Pakistan’s Other Story: 6. Witness to Revolution – Veterans of the 1968-69 upheaval

Millions of workers, peasants and students had actively participated in the gigantic events of the 1968-69 revolution in Pakistan. A whole generation had entered the arena of history to change their destiny. Some of the veterans who are still around have a strong nostalgia and pride of participating in those stormy events. We publish here a series of interviews and discussions with some of these prominent leaders and activists of the movement.

"Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under given circumstances directly encountered and inherited from the past. The tradition of all the generations of dead weighs like a nightmare on the brain of living. And just when they seem involved in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never before existed, it is precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis that they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow names, battles cries and costumes from them in order to act out the new scene of world history."

Karl Marx (1815 -1883) 1

Millions of workers, peasants and students had actively participated in these gigantic events of the 1968-69 revolution. A whole generation had entered the arena of history to change their destiny in Pakistan. They had fought to the finish, and played their utmost role in the revolution. Many of the leading activists have passed away in the last forty years. Some of the veterans who are still around have a strong nostalgia and pride of participating in those stormy events. We were able to meet up with a few of them. Some of these comrades are long standing friends of the author.

A series of interviews and discussion with some of these prominent leaders and activists of the movement revealed details of the revolution perhaps hitherto never printed in any work on this movement.


One of the most militant figures and workers' leaders of the 1968-69 revolution in Pakistan was Usman Baloch, who acquired legendary character during the course of the revolution. A labour leader in the shanty towns of Karachi, he became a myth when the revolutionary events exploded on the arena of history. Still a lot of heroic stories are related to this man, some of which he denied. In an interview with the author he narrated the memories of those heady days with a spirited nostalgia.

At the start of the decade of the 60's he was a young man whose father was working in Gregs Salt Company in Karachi and was a union leader there. He lived in the shanty town of Lyari, which was home to thousands of workers most of them belonging to informal sectors. His father and his colleagues often discussed matters of the unions and their disputes with employers which were keenly heard by this young man.

This was a time when there were no legal rights for workers and the employers had all the powers to exploit the labourers. If someone resisted this oppression he was called a traitor of the fatherland and a sympathizer of India. Like most other workers and youth of that area Usman was also inspired by the revolutionary ideas of socialism and had a keen interest in Marxist literature. He had read Lenin's "State and Revolution" and "What is to be Done?" at an early age. The subsequent events in his life proved to him the real character of the State as described by Lenin.

The event that inspired him along with many others was the general strike of workers in Karachi in 1963. This strike continued for many days and workers from most industries participated. It had a deep impact on the consciousness of the workers. An important lesson of this strike was the real character of trade union leaders who had betrayed the workers in their struggle.

Workers were determined to fight for their rights but their leaders capitulated to the brutal civil administration. Usman told us that the "leaders of the movement came in a police van and appealed to workers to end the strike". Later on the all-powerful Deputy Commissioner of Karachi S. K. Mahmood authoritatively dismissed all agreements between workers and the management and said that his orders shall prevail. This capitulation of the leaders to the State authority shattered the confidence of the workers in them. Also this strike could not link to the common people outside the industrial area and was not able to gather sympathy of the masses. After the strike not only the State institutions were against the working class but also the public opinion had turned against them.

Another important incident narrated by Baloch was Ayub Khan's visit to Karachi Shipyard in 1967 to inaugurate a new Naval Warship. A grand ceremony was arranged to welcome the president and an exquisite dinner was to be served to the presidential delegation. Before the inauguration the workers of Karachi Shipyard put forward their demands for better wages and labour conditions. At that time Ayub was in his full grandeur and decorum as Field Marshal. He got furious by this behaviour of workers and simply rejected their demands. This invited the rage of shipyard workers who overturned all the dinner tables and the porcelain crockery was thrown into the sea. They also raised slogans against Ayub.

Usman Baloch's other important venture was forming the labour union in KANUPP (Karachi Atomic Nuclear Power Plant). In those days it was being built with the support of the Soviet Union and it was being considered an important strategic venture of the State. Any illegal activity like trade unionism was strictly prohibited. At the same time the workers employed there for construction purposes were treated like slaves and given meagre salaries with no social security and other benefits. Construction workers were coming those days to Karachi from across West Pakistan including workers from Balochistan and those who had been working on the Mangla Dam project. Most of the traditional trade union leaders were afraid of these rowdy construction workers from the informal construction sector.

But Usman Baloch took the task to organize them and lead them towards the struggle for their rights. He told us that in the beginning it was a bit difficult to get trust of these workers as an outsider, but with close association with them and meeting them daily in their free time, Usman not only gained their trust but also developed a warm personal affiliation with them.

In the period of a few months an informal union was formed with Usman Baloch as the president. When they went to the Labour Department for its registration they were disallowed on the pretext that no such activity can be allowed at a 'sensitive' site like this nuclear power plant.

However, workers had their own agenda and one evening they took over the plant and closed all the gates of KANUPP, with workers taking guard. The foreign nationals of the management were locked in their premises. This siege of the nuclear site lasted for a few hours and after that workers withdrew the control voluntarily. This was a clear warning to the State.

They had planned this only to show their power to retaliate. After this siege all the demands of 2500 workers at the nuclear power plant, including the registration of their union, were accepted and their wages were given on time through the intervention of the Labour department. After the Martial Law of Yahya Khan, the Army took over strategic installations, but KANUPP was captured by this regime one month before the coup.

Usman Baloch was arrested on 10 October 1969 with 62 other workers, while he was organizing the construction workers working at KANUPP. At the time of arrest he was bargaining with the management for giving more rights to the workers. He was sentenced to one year of prison. His popularity envied many other trade union leaders, and to express their hatred other leaders called him a 'communist'.

Usman Baloch also had close connections with the construction workers of Lee Market, workers of Rasheed Textile mills and Valika Textile mills. He was not one of the mainstream Trade Union leaders of the time but with his close ties with workers and their families and because he used to live with them, he was one of the most popular labour leaders of his time. He was inspired by Lenin and used to publish leaflets and handbills among the workers on their current issues. Funds for these leaflets were collected from the workers, usually 50 paisa or 1 rupee from each worker when the average wage of an ordinary worker was Rs. 50. A special team of workers was deputed to collect funds.

Workers at that time were coming from various nationalities and far away regions. Workers of various industries were not united on any one platform. There were various Trade Union Federations but their superstructures were almost indifferent to the problems of the daily life of ordinary workers.

Usman took the initiative in bringing the multicultural workers closer. Class unity was being developed between workers of different nationalities at the moment of marriage, death and other social occasions. He convinced the workers that it is important for them to attend the funeral or marriage of a worker whether he belongs to his nationality, cast, creed or not.

Another important step was the practice of saying goodbye to a worker who was going on leave. Usually workers from far off Northern areas went on leave for two to three months after many years of hard labour. When they came back factory management didn't recognize their past service and they had to start anew. They had to plead hard to get their job back as there was no concept of leave and they had to start again at a lower wage scale. Their leave was also no respite for them. They had to work in their hometowns, mostly in remote villages to earn a living for those few months when they were supposed to be on leave. Their meagre savings were not enough.

The new custom of saying goodbye to one of their companions who was going on leave was introduced by Usman Baloch. It proved to be economically beneficial for the workers. One of their companions would give an empty sack to the worker who was going on leave to a far off place from the industrial city of Karachi. Other workers came with things he would need for his stay in his home including sugar, tea, flour, cooking oil and other necessary items and fill his sack to the full. Also they would go to the Railway Station to see him off.

When these workers went to their hometowns they were proud that they had not come back empty-handed. They could also spend their leave a bit more comfortably. When any worker came back his factory management was forced to recognize him due to the pressures of his fellow comrades. When the manager would refuse to recognize him, the fellow workers would tell the manager that they have given him flour, sugar and other things from their own pockets and he was one of their colleagues. In this way he could get his job back. This was one of the several unique ways of developing a close cultural bondage amongst the workers.

Another such effort of cultural bondage was practiced in the Zaibtan Textile mills, where Usman was the workers' leader. He raised funds from the workers and opened a canteen and a small hotel from the collected money. This canteen was run by workers themselves and with their collections became the centre of social and political gatherings. Workers from other nearby factories also came there to pass their free time and have discussions, play games and enjoy cultural activities. This small canteen grew bigger with the passage of time as more and more workers joined in. One could see dozens of workers sitting there at any time of the day, discussing their problems, sharing their joys and sorrows.

Important meetings also started taking place here when the movement started to pick up. Management tried various methods to shut it down but the workers' resistance defeated their plans.

An important struggle of this movement was when workers took control of the Valika Textile mills in Karachi in February 1971. Usman Baloch was instrumental in the takeover of the Valika Textile Mills.

He narrated the whole incident to the author. He said that in the beginning there were no intentions of going to that extent but it was the momentum of the movement and the rising gigantic spirit and proletarian determination that took the ordinary workers to take such courageous steps.

Saleem was one of the active trade unionists inside the Mills and was involved in various labour related disputes with management along with Usman Baloch. On 14 February 1971 management wanted to arrest Saleem and punish him severely for his activities. Usman feared that if Saleem got arrested he would be severely tortured and that would send a negative message to the workers of the mills. He also thought that an all-out strike would be premature.

There was heavy police presence inside and outside the mills on that day. They were having a close watch on the movement of Saleem and workers around him. One option for Baloch was either to somehow get Saleem out of the factory area and take him into hiding. If that was not possible he would ask the workers not to change the shift and the same shift would carry on. This would make it harder for the police to arrest him, who wanted to arrest him during the shift change.

When the time of shift change came the management and police started to argue with Saleem and tried to provoke him. On seeing the heavy presence of police, workers were enraged and seeing the intentions of management they raised the alarm and closed all the doors of the factory and evicted the police from the premises.

