Harris Khalique: Awami Party, an alternative, popular political force?

Divided we stand

Friday, March 20, 2009
Harris Khalique

My friend and comrade-in-arms, Ayub Malik is the publisher and one of the editors of Badalti Dunya, a monthly magazine in Urdu with serious social and political content contributed by people like Professor Azizuddin, Hussain Naqi, Dr Mubarak Ali, Shah Mohammed Marri, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, Aziz Bugti, Naresh Nadeem and Mohammed Amin. The last two being left-wing politicians from India. About the margins of the thick content or in between the succinct analysis, a few literary pieces are also sandwiched. As obvious from the names of those mentioned as contributors to his magazine, Malik himself is deeply rooted in pro-people politics. He now also serves as the Punjab convener of the newly founded Awami Party (Pakistan).

Asad Sayeed, my bosom buddy from high school days, is one of the leading economists. His recent politics and work does not propose die-hard leftwing alternatives but it genuinely represents the aspirations of the common people. The solutions he proposes and analysis he undertakes brings him at the forefront of those committed intellectuals who do not only pay lip service to the cause of prosperity and security for all classes but continue to contribute in that direction. This has also brought him close to the policy functions of the Pakistan People’s Party.

Ayub Malik and Asad Sayeed believe in the same ideals. All three of us share the same dream, the dream which I keep writing about in this space as well and the two of them keep sharing with their readers or listeners. That there will be a Pakistan where a five-year old girl, Jannat, will not beg for alms at a traffic junction; where wheelchair-bound Nasreen gets a decent job and her mobility is made easier by the government; where the son of Ilam Din Kumhiar, a potter from Gujrat, will get the same opportunity for schooling as the son of Chaudhry Pervez Elahi; where Mehrab Baloch, a young man from Kech, would take pride and ownership of the state in which he lives; where ten-year old Qudrat Khan is neither sodomised nor made to get up at 4:30 in the morning to serve tea and parathas to truckers along the national highway; where a booking clerk called Ram Prakash and a receptionist called Jacob Masih are not pestered by their self-righteous Muslim colleagues.

But what has made Ayub Malik and Asad Sayeed take two extremely divergent views on the movement for restoration of judiciary after the elections of 2007 and the ensuing agreements and accords between the main political parties? And their tempers begin to fray if someone tries to challenge them.

To me, these two men reflect the classic divide between the political left in this country. Although efforts are in full swing but since there is no large and popular party of their own to this date, those on the left have to support one of the existing parties in the arena. Unlike what is commonly held, the problem with history is that it neither stops nor repeats itself. Therefore, to say that the current crisis is like the PNA movement of the 1970s or the IJI movement of the 1990s is rather imprudent. But on the other hand, the problem with people is that they can change only to an extent. While on the one hand, those supporting PPP are willing to give enormous latitude to the indefensible acts of the government, the other group is enamoured by the new posturing of PML-N, actually believing in Nawaz’s altruism. The primary credit should be given to the lawyers who sustained a just struggle rather than the politicos for supporting them or the incumbents in finally accepting their demands. One should neither get complacent with PPP nor harbour hopes with PML-N. We who believe in the dream mentioned above must continue to work for an alternative, popular political force. (The News)

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and rights campaigner. Email: harris@spopk.org