The movement of the students and the youth during the 1968-69 revolution in Pakistan had electrified the whole society. The workers were taking over factories and brought the country to a halt. The involvement of the soldiers and lower ranks of the armed forces would have made the decisive strike to defeat the system of drudgery and exploitation of the toiling masses of Pakistan. Had a revolutionary party been there to mobilize and organise that support of the army ranks then the outcome would have been a victory for revolutionary socialism.
"The most indubitable feature of a revolution is the direct interference of the masses in historical events. In ordinary times the state, be it monarchical or democratic, elevates itself above the nation, and history is made by specialists in that line of business - kings, ministers, bureaucrats, parliamentarians, journalists. But at those crucial moments when the old order becomes no longer endurable to the masses, they break over the barriers excluding them from the political arena, sweep aside their traditional representatives, and create by their own interference the initial groundwork for a new regime. Whether this is good or bad we leave to the judgment of moralists. We ourselves will take the facts as they are given by the objective course of development. The history of a revolution is for us first of all a history of the forcible entrance of the masses into the realm of rulership over their own destiny".
Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) 1
First stirrings of the Revolution
On Thursday, November 7, 1968 it was the fifty-first anniversary of the great October Revolution of 1917. On that day there were hardly any celebrations or commemoratory meetings organised amongst the masses in the cities and towns of Pakistan. The practice had become that the Stalinist leaders of various 'communist', 'socialist' and 'progressive' parties along with the government ministers and high officials, 'respectable' citizenry, were invited to the Embassies and consulates of the USSR for the celebrations. The Stalinist bureaucracy had confined the 'Bolshevik Revolution' within the high walls of their diplomatic compounds. It was converted into a Russian National day rather than a symbol of the solidarity of proletariat internationalism.
This in itself was a sharp reminder of the killing of the internationalist essence of Bolshevism that the 1917 revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky had so forcefully elaborated and practised. The formation of the USSR as a union aimed at uniting workers of all countries had inspired revolutionary uprisings of the workers and youth across the planet.
Yet not far away from the Soviet Embassy in Islamabad the first stirrings of a revolution were taking place. This mighty mass upheaval that erupted in the aftermath of the events of 6 and 7 November could have become for Pakistan, what the 1917 revolution was for Russia. The revolutionary storm that engulfed Pakistan for the next 138 days began a few kilometres from Rawalpindi/Islamabad in front of the Government Polytechnic College, where the students of Gordon College and Polytechnic College had their first clash with the state forces that triggered this revolutionary upsurge. Such was the ferocity of this blizzard of mass revolt that it shook the corridors of power not just in Islamabad and Dacca but also as far as London and Washington.
The first incidents that triggered this uprising and the events in its aftermath are well documented in the diplomatic messages sent to Whitehall in London by the British High Commission in Rawalpindi. Their narration even in the hypocritical diplomatic language exposes the fear the imperialists had of the revolutionary wave that swept across Pakistan from the autumn of 1968 to the spring of 1969.Their experiences during the period of the Raj and their vested interests in the preservation of Pakistani capitalism in order to continue their plunder was the main reason behind their worries. This is evident in the dispatches that have been recently declassified and published. In any case the British had a greater understanding and insight of this region than any other imperialist power, including the United States. The draft dispatch on "disturbances in West Pakistan" was sent by a diplomat with the name of Pickard from the British High Commission in Rawalpindi on 16 November 1968. We quote it in detail, not to test the patience of the reader but to show the deep interest and apprehensions of British imperialism faced with these events, and this interest was not without reason, most probably to begin preparations to combat what was about to come.
This dispatch was sent to Michael Stewart MP at Whitehall, SW1, London:
I have the honour to report that demonstrations by students, joined later by others, occurred in Rawalpindi from 7 to 10 November. The death of a student as a result of police firing led to a wave of sympathetic demonstrations, often violent in character, in many places in West Pakistan. On 10 November President Ayub, addressing in a large public meeting in Peshawar, was reportedly fired at by a student. On 13 November Mr. Z.A. Bhutto, Mr. Wali Khan and certain other opposition politicians were arrested under Section 32 of Defence of Pakistan Rules.
There is a good deal of combustible material lying around in West Pakistan. Student demonstrations were held in Karachi in October and again in early November to draw attention to local educational grievances. They took an ugly turn and places of higher education, were closed. There has also been trouble in the University at Hyderabad. There were disorders involving tear gassing and police lathi charges in some of the Frontier towns visited by Mr. Bhutto during his tour of the region in late October and early November. Students in particular were thus in a mood to take to the streets should an excuse present itself.
The occasion came in Rawalpindi on 7 November. A party of students from the Gordon College (the oldest institution of higher education in the town and affiliated to the University of the Punjab) recently had an outing to Landi Kotal (beyond the Khyber Pass near Afghan border). As is customary they there bought smuggled goods unobtainable elsewhere in Pakistan but these were later impounded by the Customs authorities. Aggrieved at this "discriminatory" treatment the students organized a strike in Gordon College on 7 November and marched in procession that morning to the office of the Deputy Commissioner to seek redress. The D.C. however was unsympathetic and at about noon they repaired to the Inter-Continental Hotel at which Mr. Bhutto, then on his way by road from Peshawar, was scheduled to spend the next two nights. Mr. Bhutto has a considerable following among students in the West Wing and the Gordon College party planned to give him a welcome and incidentally seek his help over what they considered to be a grievance against the authorities. At this stage they were exuberant but harmless.
Meanwhile a separate welcome party was despatched to meet Mr. Bhutto on the Grand Trunk Road at the north western limit of the town and here they were joined by students from neighbouring Polytechnic. The gathering, which was quiet to begin with, would not disperse when ordered to do so by the police. The latter then charged with lathis and later opened fire, killing one Polytechnic student. From this point the situation rapidly deteriorated.
When the news of the firing reached Rawalpindi students, later joined by other elements, they resorted to violence in the Cantonment and Saddar area. Public service vehicles were stoned and set on fire, traffic lights smashed and government cars stoned and destroyed. Plate glass windows in the Inter-Continental hotel and the Government-sponsored Pakistan Bookshop were broken.
After a lull during the night of 7-8 November and the following morning (apart from some minor demonstrations, well shepherded by the police, in Islamabad) there was a recrudescence of disturbances in Rawalpindi from about 1230 hours on 8 November. This centred mainly on the area near Gordon College in Saddar and in the neighbouring Satellite Town. There was further damage to property, the targets for the most part being either Government-owned or in some way identifiable with the administration. Troops were called in and a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed on the affected areas of the town. The victim of the previous day's firing was buried at his home in Pindi Gheb, some 70 miles from the capital, so that Rawalpindi was spared the further tension which would have been the inevitable result of a local funeral.
The following morning (Saturday, 9 November) a large crowd gathered in the troubled Murree Road area when Mr. Bhutto was due to leave by train for Lahore. Two persons were killed as a result of firing by the security forces. After this however the disturbances gradually subsided in Rawalpindi. The following day the curfew was partially relaxed and troops returned to barracks. The curfew was lifted altogether on Monday 11 November.
Official casualty figure (over and above the three persons killed in police firing) for Rawalpindi since 7 November is five injured and in hospital. Judging by eyewitness accounts these are almost certainly an understatement. In addition one Assistant Superintendent of Police was seriously injured and nine constables were hurt. Vehicles of some diplomatic missions were damaged (notably the Turkish ambassador's and the Iranian Minister-Counsellor cars). Among these a High Commission bus and land-rover, caught in a riot area, were damaged by stones and one of our local drivers was manhandled. Otherwise there was no damage to British lives or property, nor were there any reports of mobs showing xenophobic tendencies.
Meanwhile demonstrations in sympathy for the Rawalpindi student killed on 7 November took place at a number of places in West Pakistan. These were fairly harmless on 8 November but on the following day reports were coming in that a considerable number of towns in the Punjab, Sind and the old Frontier Province were experiencing disturbances with varying degrees of violence. In Karachi where purely local issues were already the cause of student unrest the Rawalpindi incident exacerbated the situation. Public property has been damaged there and schools and colleges and the University are all closed. In Lahore rioting began on 8 November and continued on 9 November especially in the railway station area, where crowds gathered to meet Mr. Bhutto on his arrival from Rawalpindi. Educational institutions in Lahore are also closed. Similar disturbances took place on either or both days in Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, Charsadda, Abbottabad, Dera Ismail Khan, Lyallpur, Sialkot, Kohat, Sukkur, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur and other places in West Pakistan.