After the occupation the first thing the workers did was to protect the chemicals, wool and cotton inside the factory so that nobody could damage it or put the chemicals on fire.

An urgent meeting was called of all the workers and it was decided that no personnel from management or police would be allowed to enter the premises and workers would run the factory themselves.

An administrative committee was elected in a short time and workers took control of the entire mill. All the supervisory staff was expelled and collective decision-making was initiated on various aspects of running the mill. Though this control lasted just a few days, it revealed the abilities of the workers to run the industry and was a precedent for workers in other factories.

In a factory meeting it was decided that old redundant machinery would not be sold but would be repaired and used again. Various decisions about the handling of accounts and wages were made, though they could not be fully implemented.

There was no theft of any single item from the factory during the whole episode. However, some policemen, as they entered the factory, looted some sweaters and socks. Workers collectively protected the entire factory and its materials as their own belongings.

After a few days there was a heavy crackdown of police and army and the management took back the control from the workers. Leading workers were severely tortured and others had to face dire consequences.

In 1972 workers took over many industries in Karachi. An important takeover was that of Dawood Mills in Karachi, which was led by Aziz-ul-Hasan and Riaz Ahmed. The government arrested these two leaders and they were presented handcuffed in court. This takeover lasted for 10 days.

Another important incident of the 1968-69 movement was when Usman Baloch slapped US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara. McNamara had a meeting at the Orient Hotel in Hyderabad and was addressing a press conference when Baloch went there along with a popular labour leader of Hyderabad Ihsan Azeem.

The US Secretary of Defence was there with all the pomp and grandeur of the imperialist might. All the Pakistan government officials were behaving in a slavish manner. Usman narrated the episode.

He said that in the questions session he asked McNamara about the workers' struggles in the United States and about the martyrs of Chicago. The Secretary of Defence told him that the US government protected the right of workers and stood by their legal struggles. Usman argued that in the Bank of America, which also had its branch in Pakistan, unions were not allowed. Saying this he went closer and closer to McNamara.

McNamara was furious by this argument and said that, "We are not here to be engaged by every sucker." Baloch answered this insult by slapping McNamara on his face and said, "Down with US Imperialism". This created panic in the whole meeting and it was dispersed. Usman was again arrested.

An important incident in the labour movement of Pakistan is the incident of Feroz Sultan Mills, which took place on 6 June 1972 when the PPP was in power. While narrating this incident Baloch's eyes were red with anger and grief and he was breathing heavily.

The Union of Feroz Sultan was led by Kaniz Fatima, who was always envious of the popularity of Usman Baloch. Kaniz Fatima was another labour leader of the Karachi shipyard workers. In an interview with the author she said that the workers were protesting for their wages. When she contacted the management, they told her that they could be given wages in two days and there is no serious problem. Then she condemned Usman Baloch for his 'adventurous' role in that struggle.

According to Usman Baloch workers of Feroz Sultan were in protest against non-payment of their wages, and the bonus that the management had refused to pay. The management was furious over the workers' attitude for the last many years and wanted to crush them.

They called the police and asked them to take strict action against the workers. When the police inspector confronted the protesting workers he opened fire from his pistol. This killed three workers on the spot.

The police and management took hold of two dead bodies but the workers were able to retrieve the body of Shoaib Khan. The enraged workers took the body towards Pathan colony, which was the locality of thousands of ordinary workers.

Usman Baloch came with a big rally of workers from the Zaibtan Textile mills and joined the workers of Feroz Sultan Textile Mills. There was a meeting of Trade Union Federations planned on the same day in which the demands of the workers were to be chalked out. The police attacked the venue and the Trade Union leaders went underground.

In this situation Usman Baloch was left on his own to lead the workers. When the body of the slain worker reached Pathan Colony there was a seething anger and resentment amongst thousands of workers who had gathered in anguish and protest. Usman Baloch asked them to take the body towards the governor's house. Workers marched behind the coffin. Led by Baloch they were in a violent mood and anything that came in their way was smashed. Any worker in Karachi who heard this news rushed to express their solidarity and support. The numbers grew more and more.

When this tide of rebellious workers started to move they faced heavy contingents of police pointing their guns towards them. As they tried to leave the Pathan colony, the police opened fire. Three more workers were killed. The police announced that whoever tried to get out of the area would be killed.

The militant mood of the rally was ready to face anything while police had orders to stop them at any cost. They tried to terrify the rally. On this Usman went to the graveyard in Pathan Colony and asked the workers to dig 20 more graves.

He said that it was just to boost the morale of the workers. We gave the message that we shall die rather than to give in. The picture of 20 open graves was published in the daily "Mashriq" the next day.

Then came the PPP government and ministers and officials. They said they wanted to negotiate and end all this matter in a calm way. Many workers had been arrested by that time. Usman said that he was confused to go for negotiations or not. Workers were asking him not to go, that they would arrest him and torture him severely. They might even kill him.

He went on, but for him it was the start of a new government of the PPP and any of his actions at this time could give them the excuse of turning away from the pro-workers' programme.

Negotiations took place between Usman Baloch and PPP minister for Labour affairs Sattar Gabol, who was elected from Lyari, the hometown of Usman Baloch.

Gabol knew very little about the problems of labour. During the negotiations whenever Usman raised a new issue, he asked to go to the toilet. He asked Gabol if he was having some serious kidney problem. At a certain moment when he went to the toilet, a waiter came to serve tea. He told Usman in Balochi, as in front of other government officials he couldn't speak openly, that a pimp of the bosses was sitting in another room who was advising Gabol in these negotiations. That man was actually a famous Maoist leader of that era.

Usman asked the minister that the PPP should fulfil its promise of socialism or they would continue their struggle. He demanded electricity, roads, water, sewerage and other facilities for the residents of the Pathan colony and all the other workers' shanty towns. Gabol assured him that all demands would be met and the protest was ended. But the reformists couldn't fulfil any promises and it was a manoeuvre to dissipate the struggle.

This incident had a deep impact on the workers of Landhi, the SITE area and also on the workers of Hyderabad, Multan, Lahore and other places. The next day all trade union leaders accused Usman for his adventurism and opportunism. PPP leaders called him a communist, while Stalinists called him a stooge of the PPP.

A meeting was called by leaders of the official PNFTU (Pakistan National Federation of Trade Unions) in which Usman was accused of working against the cause of workers. PNFTU was actually against Bhutto before that meeting. But after that incident a meeting took place in Karachi between all the labour leaders and Bhutto in which they settled down on an agreement and decided to co-operate with each other.

They told Bhutto that, "We are with you but you should talk to Usman". Bhutto then threatened Usman and asked him to calm down or face dire consequences.

That was the end of a long relationship between Usman Baloch and Bhutto.

When Bhutto resigned from Ayub's cabinet he wanted to become a mass leader. He usually took tips from those who already had roots in the working class and were popular amongst the masses. He also had close relations with the workers of the Pathan colony, Frontier colony and workers of the SITE area. Bhutto always used to get tips from Usman for getting support of the workers of Karachi.

Usman told Bhutto to go to Lyari and have lunch at a small workers' cafeteria, and after having lunch go to a nearby Paan (Beetle leaf) and cigarette stall of Azeem Bhai and ask for Paan. When you take out your wallet and Azeem Bhai tells you, "Are Bhutto Saaab tu apna bhai hai, tere se paisa nahin le ga", (Mr. Bhutto you are like my brother, I will not take money from you) then it would mean you have succeeded in winning the workers support. If he accepts payment from you it means you failed to get it.

The next day Bhutto went to Lyari's dusty streets in his car. He had lunch with workers in that shabby cafeteria and then went to Azeem Bhai's kiosk. Bhutto had a very interesting chat with him and talked warmly with him. When he tried to pay for Paan and cigarettes, Azeem Bhai told him, "Forget it, you are my brother". This was the first time Bhutto got his footing in Lyari, which to this day is a stronghold of the PPP.

Workers often went to see movies at weekends in groups of 20 to 30. Usman advised to Bhutto to come at the main gate of Capri cinema when the show ended and pretend that he was just passing by. Usman told him that he would come to him with his friends and that he would have a large gathering there.

The next evening Bhutto just came at the time of the end of the show at the front gate of Capri Cinema where a popular English film was being screened. Usman as a routine had 30 or so worker friends with him who had come to watch the movie. When he saw Bhutto, he loudly asked his friends, "Oh look, Bhutto is here, let's meet him". They all went towards him and all the crowd that had come to watch the movie gathered around Bhutto.

Usman Baloch to this day believes that socialism is the only way out of this misery of capitalism.

Dr. Mubashar Hasan (Lahore)

Dr. Mubashar Hasan, an engineer by profession, was one of the founders of the Pakistan Peoples Party. The founding convention of the PPP was held at the lawns of his residence on the main boulevard, Gulberg, Lahore. Hardly any of the participants of the convention had imagined what the historical significance of this founding of a new party would be. This party was to become the largest ever political tradition of the masses in the history of Pakistan in such a short span of time. In the 41 years since then, not much has changed of Dr. Mubashar Hasan's house. The furniture, the structure and even the Volkswagen beetle of those times are still very much there in their original posture. There is hardly any other house of the period along the Gulberg's main boulevard that has not been brought down and replaced by high-rise commercial plaza's and the prices of land have shot up to astronomical levels, yet it is a feat in itself that Dr. Mubashar has been able to retain this house in its original form and shape. In a wide-ranging discussion with the author on the events of four decades ago at his house, Dr. Mubashar gave his first-hand experiences of the 1968-69 revolution.

