Tag Archives: Masuma Hasan

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.

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Honouring Fatehyab Ali Khan: The 2015 Debate

A debate will be held to honour the memory of the late Fatehyab Ali Khan who passed away five years ago. The event will be held in Federal Urdu University in Gulshan-e-Iqbal in Karachi on 30 September 2015 and the programme will begin at 10:30 AM. Fatehyab was at 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. He famously pioneered the politics of resistance and dissent in Pakistan in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The regime considered them and their other companions – such as Anwar Ahsan Siddiqui, Agha Jaffer, Johar Hussain, Iqbal Ahmed Memon, Ali Mukhtar Rizvi, Ameer Haider Kazmi, Sher Afzal Mulk, Mehboob Ali Mehboob and Meraj Muhammad Khan – to be mere student leaders. But as demonstrated by the historical process, after their monumental struggle as students these individuals would go on to lay the bedrock of national resistance in our country.

Happy Birthday Fatehyab Ali Khan

Speaking in 1962

Speaking in 1962

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, i.e. 19 May, is Fatehyab’s Birthday.

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. These historic documents in the struggle for democracy will be exposed in a forthcoming book by his wife Dr Masuma Hasan.

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.

State’s Anti-India Posture Caused Gradual Transfer of Power to Military

nprCoverage of The Politi­cs of Dissent in Pakistan in Dawn by Peerzada Salman

Yesterday’s lecture was organised in memory of the distinguished political leader Fatehyab Ali Khan at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs’ library. The Secretary General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Mr I.A. Rehman explained that dissent implied presenting alternatives to state narratives. Alternatives to what, he asked, and answered that it was to do with the dominant narratives that developed because of a lack of clarity and interpretation of ideas before independence. When Mohammad Ali Jinnah was asked about the nature of Pakistani nationhood, the markers that he chose to define it came from religious traditions, which created a problem. He chose to define the history of Muslims of India different from their Hindu compatriots.

Regional communities (Bengalis, Punjabis, Sindhis, etc) were ignored as well as what was common and uncommon between them, he said. Still, Mr Jinnah maintained that Islamic principles would be followed in Pakistan but it would not be a theocracy. At the time of independence, he said, there were three groups who had their opinion on the matter and a large group of which supported sharia state. Realizing the danger of the issue, Mr Jinnah called for a new nationhood on the basis of citizenship but perhaps did not take his colleagues into confidence which was why his 11 August 1947 speech was not allowed to get published.

Mr Rehman said the price was paid in 1949 in the form of the Objectives Resolution and the country moved towards becoming a theocratic state.

He said Ayub Khan tried to apply the brakes but actually strengthened the clergy. In 1965 during the war with India, people’s religious sentiments were evoked not the love of the motherland, he argued. The Centre later gained more power, he added.

Mr Rehman then touched upon the issue of foreign policy. He said Mr Jinnah wanted foreign policy to be governed by the principles of friendship with all and malice to none which was discarded in his lifetime and the country entered into western military pacts in the early 1950s, turning into a security state. The element of permanent hostility towards India followed and with conflict over Kashmir the anti-India posture was maintained, resulting in a gradual transfer of power to the military, he said.

Mr Rehman said the politics of dissent began from the time of independence, to little avail. Ayub Khan had to restore the words ‘Islamic Republic’ into the country’s name, and the process to decide who’s Muslim who’s not took root. Mr Jinnah wanted non-Muslims to join the Muslim League; it didn’t happen and it became a Muslims-only party, he said. No one opposed the Objectives Resolution, and even Mian Iftikharuddin believed nobody’s going to follow it, until General Zia aggravated things. As a result, agitation was witnessed and women came out against the Hudood Ordinance.

Going back to independence, he said, it was Begum Shaista Ikramullah who first spoke for the Bengali linguistic right but was silenced and told it didn’t befit a woman to speak on such matters. Urdu contributed to another dimension to state ideology. Carrying on with his point, he briefly talked about the Awami League, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and agitation in Balochistan.

Mr Rehman said it was in 1957 that alternatives began to emerge with the arrival of the National Awami Party on the scene, frightening the establishment as a result of which pacts were withdrawn. Things, however, didn’t change much and subsequently Ayub Khan experimented with partyless politics. The Awami League and the PPP challenged Ayub Khan a bit, but the military kept its control, he added.

According to the HRCP secretary general, the politics of dissent since 1977 had largely been confined to agitation for the restoration of democracy, and in the 1981 accord the objectives of the movement were spelled out. Yet democracy achieved little, Mr Rehman commented, adding that for the past 25 years opposition parties became indistinguishable from the parties in power.

