebrated international lawyer and human rights activist.

He served as Bangladesh’s Minister of Law (1972–1973), Minister of Foreign Affairs (1973–1975) and Minister of Petroleum and Minerals (1974–1975). 

Dr Hossain struggled for Bangladesh’s independence from the captivity of the Pakistan Army: he and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were released together.

Dr Hossain is one of the authors of Bangladesh’s constitution and is a legendary Bangladeshi lawyer and politician.

He spoke at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) to pay tribute to the memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan.

Dr Kamal Hossain remembered Fatehyab Ali Khan, some who he looked up to and drew ideological strength from, as a legendary figure in Pakistani who shot to national fame at the young age of 25 when he, as a student (along with a few friends), singlehandedly defied Ayub Khan’s deplorable martial law regime.

Dr Hossian noted that he himself only took on the burdens of leading a national resistance movement against the military after he had been called to the bar in England and Wales and therefore had a steady income through his practice as an independent lawyer. He could afford to be politically active and struggle to bring about change. Reminiscing about the house to house campaigns in which he carried out mobilising the young, Dr Hossain remarked that “what President Obama recently did to win the election by reaching out to young people, we were doing that a long time back …”

Prior to Dr Hossain’s address, the PIIA’s Chairman Dr Masuma Hasan made a profoundly touching introductory speech in the memory of her late husband: she spoke nostalgically about the old days when Bangladesh and Pakistan were one country and so much was expected of the then nascent state of Pakistan.

We will be updating this blog – through a series of posts – and the Pakistan Horizon blog with details of the event which focused on peace building and constitutional rights in South Asia.

His address – entitled Building a peaceful South Asia in response to the aspirations of all our peoples – focused on a variety of regional and international issues and was followed by a question and answer session by the members of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs and journalists – one member of the Pakistani media even asked a question in Bangla!

Involving the youth in the democratic process to strengthen democracy and the rule of law and using the media more effectively in order to create space that allowed young people the opportunity to express themselves remained the leitmotiv of Dr Hossain’s speech.

We hope to make the video and written transcripts of the event available soon.

Fatehyab being arrested in Karachi for leading the MRD agitation against Zia

A Tribute to Nusrat Bhutto (1929 – 2011)

My memories of Nusrat Bhutto go back to her appearances in the media as the wife of the charismatic president, and then prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.  I came into direct contact with her only when the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was launched against the dictatorship of Ziaul Haq.

The MRD was a multi-party alliance. My husband, Fatehyab Ali Khan’s Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party was a founding member of the alliance and he eventually became one of its strongest pillars. Originally, there was some hesitation on the part of the more affluent older generation of politicians to allow a small leftist party, led by a reputed radical like Fatehyab, into the alliance. Nusrat Bhutto, who had been impressed by Fatehyab’s courage in filing a constitutional petition against the radio and television programme aimed at influencing the Bhutto trial, Zulm Ki Dastan, came out on his side. The programme was stopped as a result of Fatehyab’s constitutional petition.

There was some reluctance also, among the older politicians, most of whom lived in palatial houses, to come to our simple home, opening on a run down lane, for a meeting of the MRD’s central executive committee. Nusrat Bhutto had no such qualms. Her arrival at the meeting in our house was a turning point for the politics of that time. Clad in a silk sari, she sat through the meeting in the rocking chair in our living room.

I was not part of the meeting, so I do not know what transpired during those deliberations. But I heard that she tried hard to build a consensus with members of the central executive committee, some of whom had cried for her husband’s blood during the PNA movement and tried to take everybody along.

At some stage of the movement, she had gone underground. I remember the event in which she was persuaded by Fatehyab to make a public appearance in a meeting of the Railway Workers’ Union in Karachi. Fatehyab brought her to my mother’s house and her gentle words, “I do get nervous, you know” still ring in my ears. Clad in a burqa, she went to the meeting with Fatehyab, chauffered by my brother Kazim. Her appearance at the gathering caused a tumult and was a great political energizer.

After Benazir came to power, Nusrat Bhutto met me in 1989. She had thrown her weight in favour of returning The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, which had been taken over by Ziaul Haq in 1980, to its members and original charter. I told her there had been some progress on the issue. “Really,” she said “They don’t usually listen to me”. There was a wave of joy on her face, when she told me that she might be meeting her grandchildren soon.

Few people have been dealt a fate as cruel as Nusrat Bhutto suffered. However she may have coped with her grief in public, in private she maintained her courage and dignity.

She was a great woman. And I wonder what Fatehyab and Nusrat are talking about in the afterworld? Politics in Pakistan no doubt!

The author Dr Masuma Hasan, is the Chairman of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). She has served Pakistan as Cabinet Secretary and Ambassador to the U.N., Austria, Slovenia and Slovakia. 


The constitutional anomalies

There is a consensus in the country that the army should have no role in politics and that the military high command should be under the control of the highest political leadership. And there are no two opinions about the fact that there should be democracy in the country. However, there are different opinions about the kind of democratic setup that we should have and the manner in which the setup should operate. But there is no difference of opinion that the people should have the right to elect their government in a fair and transparent manner.

A constitution is the fundamental law of the land, and the basic framework for governance. The statutes must conform to the superior norms contained in the constitution. Pakistan’s rulers have not only amended the constitution but have hoodwinked the people by introducing far-reaching changes in the statutes such as the Political Parties Actthe Representation of People’s Act and Qanoon-i-Shahadat, thereby altering the superior law of the constitution itself.