The gleam in his eyes was portraying the enthusiasm and nostalgia of those revolutionary memories. He explained that the founding documents and resolutions of the PPP founding convention had been worked on for more than a year. The railway strike of Jan-Feb 1967 had given a new impetus and hope to the revolutionary left and most of the activists who felt suffocated and blocked by the Stalinist leaders were looking for an alternative revolutionary way out. These underlying currents led to the formation of the PPP and its socialist founding programme.

Dr. Mubashar gave details of how the founding document was formulated. It was mainly compiled from three papers written by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Jalal uddin Akbar Rahim and Dr. Mubashar Hasan himself. Bhutto wrote mainly on the need of building a new party and the socio-economic and political crisis in Pakistan. Rahim wrote on the necessity of socialism and transformation of society. Mubashar wrote the detailed economic policies concerning health, education and infrastructure envisaged from a socialist perspective. According to Dr. Mubashar in all the sessions of the convention there were no religious rituals allowed, which used to be and still is the usual practice in Pakistani politics.

He also asserted that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was elected as the founding chairman of PPP, was more against the capitalists than the feudal landlords. This was of significance because the traditional left supported the nascent bourgeoisie while Bhutto and the PPP came clearly against capitalism and called for a socialist alternative to the bourgeois regime and system.

However, it was clear from Dr. Mubashar's discussion that although most of the participants in the 1967 founding convention had little or no in depth understanding of scientific socialism and Marxist philosophy and economy, still there was enormous enthusiasm for socialism in that historical convention. The convention was held under the rule of the hostile Ayub dictatorship and lot of hurdles were created by the administration such as denying any proper hall or meeting place where such political events were traditionally held. Hence the only choice remaining was Dr. Mubashar's house. The convention was held in a semi-clandestine manner. The main reason was that the regime was so obtuse that it didn't imagine the impact of this new party on the events that erupted in the next few months. Ayub Khan himself undermined the importance of this convention at the time. In his diary he wrote:

"From official press reports it is said that Mr. Bhutto has held a two-day convention in Lahore to launch his so-called People's Party. Reports further said that it was a tame and childish affair. His major attempt is to misuse the student community, a dangerous game. But we are watching his activities. He will be dealt with in no uncertain fashion if he crosses the limit." 2

Dr. Mubashar raised another important point in the discussion i.e. that even after the abdication of Ayub Khan from power the movement did not wither away as is generally presumed. The movement had a decisive impact on the elections of 1970, which were held mainly to divert the movement on to the electoral plane from the revolutionary path it was treading upon. In the months preceding the elections, the PPP was rapidly expanding. In Lahore, which had a much smaller population than today, 450 branches of the party grew up within weeks of the outbreak of the revolution. Certainly these were not the branches of a Bolshevik party as the rapidity of the expansion and the intense activities of the revolutionary upsurge did not allow much time for the education, organisational development and ideological preparations of the cadres and the party. Hence it was more of a loose formation. It lacked an ideological homogeneity, the structures and democratic centralist methods of a Leninist organisation. They were neither well-defined nor practised nor was the leadership prepared and expected such a rapid change in the situation. The enthusiasm for socialism was enormous but it lacked the in depth understanding of the ideology and the strategy of the revolution that could achieve this goal.

Dr. Mubashar's view was that the branches of the PPP in Lahore were actually a form of soviets that had taken up a number of tasks to run society. They chalked out the different centres of crime, gambling dens, etc. in their respective localities and formed committees to keep the social order. This was actually a situation of dual power, where the State had a superficial presence, but in reality these Peoples Party branches were having control from below. According to Dr. Mubashar at least in Lahore it was so where he was the main leader of the party. These committees also drew up lists of different thugs and criminal gangsters and used the mass collectives to stop their crime and violence. The mullahs had very little or no social influence in the committees at the time. These committees were having even a greater control and command in the workers' quarters and the shantytowns of Lahore. The growth of these committees on the one hand defied the repression of police and the State forces while they maintained order and supplies of essential services and needs to the masses. These same committees later on became the main electoral machines that not only made the PPP victorious but also ensured the most non-controversial electoral result ever in Pakistan. This election led to the defeats of the politicians who were considered invincible and even surprised many workers and middle class candidates of the PPP who won in those elections. Bhutto had public meetings with hundreds of thousands of people who came from far off places just to listen to his speeches that were becoming increasingly revolutionary in content.

Dr. Mubashar Hasan was himself a candidate from the North East Lahore National Assembly constituency, where 92 percent of the electorate was the proletariat, mainly the railway workers and their families.

The PPP branches ensured a massive victory for Dr. Mubashar, who secured a huge 87,000 votes. The Jamat-i-Islami was second with 15,000 votes while the Stalinists could manage only 4000 votes from perhaps Pakistan's most dense proletarian constituency. Dr. Mubashar got the highest votes in the country and he was the stalwart of a Party that was calling for a socialist revolution as the only solution to the problems confronted by the workers and peasants of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.


In Pukhtoonkhwa still officially named as NWFP (North West Frontier Province) from the times of British colonialism, the wave of the 1968-69 revolution was as severe as anywhere else. Comrade Zakir Hussain was a school going boy when the revolution broke out in 1968. He was deeply affected and radicalised by mass upheaval at a tender age. In the next few years he became the leader of the students and youth wing of the Communist Party of Pakistan in Pukhtoonkhwa. In his discussions with the author, he explained how the students in Peshawar, Mardan and other main cities and towns of Pukhtoonkhwa took part in those events.

The initial spark came from the students in the universities, colleges and schools as had happened elsewhere in the country. But soon the freshly emerging proletariat had struck. There were strikes and occupations in several industries. The main factories where the workers were in the forefront of the movement were sugar mills in Mardan, Bannu Mills, Colony Textile mills in Nowshera, Charsadda paper and sugar mills, silk processing factories in Swat, several industries in Peshawar, Malakand and other industrial units in the province. In early 1972 there was a police strike that was so complete that it shocked the state. An important organ of the state in such a sensitive province had dared to revolt against the law. The lawyers of various district bar associations, doctors, engineers and several other sections of the society were in revolt.

The peasants' movement in Pukhtoonkhwa (late 1960s until early 70s) was a natural outcome of the historical events in the process of a class upsurge. The movement was necessarily a part of the 1968-69 revolution. Factors behind this movement were development in content of the society, dictating an entirely new form and social relations with capitalist modes being introduced into the old system. This was breaking the intransigent cells of feudalism. There were widespread brutalities of the landowners on the peasantry and a widespread explosion of class contradictions. The movement though could not empower the peasants and it too fell prey to the counter-revolutionary manoeuvres, yet it brought some fundamental changes in the very structure of the society. It was successful in breaking control of the feudals to exclude other segments of society to own land. It also succeeded in abolishing Beegaar (forced labour without any wage). It proved a success in eliminating the ancient curse of bonded labour. The primitive forms of social subjugation of the peasantry were dismantled and it brought some relief from drudgery to the lives of the poor peasants.

In the subcontinent British colonialists, during their colonial occupation, operated through an installed feudal hierarchy. The shift of imperialism from colonialism to neo-colonialism yielded a new breed of bourgeoisie the comprador bourgeoisie, which was reactionary in its character as a requisite of the assignments, allocated by their imperialist masters to them.

Areas of Pukhtoonkhwa that were under feudal productive relations experienced a lengthy wave of feudal cruelties. In the event of surplus production and historical developments, business currents brought a change in the state of affairs and a change occurred in the psyche of status-quo among the working peasantry. Just like the revolutionary upsurge in all other classes of Pakistan, the peasantry of Pukhtoonkhwa also went into struggle. Had it been channelled on a scientific basis, the revolutionary zeal of the peasantry could indeed have been led into the channels of a revolutionary change. The subjective factor was missing. The movement did succeed in creating new, smaller ownership of land. But this eventually created a column of new landowners (kulaks) in the superstructure, rather than revolutionary change in the foundations of the agrarian society.

The movement included peasantry from rural areas of Pukhtoonkhwa. The connection with the urban industrial labour class and even middle classes was confined to a few rural areas. The class structure in rural Pukhtoonkhwa consisted of four main classes i) landowners ii) peasants iii) agricultural labourers and iv) lease-holders of land. The leaders of the movement had narrowed its base only in the peasants as its objectives remained confined to the interests of the peasantry and the programme was exclusive of the demands of other oppressed rural and urban classes.

Eventually these clashes of interests deepened the schism within the movement and none of the allied classes including the rural working classes (mainly agricultural workers), could be integrated in the mainstream movement. The diversity of interests among these naturally allied classes expanded and minimum room was left for a unity, isolating the peasants. This isolation of the peasantry resulted in a very limited geographical expansion of the movement. The movement could expand to Charsadda, Malakand, and some portion of Swat and Rustam area of Mardan. The limited geographical range of the movement and a limited class inclusion caused another indictment to it; the reactionary forces dubbed it as a feud between local tribes. In Hastnaghar (Charsadda), for example, it was named as a fight between Ahmadzai and Mohmand tribes, in Malakand between Yousafzai and Roghani tribes and in Mardan between Yousafzai and Mohmand tribes. Hence the movement could not integrate itself to other revolutionary upsurges raging in the country.

The peasants' movement of Pukhtoonkhwa, although not triumphant yet, brought a series of positive changes. It was one of the landmarks in the revolutionary process of 1968-69 and an inspiration for the future revolutionary movements of the working classes of the region.

In spite of all the drawbacks, the conflicts were fierce and bloody clashes took place between the peasant movement and landlords. In Malakand district a landlord Mukaram Khan and the peasant leader Mullah Mohammad Sadiq were killed in a clash. In Hasht Nagar a big landlord Vava Khan was defeated, his landed estates were besieged by the peasants and he was forced to retreat. Similarly in Dir and Swat owners of hundreds of acres of the land, known as 'Khans' had their landed estates taken over by the peasant movement.