He said the politics of dissent was not exclusive to political parties as the role played by poets, journalists, lawyers and students was no less significant. Poets, he said, had kept the fire of dissent alive and in that regard he took the names of Faiz, Sheikh Ayaz and Habib Jalib. He also lauded the part played by students’ organisation such as the Democratic Students Federation (DSF) that resisted state oppression and not just fought for the students’ community but for the people as a whole. Bar councils’ struggle was appreciated too as was journalists’ contribution to the whole situation. He claimed that journalists had the clearest voice against General Ayub Khan.

Reverting to students’ part, Mr Rehman praised Fatehyab Ali Khan’s contribution to a great struggle and called him a star in the galaxy created by the National Students Federation (NSF) and remarked:

He brought his zest of change into politics.

Mr Rehman said the politics of dissent did cause a rethinking on some matters such as land reforms, language issues (belatedly in the case of Bengali) and the involvement in the non-aligned movement. Also, today every politi­cian was using the slogans that dissenters had used.

After the presentation, the floor was opened for a question-and-answer session.

Earlier, PIIA Chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan introduced the speaker to the audience and briefly shed light on the achievements of the late Fatehyab Ali Khan, including his role in restoring the PIIA to its original position after General Zia tried to turn it into a government institution.

Anwer Mooraj on Dr Kamal Hossain’s Talk

It was an enjoyable experience listening to Dr Kamal Hossain, a former foreign minister of Bangladesh, who spoke at a recent function. The occasion was the death anniversary of Fatehyab Ali Khan, a tireless campaigner for liberty, dispensation of justice, the rule of law and the establishment of a democratic system in Pakistan. The venue was the library of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs in Karachi — an institution whose log over the years has swelled to an embarrassment of riches in the field on book launches, talks and lectures. After the death of her husband Fatehyab, the institute has been ably run by Dr Masuma Hasan, a former ambassador and cabinet secretary who spoke about her late husband and introduced Dr Hossain to the city’s literati. Mercifully, there were no other speakers, just a clutch of men and women who subsequently asked questions. This was in refreshing contrast to the normal practice in Pakistan where an average of eight orators feel it is their bounden duty to loosen their vocal chords in public.

Not only did Dr Hossain speak extempore, he was articulate. It would not be an exaggeration to say that from the moment he made his introductory remarks the audience was absolutely riveted to what he had to say. There were none of the usual cornball clichés and gross generalisations that are spewed out by politicians with a grudge, vast resentments and huge egos. Perhaps a few members of the audience were a little disappointed — but for the wrong reasons. Many older Bangladeshis still harbour a deep resentment against a former senior partner that has been accused of colonising them. And perhaps, these listeners expected him to commence with a spirited defence of why the eastern wing felt a need to break away, and the mass rape of Bengali women during the occupation and war against the Mukhti Bahini. But Dr Hossain would have none of that. He displayed no anger or antipathy or felt the need to exhume the sepia tints of history.  He spoke about the future and only briefly hinted at events in the past, assiduously avoiding issues that might have caused offence.

In his modest, scholarly and balanced fashion, he struck a completely different chord and harped on a theme that was once successfully employed and needed revamping. This involved young people in the affairs of state. The youth are the agents of change, he said with certain emphasis. How true. They can be the instruments of a political osmosis. Since their parents apparently don’t want to get involved they should take up the banner. For starters, they should badger their representatives in parliament and ask them what they are doing and have done to make their country a better place to live in. In a way, Dr Hossain was speaking from a position of advantage. He was representing a country that has moved ahead while we in Pakistan seem to have relapsed into a state of medieval intolerance and anarchy from which there doesn’t appear to be any escape. In Bangladesh they speak only one vernacular language. They have only one province, one common political cause — democracy and a fierce sense of nationalism. This is a country that has had elections from the word go, and which declared itself to be a secular republic. It is also a country whose exports are higher than those of Pakistan and whose currency fares far better against the dollar. Chou-en-Lai once told Dr Hossain “You should form a Commonwealth of South Asia”. Now who is going to connect the dots on the map?

Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2012, see here

Anil Datta on Dr Kamal Hossain’s Talk: Only the Youth Can Bring About a Fruitful Revolution …

We have to harness the energies of the young people to bring about a change in the destinies of the South Asian countries and give our people a life free from hunger and want. It is the young who are the real agents of change. 

These observations were made by Dr Kamal Hossain, former Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, former UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan from 1998 to 2003, and currently a member of the UN Compensation Commission, while speaking on the occasion of a lecture in memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan, former Chairman, PIIA, at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) Monday evening [24 September 2012]. 

“I would like to address you, the young people, because the future lies in your hands. You are the agents of change”, he said.

He said that his and his party’s most valuable asset during the 1970 elections (the last elections in the united Pakistan) were the young, almost a thousand of them who most painstakingly, without expectation of material rewards and fired by idealism, worked day and night for the party writing campaigns and disseminating the party manifesto among the masses. “We did in 1970 what Barack Obama did in 2008”, he said.