There were further disturbances on 10 November in towns of the Northern Punjab and Frontier region. Among others, Mardan, Charsadda, Campbellpur and Nowshera were scenes of violence with crowds shouting anti-Ayub slogans and stoning vehicles and trains. Police firing at Nowhsera resulted in one death. At Charsadda a mob ransacked the office of a sugar mill (a reflection of public feeling which blames the Government for the current sugar shortage).
I turn now to a consideration of Mr. Z.A. Bhutto in the events so far described and who, with Mr. Wali Khan (President, National Awami Party, Pro-Moscow group) and certain other opposition politicians, was arrested on 13 November under section 32 of the Defence of Pakistan Rules. It is not too much to say that Mr. Bhutto's political standing has been transformed during the last few weeks, particularly as a result of tours of the Frontier which began on 28 October. This is partly the Government's own fault. In a speech at Hyderabad on 21 September Bhutto made a personal attack on the President which appears to have needled the regime. A somewhat ponderous and unedifying attack was launched on Bhutto first by Governor Musa and then a number of the party faithful, the statements being dutifully recorded in the Press Trust newspapers. To an impartial observer Bhutto seemed to come off the better in the public wrangle that developed during October. Bhutto then set off for his Frontier tour, receiving a tremendous welcome wherever he went from crowds who defied Section 144 of the Criminal code (which, when imposed, makes illegal the gathering in a public place of more than five people and forbids the carrying of any kind of offensive weapon) and the threat of lathi charges, tear gas or bloodshed.
What are the reasons for this success? In my despatch of 10 July on the internal politics of Pakistan I set out reasons for the reputation and political following that Mr. Bhutto then enjoyed. These advantages were enhanced by the success he had achieved and the publicity he had received in his October exchanges with the regime. He came to Peshawar, it was said, "as a man with a halo". (As far away as Khanewal, 30 miles ENE of Multan, a group of teachers told me last week "Bhutto is our hero". The current political mood of the Frontier region is such that any person of note who is prepared to denounce the regime in public is assured of a following. In short, it was a situation which might have been hand-tailored for Bhutto: the latter, with his shrewd political sense and instinctive sense of catching the mood of his audience, exploited it to the full. He played on the emotions of the crowds in Peshawar, Kohat, Dera Ismail Khan and Charsadda by simply denouncing the regime and few of his hearers paused to subject his outpourings to anything approaching a cool analysis.
Having become in the public estimation the champion of the neglected Frontier region, Bhutto moved on to Rawalpindi and the Punjab where his student supporters and other representatives of "the defenceless masses" had taken to the streets and were being "victimized by the brutal forces" of the Government.
The arrest of Mr. Bhutto opens a new chapter. It is clear that Mr. Bhutto's progress worried the Government. Mr. Bhutto himself I believe, welcomes the martyrdom of political imprisonment; he has seen what this can do in the case of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who as a result of imprisonment and the much publicised Agartala trial has become something approaching a public hero in East Bengal. Cooler heads in the Governments are probably aware of this. But the regime saw fit to launch such a propaganda campaign against Bhutto, accusing him of every political crime in the calendar from near-treason down, that they lost all room for manoeuvre. The Government publicly laid the blame for the disturbances at Bhutto's door. Bhutto responded by refusing to appeal to the students for calm, saying "they are fighting and I am with them". In the circumstances the Government had little option but to arrest him, though the results of this course on the political life of the country are unpredictable.
East Pakistan has long-standing grievances sharpened by the Agartala conspiracy Trial, against the Centre, but the Government, believing itself secure in its power-base in the West, has learned to live with the problem of uneasy relations with the East. But now the Government is faced by disorders which are directed, not against a specific act of policy such as its action in signing the Tashkent Agreement, but against its policies overall and, indeed, its very existence; this is something which, on this scale, has not happened since the regime assumed power in 1958. The Government of course disposes of considerable forces the civil service, the Basic Democrats, the police and finally the army wherewith it can contain the situation. But a second eruption (now, with Bhutto's arrest, a more likely possibility) would weaken its position and the Government must therefore move decisively to prevent a recurrence.
The authorities are faced with a difficult task of reconciliation and of building bridges between the rulers and the ruled; the arrest of Mr. Bhutto may well prejudice this. Even without this added complication it is a role for which the regime is ill-equipped since the Pakistan Muslim League is singularly lacking in the grass roots contacts which ought to have warned the Government in good time of the growing discontent which led to the disturbances and which are now essential if there is to be an effective reconciliation between the regime and its aggrieved opponents in the Province. I am told that the President left officials of the Pakistan Muslim League in no doubts of his displeasure at the time of the Rawalpindi disturbances
I am sending copies of this despatch to the High Commissioner in New Delhi and to Her Majesty's Ambassador in Kabul.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Servant,
Again on 18 November the Military advisor to the British High Commissioner in Pakistan sent a sensitive dispatch to the Ministry of Defence in London. This pertained with the people challenging the armed forces of Pakistan and that also in the historically sensitive region of the North West Frontier (Pushtoonkhwa). This region had a special historical nostalgia for the British Raj in India as the Imperialists faced a fierce resistance and could never fully occupy and control this territory. It is rather brief so we also quote this in full.
"18 November 1968,
Ministry of Defence (DI 2)
Main Building, Whitehall,
DISTURBANCES IN PAKISTAN
Reference: My MA/81 dated 14 November 1968.
As a follow-up to my recent letter, we have had recent reports of serious incidents concerning the Services.
During the riots in Abbottabad the house rented by the Pakistan Military Academy and occupied by a Major who was decorated for gallantry in 1965, was ransacked. The house was wrecked and all personal belongings were looted or smashed. The house belongs to President Ayub.
In Peshawar a Medical Corps Colonel, his driver and orderly, were beaten up and stripped of much of their uniform. An Army Order now forbids Services in uniform to go into the old city of Peshawar. Peshawar has long been one of the historic and important military centres.
In Rawalpindi Air Marshal Nur Khan, the Commander in-Chief of the Air Force had his staff car stoned, and was saved from being manhandled by Police.
In Rawalpindi Begum Wasi-ud-Din, wife of Major General Wasi-ud-din Master General of Ordnance was roughly handled when collecting her two children from the local school. She was in the General's staff car, with the stars covered.
The Services were called out in aid of the Civil Power in Rawalpindi and Peshawar.
These incidents have been reported to the diplomatic staff.
Copy to: Major General J.M. McNeil 3
The Masses Arise
There were several dispatches sent from the British High Commission and British Consulates in both East and West Pakistan to Whitehall in London. Similarly the answers to these dispatches with further instructions were sent back from London. However, there are three diplomatic dispatches that show the anguish of the British imperialists and the grave threat they felt from the 1968-69 revolution in Pakistan. The first of these three was sent by Roy Fox, the Deputy High Commissioner in Dacca, as early as November 20, 1968:
"For us, I think, the lesson is clear. If East Pakistan is to be saved from communism there is little time in which to work and all our effort is needed to make the world and our own people realise this." 4
Apart from the diplomatic garb it is obvious that Roy Fox was very clearly contemplating the overthrow of capitalism through a Socialist Revolution. The second message that exposes a British diplomatic service terrified by the revolutionary movement was sent from the High Commission in Rawalpindi on 29 January 1969. In this message the diplomats give a stark warning to London:
"In any case, many young army officers are likely to be attracted by Bhutto's 'doctrines' and personality; a Young Turk movement, joining hands with his civilian followers to seize control of the Army and put Bhutto in power, may not be beyond the bounds of possibility (...)" 5
In spite of the diplomatic camouflage the message is more than clear. Bhutto's 'doctrine' in those days was very clearly inscribed in the founding documents of the Pakistan People's Party. It called for the overthrow of capitalism/landlordism through revolutionary socialism. Young military officers beginning to support such a doctrine had sent shivers down the spines of the ruling classes in Pakistan and of their imperialist masters. At that time in his speeches Bhutto was advocating revolutionary socialism. His speeches were fired up with a revolutionary message stirring up the masses wherever he went.