MUNNOO BHAI (Rawalpindi)

Munnoo Bhai, a noted columnist and a famous playwright, was the Secretary General of Rawalpindi press club in 1968-69. He has been writing columns in mainstream newspapers on a daily basis for 55 years. He had organized many protest activities against the regime. He wrote his famous play 'Jaloos' (Procession) inspired by a sit-in by the girl students of Rawalpindi in front of the entrance of the Rawalpindi cantonment. They wanted to cross Nala Lai bridge and go inside the military cantonment area but police stopped them. They did a sit-in on the road for 6 hours when at last Nusrat Bhutto, wife of Z. A. Bhutto, came there and led the girls into the cantonment area.

While Munnoo Bhai was organising a public meeting of the PFUJ in Liaqat Bagh, the information minister Gen. Sher Ali approached him and tried to bribe him by giving 10,000 rupees. He returned this money with thanks. On this he was transferred to Multan.

While recollecting memories of the 1968-69 revolution he was enthused and told the author that there were hundreds of thousands of people on Mall road in Lahore every other day, men wearing red turbans and women wearing red dupattas (shawls). Nobody here had seen so many red turbans and flags before that.

He recalled his memory of a public meeting in Ichra Lahore in which Jamat-i-Islami head Maulana Modoudi held bread in his one hand and the Holy Koran in his other and asked the people, "Do you want Roti (bread) or Koran?" The people replied, "We have the Koran in our homes, but we don't have bread".

After Bhutto's assassination, Munno Bhai met Nusrat Bhutto for an interview for the Daily "Musawat". She told him that when she met Bhutto the last time in his death cell in Rawalpindi Bhutto had asked her, "Why is the party not doing anything for me? I have done so much for the masses and the party." On this Nusrat replied, "Zulfiqar, you haven't left a Bolshevik Party outside so how do you expect them that they will do anything for you?"

In another interesting anecdote Munnoo Bhai told the author that he was travelling by car on GT road from Lahore to Jhelum with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto during the election campaign in the summer of 1970. Mustafa Khar (later Governor of Punjab) was driving and Hanif Ramay (later chief minister of Punjab) was sitting on the back seat with Munnoo Bhai. When they reached the town of Gujrat there was a procession of shirtless workers from the local factories that stopped Bhutto's motorcade and asked him to give a speech. Some were lying down on the hot tarmac and blocked further movement. Bhutto was reluctant as they were already late for the public meeting in Jhelum. Sensing the delicate situation Khar persuaded Bhutto to come out and say a few words. Bhutto gave a fiery revolutionary speech and thrilled the procession. When he came back into the car and motorcade speed off towards Jhelum, the naked chest workers were shouting slogans of "Socialism! Socialism!" and were beating their wrists on the bonnet of the car. When they passed them, after a few minutes Bhutto turned back from the front seat and addressing Ramay and Munnoo Bhai said, "We may not mean it but they really mean it!"


One of the main leaders of the movement of the 1960's, especially amongst students was Mairaj Muhammad Khan.

He was a symbolic figure of struggle for the youth in the Ayub era. He told the author in a recent discussion that he was a small drop in that storm, but a drop that loved dancing on thorns!

In this discussion he narrated some important events of his life. He is an old man now having serious problems with his lungs and cannot talk much and participate in activities. When he came in his sitting room for the discussion he was breathing heavily and was having a severe cough. His sitting room is decorated with his large pictures addressing public gatherings of hundreds of thousands in several big cities of Pakistan.

At the end of discussion he told us that when he came for the interview he was thinking to finish it within 15 minutes. But when he started recollecting his memories on the momentous events of the revolution of 1968-69 he got so charged that he went on speaking for five hours.

He was a young boy studying in High School when he came to Karachi from a small city of Quetta. He loved to play football but also had some oratory skills. In his college there was a debating competition in which students from all the colleges of Karachi were participating. With his eloquent style and powerful language he won that competition.

Some activists of the Communist Party were sitting in the audience, who asked him to join the Party. After that his discussions with the communists began and thus started his thrilling journey on the road to revolutionary politics.

Mairaj Muhammad Khan turned NSF into a militant student's political organisation that campaigned for the rights of students. In the elections of students' unions in 1957 NSF won in 90% of the colleges and universities in Karachi. Its stronghold was Dow Medical College and DJ Science colleges.

Other main student leaders in Karachi were Hussain Naqi, Fatehyab Ali Khan, Khurram Mirza, Nafees Siddiqui, Ali Mukhtar Rizvi, Amir Haider Kazmi, Syed Saeed Hassan, Agha Jaffer,Wahid Bashir, Nawaz Butt, Johar Hassan and Ali Yawar.

Mairaj Mohammad Khan remained president of NSF until 1967 and was later replaced by Rasheed Hassan Khan (student of Dow Medical College Karachi) in a council session held in Lahore in 1970.

Mairaj then went into mainstream politics and by the instructions of the party leadership joined PPP after it had become a mass political force and Bhutto had emerged as a mass leader.

In the 1970 election campaign Mairaj was nominated by Bhutto as his candidate from Lalu Khait Karachi. He was very popular among the ordinary people of that area. During the Ayub regime he was often chased by the police to arrest him and used to take sanctuary in this area. He told the author that when he was chased by police he ran into the streets of Lalu Khait and suddenly would enter any home whose door was open. To the people inside that home he introduced himself and would say, "I am Mairaj Muhammad Khan and police is chasing me". They gave him enormous respect and showed him the back door to run away. When police came to that house, those men and women were maltreated and tortured for harbouring Mairaj. But they never told them where he had gone.

He was tipped to win elections with a big margin from that area. But the Communist Party leader met him while he was in prison and asked him to return Bhutto's ticket and announce a boycott of the elections. Mairaj said that he was really surprised at this decision. However, he told them that though he didn't agree with them he would abide by the party discipline. Bhutto then nominated an ordinary man for this seat that lost to the Jamat-i-Islami candidate by a small margin of 5,000 votes.

Mairaj Muhammad Khan was made a minister without portfolio in Bhutto's first cabinet but both NSF and Mairaj fell out with the Bhutto government in 1973 when Bhutto started to compromise on his so-called Socialist agenda and the regime resorted to repressive measures.

In later years due to his differences with Bhutto, Mairaj left the PPP. He formed Qaumi Mohaz-e-Azadi and his own faction of NSF. And a once flamboyant student leader like Miraj fell into political isolation, never to regain his political credibility and popularity.

On recollecting the memories of the incident in which two NSF students were killed by police on 7 November 1968 and that sparked the 1968-69 movement, Mairaj Muhammad Khan was very emotional.

He said that actually they were planning to take special measures to intensify the resistance movement in Punjab. However, even Mairaj was not expecting that this police killing of students would unleash a revolution of such gigantic proportions.

PERVAIZ MALIK (Campbellpur now Attock)

Comrade Pervaiz Malik was a young student and activist of NSF during the 1968-69 revolution in Campbellpur now Attock. In an interview with the author he recollects his memories of that revolutionary period.

In 1968 when Ayub decided to celebrate his "Decade of Development", NSF decided to condemn it and announced it as "Decade of Decadence" and decided to organize a 'week of demands'.

After the incident of 7 November, there was a mass eruption of revolt. There was not a single city, town or village where the masses had not poured onto the streets to condemn the Ayub regime and yearned for a change of the system. The masses were not only protesting but were challenging the existing relations of production. They were not paying their rents of the houses and shops and passengers were not paying bus and railway fares.

A students' action committee was formed at Rawalpindi Division, which was organising students of the whole division. When the leader of this action committee, Sheikh Abdul Rasheed from the Govt. Degree College union, was arrested, a shutter down and wheel jam strike was observed in the whole division. BBC radio presented a report on it saying that after the strike the whole area was paralysed.

NSF was formed in Campbellpur during the same period and an organising committee was set up. A district body was elected later in the District convention. Before the departure of Ayub Khan all the political prisoners booked under DPR (Defence of Pakistan Rules) were released. Four central leaders of NSF from Karachi were released from Campbellpur prison. They got a huge welcome and were brought to a public meeting in a huge rally. These leaders addressed the public gathering in which thousands of people had participated.

Pervaiz Malik remembered the names of three of them, Shehryar Mirza, Munir Uzair Saud and Kanwar Qutub ud din. The fourth was a student leader from Baloch Students Organisation (BSO). They thanked the people and students for this huge reception in that area which was totally unexpected for them.

Three of these student leaders went back while Shehryar Mirza stayed on in Campbellpur until the departure of Ayub Khan. During his stay he went to various public gatherings and meetings in Rawalpindi Division and gave revolutionary speeches. They also took advantage of the presence of Shehryar Mirza and made NSF very active in their area. This was the only organisation which had an office in the city that was also shared by the PPP.

They also met the leaders of Democratic Action Committee DAC at the residence of Mahmood Hassan Minto. In this meeting Nawabzada Nasrullah, Maulvi Fareed Ahmed, Ch. Muhammad Ali and other such leaders of the right wing were present. When Maulvi Fareed Ahmed tried to introduce Mirza to other people as a mass leader Mirza obstructed him and said, "What I am today is because of my organisation and ideas and in organisations personalities are not important". Mirza presented the demands of students to them and then walked out from there. On his way back Mirza told Pervaiz Malik and others that, "These reactionary beasts are trying to secure the State and the system, we should not have any links with them. Their interests are antagonistic from those of workers. If there had been a revolutionary organisation today in the country then this revolutionary situation could have brought a socialist revolution in Pakistan".

After the abdication of Ayub Khan the power was handed over to Yahya. The movement did pause but then continued again.