After the departure of Nawaz Sharif and suspension of the Constitution by General Musharraf, political parties in the opposition have been demanding restoration of the constitutional structure existing prior to October 12, 1999. At the same time, they have been describing it as the unanimous Constitution of 1973. These parties should tell the people in clear words which constitution they want to be restored, because before October 12, 1999, it was not the unanimous Constitution of 1973 but Ziaul Haq’s constitution which was in force. Compare the two documents — the unanimously adopted Constitution of 1973 and the constitution as it stood in 1985 — and the extent to which Ziaul Haq had mutilated the 1973 Constitution becomes clearly evident.

After the separation of East Pakistan in 1971, Z.A. Bhutto made a reference to the Supreme Court as to whether the truncated assembly could frame a constitution. The Supreme Court presided over by Justice Hamoodur Rahman, answered in the affirmative. During the chaotic period of 1972, the ruling elite wanted a presidential system but the country’s mature leadership demanded a federal parliamentary system, and all the parliamentary parties unanimously passed the 1973 constitution.

However, when unilateral amendments were made in the Constitution the parliamentary opposition stood against them and kept opposing them until 1977. The PNA declared that the 1977 elections were not transparent and demanded fresh polls. But before the Bhutto government and the PNA could make public the agreement they had reached, Ziaul Haq imposed martial law in the country. The democratic forces, however, continued their struggle through the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD).

Ziaul Haq virtually changed the basic structure of the unanimously adopted Constitution of 1973 and held non-party elections. The MRD boycotted these elections and declared that the 1985 amendments amounted to promulgating an altogether new constitution, which should be scrapped and the country’s original Constitution of 1973 be restored. But the non-party parliament rubber-stamped the amendments contained in Ziaul Haq’s RCO (Revival of Constitution Order 1985, which was his LFO) The MRD authorised Ms Benazir Bhutto, who was then its convener, to challenge in the Supreme Court the constitutional changes imposed by Ziaul Haq. The Supreme Court gave a three-point judgment in 1988 in Benazir Bhutto’s petition:

1. National and provincial elections are a political process; national and provincial assembly elections should be held on a party basis.

2. When the National Assembly is dissolved, it is a constitutional requirement to hold general elections within 90 days.

3. The federal government is not complete without a prime minister.

Ziaul Haq had not appointed a caretaker prime minister when he dismissed Junejo and the Majlis-i-Shoora in 1988 nor did he hold elections within 90 days. After this judgment of the Supreme Court, Ziaul Haq’s amendments of 1985 became extra-constitutional.

Both the Treasury Benches and the opposition have cleverly suppressed the fact that the oath of office administered recently to the members of the National Assembly and Senate was that of Ziaul Haq’s Constitution and not that of the original Constitution of 1973.

Ziaul Haq sought refuge behind Islamization to introduce gender biased laws which take Pakistan into pre-medieval times. These laws such as enforcement of HuddTazeer and Qanoon-i-Shahadat are highly controversial and discriminatory against women and contravene the substance and spirit of the original constitution of 1973. And these are the laws which our political stalwarts want to protect.

To achieve his political purpose, Ziaul Haq destroyed the principle of one-man one-vote which was, with immense wisdom, enshrined in the procedure laid out for the election of the president. In the 1973 constitution, the electoral college for the president comprised only the National Assembly and the Senate. Ziaul Haq enlarged the electoral college to include members of the provincial assemblies. According to the original 1973 Constitution, the National Assembly elected on the basis of population and the Senate, representing equality of the federating units, elected the president. When Ziaul Haq included members of the provincial assemblies in the electoral college, the indivisibility of the principle of one-man one-vote disappeared. Provincial assembly members now voted first to elect the Senators, and second, voted along with the senators to elect the president.

Ziaul Haq was aware that suspending or keeping in abeyance the constitutional machinery amounted to subversion of the constitution which was a treasonable act punishable by death under Article 6 of the 1973 constitution. By keeping the Constitution in abeyance, he also kept Article 6 in abeyance. He tried to run the country’s affairs with a nominated Majlis-i-Shoora, maintaining that Islam does not provide for political parties and general elections.

When he failed, he took cover behind the referendum through a clause which was introduced in the Constitution by Z.A. Bhutto’s seventh amendment and got himself elected as president for five years. Article 6 was revived only by the elected Majlis-i-Shoora after 8.1/2 years of suspension through the Revival of Constitution Order in 1985. Probably they struck a deal with him.

To sum up, we have three constitutional scenarios:

1. The unanimously adopted constitution of 1973 which includes the amendments introduced by Z.A. Bhutto.

2. Ziaul Haq’s constitution of 1985 with the Junejo-Nawaz Sharif amendments.

3. General Musharraf’s amendments in Ziaul Haq’s constitution.

The attitude of some parliamentary political parties is most surprising. Their parliamentary leaders had signed the unanimous constitution of 1973 and had taken oaths of allegiance to stand by it and protect it, but today the same parties, under the cover of religion, are trying to protect the amendments Ziaul Haq made. This amounts to breaking their oath of allegiance as provided by the constitution of 1973.

Although the general elections were held in October 2002, the Majlis-i-Shoora has not been formally convened because the joint session to be addressed by the president, which is essential, has not been called because of the deadlock on the Legal Framework Order. Success in the current dialogue between the government and opposition on the LFO will be a good augury, although it will in no way be different from the one witnessed in the dialogue held between Ziaul Haq and the members of the National Assembly elected under his Revival of Constitution Order.

The political parties holding the above views should formulate their constitutional aims and incorporate them in their election manifestos. Meanwhile, they should give attention to the people’s general welfare, employment, peace and security, education, housing, health, freedom and provincial autonomy.

They should prepare for the next general elections. The party or parties which win the next elections will have the privilege to propose and enforce a constitution of their choice. There should be no effort on their part to impose their will on the people through back door devices.

The author (1936 – 2010) was the President of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party and the Chairman of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. This article was published as an opinion in the Dawn Newspaper during the author’s lifetime. 

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

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