The third vital diplomatic dispatch that was sent by Mr. C.A. Pickard from the British High Commission in Rawalpindi on February 19, 1969, states the following:
"There is a danger to British economic and commercial interests. Moreover a revolutionary situation will develop... This cannot fail to be related to the developments in West Bengal and will lead to increasing dangers toward peace." 6
Here Mr. Pickard is clearly visualising the immediate spread of the revolution to West Bengal in India. This means that he was expressing the fear of a socialist revolution throughout the South Asian subcontinent. And when he refers to the 'increasing dangers to world peace', he in fact means that world capitalism's stability and existence was in danger. And that was true had the revolution been victorious.
An alarming rate of inflation in the expensive aftermath of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war exacerbated the existing poverty of the vast majority of the population.
Since people were unable to fight for their rights through normal political channels, and because government machinery was corrupt, they adopted extra-parliamentary methods which met with dramatic success. Workers joined students and unemployed elements in all the major cities of West and East Pakistan in a protest movement that rapidly created a revolutionary situation.
Traditional labour leaders who operated within the parameters of the government's labour policies and institutional framework, and who had already been discredited in the 1963 industrial action in Karachi, were definitely left behind. On the other hand, through shared political organizational work in several strike action committees which sprang up during the struggle, young radicals who until then had been largely limited to student politics an important element of opposition to the government during a period of severe restrictions on labour and political activity now joined and interacted with workers for a common cause. This interaction between militants who originated from student cadres and workers' organizations had already been apparent in the 1963 movement. The overt political character of the 1968-69 movement made this form of united action all the more effective and qualitatively different in terms of creating organizational links between such intellectuals and workers. In some cases this interaction led to the forming of new labour organizations with goals more politically and socially revolutionary than those of modest wage settlements.
Comparable coalitions between workers and students have been formed in other countries. For example, in Egypt during 1945-47, an alliance between workers and students led a mass movement which was directed both against imperialist rule and internal repression.
Spark of the students rebellion
As in many other revolutions of the twentieth century, students played the role of the initial spark that inflamed the 1968-69 revolution in Pakistan. The main left student organisation was the NSF. The National Students Federation (NSF) was actually formed as a result of the movement of 1953. It was banned after some time.
There were also other left wing organisations of students in the 1950's like the High School Students Federation and the Girls Students Congress which was later changed to the Girls Students Organisation. Its main activists were Zahida Taqi, Hamza Baji, Rahat Shakoor, Zarina Saliha, Malika Hussain and others. After the 1958 Martial Law of Ayub Khan the NSF was banned again due to its increasing popularity amongst the students and its left wing character. In 1959 US President Eisenhower visited Pakistan. He was to have his last meeting in Karachi and from there he was scheduled to fly back home. The NSF planned a big demonstration to protest Eisenhower's visit and decided to stop his caravan towards the airport. All the planning was finalised in a clandestine manner but somehow it leaked out to the government. Mairaj Muhammad Khan along with many other student leaders was arrested one night before the planned date. That demonstration couldn't be held due to the arrests of leadership.
Another important demonstration was in January 1961 against the killing of Patrice Lumumba, the left leaning Prime Minister of Congo, which was also led by the NSF. The bourgeois press and the Islamic obscurantist party, the Jamat-i-Islami, criticized this agitation and asked the leaders whether they had forgotten the Muslims who were being mercilessly killed in ethnic violence in Jabalpur, India at that time.
After two days the NSF led a rally in support of poor Muslims being slaughtered in Jabalpur India. These demonstrations were very militant and spread to most of the colleges of Karachi. This also led to a strike in Karachi University. The State reacted and arrested all the leading student leaders. Fifteen of the main leaders were tried under Military Law. Five were released while others, including Khan, were banned from entering the city for 9 months. Habib Jalib's verse on this oppression of these students became very popular:
Jin Nojwanon ne apna laho hawa mein uchaal diya
Sitamgaron ne unhein shehar se nikal diya
(The Youth that spilled its blood in the air;
The tyrants have expelled them from the city)
The expulsion of these leaders from the city gave them the opportunity to spread their message to other cities. They visited almost all of the other big cities during this period and raised revolutionary fervor in the hearts of students.
In the General Strike of Karachi 1963 the NSF played an active role and supported the workers of the Railways, KESC (Karachi Electric Supply Corp.), Shipyards, SITE industrial area and Landhi industrial zone.
An important incident took place on September 12, 1962 when Ayub Khan's Convention Muslim League held a public meeting at the Polo Ground Karachi. A big stage was set up and all the ministers and leading figures of the Convention League were due to address the gathering.
NSF activists went on to the stage and tried to intervene in the proceedings. They threw the reactionary sycophant of Ayub Khan Ch. Khaleeq uz Zaman from the stage and a clash took place. Z. A. Bhutto, the General Secretary of Ayub Khan's Convention League at the time, was also on the stage and he also had a scuffle with the NSF students. Later many students were arrested and sentenced to jail. However, they were able to get a lot of their demands accepted in which the Bachelor's degree was reduced to two years from three, fees were reduced in all educational institutions and several other demands were accepted.
In the 1964 presidential elections the NSF had supported Fatima Jinnah against Ayub Khan. The 1965 convention of the NSF in the Gul-e-Ranaa club in Karachi was a historic one. In that convention the NSF split into proMoscow and pro-Peking factions, NSF-Mairaj and NSF- Kazmi.
NSF than played a major role in the student agitation in 1968-69 and supported the PPP. In the 1970 elections it withdrew its support for the PPP and opposed Bhutto's reformist turn in the politics of the party after it came to power and its induction into the state establishment.
During the revolution of 1968-69 the Punjab University Lahore was the hub of student politics, where along with other student organizations the National Students Organisation, NSO, was active against the Islamic fundamentalists. In those days the fundamentalists were weak and the left had a complete hold over the University.
However, in the elections of the student unions the joint candidate of all the left-wing organisations lost to a fundamentalist by 162 votes. It was more due to the internal split within the left rather than any major Islamic following. In fact, in spite of the "victory" the fundamentalist Jamiat was not able to regain control of the campus.
In an interview with Imtiaz Alam a student of Punjab University at that time, told the author of this work:
"It was a marvellous period. Every student was reading Marx, Lenin, Mao, Tolstoy or other progressive literature as well as literary classics. Everywhere there were debates between students. Every other day there were demonstrations against Ayub Khan and on various student demands. Frequent agitations became the norm. Those days were full of energy and romance. Every body had a romance with revolution...
"I still remember my last day at University. We had a farewell party at night in an open ground where 60 to 70 students had gathered. We gave revolutionary speeches and were very emotional. At the end we sang the International and tore apart our degrees and promised that from here on we will not go to our homes rather we will go to the factories and the fields to work for revolution. It is the call of revolution that from here we must set out for revolutionary work." 7
The student movement against Ayub spread out into the fields and factories:
"After the protests in university, the campuses were closed down for indefinite periods and the hostels were forcibly vacated. From there when students went to their homes, they started struggle in their particular areas and conveyed the message of revolution there to the peasants and workers." 8
The militant students, youth and workers were therefore searching for an alternative type of organization. Through their participation in the 1968-69 movement, they interacted with other militant labour leaders, especially those associated with radical political groupings, as well as militant shop-floor workers and student leaders who had become active in the labour field.
1967 Railways Strike - a prelude to the revolution
During the decade of the sixties, under Ayub Khan's regime, it clearly became difficult for workers to receive just and expeditious awards in an industrial relations' system which had become increasingly dominated by state adjudication procedures. Those labour leaders who were frustrated with lengthy court processes opted for other, more direct methods of dispute settlement, often in response to the mounting pressure from the rank-and-file trade union members who wanted faster results. Those labour leaders who did not change their modus operandi according to changing conditions and rapidly radicalising consciousness were discredited amongst workers, and lost their following to a considerable extent. The parameters of the existing social order which had been delimited with respect to workers through comprehensive labour laws and government-controlled procedures were challenged by forces working outside and against the legal boundaries. In these conditions one of the main strikes that became the precursor to the 1968-69 revolution was the magnificent Railway Strike of January 1967.