An important incident took place in Nowshehra College in Pushtoonkhwa. Police entered the College and opened fire on protesting students, which resulted in the death of Zahir Naqvi, an activist of NSF who was a resident of Campbellpur city. Perhaps this incident took place in October 1969. This killing caused a mass uprising in the city and huge rallies and demonstrations took place. Police used tear gas to disperse people but the masses kept on moving and at the end police had to run away.

On the Chehlum (40th day after death) of Zaheer Naqvi a big public meeting was held in which hundreds of students from Nowshehra College participated. Police again cordoned the meeting. Some guest students were arrested. All the participants of the meeting marched to the police station, which forced the administration to release the arrested students.


According to the veteran Manzoor Razi the railway workers' leader, Mirza Ibrahim (1905-1999) pioneered the trade union movement in Pakistan. When Mirza Ibrahim passed away on 11 August 1999, at the age of 94, he had spent almost a quarter of his life behind bars, besides having lived the horrors of the notorious torture cell at the Lahore Fort.

In 1924, Mirza Ibrahim moved to Rawalpindi and found employment as a brick kiln worker. Briefly, he also worked as a gardener at a British household. Finally, in 1926, he was employed at the railway workshops at Jhelum. It was this job at the railways that became his lifetime identity. His metamorphosis, however, occurred when he was posted to Lahore in 1930. Lahore was an important political and cultural centre even during the colonial era. Here he came in contact with the trade union movement and left-wing activists.

At that time there were two unions in Railways. One was North Western Railways (NWR) whose president was British, J. B. Mills, a Railway Guard, while the General Secretary of that union was M. A. Khan.

The other union, United Union, which was a pocket union led by Chaudhary Muhammad Din. Mirza joined NWR and was elected its president in workshops.

He later joined the Communist Party of India, became active in the trade union movement and was consequently elected as vice president of the Railways Federation. At the time, the federation's president was V V Giri, who was later to become the President of India. Jyoti Basu, the long-time communist chief minister of West Bengal, was also active at that time in trade union activities under Ibrahim's leadership.

The year 1946 was a revolutionary year in India. At the end of World War II, the government wanted to fire railway workers in their hundreds of thousands on the plea that with the end of the war their services were not required any more. On May 1, railway workers went on strike under the leadership of Mirza Ibrahim, who in those days was the president of the North-Western Railway Workers Union.

On 1 May 1946 after a huge public meeting from 7 a.m. in the morning to 11 a.m. the wheel was jammed and the trains ceased to move. On 27 June 1946 the call for a strike was issued at 12 o'clock midnight. Many associated unions of the Federation detached themselves from the strike but Mirza intervened and formed a Strike Committee. 96,000 workers voted in favour of the strike. Mirza Ibrahim was offered Rs. 10 million and a job as Assistant Works Manager in the Workshop if he dissociated himself from strike. But he refused.

The government had to bow before the striking workers. The strike action not merely helped save their jobs, they won a twenty-rupees rise in their salaries.

Due to this activity Mirza Ibrahim lost his job 5 months before the partition in 1947. He was doing a job of water man at the time.

After the partition of India in 1947, he became active in establishing the Pakistan Trade Union Federation (PTUF). The PTUF was affiliated with the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP), and stalwarts like the famous poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and C R Aslam were advised by the CPP to help the PTUF in organising industrial workers. However, it was Mirza Ibrahim whom the PTUF elected as its president. Although Faiz's presence in PTUF ranks was symbolic, he was elected as vice president of the Federation. In 1951, he was implicated in the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case and was tortured in the notorious Lahore Fort.

Manzoor Razi, a veteran of the struggle of the sixties, described the Railway strike of 1967 at Karachi Railway Station to the author.

The Karachi railways installations had become a hub of revolutionary resilience of the workers. Red flags and revolutionary banners were hoisted on the top of the Railway station, workshops, locomotives and main gates of the railway premises. Marx and Lenin were studied and discussed in the study circles of the striking workers. The state had failed to intervene. There was a complete wheel jam and a revolutionary spirit was felt all around.

Manzoor Razi was a loyal lieutenant of Mirza Ibrahim and he spoke forty years later that how the two stage theory was responsible for the decline of such great militant workers' leaders in the electoral process of 1970s.

Mirza Ibrahim contested the elections in 1970, but this time his legendary role did not attract the voters amid the Bhutto bandwagon. The railway activists lobbied with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) to nominate him as PPP candidate and it would have materialised, but Mirza did not want to contest elections from the PPP platform. Mainly because he professed the ideology of two stages and the PPP was at least verbally calling for a socialist revolution.

PROF. MOHD. YAHYA (Dera Ismail Khan)

The 1968-69 revolution reverberated in some of the most primitive regions of the country. In an interview with the author one of the veterans of this movement, Prof. Yahya from Dera Ismail Khan, narrated the events that unfolded around 1968-69 to the author.

In the D.I. Khan Region NSF and a local organisation "Dehqan Qalam" (peasant's pen) was campaigning for the awareness of class struggle amongst the masses. Before Bhutto came here comrade Shaista Baloch, Hameed Khakwani and comrade Haqnawaz Gandapur had participated in the founding convention of PPP at Lahore, in 1967.

Before Bhutto the left tradition of D.I. Khan goes back to Madan Mohan Malvia, a comrade of Bhagat Singh. When he was being arrested he killed many and then himself in protest against Gandhi's non-violence to kill the revolutionary currents in the National Liberation struggle. Another comrade was Sarfraz, who was apparently in Congress but was a great admirer of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Many hurdles were created for sabotaging Bhutto's visit to D.I Khan. Leaders of the Convention Muslim League brought twelve buses of hoodlums to disperse the crowd. A big banner was hoisted on which was written, "Coward Bhutto Go back!" However, more than a dozen founding workers of the PPP were working day and night for his reception. They had erected welcoming gates from the stems of banana trees and were hoisting party flags, writing basic PPP slogans on the walls of the city.

When hooligans started tearing the banners of the PPP these few workers fought with them in the main Bazar. This was a fight between two classes one group was representing the feudals, while the other represented peasants and workers. At last at the instructions of Haqnawaz Gandapur people lied down in front of the twelve buses to stop them from disrupting the meeting. Workers were fighting with sticks but in the end the whole Bazar was shut down.

On 31 October 1968 Bhutto was to address a mass gathering in Haqnawaz Park (then Jalal Park). Muhammad Nawaz Advocate had invited him to address the Bar while a workers' convention was arranged on 1 November.

The hooligans brought to disrupt the convention were forced to flee as the workers and peasants in a rising tide of revolutionary fervour came out with a vengeance against these intruders of the ruling classes. The masses were in a rage and at the moment when Revenue Minister Sarwar Khan of Patiala passed through D.I. Khan he was forced by the masses to salute the flag of the PPP. However, one tactic of the opponents was successful; Jalal Park, where the public meeting was taking place, was littered with water and garbage.

Deputy Commissioner of the area Sajjad Hussain was instructed to make all efforts to sabotage this political meeting, whereas on the other side the masses were desperately waiting to hear a leader proclaiming socialist change. Thousands of people gathered on a circular road with an anguish of how the battle would end up. When Bhutto saw that it was not possible to hold a public meeting at the declared venue, he took the procession towards the main Bazaar. Bhutto climbed over a shop into the Shahani Manzil, the property of Shahni Family of Bhakkar. Their gatekeepers tried to stop him but failed. The pictures of this speech are still on record. Bhutto along with his delegation and Shaista Baloch were in the Balcony of Shahani Manzil, which has now become a market. Haqnawaz was holding his gun below like a guerrilla warrior.

Bhutto spoke for only 70 seconds after which the police attacked the rally to disrupt it. Yet these 70 seconds brought a big change in D.I. Khan. In his short speech he said,

"Do you get flour here, do you get cooking oil?", and the masses replied "No!" He said, "Today sugar is dearer. The poor can't live a proper life. The PPP will give you all necessities of life. The PPP will give you bread, clothing and shelter through socialism". 3

After that the police started to attack the crowd. Eyewitnesses reported that it was a barbaric baton charge that tried to disperse the meeting. For the first time in this city tear gas was fired and the violence spread all over the city. The masses were still present there in thousands, and after that the police started firing on the crowd. Many people were injured. Prof. Yahya himself had walked many miles to attend this historic meeting.

Bhutto went even to small towns and villages to arouse mass support. He visited Kulachi, Tank, Galoti and other places near D. I. Khan.

Ayub Khan once said that, "A spark started from a small city and the fire spread across the whole country." By this he meant the battle of D.I. Khan between the Convention Muslim League and the PPP. Before that a student was killed in Rawalpindi. The whole country was resounding with the slogan "Asia is red".

Haq Nawaz Gandapur was a zealous revolutionary and an inspiration for the movement. He was the founding member of the PPP and had attended the Hala convention at Makhdoom Talib ul Maula's place in Sindh. Haq Nawaz was a socialist at heart and from the early stages of his life he had struggled against the feudal tribal chiefs.

When feudals started to enter the PPP he was angry with Bhutto and restored his own peasant party and went on to Mount Suleman, a hilltop at 12000 ft, along with nearly two dozen people. They held study circles there and cooked their own food in big utensils. These utensils are still present there in which food is cooked everyday in the memory of Gandapur and people get free meals from there. However, Gandapur returned to the PPP in 1969.

Gandapur took out a rally every Friday with socialist slogans written on banners. They used to block the main crossing in D. I. Khan and hold public meetings. The participants of the rally were mostly poor peasants of the area. The main speakers used to be Farouq Shaista, Safdar Bukhari, Zardad and Gandapur himself.