Unfortunately, he said that today, the young were victims of disinformation.

“Let the voices of the young be heard over the electronic media. Let them ask the children particularly in the rural areas, ‘are you happy with your school’, if you want meaningful and lasting change. Let them go to the grassroots level and interact with the masses”, he said.

“A revolution is waiting to happen in South Asia”, Dr Hossain said.

In Bangladesh, he said the voting age was brought down from 21 to 18 which resulted in a larger turn-out of the young at polling booths and said that the results of this positive step had begun to manifest their results.

It was the youth, he said, who could steer the country clear off past acrimony and bickering and jointly guide the ship of state in a harmonious direction, thus bringing about change and prosperity. He said that the young people today had far greater access to information than in the 1960s, but they lacked motivation. They did not have the role models that his generation had.

He said that there was absolutely no substitute for democracy and that it was the most viable, just, and egalitarian system of governance ever devised. It was a system that fully assured citizens justice, egalitarianism, dignity, and human rights. However, he said that today, in many cases, democracy had come to be diluted and instead of being a system of governance of the people, for the people, and by the people, it had come to be a governance of the 1 percent, for the 1 percent, and by the 1 percent. It was this eventuality, he said, that we had to guard against.

As for South Asia, he said that the region was laden with resources but unfortunately the countries of the region had not been able to harness them. What was needed, he said, was greater cooperation among the nations of the region to exploit them jointly for the common good of our masses. In this context, he quoted the late Chinese Premier Chou En Lai when he said, “In light of new realities in the region, the countries should now think of forming a commonwealth of South Asia and move from confrontation to cooperation.

Lauding the media, he said that while they had played a commendable part in mitigating

misunderstanding and acrimony among the countries of the region, more still needed to be done in this regard and said that the media could be made real agents of change in a region where even today, per-capita income was less than half that of the rest of the world and there was mass poverty. Positive change, he said, had to come in the bottom 50 percent of the population. Only then could we claim to have ushered in egalitarianism.

In reply to a question about galloping extremism in some of the region’s countries, he said that it was not extremism for the sake of extremism but that it was manipulated by vested interests who exploited the simplicity of the unsuspecting to achieve their personal ends.

In reply to a question about the dilemma of the Rohingyas in Myanmar, he expressed utter dismay over the sordid episode but held the Myanmar government responsible which in 1980 passed a new citizenship act rendering those Burmese citizens whose ancestors had immigrated into Burma from other places stateless.

Earlier, welcoming Dr Kamal Hossain, Dr Masuma Hassan, Chairperson PIIA, most nostalgically and touchingly recalled the era prior to the creation of Bangladesh, her association with Dr Kamal Hossain’s family, and their trip to a conference in New Delhi as representatives of a united Pakistan.

This article originally appeared in the News, please see here.

Welcome speech of Dr. Masuma Hasan: In Memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan: Dr. Kamal Hossain on Building a peaceful South Asia: 24 September 2012

This session is dedicated to the memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan former Chairman of this Institute, whose death anniversary falls on 26 September and the members of the Institute are indeed grateful that Dr. Kamal Hossain has travelled from Dhaka to be with us today. So many memories flood my mind as I welcome him. The year was 1965, the month was January, well before the Pakistan-India war. A delegation went from this Institute to attend the unofficial commonwealth relations conference in Delhi, comprising its Chairman Professor A B A Haleem, its Secretary Khwaja Sarwar Hasan, and Dr. Kamal Hossain, a brilliant young barrister from Dhaka, who was accompanied by his wife, Hameeda Akhund. The conference was attended by representatives of institutes of international affairs from all the commonwealth countries.

Although I was not a delegate, I went along on a private visit. In the proceedings of the conference, Dr. Kamal Hossain made an outstanding contribution. But my memories are more personal, the beauty of the Taj at Agra, the magic of Fatehpur Sikri, and the other events that Kamal, Hameeda and I attended, will always remain vivid in my mind. As also their support and hospitality during my subsequent visits to East Pakistan in pursuance of my research.

A few years later, however, our country split apart. Dr. Kamal Hossain worked for the creation of Bangladesh and was detained in West Pakistan in April 1971, being released only when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was released in January 1972 and allowed to leave for London.

In independent Bangladesh, he was given important responsibilities and held high positions in the cabinet. He was minister for law and is the principal author of the constitution of Bangladesh. As foreign minister he played a crucial role, in those difficult times, in placing his country, then so ravaged by the affects of war, on the map of the world.

Dr. Kamal Hossain was educated at the University of Oxford from where, among other degrees, he earned a doctorate in International Law. His expertise in International Law has won him many important assignments and his wisdom and knowledge are much sought after in international arbitrations. He was the UN Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan between 1998 and 2003 and is currently a member of the UN Compensation Commission. Universally respected for his professional acumen and integrity, he is easily one of the leading figures in jurisprudence in the world. We are indeed fortunate that he has spared the time to address us today.