This Railways strike lasted for 13 days. There were two right-wing unions in the Railways at that time, the Railways Mazdoor Union (CBA) in the workshops led by M. A. Rahim, while the Railways United Union (CBA) on the open lines was led by Umar Din. The only left-wing union was the Railways Workers Union which was led by Mirza Ibrahim.
The protest started with the demand that special Rashan (food) Depots should be established for Railway workers to facilitate them in their work. This demand was rejected by the government. After that, independent committees started to form among the Railway workers. The appeal for strike action spread by word of mouth among the workers. Some leaflets were published. When the strike started not a single rail wagon moved from its place. Old longstanding trade union activists said they had not seen such a strike in the history of Indo-Pak trade unionism. The yellow unions were obviously not participating but the pro-Chinese trade union of Mirza Ibrahim also was not in a position to lead this due to the close Ayub-Mao friendship and support of the Chinese bureaucracy for the regime in Pakistan. Hence, the strike went out of control of the leadership. The regime had no clue of how to end this paralysing and forceful strike. The Minister for Labour, Ahmed Saeed Kirmani, contacted Mirza Ibrahim to get a deal between the workers and government. Mirza tried his best to end this strike but was not able to do so. The government finally arrested Mirza Ibrahim and started an orgy of severe repression against the railway workers. In Hyderabad the workers lay down on the railway tracks to stop the traitors from moving the trains. But the trains moved on and due to this militancy two workers were killed while many others were injured. Finally the strike ended but the government had to accept most of the demands.
A fresh young leadership of the workers emerged after this strike and all the official and 'non-official' structures of the unions were bypassed. The weakness lay in the fact that the strike failed to link up with the workers of other sectors. In spite of this, the working class realised its immense power and the ability to weaken the Ayub regime and shake the whole system.
One of the main problems for Ayub government was that of finding a way of creating a democratic legitimacy for itself which meant converting the government conquered by military power into a civilian government. This they did by introducing the system of "Basic Democracy". This scheme was introduced in 1959 under which 80,000 BD members were directly elected, 40,000 each from East and West Pakistan. Ayub thought he could get 80,000 members elected of his own choice and if he had such people he could control the politics of the whole country. US imperialism gave a lot of money for this system. Ayub got a vote of confidence through these newly elected BD members. The question asked by these members was "Do you have confidence in President (Field Marshal) Mohammad Ayub Khan, 'Hilal-e-Pakistan', and 'Hilal-e-Jurat' (gallantry awards)? The BD members replied "yes". After this Ayub Khan took an oath as the first elected President of Pakistan in 1960. A new constitution was prepared. It was designed in such a way that all powers were in the hands of the President. A parliament was also elected through these BD members.
But all these gimmicks manufactured by the dictatorship were shattered as the mass revolt erupted. Bhutto was already in the forefront of the opposition against Ayub. He grabbed the historic opportunity. Stanley Wolpert describes Bhutto's intervention after the November 7, 1968 incident when Abdul Hameed was killed by police firing on a demonstration as described earlier in the diplomatic mail quoted at the beginning of this chapter.
Unleashing of the stormy events
"Z. A. Bhutto by then had rolled on to Rawalpindi, where Mustafa Khar and Mumtaz Bhutto were waiting for him at the Intercontinental Hotel. Thousands of students, many from neighbouring Gordon College, had just been chased from the Intercontinental lawn by the police. Pindi was the site of the army's general headquarters (GHQ), so crowds of raucous students were not welcomed there, especially on the anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
" 'When I arrived at the Hotel Intercontinental I found the whole Mall area thick with teargas smoke,' Zulfi later recalled 'About one-and a- half hours after my arrival... I received a telephone call from the Polytechnic institute informing me that the police had opened fire there resulting in the death of a student, Abdul Hamid. I was told that the students were insisting on taking the body... to the President's House and that they wanted me to lead the procession.' " 9
After his tumultuous reception in Rawalpindi, Bhutto proceeded on an eventful journey to Lahore by train. He was accompanied by student leaders of Rawalpindi. Thousands had thronged on the Railway stations along the route to Lahore to get a glimpse of him.
Stanley Wolpert again describes Bhutto's first arrival in the historic city of Lahore after being deposed by the Ayub regime:
"He had come back to Lahore, more than two years after his eloquent silence and tear-filled eyes spoke to a hundred thousand or more young men who gathered at the railway station hanging from precarious perches like bats in midday, filling every platform, tightly locked together on every step just to catch a glimpse of this Shaheed." 10
On 13 and 14 November all the left-wing leaders of the country were arrested including Z.A. Bhutto and Wali Khan. These acts of the regime further inflamed the revolutionary inferno. On this there was a protest by lawyers on 15 November. On 19 November there were demonstrations by Lahore, Karachi and High Court Bars of several other cities and towns across the country.
A general strike had closed down Pindi for a day in late November 1968, and the police continued to clash with students and workers, while the army watched warily from its barracks. Little more than a week later another general strike paralyzed Dacca on 7 December. This time police fire drew young Bengali blood, and radical Maulana Bhashani, whose National Awami Party was ideologically modelled on Maoist doctrine, issued a call for the complete shutdown of East Pakistan in mid-December. Mujib's Awami League endorsed Bhashani's call, and soon all the small shops and businesses of East Bengal closed their doors.
Ayub saw that his days in power were numbered. He could speak nowhere in public without getting shot at or causing a riot. Nor had his once-robust health returned. Still, he thought the army, might not be powerful enough to beat India, but that its strength was more than sufficient to quell street disturbances and political opposition. He was far from reality, as it might have been able to fight with India but to curb a ferocious revolutionary upsurge was beyond the capacity of the army. Paradoxically had the armed force, at that stage been used to crush the revolt, the army itself would have crumbled to pieces.
On 28 November the PPP and NAP organised joint processions and demonstrations. On 8 December Ayub Khan visited Dacca where students protested against him. Two students got killed in police shootings. On 10 December 1968 there was a countrywide strike of journalists on the call of the Federal Union of Journalists. On 13 December there was a general strike in East Pakistan.
Ayub Khan wrote in his diaries at that time:
"Today, reports indicate that there have been widespread disturbances by students and hooligans in several towns. They indulged in looting and arson. Muslim League and family planning offices were made a special target. The curious thing is that young school children of 10-12 years of age have also taken to violence." 11
Ayub Khan was now feeling the heat of the mass inferno rising from below:
"Cars and other vehicles were stoned and in places shops looted. A convoy of East Pakistan Rifles was brick batted. The East Pakistan Rifles opened fire in self-defence. Some people were wounded (...)
"(...) Bhashani and his followers declared a total hartal (General Strike) for two days. Meanwhile, Section 144 was imposed in Dacca and Narayanganj area. However, he decided to defy Section 144 after mid-day prayers. When police entreaties failed to dissuade him, coloured water was sprinkled on him and his crowd, whereupon they beat a hasty retreat and dispersed." 12
On 20 January 1969 a Communist student leader Asad was killed in police firing at Dacca and his death intensified the student militancy in the country. On 21 January the first demonstration by Doctors was held in Lahore and they put their demands. On 24 January a general strike was observed in Lahore. A 24-hour curfew was imposed on the city and the army was deployed to control the people. However, elsewhere, students and thousands of people took to the streets in defiance of the curfew.
In a police shooting, Matiur, a student of class 9 of the Nabakumar Institute in East Pakistan was killed in East Pakistan. Outraged students and people burned the offices of two government newspapers because of their anti-people role. They were 'The Morning News' and 'Dainik Pakistan' published in Dacca. They also ransacked the office of the daily Paigam owned by the governor of East Pakistan, Monem Khan.
On 25 January there was a big demonstration in Karachi. There was a lot of rioting and many buses were set on fire. A curfew was imposed in Karachi. On 26 January three civilians were killed in Dacca and Narayngunj while breaking the curfew; after that demonstrators attacked BD members. The office of the Karachi Development Authority was attacked and set on fire. Along with Karachi, curfew timings were increased in Gujranwala, Lahore, Dacca and other cities.