After Bhutto's visit, the PPP started to get a large following in the area. The die-hard workers went from home to home to discuss with people. They were being invited by people every day. The movement was growing and D. I. Khan was resounding with the slogans of socialism. Many feudals also joined the PPP to save their skin.

Haq Nawaz was the provincial and central leader of the Party. He kept an onion and a piece of bread with him for food and went from one village to another to raise revolutionary ideas in the hearts of people. He gave lectures against capitalism and feudal tyranny and people kept on joining the PPP in large numbers. His lectures were always attended by a large audience.

He was arrested for burning a fundamentalist bastion, which was being used to train fanatics that often attacked PPP workers and youth, but after a 14 day hunger strike, the government had to release him along with his comrades. He became a popular leader and all the feudal lords of the area feared him. They thought Haq Nawaz would destroy them. On the night of 25 August 1970 he was coming back after attending a socialist study circle at the village Budh when some people killed him. The regime claimed that he was struck by lightning on that stormy night.

This was a great shock for the poor people of the area and the entire city remained closed for three days. Even the shops of eatables and medicines remained closed. At his funeral thousands of people came to attend the last rituals of a martyr of the revolution. Bhutto came the day after his funeral and went to his grave. Some people tried to spread rumours that he was killed by lightning but the original story, which his son Tufail Gandapur told Prof. Yahya, was that he was killed by the goons of local feudals.

On the second death anniversary of Haq Nawaz Gandapur, Bhutto built the Gomal University in the backward region of D.I. Khan.

The Park where Bhutto couldn't hold a public meeting during his first visit was named after Haq Nawaz Gandapur Park. This became the place of revolutionary public meetings.

Sohna Khan Baloch had a tea stall in the main bazaar of D. I. Khan at that time. If any mullah came there to have tea he would pass comments on him and then praised socialism. He made the environment of his tea stall always political and also linked their personal problems with the system of exploitation. For example if the rent of his place was increased, he would say it is because the owner of his shop is a Mullah and would add that Bhutto will nationalize his small hotel. Kalu Khan Maniari was in the same condition. He was a progressive person and had a shop. He propagated socialist ideas amongst people at a grass-roots level. His subject was always the latest statement of Bhutto in the newspapers. His son Buland Iqbal later joined the NSF and was very active.

Those days Miraj Muhammad Khan was at the peak of his popularity. An NSF office was established in Phatia Bazaar near the post office. This office was established by a person named Qamar Iqbal who had a romance with the slogans of "Asia is red". "Musawat" (Equality) and the socialist magazine "Nusrat" (Victory) could be found in this office. Comrades like Sheen Aadil, Yunas Thaeem, Daood Khan, Buland Iqbal, Tasleem Feroz, Salah ud din Gandapur and many other trade unionists used to come to this place.

These people always took out a rally on May Day with red flags and at a main crossing of the city held a public meeting saluting the martyrs of Chicago. They demanded better wages and living conditions for workers. Many of them were arrested later on for their agitation activities and were sentenced to seven years.

The events in the D.I. Khan region show that the idea of a socialist change had inspired the masses in the most primitive areas of Pakistan.


Shahid Nadeem is a playwright, a theatre and television director producer, a left-wing intellectual and a political activist in his own right. He is one of the stalwarts in reviving progressive theatre in Pakistan. His anti-establishment plays exhibiting class struggle on the television since the late 1980s have been extremely popular amongst the masses. He was recently sacked as Deputy Managing Director of PTV, the national state television network, by a right wing boss installed by the Zardari regime. In the contribution to this work he narrated his experiences, which are quoted below.

"I graduated from Government College in 1967 and joined Punjab University for my Masters in Applied Psychology. GC was housed in a magnificent Gothic building and was famous for its educational records, sports, debates and discipline. GC students were not supposed to indulge in politics or get involved in agitation or street protest. I was among the students who cheered General Ayub Khan when he visited GC to inaugurate its Centenary celebrations.

"The Punjab University New Campus was another world. It was a social and cultural island as well. It was open, liberal and somehow the monitoring agencies appeared less overbearing. The much larger presence of girl students was both a distraction and source of inspiration. The lawns around the cafeteria and the path along the canal were ideally suited for romantic rendezvous. Students came from varied social classes, ranging from the urban elite to village students from remote parts of the country, from dare-devil car-driving spoilt brats of top industrialists or feudal families to burqa-clad timid but hard-working females. There was space and demand for Marxists study circles and tablighi preaching circles. Alcohol was easily available, poetry was rampant and heated ideological debates were well attended. The students were passionate, committed, eager to express themselves and hoped for a better tomorrow. It was a melting pot of ideas and cultures.

"I found the atmosphere very inspiring and mind-opening. I started becoming politically and socially aware and got interested in taking part in the process of change. Some of us set up a discussion group "Nae log" (The New People) where we read stories, poems, essays and had serious political discussions. I read my first short story at this forum. It was at the "Nae Log" meetings that we got introduced to some left-wing teachers and some socialist intellectuals who frequently visited the campus. They were an important influence on some of the uninitiated students like me who were ready for radicalization but needed a catalyst. Prominent among them were Aziz-ul-Haq, Aziz-ud-Din, Khalid Mahmood and Anis Alam.

"That was the time when we realised that the Punjab University was without a students' union. The Union had been banned by General Ayub Khan's government some years ago and had been replaced by indirectly elected societies. This was a miniature version of the basic democracy system introduced by the General at the national level. Some of my friends and I felt cheated and insulted for being deprived of freely electing a representative to an empowered students' body. The existing political wings of political parties had meekly accepted the banning of the union and there was no platform from where a campaign for the restoration of the union could be launched.

"Punjab University was being ruled by an autocratic Vice-Chancellor, Hameed Ahmad Khan, who was a mirror image of Ayub Khan. He was a very powerful VC and believed in very strict old-fashioned policy of discipline through fear and tight control. Teachers and students dreaded his wrath. The Students Affairs department had become the intelligence and punishment arm of the management and kept a close watch on the students' activities. No one dared to talk about the union. I initiated dialogue with some self-proclaimed revolutionaries. They were not interested and found revival of the union meaningless. I did not give up and talked to apparently non-political non-serious friends. I found a couple of volunteers there.

"We set up a clandestine Students Union Revival Committee and started distributing pamphlets and sticking hand-made posters. The most dramatic incident was at the exhibition at the Psychology Department. The VC had come to inaugurate the exhibition. When he went back he had a bundle of "Revive the Union" handbills in his pocket, which I had inserted when he was keenly examining the psychological instruments at my stall. When the VC emptied his pocket at home, he hit the roof. The Head of the Applied Psychology Department was summoned and taken to task. He was told, "You have only seven boys in your department and you can't even control them". Like most psychologists, the Applied Psychology Head, Dr Ghulam Jilani, was a nutcase himself. He almost had a nervous breakdown.

"The union revival movement was now getting off the ground. We were able to organize small demonstrations in the campus, raise slogans and have emotional speeches challenging the dictator ruling the University and the dictator ruling the country. Students from different departments were slowly joining the protests. Even some left-wing activists had also seen the light.

"In the meantime elections for the societies announced. Like the BD elections in the country, the societies elections were indirect. Department representatives were to elect office-bearers of the societies who then would have elected an ad-hoc Committee. We had long discussions whether we should contest the societies elections or boycott them. Contesting would legitimise the process, boycotting could isolate the pro-union elements. I was for contesting on the grounds that if we succeeded in capturing a majority, we could expose the sham process and announce our support for the union. I was confident that our candidates would win. Finally, my position was endorsed. We contested elections on a pro-union platform and won most of the seats. Soon after the elections, we announced our support for the restoration of the union. A majority of the society presidents announced their support for my candidature as Convenor of the ad-hoc Committee. But before the elections could be held, momentous events took place in the country.

"It was October 1968. The Fortress Stadium was the venue for week-long celebrations of the achievements of the Ayub dictatorship. Every day there were parades, exhibitions, and demonstrations paying tribute to the great dictator. Like many other institutions, Punjab University was instructed to provide a certain number of students to fill the stadium. Every day a number of departments were asked to send the students to the stadium. We had secretly prepared a song, not praising but condemning the dictator and what we called "The Decade of Sadness". We were seated in the Brigadiers Enclosure along with senior army officers and bureaucrats. When the parade started and the announcer began praising the great saviour, we began singing the song that was an adaptation of a famous film song. The opening verse was, "We have suffered the Ten Years of Sadness. We have lost, not one, my friend." The red faces of the army officers and bureaucrats were a sight worth seeing. They were shocked, embarrassed, and angry. They could have eaten us alive. But we were young students, boys and girls and every one was watching. Dr Jilani received another hammering and had more fits of nervousness. He confessed to one of my class-fellows that "I have nightmares, I see him in my dreams". We were reading about dreams in our clinical psychology class and had a great time in analysing the Head's dreams.

"Our little protest movement for the restoration of the union was now taking on the form of a campaign for restoration of democracy. These were exciting and radical times all over the world. National liberation movements were gaining momentum. The anti-Vietnam war movement had caught the fancy of young peace campaigners. Radical students in the US, UK, France and Germany had shaken capitalist society. The dream of a world revolution seemed possible. We regularly followed the events in Europe and the clashes between students and the police. Another source of strength was the students' agitation in East Pakistan that was gaining strength. We regarded East Pakistani students as politically more mature and organized and admired their struggle.

"Another force that was gaining ground was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the young charismatic populist leader from Sindh. After leaving Ayub Khan's cabinet and forming his Pakistan Peoples Party, Z.A. Bhutto had adopted a quasi-socialist stance and had boldly challenged Ayub Khan's all-pervasive rule. Many among us admired Bhutto: he was young, charismatic, bold and left-leaning. I was one such youngster. The first article I ever published was about Bhutto, titled "The Desert Flower". When Bhutto arrived in Lahore by train after resigning from Ayub's cabinet, I was at the Lahore Railway Station to witness the historic and hysterical reception.

