From Chairman Mao To Benazir Bhutto: My Political Odyssey In MRD And Beyond

From Chairman Mao To Benazir Bhutto: My Political Odyssey In MRD And Beyond
I was born to a poor father, who hailed from a Katcha village, known as Kitchi Baig Saryab. He was a Brohi by descent belonging to the Shahwani tribe, a subtribe of Sarawan (since Balochistan is territorially and tribe-wise divided into Jhalawan and Sarawan). He studied at the Sandeman High School, Quetta.

He was a classmate of Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo. They were together in the football team of the school and remained friends throughout their lives. Similarly, he was a childhood friend of Sher Mohammed Murree, later nicknamed General Sheroff after he commanded the Baloch rebellion in the early 1970s. My father joined the Army because he could not afford to study anymore. Later, he joined the Civil Service and became great friends with Nawab Akbar Bugti, Sardar Khair Baksh Murree, Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Gul Khan Naseer etc.

As luck would have it – and the status that he had acquired – he got married to the daughter of Khan Bahadur Naqi (owner of the Naqi Building, Naqi Arcade and so on). He retired as Senior Member of the Board of Revenue. After retirement, he was appointed as the first Chairman of the Public Service Commission, Balochistan.

The author with Benazir Bhutto

It is very interesting to mention here that my paternal grandfather was the ‘Khalifa’ in Balochistan of Hazrat Bahu Sultan.

As a student, I got interested in politics. I was elected as the Secretary General of the Government College Students Union.

At Punjab University, I was converted into a Marxist-Leninist and Maoist activist. Driven by the miserable plight of the majority of my poor relatives living in mud houses in Balochistan, I intensely participated in the labour movements and left my law practice to become a full time political worker.

I was then vociferously involved in the unification process of the left-wing parties, but in vain. I merged my party, known as the Punjab Jamhoori Front, into the Qaumi Mahaz-e-Azadi (QMA) led by Comrade Mairaj Muhammad Khan, and was appointed as Senior Vice-Chairman in 1981.

It was then a bipolar world and the Cold War was at its zenith. Country after country was turning ‘red’ and socialist revolutions were in vogue.

With the formation of the MRD in 1981, a number of political parties gathered on a single platform with the common objective of fresh elections. Due to the ban on political activities by the martial law administration, it took a while to build momentum. In view of the prevailing political stagnation, Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan came up with the idea of hosting Iftar parties and dinner/tea receptions that led to the restoration of political discussions under the guise of social gatherings – eventually building up the momentum for the MRD

I got totally drowned in this conviction and struggle for changing our country’s exploitative system. My mother, as mentioned earlier, came from the elite and extravagantly propertied classes. Her assets included a house of around 100 kanals in Quetta, lands therein; a 6-kanal house in Model Town, Lahore with an annexe attached to it, 6 kanals with several outhouses in Garden Town, a Haveli in old Anarkali, a bicycle market at Nilla Gumbad, Lahore, a shop in new Anarkali, a 2-kanal plot in Cantt. Lahore; a plot in Donga Gali; and, in addition, fixed deposits in National Savings Centres and Post Offices etc.

I was convinced that after the revolution in Pakistan, all properties and auxiliary assets would be taken over by the state. So, I thought that it was futile to accumulate and save them. As such, I spent lavishly on politics – in fact, I took it as a religion. At least 60% of our assets became prey to ‘qabza groups’ too. But I didn’t bother about it.

In 1981, the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) had already been established, with the QMA as one of the 11 component parties. Our Chairman, Mr. Mairaj Muhammad Khan was in jail then. Thus, I had to represent QMA in the central executive of the MRD. Since the Convenership was in vogue through rotation, I happened to officiate as Convener thrice. I also voluntarily courted arrest during the movement. On instructions by the MRD, I remained underground for three months and ran the movement (this assignment was given to me because all the stalwarts had been arrested by then).

Left to Right: KH Khurshid (former Secretary to Quaid-e-Azam and President Azad Kashmir), the author as Special Assistant to the PM, Ghaus Baksh Bizenjo, Hanif Ramay (former Chief Minister, Punjab) and Arshad Chaudhry (former federal minister)

During the struggle for the restoration of democracy and human rights, I was incarcerated 20 times: which includes twice at the Lahore Fort, twice at the Mianwali ‘katcha jail,’ various imprisonments at Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore and luckily a few times at Changa Manga, Ravi rest houses and some house arrests.

I joined the PPP in December 1986. Shortly thereafter, I was appointed the party’s vice-president for Punjab. Soon, I was awarded the portfolio of Secretary, Records and Events (a portfolio that Benazir Bhutto had innovated) — i.e. an ex-officio member of the Central Executive Comittee. I was simultaneously appointed to take charge of the Foreign Desk of the PPP.

In 1988, I won the elections and became an MPA, and moreover, was made Spokesman of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly.

In 1995, I was appointed as Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Literacy Commission. Before this, I had already been appointed as a member of the National Finance Commission (NFC) to represent Punjab. In 1996, I was elevated to the Cabinet as Special Assistant to the PM (SAPM).