According to the telegraphic narration of the stormy events of those days in Dr. Mubashar Hasan's book, "The crises of Pakistan and their solution":
"On 14 February 1969 workers of Railways, WAPDA (Water & Power Development Authority) and rickshaw taxi union went on strike and held a demonstration in Lahore. West Pakistan Federation of Trade Unions presented their financial demands in which increase in wages and other facilities for workers were demanded. On 17 February PIDC (Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation) workers went on strike in Multan. On 19 February 30 trade unions held a joint demonstration in Lahore. On 20 February all the overseers in government jobs held a demonstration and presented their demands. On 21 February all the clerical staff of West Pakistan secretariat went on strike and held a demonstration. On 23 February Road Transport workers held a demonstration, hospital workers and PWD employees also joined in. On 24 February Road Transport workers held another demonstration, also the school teachers of Bahawalpur held a demonstration same day.
"On 3 March Workers of Basco factory in Gujarat went on strike for 13 days. On 4 March post men went on strike which continued for 13 days. On the same day two thousand workers of Telephone & Telegranph announced to go on a total strike. On 5 March ten thousand workers of Karachi Port Trust went on strike which continued for 5 days. On 6 March Railway workers of Lahore went on strike and held a demonstration. A person thought about as the supporter of Ayub was beaten to death.
"On 7 March workers of National Bank went on strike while Railway workers held a demonstration. West Pakistan Federation of Trade Unions took out a big rally in Lahore. On 8 March teachers held a demonstration in Karachi, which was supported by another big demonstration of workers. On 9 March a demonstration was held by Central Hydro Electric Union of WAPDA in which they put forward their demands. One of the demands was of fixing basic pay at Rs. 150. For the first time a declaration about nationalization of basic industries was issued. Eastern Federal Union (insurance company) workers also announced strike on the same day. On 11 March workers of WAPDA held a demonstration and a rally in Lahore. Telecommunication workers started a strike on 11 March which continued for 8 days. 5000 School teachers of Karachi held a demonstration which was joined by 14000 postal clerks and postmen. On 12 March telephone operators went on strike. On 13 March telecommunication workers held a demonstration and after that engineering staff went on strike along with the workers. On 14 March long distance operators also joined the strike. On 15 March staff of National and Grindlays Bank went on strike. On 17 March 20 thousand primary school teachers of Lahore held a one mile long demonstration in which teachers from 12 districts of Punjab participated. On 18 March 2.5 million workers went on country wide strike on the call of Joint Labour Committee. On 19 March 6,000 workers of Karachi Port trust went on strike without any notice. On 21 March workers of India flour mills and Karachi steam roller mills took control of the mills and formed a committee of workers for administration. On the same day 20,000 workers of Accounts Department went on strike. On 21 March Grade 4 workers of hospitals went on strike. In all this period 24 incidents of gherao (siege tactics), took place in East Pakistan in which workers took control of large factories and many government and semi government buildings and got their demands accepted. On 25 March Joint Labour Council celebrated the week of workers' demands.
"In this movement a total of 239 people were killed, 196 in East Pakistan and 43 in West Pakistan. According to details police firing killed 41 in West Pakistan and 88 in East Pakistan. Most of them were students. In East Pakistan they included Asad, Matiur, Anwar, Rostom, Dr. Shamsuzzoha and Sergeant Zahrul Huq". 13
Ayub Khan wrote his confession of defeat in his diaries on Sunday 9 March 1969:
"(... ) law and order situation in the province, which is very bad indeed. In fact, it does not seem to exist. The civil administration is rendered ineffective. Apart from the mischief makers, gangs of communists and terrorists on the prompting of Bhashani are raiding police stations, the houses and properties of Muslim Leaguers, and asking the chairmen and members of Basic Democrats to resign.
"(...) In consequence, most of the civil officers have left their posts and so have the local rent collectors, and their records have been burnt."
"Labour trouble is rampant in many places, constant demonstrations, etc., have affected production. Investment is drying up. The stock exchange has slumped and money is being taken out of the country. The coming days are going to be hard for Pakistan". 14
On 20 March Ayub Khan conceded how the movement had paralysed the functioning of the state and society.
"The civilian labour force in Karachi dockyards had struck and stopped work. No loading or unloading of ships was being done. In one case a ship went back empty as it could not be loaded with cotton. Bhashani has been in Karachi and elsewhere spreading disaffection. Expectations were that the situation was likely to deteriorate". 15
None of the heads of the three top services Army General Yahya Khan, Navy Admiral S. M. Ahsan, Air Marshal Nur Khan was willing to order troops to fire on civilians, advising instead a negotiated settlement.
Ayub announced on 21 February 1969 that he would not be a candidate in the scheduled 1970 presidential election. This bolstered the revolution even more.
Ayub's announcement marked the passing of the Movement into a new momentous phase. This announcement coincided with the first protest action by lower ranking government servants. A short strike by the clerks of the government of the West Pakistan Secretariat at Lahore soon spread through the ranks of Class III and IV government servants. Within days it involved the staff and low-paid employees of government hospitals, the Public Works Department and the Posts and Telegraph Department, as well as more autonomous government bodies, like the Road Transport Corporation, the National Bank of Pakistan and the Water and Power Development Authority. During this period, organized labour became much more active and militant. The leaders of the major unions and federations in West Pakistan joined together to form the Joint Labour Council (JLC). The JLC organized the first week of March as the workers' "demands week", and called for a nationwide general strike on 17 March 1969, which was a brilliant success as the whole country came to a standstill. On this day, the electrical workers cut off electricity to the President's House, Islamabad Civil Secretariat, government offices and the GHQ of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi for two hours. According to Bashir Bakhtiar, president of the West Pakistan Federation of Trade Unions (WPFTU), "It was our signal to Ayub Khan: If you don't go, we will keep this up." 16
March was a month of massive labour unrest throughout Pakistan, as factory workers resorted to gherao (siege tactics), jalao (burning), and takeovers of factory premises. These conditions, together with the strikes by government employees, brought both the ponderous government bureaucracy and much of the urban economy to a virtual halt. The entry of the workers into the arena of revolution, their discovery of the efficacy of political methods to win higher wages, and their wider demands for the right to strike, the nationalization of industry and an end to capitalism in Pakistan, ushered in the most ideologically advanced phase of the Movement. Inevitably, this meant a growing ideological polarization in Pakistan. The Movement, increasingly represented by Bhutto and Bhashani, continued to insist on the immediate ousting of Ayub, but it also began to emphasize more revolutionary themes. Maulana Bhashani, whom "Feldman aptly characterized as 'that inexplicable Savonarola',17 "was particularly vocal during this period in his call for a revolution. As he told factory workers in Karachi, "it is time to talk less and sharpen [our] weapons." 18
The Peasant Revolt
Bhashani was a typical peasant leader and believed in guerrilla struggle. He was a staunch follower of Mao. Pakistan was still an agriculture based country in 1968-69 in spite of rapid industrialisation under Ayub Khan in the preceding decade. The majority of the population lived in the countryside. The revolutionary message from the cities and towns was resonating throughout the rural heartlands louder and louder. It was having a deep impact on the minds, psyche and nerves of the peasant masses.
Soon a gigantic peasant struggle had erupted and joined the revolution raging in the cities and towns. Peasants in both East and West Pakistan came out to challenge the authority of feudal lords in their villages. The popular slogan of the movement was "He that tills the land, shall reap the harvest".
Mass peasant movements took place in Chambar in Sindh, Hasht Nagar in Pushtoonkhwa and a number of districts in East Bengal. In Chambar the peasants subdued the arrogant wrath of the feudal lords through their unity and went as far as challenging the right of property and establishing peasant courts. This also linked up with the workers of Hyderabad when a joint demonstration was held with nearly 700 peasants from Chambar and 800 workers from Zeal Pak Cement Factory under the leadership of its president Ustad Murtaza. Workers from the Municipal Authority, Road Transport and other sectors also joined in.
This struggle ended with the feudals of the area publicly asking for forgiveness from the poor peasants and accepting the demands that peasants should divide the harvest in peasant courts, no wageless work (Baigar), no ejections of poor haris (tenants) from their lands. The peasants raised the slogans Hari Haqdar, Jageerdar Dastbardar. (The tenants have rights; Landlords should abdicate).
