By Manbir Singh Chowdhary
G.M. Syed was as an enigmatic leader who spent his entire life advocating the rights of peasants in a feudal society, and fighting the adverse effects of centralized power and authority in Pakistan. As a result, he became renowned as a champion of his native Sindh.
In 1971, disillusioned with national politics and the stronghold of Pakistan’s federal government over smaller provinces, Syed formed the ‘Jiye Sindh‘ movement that called for the recognition and right to self-determination of the Sindhi people.
Unafraid to speak out against the ethnically Punjabi-dominated government’s marginalization of his Sindhi brethren, he died in 1995 under house arrest, after a lifelong career in politics. Amnesty International declared him, “A Prisoner of Conscience”.
A 2002 editorial in Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper claimed Syed was the longest serving political prisoner in recent history, beating Nelson Mandela by six months.
At a February 2001 gathering to commemorate G.M. Syed’s 97th birth anniversary, the Dawn reported various leaders of nationalist parties paying tribute to him as “a man of principle who never compromised with feudals and dictators for the sake of power.”
The article reflected the common sentiment of those who view Syed as a political icon: “The late Syed believed in the salvation of all oppressed people of Sindh who had been subjugated by feudals and forces of exploitation.”
Despite remaining firm in his convictions and standing up against political oppression, it was G.M. Syed’s views on religion and philosophy that truly formed the basis of his legacy to the world. A man of great learning, he was a staunch proponent of humanity and love – a man who respected and drew from the teachings of all faiths.
In the words of author and historian, Khadim Hussain Soomro, “History will remember him as an eminent ambassador of peace, goodwill, and tolerance.”