Jam Saqi, former general secretary of the Communist Party of Pakistan passed away on March 5. Suffering from multiple ailments, he died of renal failure. Here’s a tribute, for Different Truths.
Jam Saqi, former general secretary of the Communist Party of Pakistan passed away on March 5. Suffering from multiple ailments, he died of renal failure. He was 73.
Saqi led the CPP delegation at the 12th Congress (Calcutta, 1989) of the Communist Party of India. Just released after nearly seven years in jail during the dictatorship of Zia-ul Haq, when the CPI leadership brought him at a press conference at the venue of the Congress, Salt Lake Yuba Bharati Stadium, Saqi got emotional and mentioned of the unity of the underprivileged in the Indian subcontinent.
CPP secretary general Imdad Qazi in a tribute to him said, “Comrade Jam Saqi played a key role in Sindh Hari Committee, particularly after the death of comrade Hyder Buksh Jatoi. The left-wing politics remained a challenge in Pakistan and always passed through ordeals. The state oppression remained critical since 1954 to 1988 but Jam Saqi did not compromise and continued his political struggle in all difficulties”.
Born on October 31, 1944, in the village of Jhanji in taluka Chachro, Tharparkar, near the Indian border, Saqi’s mother tongue was Thari. His father, Sachal Baba, was a teacher in the primary school of the village, where water was muddy unless there were sufficient rains. He went to the village school, where from he matriculated in 1963 from the Local Board High School Chachro. After a BA from Sachal Sarmast Arts College Hyderabad in 1967, he did his MA in Politics from the University of Sindh, Jamshoro. During his undergraduate years in Hyderabad, he had built Sindh National Students Federation that was up against the dictatorship under the Field Marshal Ayub Khan.
In a long interview, he told how he gravitated towards communism. “I was a student in the pre-matric year. In 1961 I gave a speech at a school function. Someone from the Communist Party, a retired teacher who was working as a sales representative of a progressive publishing house called Sindhi Adabi Board noticed me. He stayed for two or three days to teach me about socialism. He said there is no way for the world except socialism. I passed matric and went to college in 1962 and there I commenced my work in the CP.
We had about 100 members. We were a totally underground movement at that time. The national question was very important in Pakistan as a whole and especially in Sindh. The ruling class and the army were predominantly from the Punjabi nationality. They tried to discriminate against the Sindhi language. For example, there was a condition that students should be proficient in Sindhi, but when the son of an army general failed his Sindhi exam, the government decided to scrap it. We organised a signature campaign demanding that the Sindhi language final examinations should be restored.”
Seeds of the dismemberment of Pakistan, leading to the secession of East Pakistan and birth of a sovereign republic of Bangladesh, were sown during the hukmat of Ayub Khan, he stated. “The people in the North West Frontier, Sindh, and Balochistan were all in a state of ferment. But the most serious problem was the growing split between West Pakistan and East Pakistan (East Bengal, now Bangladesh). The people of East Bengal were actually in a majority—56 percent of the population at that time. But they were oppressed by the Punjabi-dominated army and ruling class. The Pakistan army threatened that there could be no constitution until the Bengalis of East Bengal renounced their majority. This was basically a blatant attempt to rig the constitution. It led to an explosion of popular anger in East Pakistan, and there was general discontent with the Ayub Khan dictatorship. The government replied with repression in all four provinces”. Saqi fought relentlessly for the rights of the Bengalee population in East Pakistan as also of the Sindhis and Balochis.
Saqi was very friendly to Benazir Bhutto who in 1983 gave testimony for him whom she defended him at court primarily as a rights activist. Jam Saqi is a patriotic citizen of the state and [must] be released, she stated in her deposition. Benazir apart, Wali Khan, Ghaus Bux Bizenjo and Mairaj Mohammad Khan also appeared as witnesses. After the general elections in 1977, when the army had clamped martial law, the CPP joined the Pakistan People’s Party to protest the suppression of democratic order. During the Zia period, the CPP while underground circulated two documents The Red Flag (in Urdu) and Halchan (the Movement) in Sindhi. “We had a circulation of about 7,000. It was a terrible period when thousands of political workers were arrested and flogged and were accused of spreading hatred towards Pakistan and the army”, he stated.
When called to appear before a military commission, he stood up intrepidly, ’Sindh has existed for over 6000 years, Islam for 1400 years, and Pakistan for only 28. And I’ve been a worker from time immemorial. Why am I a traitor?’ His words spread like a wildfire among the masses in Pakistan. The human rights activists demanded that no penal action should be taken against the Communist leader.
Saqi left the CPP in 1991 after the collapse of Soviet Union but maintained camaraderie with comrades. He plunged into civil rights struggles and highlighted Sufi humanist values. He worked for forging friendly ties between the people of India and Pakistan overcoming the jingoism of the respective governments.
Photo from the Internet