The Mazdoor Kissan Party MKP was a left-wing party founded on Maoist lines. According to wikipedia, it soon started to work together with several factions in Pakistan including the Major Ishaque Mohammad group in Punjab and leftist groups in East Pakistan. In 1970 the Ishaque group merged with the MKP. The party's main focus was on the peasantry, inspired by the struggles of the Chinese, Vietnamese and African people. It achieved immediate success in Pushtoonkhwa, where spontaneous clashes between peasants and landlords were already taking place due to Ayub Khan's land reforms and the imposition of farm machinery. The MKP provided the organisation and leadership needed by the peasant rebellion and in turn the movement gained a tremendous following in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The movement was not only facing the private armies of the landlords but also attempts by the state to crush it by force. The fight continued through three governments of those tumultous years. Soon even the landlords belonging to the different parties banded together in the Ittehad Party in order to crush the peasant rebellion.The provincial governments stood firmly behind the landlords in this repression and breaking up of the peasant movement.
One of the greatest clashes between the peasantry and the state took place in July 1971 at Mandani in Pushtoonkhwa. In a daylong pitched battle an army of 1500 heavily armed policemen were routed with casualties of about 20 peasants and party cadres. Another struggle took place at the end of the NAP-JUI government period. Around 8000 militia and Rangers were deployed in the Malakand Agency in order to stop the MKP. During this time the party's vice-president Maulvi Mohammad Sadiq was assassinated.
The MKP ignored the parliamentary form of struggle and did not participate in the general elections in 1970.Also the question of nationality in Pakistan was not addressed properly by the MKP, and it also failed to organise in Sindh and Baluchistan. Still, the MKP had strong support among the peasantry of the Peshawar and Mardan districts, the Malakand Agency and the former states of Swat and Dir. It also built support in parts of Hazara and Punjab.
The first national congress of the party was held in May 1973 at Shergarh in the Mardan District. Armed security guards were placed around the area, and a strike of bus owners was organised in order to prevent people from attending. This failed, however, as 5000 delegates, helped by disobeying drivers and MKP militants, attended the congress. In the congress Ishaque Mohammad was elected as president of the party.
As in 1970, the MKP did not participate in the general elections of 1977, although it had good prospects of winning more than a dozen parliamentary seats. Instead it held the slogan of "Intikhab Naheen, Inqilab" (Revolution, not elections) and organised mass rallies following a relaxation of political restrictions. Around 50000 participated in Peshawar and 30000 in Shergarh.
Another important peasant struggle was held at the Chishtian Sugar mill where they occupied it in 1972 and continued to be under workers' control for two years. There were almost 1200 workers in the mill. The occupation was mostly supported by the peasants of adjoining areas who used to sell their harvest to the mill.
Former MKP leader Imtiaz Alam narrated to the author of this work:
"In those days the Chishitan sugar mill was like a commune for workers and peasants. Everything was free for the workers and a lot of political work was done from there. There were nearly 25 full timers who went on visits to other areas and built unions in other industries. We had formed a federation of Sugar mill workers at national level and its centre was Chishtian. The Bhutto government had to deploy rangers in order to break this occupation. But actually it had collapsed internally because it was not feasible financially to run the factory. In the end we were actually living by the support of peasants of the area and funds collected through the Trade Union Federation". 19
He also said that they had
"organised women peasants in the countryside. Women came out to work mostly in the cotton picking season and harvesting of the wheat crop. They were given in compnsation 1/16th of the whole crop for picking. A peasant women's conference was also organized in Chistian in 1974 in which nearly 10,000 women participated. We had an expense of only 48 rupees for this conference and that was mainly on the loud speaker and setting of the stage. All the women had travelled on their own expenses and brought cooked food with them."
Apart from Pushtoonkhwa this movement had spread to many villages in Punjab and land occupations had started in Khanewal, Rajanpur, D.G. Khan, Vehari, Burewala and other areas.
The movements started mainly against ejections, wageless labour (Baigar) and distribution of harvest (Batai). They were able to get a greater share for the peasants after this movement.
There is a long history of peasant struggles in Pakistan. This created a tradition of Kissan (peasant) conferences that gave a certain organisational base to the peasant movement. The first Kissan Conference was organized in March 1948 and held in Tehsil Toba Tek Singh of District Lyallpur (now Faisalabad). In this conference, the Punjab Kissan Committee was re-organized and founded, attracting peasants from rural and urban areas all across the province.
In the wake of the outbursts of the revolutionary wave Kissan conferences were held in different parts of the Punjab in 1970 in Toba Tek Singh, and in 1971 at Khanewal. The Toba Tek Singh conference of 22-23 March 1970 was the most successful in the history of Pakistan. Around 0.5 million peasants from all over the country participated in that conference, according to veterans of the Pakistan Kissan Committee. The most prominent people who spoke on that conference were Maulana Abdul Hameed Bhashani, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmad Rahi and Mairaj Muhammad Khan.
People had begun to whirl around it like a tornado. The landlords of Punjab and Sindh were shivering in their shoes. The capitalists who were subservient to American and Western capital felt as if the blood in their veins was drying up. The mullahs were boiling with anger because a few mortal human beings were trying to change what the mullahs preached was the will of God. The bureaucracy was always a worshipper of the past, its ideals and views unchanged since the time of the East India Company.
Peasant organizations within the NWFP (Pushtoonkhwa) were also very active in holding meetings and processions throughout the province. Many conferences were held throughout the 1960s and 1970s, from which demands for the rights of peasants were projected through mass agitations, processions, and sometimes armed struggle.
In April 1967, in village Shah Abad, district Peshawar, a Kissan Jirga conference was held in which a joint resolution regarding the occupation of land by the Khans and their unjustified eviction of peasants was passed.
The Sindh Hari Committee also left no stone unturned in terms of their massive support to the peasants' struggle. On 21-22 June 1970, a historic Sakrand Hari Conference in village Sakrand, district Nawab Shah was organized by the Sindh Hari Committee. This conference was headed by Shiekh Abdul Majeed Sindhi; significantly, peasants from across the district and province traveled to attend this conference, many barefooted, for many kilometers.
Shiekh Abdul Majeed in his presidential speech said,
"This conference is representative forum of all the peasants of the province, this is the conference of workers and peasants of the province. Our struggle is against the brutal policies and control of the Landlords. It is the peasant who has claim over the lands of Sindh not the Landlords, they must ensure their dominance and claim over their lands". 20
The revolution had put an end to the vacillations and reluctance of the middle classes. Lawyers, doctors, engineers, artistes, scientists, intellectuals, poets, journalists and people from all departments of society that are used by the ruling classes in 'normal' times to perpetuate their rule, had come decisively onto the side of the proletariat. They jumped onto the rising tide of revolutionary ferment. One of the most important organized struggles at that time was that of the journalists.
Struggle of Left Journalists
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists PFUJ was formed on 2 August 1950 after a newspaper workers' convention was held in April 1950 in Karachi. In this convention newspaper workers from the Delhi Union of Journalists also participated. The leading figures at that time were Minhaj Barna and I.H. Rasheed.
The PFUJ's past history is marked by memorable milestones such as the 49-day long strike in 1949 in the daily "Sindh Observer", Karachi, led by the Sindh Union of Journalists which later played a leading role in the formation of the PFUJ in 1950, the strike at the "Times of Karachi" in 1954, the daily "Anjam" Karachi, in 1966, daily "Kohistan" Lahore in 1969, the hunger strike led by the PPL (Progressive Papers Limited) workers union and innumerable other struggles.
In 1959 due to the demands of the PFUJ the first wage board was formed which declared a first wage award in 1960. It was decided that wage award would be announced after every 5 years but a second wage award could only be announced in 1969, a direct result of the pressure generated by the revolutionary upsurge of the masses from below.