"Then came November. The death of Rawalpindi Polytechnic student, Abdul Hameed, provoked protests, first in Rawalpindi, then in Lahore and Karachi. As if the youth of Pakistan was waiting for an incident like that. Ten years of dictatorship, controlled democracy, persecution of political workers, widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, alienation of the smaller provinces and denial of freedoms for the youth had made the students ready for a remarkable political movement. We at the new campus were already warmed up because of the union revival and anti-decade of development activities. The Rawalpindi killing was the turning point. We decided to call for a march from New Campus to the Old Campus in the city, a distance of more than six kilometres, and were surprised by the response. A couple of hundred boys and girls, all charged up, waving flags and placards, willing to walk all the way to the Old campus. The march was joined by students from FC College and some other colleges on the way. It took us over four hours to reach the Old Campus in the heart of the city. The march was well-organised and peaceful. This was the first New to Old campus march which was followed by many during the movement.

"We were now connected to the students from city colleges like MAO College, Islamia College, Dyal Singh College. We would start from the New Campus and march on the Canal Bank Road, turning on Upper Mall and reaching the Charing Cross or Regal Square. There we would be joined by students from other colleges. The area between Charing Cross and Regal would be taken over by the students. The smooth flow of traffic and orderly march by the protesters became the students' responsibility. I myself acted as traffic warden a few times. Controlling the flow of the traffic, making cars stop or go with a gesture of my hands was a strange and uplifting experience. I still remember that feeling of power standing on the box and telling the cars, scooters when to stop and when to move.

"We were also establishing contacts with student leadership in Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Karachi and Quetta. Rawalpindi students, who were in the forefront in the beginning, were losing steam. They were not ideologically motivated or politically mature. But Karachi and Peshawar students were seasoned and organized and had political support. The East Pakistani student leadership was in a different league. They were fired by the nationalist and political ideals and had massive public appeal. We were inspired by them, overawed in fact. But there was a strong sense of solidarity with them. Whenever there was a severe police crackdown on East Pakistani students, students were arrested or killed, we would organize solidarity rallies and loudly expressed our support for them.

"In West Pakistan Bhutto was becoming a national hero, leading the movement from the front. His Islamic Socialism slogan had become quite popular, especially among the youth. It provided a reasonable and safe compromise and did not force a choice between Islam and Socialism. Bhutto adopted a populist style that was a mixture of revolutionary rhetoric and 'desi' (local) bravado, and the masses loved it. He displayed a loud disdain for the rulers, made fun of them, mimicked them, insulted them, abused them and the crowds would go wild.

"Bhutto's visit to Lahore gave a big boost to the movement. It was still a students' dominated movement but now pro-PPP students were playing a prominent part in it. Student leaders from established colleges were more prominent in making speeches, issuing statements, holding press conferences and holding talks with the authorities. But when it came to showing street muscle, confronting the police, playing hide and seek with the plain-clothes policemen, breaking the shop window glasses, the PPP youth were unbeatable. Their ability to withstand police beatings and tear gas was astonishing. It was only a matter of time before student supporters of other political parties also got interested in a movement they had called bourgeois. Now you could see party flags and political banners along with the non-party banners for an end to dictatorship and students' demands. The regular student leaders who had initiated the movement felt that political youth were hijacking "their" movement and giving it a party political colour. Initially students' demos and party demos were separate and had distinctly different characters. Soon this distinction began to disappear or appear irrelevant. One uniting factor was the indiscriminate police brutalities and arrests perpetrated on both types of protesters.

"I had been elected General Secretary of the Inter-Collegiate Body which comprised of elected student bodies of the city and hence could claim to be the authentic democratic voice of Lahore students. ICB formulated students' and minimum political demands and gave calls to students to wage struggle on that agenda. For a while ICB maintained its identity and clout but the movement was growing very rapidly. More sections of society were joining. More political parties were getting involved. NAP (Bhashani) and NAP (Wali Khan), Socialist Party, Mazdoor Kissan Party and Awami League had all come out. The National Students Federation and Nationalist Students Organization were actively participating. Trade union and other workers organizations had joined the movement. It was now looking unrealistic or even foolish to insist on a "students only" movement.

"By now police were looking for me and I was learning to dodge them. I would suddenly appear in a big demo, make my speech and then under the cover of a group, disappear in the narrow streets of Lahore. It was fun but there was always fear of arrest and what happens afterwards. But I could not stop. The momentum of the movement, the expectations of others, the excitement of challenging a dictator was irresistible. Finally the arrest came. It was February 1969. I had gone into hiding knowing that I was wanted. But the administration had gone berserk by then. They raided my house in the middle of night in commando style. They entered my room through windows and back doors and turned the room upside down. They took my father into custody and on their way out beat up the son of our neighbours who had come out to see what was going on. When I learned that my father had been taken to the police station, I obviously had no choice but to turn myself in. I was received at the Civil Lines Police Station by an anxious DSP, Asghar Khan alias Halaku Khan. He asked me to sit on a stool and turned the table lamp on my face. "Who are yours associates?" he asked pacing up and down moving his stick menacingly. I was bewildered of course. "Who are associated?" he fired the next question. I almost laughed at the grimness and contrived menace with which he uttered these lines. "He must have seen too many suspense thrillers" I thought. But Halaku was well-prepared.

"At the end he had given the formula for a Molotov Cocktail bomb, which had been quite popular among the student radicals in France and Germany. "This book belongs to you!". He kept pacing and grilling me in a dramatic style but failed to get a confession out of me that I was Trotskyite revolutionary who was planning to bomb installations and had a secret network of comrades. Finally, he let me go to my solitary cell. I spent a couple of nights in the cell, which was totally empty. No bed, no blanket in the freezing February night. Even the windows and the door had iron bars only. There wasn't even a piece of paper except a piece of newspaper that had been used to wrap something. I spent most of the night in the attached toilet, which was warmer in spite of the unbearable stench. Imprisonment was a watershed for me, another bridge crossed, another fear overcome. We were released on bail on High Court orders after a few days but I was a changed person. The PPP 'jialas' (activists) who looked at the softy students leaders who were afraid of being beaten up by the police or arrested or throwing stones at the police and the shops, were now willing to give me a chance. I came up to their expectations when I joined them in invading the Punjab Secretariat of the Government. The GC-educated debater was now acting like a firebrand radical.

"The change was not just in appearance and radical postures, there was a more meaningful change taking place, an ideological change. I had moved to the left in terms of my world view, my political beliefs. I had seen the glimpses of the proletarian power, the strength of the masses. By the end of February the workers had started pouring into the city, taking over the control of the Mall and the main city locations. Squares and roads where we, the students, had ruled, were now under control. The workers were followed by the peasants and farmers in early March. It was not happening in Lahore only. All over Pakistan, people had arisen. Massive demonstrations were taking place everywhere, in towns big and small. Clashes with the police were taking place as a matter of routine. Thousands were arrested, including most opposition political leaders who had risen from the Elective Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO) graves (dug by Ayub Khan) and were arrested. Ayub Khan tried round-table talks with the opposition but it was too late. The flood waves of the peoples movement were unstoppable. In end March General Ayub Khan resigned but true to his military mindset, abdicated in favour of General Yahya Khan.

"I, like many student leaders, had by now become convinced that change of the general was no solution; what we needed was a change of system, a democratic, just system, a socialist system. Soon the people became disillusioned with the Yahya regime and protests started. I was now a member of the left-wing NSF and Young Peoples Front, a small leftist group formed by Dr Aziz-ul-Haq. Bhutto and Bengali left-wing leader Bhashani were leading the challenge against the right-dominated Yahya regime. Jamat-i-Islami, encouraged by Yahya's Information Minister Sher Ali, decided that the leftists were their main adversaries and military rulers were their allies. In East Pakistan, Awami League and NAP were riding the popular wave and Jamat was collaborating with the military government to check their march.

"However, at least one of our key demands was met. The Punjab University Union was restored and the elections called. But very soon it became apparent that the Yahya regime wanted to hoist Islami Jamiat-i-Talba (The student wing of Jamat-i-Islami) on the University. When we protested at the rigged, manipulated elections, we were arrested again. This time we were tried by a summary military court. We challenged the court and bravely faced the trial. This time I spent a couple of months in prison. We were now a part of the left-wing popular movement for a democratic change. The time I spent in prison gave me a rare chance to meet political activists, hardened criminals and the poor hapless prisoners. It was like an internship after my University degree in political activism. Some of my prison mates became characters in my plays and the prison governance system gave me invaluable insight into the political and social system in the country. When I was released, I was even more determined to work for the revolutionary cause. I almost went straight to the legendary Toba Tek Singh conference of peasants and workers, a convention of red-capped workers, passionate students, fiery trade unionists, and socialist intellectuals, all committed to the cause of a revolutionary change.

"October 1968-March 1969 was a historic period. It was the first Pakistani peoples movement against a dictator, it was the first and last movement started and initially led by the students. The movement was essentially popular and left-wing and the right-wing forces remained inactive or active only in name during the movement. This movement radicalised a whole generation of students who later played an important part in shaping the future of Pakistani politics. Some of them are still in leadership roles in mainstream political parties. Others made valuable contributions in cultural, academic and literary fields. As artists, writers, poets, journalists, thinkers, political activists, trade unionists, they still carry the spirit of 1968 with them. The revolution we dreamed of never came. In fact there were major setbacks to the cause of world revolution. But 1968 changed our lives, it was indeed a revolution for me and many of my comrades and in our own ways, we are still carrying the flag."