We have gathered to mark Fatehyab Ali Khan’s epic struggle for democracy, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Pakistan, full as his life was of incidents of brutality and injustice against him, long terms in prison, internments and externments. He was only 25 years old when he led the movement of the youth in West Pakistan against Ayub Khan, at a time when the political parties shied away from confronting the dictator. As a leading figure in the Movement for Restoration of Democracy against Ziaul Haq, he went underground to mobilize the people, and indeed he was the only original signatory of the MRD declaration who was awarded a prison sentence by a Martial Law court. These trials and tribulations did not, however, force him to abandon his struggle or even lose his sense of humour. In the political alliances in which he participated he was a consensus builder but he never compromised on his principles or changed his political affiliations. He remained President of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party until his death. Nor, indeed, did he need to compromise, as money, power and pelf meant nothing to him. He used to smile and say in his quiet, cultured way, ‘mein nazaryati aadmi hoon’.

Fatehyab’s love for this Institute was legendary. His courageous stand saved us from the construction sharks who wanted to dispossess the Institute and had their eyes on this beautiful building. After Ziaul Haq took over the Institute in 1981 through a presidential ordinance, with his grit and determination Fatehyab kept the issue alive for over a decade in the public sphere and through his supporters in the courts of law until the Institute was returned to its independent status by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Later, as Chairman, he always jealously guarded its independence. He wrote extensively on international and constitutional issues and has left behind a large archive which I hope can be published soon.

Dr. Kamal Hossain will address us on ‘Building a peaceful South Asia in response to the aspirations of all our peoples’.

Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairperson, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.

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. 

Email: Masumahasan@hotmail.com

First barsi of Fatehyab Ali Khan held in Karachi

On 12 October 2011 a barsi (annual commemoration) was held for the late President of the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party Mr Fatehyab Ali Khan (1936 – 2010) in the Mumtaz Mirza Studio in Karachi.

Fatehyab Ali Khan died on 26 September 2010 and the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party held the event in his memory on 12 October 2011.

The late president’s wife Dr Masuma Hasan was present at the event and Mr Meraj Mohammed Khan was the keynote speaker and the chief guest. The event was organised by Mr S M Altaf, Mr Ishrat Ghazali and numerous other advocates and party workers from across Pakistan’s expansive political milieu.

The event began with the speech of a young man called Bahadur Pashtun – who is a local worker and socialist political activist. Bahadur paid tribute to the model of politics which Fatehyab left for us to follow and the ways in which the great leader tried his best to represent the people before Pakistan’s political and economic masters.

As the event progressed several eulogising speakers praised Fatehyab for his honesty which they all saw as the great man’s enduring legacy for Pakistan.

The enthusiastic speakers explained that honest people – and those who had fought tooth and nail against dictatorship – in our country went unrewarded and the rich and corrupt prospered: this, it was argued, was not the country which our forefathers struggled and bled to create. Surely not!

The videos below in this post consist of the speeches made by Meraj and Agha Masood. The sound is a bit dull bit so please turn up the volume.

In their youth Fatehyab and Meraj both shot to unprecedented  prominence for opposing the Ayub regime – Pakistan’s first proper military dictatorship which usurped power in 1958 (after having been behind the scenes from 1954) – which the two brought to its knees through the activities of the National Students Federation.

Since Pakistan was a country founded by the Muslim League there was no opposition in Parliament and a void existed instead: this lacuna was, of course, famously filled by great men such as Fatehyab and his friends and followers.

Remembering his late comrade Meraj explained that Fatehyab Ali Khan’s politics was marked by his passion to bring Pakistan’s poor people into its mainstream politics to empower them and he did this by opposing dictatorships time and time again: first Ayub and then Zia. And he was consulted by many politicians, lawyers, and others for his acumen and knowledge on public law and constitutional instruments. (This was highlighted by Agha Masood in his speech and an article by Fatehyab on Pakistan’s constitution is available here.)

Meraj, moreover, explained that apart from being a national politician who led from the front, Fatehyab was also a great teacher and it was him who always did all the hard thinking in relation to how the regime would respond to civil disobedience and political agitation.

Foremost, Fatehyab was remembered for having taught Pakistanis the etiquette of politics and criticism (see video below).

Agha Masood is a prominent Pakistani journalist who is an anchor on Pakistan Television and other private news channels. He was a staunch supporter of Fatehyab’s politics and his very close friend. He was also Fatehyab’s student and the celebrated journalist admitted that he learned how to write a column from his late friend and mentor.

Agha’s speech is available here:

As Meraj’s speech was lengthy I have extracted the most notable parts of it.

The introduction to Meraj’s speech remembering his old comrade Fatehyab can be viewed here:

And the telling conclusion is available here:

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