With the advent of Ayub Khan's Martial Law regime the press in Pakistan suffered the greatest setback. The regime introduced the blackest law "The Press and Publications (Amendment) Ordinance, 1963 ". It started its invasion of the Fourth Estate by taking over the independent newspapers, "The Pakistan Times", "Imroze" and weekly "Lail-o-Nahar" belonging to the Progressive Papers Ltd. and owned by the well-known left leader, Mian Iftekharuddin, under a Martial Law Ordinance. Not content with these actions the regime went further and brought into existence what came to be known as the "National Press Trust" (NPT) by taking over at least fourteen established national dailies and weeklies. It was obvious that the NPT was established with the aim of coercing the press and setting loyalist and conformist unions to be followed by others. It was in this period also that the news agency, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) was taken over by the Ayub government. The aim for the public consumption was to "improve the financial and administrative affairs of the agency". But the real purpose was to control the dissemination of news.
The PFUJ opposed and criticized all these dictatorial measures. It called for a joint action against the Press Ordinance, formed a joint committee with the APNS (All Pakistan Newspapers Society) and CPNE (Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors) and observed a countrywide protest strike on September 9, 1963. However, the APNS and CPNE (the two are the same commodity except the name and the label) disassociated from the Joint Action Committee and accepted the government's proposal to frame a so-called "Code of ethics". For more than three decades these two organizations belong to the owners of the media in Pakistan. These billionaires ruthlessly suppress and exploit the journalists and other workers of the media industry. While the government assured that it will observe a "moratorium" on the use of the Press Ordinance, very soon violated its assurance and banned the daily "Ittefaq", the opposition paper published from Dacca, under the Ordinance.
By the mid-1960s Ittefaq had emerged as the virtual voice of the people of East Bengal. Tofazzal Hossain's post editorial column 'Rajnaitik Mancha' (political platform) earned great popularity in East Pakistan. Consequently, the government of Ayub Khan censored the publication of the paper from 17 June to 11 July 1966 and then again from 17 July 1966 to 9 February 1969. Tofazzal Hossain, the editor of the paper, was detained several times. This triggered a nation wide strike of journalists. Ittefaq was revived on 10 February 1969.
Minhaj Barna writes in his article on the history of the PFUJ:
"1968 was a significant year in the history of PFUJ in regards to its struggle for freedom of the press. The entire period of 1968 and beginning of 1969 (Ultimately ending in a new Martial Law of General Yahya Khan) was marked by a great upsurge of the people against the autocratic rule of General Ayub. Desperate and frustrated, the Ayub regime resorted to more and more repressive measures. The noose around the press was further tightened. After banning the daily "Ittefaq" in 1966, the government closed down weekly "Purbani" Dacca and weekly "Chaatan", Lahore. Detained journalists without trial, withdrew allotment of official advertisements to "Nawa-i-Waqt, Lahore, "Ibrat", Hyderabad and "Pakistan Observer", "Azad" and "Sangbad" published from Dacca. Besides, it resorted to the obnoxious system of "press advice", which was made a regular practice and its scope was enlarged even to day to day functioning of newsmen and newspapers.
"The Federal Executive Council (FEC) of the PFUJ in its meeting held in Karachi from December 15 to 17, 1968, reviewed the situation and adopted a detailed resolution, observing: In recent months the functioning of the national press as a constructive and democratic instrument of public opinion has become almost impossible. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that people have lost faith in the printed world and the position of the journalists as watchdogs of society has been compromised. The FEC believes that this constituted greatest peril the national press has ever faced and, therefore, affirms that restoration of press freedom has become ever more imperative than ever before. It maintained the present situation was the accumulated result of a series of repressive measures adopted over the last decade to stifle the press.
"The FEC however noted with satisfaction that the working journalists throughout the country in keeping with their traditions of struggle for press freedom had shown that they had risen to the occasion. During the last two months they had shown that they would never be cowed down. The various meetings, demonstrations, rallies and processions organized during this period and the successful countrywide strike on December 10 had again demonstrated their determination to resist onslaught on the press and carry their struggle for the press freedom through to the end. In this regard the FEC appreciated the cooperation of press workers, calligraphists, proof readers, and hawkers who had joined hands with the journalists in these demonstrations, and expressed the hope that this unity of the newspaper employees would grow further (...)"
Minhaj Barna continues:
"(...) This period was also marked by physical attacks and violence by the minions of law and order on the one hand, and political opponents of the regime on the other. The target were reporters, press photographers/and even newspaper offices all over Pakistan, particularly at Dacca, Karachi, Lahore and, Rawalpindi. In Dacca, the offices of "Morning News" and" Dianik Pakistan were burnt down as a result of mob fury. Both papers were the property of government controlled National Press Trust (NPT). The offices of daily "Unity" and daily "Insaf "of Chittagong, and daily "Kohistan" of Lahore and Rawalpindi were attacked". 21
With the advent of Gen. Yahya's Martial Law perhaps a vicious and sinister smear campaign was launched against the PFUJ under the direct patronage of the regime's Information Minister, Gen. Sher Ali. Pampered by the military government some of the reactionary political leaders and vested proprietary interests organized a concerted attack against the leading and active members of the PFUJ. They were assisted in their designs by a couple of dailies and one particular weekly from Lahore. They started clamoring for what they called a "sweeping purge of all communists and anti-Islam elements" from the newspaper industry, Radio, Television and other institutions". These were the same people who had welcomed the takeover of the "Pakistan Times" and "Imroze" by the Ayub regime. One of the prominent leaders like
Nawabzada Nasarullah Khan of Majlis-e-Ahrar orientation went so far as to claim that "most of the journalists in newspapers, particularly in the NPT papers, are 'reds', and, therefore, should be thrown out to safeguard Islam and ideology of Pakistan." 22 A weekly, "Zindagi" wrote a series of articles against the PFUJ and its leadership and appealed to the Martial Law authorities to dismiss them from jobs. It is interesting to note that these detractors of PFUJ (some of them were paid for their service) were never tired of giving lip service to democratic values and freedom of the press. Another powerful strike of the PFUJ started on 15 April 1970 which lasted for 10 days both in East & West Pakistan.
The 1970 ten-day countrywide strike may be remembered for a number of significant reasons. The main reason of course was the intransigence and refusal by the proprietor's body (the All Pakistan Newspapers Society) to accept and implement the award announced by the Second Wage Board for 35 per cent interim relief after a decade-long wage freeze. At that time the Wage Board and its award was legally meant for the journalists alone and did not cover other employees of Newspapers and News Agencies and yet the APNS was not prepared to accept and implement it. It was the APNS's refusal to implement the Second wage Board Award even after losing their petitions in the High Court that the PFUJ had to take strike action.
In desperation the fourteen Newspaper editors and proprietors issued a joint statement a few days before the strike began alleging that the strike was inspired by "Communists and Maulana Bhashani". They asked General Yahya's Military Government to intervene and take action against the PFUJ and its leaders under Martial Law Regulations.
Another significant aspect of the 1970 strike was that for the first time it provided a joint platform of action for the entire Newspaper workers community-journalists, calligraphists and press workers. As the first and second Wage Board were for journalists alone. PFUJ repeatedly asked the government to either form a separate Wage Board for other workers of the Newspaper industry or include them in the board meant for journalists. The PFUJ's argument was that a newspaper was produced not only by journalists, but by the collective labour and effort of all the employees of a newspaper establishment who worked under the same roof, paid by the same employer, and equally affected by vagaries of socio-economic conditions including the price hike. It was for this reason that the PFUJ's four-point strike charter included the demand for payment of the interim relief to the non-journalists employees also. It was because of the united struggle of the newspaper industry workers that the strike was successful and the employers were made to pay the interim relief not only to the journalists but to the non-journalists employees as well.
After this strike of 1970 about 250 journalists including office-bearers and active members of the PFUJ and its affiliated unions belonging to different newspapers and news agencies in West Pakistan were dismissed from their services by the managements in collusion with the authorities led by the then Information Minister, Gen. Sher Ali. The journalists thus dismissed belonged to such leading newspapers as the Pakistan Times, Imroze, Morning News, Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, and Mashriq.
The office of the Ittefaq was burnt down by the Pakistan army on 25 March 1971, and consequently from that day the publication of the paper ceased. However, the Ittefaq was revived from 21 May 1971 under the surveillance of the Pakistani government.
Serajuddin, a renowned journalist in Dacca was abducted on December 10, 1971 and later killed by religious shenanigans. He was the President of the East Pakistan Union of Journalists (EPUJ) in 1964-65 and Vice-President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) in 1970-71.
