A significant volume about the history of the Left movement in Pakistan
In 1956 A.B.A Haleem, then vice chancellor of Karachi University, declared Jamal Naqvi as an “undesirable element” depriving him of the chance to get a job in Karachi. At this stage, Mirza Abid Abbas, husband of Mrs Naqvi’s sister who had a private college in Hyderabad, Sindh, rescued him. Mirza Abid’s sons — Athar Abbas (Major General and former director ISPR), Mazhar Abbas, Zafar Abbas, Azhar Abbas (all journalists) and Anwar Abbas — were tutored and trained by Jamaluddin Naqvi.
Jamaluddin Naqvi (known as Jamal Naqvi) joined the Karachi-Sindh group of Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in the mid 1950s, assumed all important posts in the party, and later ran his own faction of the party like a sole rider till late 1980s when he left the CPP on ideological grounds.
His autobiographical account has been published recently under the title Leaving the Left Behind, which is self-explanatory. If someone wants to know more, he can read the subtitle “An autobiographical tale of political disillusionment that took the life’s momentum away from the myopic politics of the Right and the Left to the enlightened concept of Right and Wrong”.
In a scenario where there is no archival record of the left, either in the form of official statements/documents or memoirs (Dada Amir Haider Khan’s biography being an exception), how can one evaluate our common progressive past politics? This is where the value of this book lies. Jamal has not made any disclosures or revelations in the book. Those who have met him during the last decade or so know this well. Like a bold and courageous political worker, he didn’t hide his change of heart.
When prominent Indian Bengali communist Mohit Sen penned his autobiographical account A Traveller and the Road: A Journey of an Indian Communist , he too faced outright condemnation from the CPI rank and file; yet his book is considered a pioneering effort in unfolding the myth of the Indian left.
Unfortunately, there is a narrow space for rethinking or revisiting the past politics and ideologies among the South Asian left which is said to be dogmatic. We love to live in a black and white world; there is no room for gray areas especially for those who want to move away from their previous ideological positions. When someone changes his position, we treat him as a zandiq (heretic). So Jamal is another zandiq among reds.
Ironically, Jamal gave his whole life and career to progressive thoughts and spent many years in prison but when he amended his thoughts, he was discarded. These memoirs are the only way to revisit the past and to analyse the history of the left movement in Pakistan.