By Shahid Husain, Karachi, Sindh
– The News
Well-known communist and peasant leader Jam Saqi has the distinction of leading the March 4, 1967, student movement and organising the first public meeting of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) founder and former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on December 13, 1967 at the Jamia Arabic Ground, Hyderabad, Sindh.
Born on November 31, 1946 in village Janghi, taluka Chachro, district Tharparkar, Saqi passed his Matriculation examinations from Local Board High School, Chachro in 1962. Thereafter, he studied at Government College, Hyderabad, Sachal Sarmast Arts College, Hyderabad, and Sindh University, Jamshoro from where he did his Masters. “A retired primary teacher Inayatullah who visited our school on October 16, 1961, where I delivered a speech on Liaquat Ali Khan in a debate was impressed by me and brought me in touch with the underground Communist Party of Pakistan,” he said.
Saqi, a fiery student leader of yesteryears, established Sindh National Students Federation (SNSF) on November 3, 1968, of which he was the founder president with Nadeem Akhter as the founding vice president and Mir Thebo as general secretary of the organisation. The SNSF played a vital role in the democratic upsurge of 1968-69. “The 1968-69 movement against President Ayub Khan was greatly influenced by socialist ideology. Small wonder, then, that Pakistan People’s Party emerged victorious in Sindh and Punjab, Awami League in East Pakistan and National Awami Party in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan. All of them had socialist leaning,” Saqi told The News.
However, he regretted that while Bhutto and Maulana Bhashani openly espoused socialism, the communist cadre was taught to refrain themselves to the slogan of national democratic revolution. “In 1971 when a military operation was initiated in East Pakistan, we brought out rallies against the military junta in Hyderabad and Nawabshah and on March 25, 1971, I issued a statement against the genocide in our eastern wing,” he recalled. “Since the statement was also broadcasted from All India Radio, it was propagated by the official media that I have slipped to India,” he added.
“I am proud that I never ran away from Pakistan,” he said. Saqi was arrested on February 14, 1972 from Sukkur after he surfaced from his underground life and spent one year in jail. “The imprisonment was due to a verdict given by a military court in absentia,” he said. He claimed that President Bhutto conveyed to him through an eminent lawyer and National Awami Party leader Mahmood Ali Kasuri that there were plans to kill him in 1971.
“In 1994 Benazir Bhutto asked me to join the PPP and accept the portfolio of advisor to the chief minister. When I said I was ready to join the party but would not like to become an advisor, she said she also wanted the party to be credible,” he said. “I am proud that Benazir Bhutto has mentioned me in her book ‘Daughter of the East’ but I am more proud that Lal Khan has mentioned my name in his book,” he said.
Saqi went through rigorous imprisonment many a time that broke his health but punishment could not deter him. He has inspired several generations of Pakistani youth and has also authored novels, short stories and several articles. He has equally drawn respect from the journalist community.
In 1983 when he was being tried in a military court for allegedly acting against the ideology of Pakistan, stalwarts such as Baloch leader Ghous Bux Bizenjo, Benazir Bhutto, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan, Mairaj Mohammad Khan, Fatehyab Ali Khan etc were his defence witnesses.
Sunday, December 28, 2008