Even during the ferocious Zia dictatorship the journalists were in the forefront of the struggle. They were one of the first sections of the resistance who were publicly flogged and lashed by the military regime for demanding the right of free expression.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum, industrial and business circles moved to support the conservative religious parties, the Nizam-i-Islam and the Jamat-i-Islami, as Ayub's position weakened. These parties began to insist that Ayub ought to stay for an interim period to ensure a smooth transition to the political leaders of the country a position that was also urged by S. M. Zafar, Ayub's Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs. On 2 March 1969, Mian Tufail Muhammad, Acting Amir of the Jamat-i-Islami, announced that his party "opposed the exit of Ayub at this stage, as it would sabotage the desires of the people expressed through the Round Table Conference (RTC)." 23
The response of the Regime during the fourth phase centred on the Round Table Conference, which met on 26 February and again from 10 March to 13 March. On the final day of the RTC, President Ayub accepted the two demands on which the opposition leaders had been able to agree direct adult suffrage and a parliamentary system and directed that a constitutional amendment to this effect be drafted. These concessions, however, failed to halt the Movement. The masses refused to accept the stage of bourgeois democracy, the revolution had propelled the working classes towards a socialist transformation. The bourgeois opposition who wanted to derail the revolution on 'democratic' lines was cast aside by the movement.
Ferment in the Army
There is little information, for obvious reasons, about the repercussions of the 1968-69 movement within the armed forces. However, in the abdication of Ayub Khan on 25 March 1969, this dissent within the armed forces was an important factor. The reformist and compromising policies of Gen. Yahya Khan's regime also reflect pressures from within the armed forces. One of the factors of waging a war and whipping up Pakistani chauvinist frenzy, mainly in West Pakistan, from where the bulk of the armed forces came was not just to distract the revolution in society but was also intended to dissipate the dissent within the Army. After all the army in the last analysis is a reflection of the society from which it is derived. But the situation was so explosive that they had to actually go to war and were even prepared to lose half of the country to preserve and safeguard the rule of Capital. We have quoted from some works of army generals that give vague accounts of tremors within the armed forces, later on in this book. A more subtle proof of which side the garrison was on, were reflected in just a few results of postal ballots collected from some of the Military Cantonments in the 1970 elections. The wave of revolutionary socialism that was linked to the PPP had also engulfed the consciousness of the workers in uniform, the soldiers and lower ranks of the armed forces. Philip E. Jones was somehow able to dig out some of these results which he has produced in his work "PPP Rise to Power".
This would tend to support reports that the officer corps, as a group, did not vote for any one political party. The GHQ was concerned about security and political implications that might result if the whole army vote was made public. Possibly, also, the GHQ wanted to shield the troops from the ideologically left tendencies engendered in the volatile election campaign.
The known results are important because they support claims that the PPP enjoyed strong support among the ranks of the Pakistan Army, a fact that greatly strengthened Bhutto's leverage in the manoeuvring in the negotiations after the election with the Yahya's military regime and Sheikh Mujibbur Rehman. But above all these results reflected the revolutionary ferment within the armed forces of Pakistan.
Philip E. Jones, PPP Rise to Power 24
During the upsurge there were several incidents of army officers refusing to fire at the charging crowds and processions of the workers and the students in the cities. There were several occasions when the army and police deployed to crush the protests actually sided with the protesting masses. Several middle-ranking army officers were court marshalled for their support of the revolutionary demonstrations and strikes. Such was the revolutionary fervour that heavily armed troops had to retreat when the workers demonstrations defied their authority with their will and determination unleashed by the revolution.
One of the incidents in Karachi graphically illustrates the situation. A retired army officer who was a major at the time of the 1968-69 revolution on condition of anonymity narrated the following to the author in 1996:
"In February 1969 I was in Karachi. I was deputed to disperse a huge workers demonstration on the Karachi's most famous avenue, the Bandar Road (now M.A. Jinnah Road). There were at least 50,000 workers from different unions and factories of Karachi in that demonstration. It was being led by left wing labour and student leaders. Near the Empress market a tank squadron comprising of perhaps 16 tanks was lined up blocking the avenue. The tanks were giving aggressive signals by the movement of their gun barrels. I was with few army officers clad in war outfit standing in front of those columns of tanks. One of the officers approached the leaders asked them to retreat and disperse the demonstration in an aggressive militaristic tone. The workers refused point blank. The workers kept on marching with the thunder of the slogans of a socialist Revolution now resonating even louder.
"The Army officer again approached the leaders. The threat in the tone had some what softened. On the blank refusal again he drew a line with a white chalk on the black tarmac a few feet ahead of the demonstration and warned that anyone crossing that line would be immediately shot. The rage of the workers was now intense. The demonstration with red flags with yellow hammer and sickle signs and banners with slogans like 'Struggle till socialist victory', moved on. When the demonstration crossed the line, the officer drew a second line, then the third, the fourth and the fifth line. The demonstration had crossed all the 'dead lines'. The columns of the armoured cars and tanks had now started to roll back, we had to retreat. Myself and my officer colleagues felt so feeble. We could not fire upon our own people who were struggling to end their grievances and sufferings. There were shouts of jubilation and thunderous applause by the crowd. A sense of victory was almost palpable among the workers involved intensely in this historical display of the strength and courage of a proletarian unity. The menacingly huge vehicles of the Pakistan Army's armoured corps had failed to terrify the workers and disperse the procession". 25
From such incidents it becomes so clear that in the fervour of a revolution, such is the enraged spirit and bravery of the working classes that they psychologically almost conquer the fear of death. Here the state had been defeated in one of the most significant battles of the class war fought by the Pakistani proletariat during the 1968-69 revolution.
Several soldiers now have reminiscences of the discussions with high-pitched revolutionary zeal that went on in the military barracks throughout the nights after 'light off'. They were seething with vengeance against their brutalities and insults inflicted upon them by their commanding officers and the generals. There was an overwhelming support for socialism expressed by the soldiers on these private but rampant discussions.
The movement of the students and the youth had electrified the whole society. The workers were taking over factories and brought the country to a halt through their magnificent 'wheel jam' strikes. The agrarian workers and the poor peasants had seized the lands of the feudal aristocracy and were burning their luxurious palaces and mansions build with the blood and sweat of the toilers of the soil. This movement in the countryside was a huge reservoir of support and source of courage for the proletariat in revolutionary struggle. The involvement of the soldiers and lower ranks of the armed forces would have made the decisive strike to defeat the system of drudgery and exploitation of the toiling masses of Pakistan.
Had a revolutionary party been there to mobilize and organise that support of the army ranks then the outcome of the 1968-69 upheaval would have been a victory for revolutionary socialism. This would have changed the course of history.
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1 Trotsky, History of Russian Revolution, (Pathfinder), p.17
2 The British Papers, (Oxford), p.734-739
3 The British Papers, (Oxford), p.743
4 Roy Fox, 20th of November 1968
5 The British Papers,(Oxford), p.775
6 The British Papers, (Oxford), p.795
7 Interview with the author, September 2008, Lahore
9 Stanley Wolpert, Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan, p.126
10 Ibid, p.127
11 Ayub Khan, Ayub Khan Diaries, Thursday, 28 November 1968, (Oxford), p.287
12 Ibid, Sunday, 8 December 1968, p. 289
13 Dr. Mubashar Hasan, The crises of Pakistan and their solution, p. 49-55
14 Ayub Khan, Ayub Khan Diaries, Sunday, 9 March 1969, (Oxford), p.305
15 Ibid, Thursday, 20 March 1969, p.308
16 Bashir Bakhtiar, interview with Philip E. Jones at the Labour Hall, Nisbet Road, Lahore, 31 October 1973, published in "PPP Rise to Power", p. 166
17 Feldman, Crisis to Crisis, p.261
18 The Pakistan Times, 19 March 1969
19 Interview with author, September 2008
20 Sakrand Conference, Weekly Lail-o-Nehar, Karachi, 19 July, 1970
21 Minhaj Barna, A movement called PFUJ, www.pfuj.info
23 Dawn, 03 March 1969
24 Philip E. Jones, PPP Rise to Power, (Oxford), 2003, p. 324
25 Interview with the author, June 1996, Rawalpindi