Tag Archives: left Movement

Tahira Mazhar Ali’s death a profound loss to many

By XARI JALIL

LAHORE: Veteran leader of the left movement, Tahira Mazhar Ali, passed away on Monday. Though she had been unwell for some time, her death has been met with a profound sense of loss by those who knew her.

Born in Lahore in a prominent family, Tahira’s father was Sir Sikander Hayat Khan, the prime minister of united Punjab from 1937 to 1942, while her maternal grandfather was Nawab Muzaffar Ali Khan, a prominent landlord of Punjab. She studied at Queen Mary School in Lahore and later married Mazhar Ali Khan at the age of 16. Marrying a student leader may have been a turning point in her life and her political life began after marriage.

Being born in an affluent family did not deter her from struggling for the rights of the marginalised. She carried on her activism for labour and women’s rights for over 60 years.

It was Tahira who for the first time in Pakistan observed the International Women’s Day publicly, where it was openly demanded that women be given their equal status and their rights be established. When it came to fighting for human rights, Tahira was unbending and her marked resistance made her a threat to the establishment.

In 1950, the Democratic Women’s Association (DWA) was formed and led by Tahira. It is considered the country’s first women’s rights organisation that ran with the support of the Communist Party, something that Tahira was proud of, often comparing it to internationally run organisations today. Other members of the DWA included Hajra Masood, Khadija Omar, Amatul Rehman and Alys Faiz. Its work was based in the grassroots in small neighbourhoods and involved mobilisation of women and workers.

It is because of her work in this regard that Tahira is seen as one of the greatest women of the subcontinent. Those who knew her well recall her active role in protests and rallies.

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Story of a Pakistani communist

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 wellLike 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 [2003], 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.

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