JAM SAQI (Hyderabad)

Comrade Jam Saqi is one of the most renowned veteran leaders of the left in the Indian subcontinent. He was the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) at the end of the 1980s and early 90s. He was incarcerated by almost every regime, especially the military dictatorships. He spent eight long years in prison during the despotic rule of Gen. Zia ul Haq. Now a member of the IMT (International Marxist Tendency), he has been a household name in Sindh's leftist politics. He is an eyewitness and an active participant in the movement of 1968-69, which shook the roots of Ayub Khan's regime and the capitalist system in Pakistan. Comrade Jam Saqi was an active student leader then. He shared his experiences of the movement with the author.

On March 4, 1967 a movement of the workers, peasants, students and other oppressed sections of society started in Sindh. Jam Saqi was one of the main organisers and leaders of that movement. The demands were for the overthrow of the dictatorship and radical social and economic changes in society.

Comrade Jam Saqi recalls that he was a student leader in the days when the movement broke out. They visited different colleges and universities mobilising students and youth for the movement. He says that students and workers went on strike even if they were called for it in a simple press release in newspapers.

When the movement broke out, he was Secretary of the Communist Party of Pakistan's Provincial Committee for Sindh. The central leadership of CPP made a Talba-Mazdoor-Kissan-Rabta Committee (Students-Workers-Peasants-Coordinating Committee) to support each other's work and co-ordinate the struggles of different groups. The Sindh Hari (landless peasants) Committee founded by Hyder Bux Jatoi was giving them support.

Bhutto was already in politics, but he was not popular until the movement had surged. The movement gave him popularity because he came with the slogan of socialism. In return, the revolutionary fervour of the masses radicalised Bhutto more and more to the left.

Jam recalls that the movement gave such an impetus to the masses that policemen and army men dared not to degrade even a poor and helpless person in those days as was their routine before.

Jam Saqi said that the trade union of the workers of Pakistan Railways was one of the biggest and influential ones. In fact, the strike of Railways' workers in 1967 was one of the events that he still remembers in detail. It was a famous strike.

Another influential trade union was that of WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority) workers. These two trade unions along with some others shook the roots of capitalist system and the state.

He remembers an event that when workers of Pakistan Railways were on strike, authorities tried to defeat the strike by forcefully running the trains. The workers at Rohri Station laid themselves on the railway track to block the railway traffic. Such was the ferment and courage in those times.

Sections of WAPDA and Railways workers were in support of the then CPP, but their trade unions didn't follow the discipline of the party. Only one trade union federation belonged to the CPP, and it was APTO (All Pakistan Trade Union Organisation).

On 14 February 1969 the alliance of Pakistan's right and left wing political parties DAC (Democratic Action Committee) called a strike. The Communist Party also decided that it would participate in the strike, and would struggle for participation of the working class in this strike. Two leaders of the CPP, Shamim Wasti (a famous trade union leader) and Dr. Aizaz Nazeer were sent to attend the meeting of DAC. There, they didn't put the suggestion of the participation of industrial workers' in strike. Thus, trade unions of workers called for strike on a different date. Had there been participation of industrial workers it would have become another successful general strike and the CPP could have gained wide support and become a force in those moments of mass upheaval.

Comrade Jam Saqi revealed in his discussion that during the movement when he was a student leader state agencies tried to corrupt him by offering bribes of different sorts. He was offered a scholarship in Dhaka University or Peshawar University. On his refusal he was offered the post of Deputy Commissioner if he only appeared in civil service exams. But he rejected all such bribes to corruption.

Comrade Jam Saqi said that in the days of movement, the reactionary forces and religious fundamentalists were in retreat. Seeing the rage of the masses in revolutionary ferment, the mullahs and their political parties like Jamat-i-Islami never dared to confront the left.

The reactionary religious party, the Jamait-i-Islami, had arranged a demonstration in Hyderabad in 1967. It had to march from "Talak Incline" to the "Gari Khata" area of the city. Comrade Jam Saqi along with a few more comrades came to know that they had plans to burn pictures of Jamal Abdul Naseer, the President of Egypt who had crushed the Islamic fundamentalists to stop their neo-fascist attacks on the Egyptian left. Comrade Jam Saqi with his comrades entered the demonstration and marched along with it. In the middle, they warned the Amir (head) of Jamat-i-Islami that if they burnt pictures of Naseer, they would not let them do it, and if necessary they would fight to stop it.

Hearing this, Jamat-i-Islami declined to burn pictures of Naseer. Jam said that although there was a whole procession behind them, the Mullahs did not dare to do such an act, in spite of the fact that he was with only ten comrades. It was because they knew that these student comrades were popular with the masses and if they would oppose them, people could interfere and come in support of the comrades.

Comrade Jam Saqi now thinks that the main weaknesses of the leadership of the Communist Party of Pakistan and the Left in 1968-69 was its ideological position of the two stage theory. Due to this they failed to understand the socialist character of the movement. Hence, the movement was taken over by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. The CPP and its leaders thought the movement was a mere reaction against Ayub Khan's regime, and was not a threat to the system. Though they actively participated in the movement, but they failed to give a clear programme in accordance to its character, which was socialist in nature. This was a sheer blunder of the CPP leadership in Pakistan.

Bhutto tried to win several communists into the PPP, including Jam Saqi at that time. Bhutto had again offered Jam Saqi and Sobho Gyan Chandani party tickets in elections but they declined his offer.

Comrade Jam Saqi concluded on this note:

"The CPP couldn't understand the importance of the movement. Had they understood the theory of permanent revolution and prepared revolutionary cadres and youth, the CPP would have built a mass support rapidly and led the revolution and achieve a socialist victory in Pakistan. It was because of the Stalinist doctrine that they failed at this crucial juncture in Pakistan's history."


Khawar Naeem Hashmi is a famous film journalist and bureau chief of Geo Television in Lahore. He played a leading role in the struggle against the Zia dictatorship. He was flogged publicly in Lahore by the military junta on 13 May 1978. His only crime was to demand freedom of expression.

He was a 10th class student in 1968 at the N. D. Islamia high school near Ichra Mor in Lahore. Later on he went to Islamia College Civil lines. During the movement nearly 20 teachers and 50 students were expelled from the Civil Lines College for being socialist and against the Ayub Khan dictatorship. Famous among those teachers were Eric Siprian, Manzoor Hussain and Amin Mughal. These teachers founded their own Shah Hussain College at Lawrence Road. Soon it became the centre of political and ideological discussions and protests in Lahore.

While recollecting the memories of 1968-69, Khawar said that young college and school students were extremely energetic in those days. Membership forms of the People's Party were available for 25 paisa in those days. He told the author that although he was not adult enough to caste his vote he still became a formal member of the People's Party. He zealously participated in protests and strikes along with his schoolmates.

Khawar's father, Naeem Hashmi, was a renowned progressive actor of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. His acting career had started in Bombay before partition, then from 1950s most of his films were made in studios in Lahore.

Being a film critic and historian himself, Khawar also revealed the sharp changes in the cultural environment due to the advent of revolutionary conditions.

Poets, film, TV and radio artists, painters, dancers and musicians, all of them were impressed by the revolutionary upsurge of that time and came out with the best of their talents with creations that became masterpieces of film and arts.

In 1968 more than hundred feature films were released, 64 of them were Urdu films, which is the record number of Urdu films in a single year in the history of Pakistani films.

Prominent writer Riaz Shahid's "Zarqa", released in 1969, became the first ever diamond jubilee film in Pakistan when it crossed 101 weeks in Karachi. This is still the record holder in popularity among all historical films on Palestinian resistance made in Pakistan.

This film was about Palestinian people who were suffering and struggling against Israeli occupation of their homeland. Lyrics of the film were written by famous revolutionary poet Habib Jalib. A famous song by legendary Mehdi Hasan, Raqs zanjeer pehn kar bhi kiya jata hai (One has also to dance wearing chains and fetters), broke all records of popularity.

Regional films were also at their peak with a large number of films being made in Pushto, Sindhi, Bengali and Punjabi. The artists from East Pakistan were actually dominating the film industry in Lahore and were very popular in the whole country.

Not only in films but also in other forms of art this mass revolutionary movement infused a strong inspiration.

Sadequain produced some of his best paintings in those days when he executed giant murals at the Mangla Dam in 1967 and in the Punjab University Library in 1968. He had joined the Progressive Writers and Artists Movement in the 1940s.

Bashir Mirza was also portraying his emotions stirred by the upheavals in society with pen and ink. In the '65 'War Series' he drew a number of 'Screams' directly onto the canvas pouring out his inner turmoil and the devastations of war. Though packing his work with explosive power he also exhibited considerable control over his medium, earning media coverage and raising public interest in fine arts. Another highlight of his artistic career was "Portfolio of Pakistan" produced in 1967. Basically portraits of people of Pakistan from various provinces, these were sketched in pen and ink in a single tone.

Shakir Ali, one of the most remarkable painters in the history of this country inspired cubism at that time amongst the artistes of Lahore.


In an interview in Karachi Kaniz Fatima narrated her story.

She came from a family of renowned trade unionists and Communists. Her father was a veteran member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) who was deputed to work in the Indian National Congress. He served 14 years of imprisonment for his anti-State activities. Her elder brother was also a member of the Communist Party.

Due to her political background she joined the National Awami Party NAP at an early age. Her first public activity was her supportive role in the 1963 movement of workers of Karachi. The strike that started in the Security Printing Press in Karachi in 1963 continued for many days. Due to their compromising role the old leadership was exposed and discredited in this strike and the new leadership had emerged. Kaniz Fatima went there to express solidarity with the families of workers who were on strike for last three months.

She gathered all the women and children of the area and brought them to Regal Chowk (Square) in Karachi to raise Jholi Fund (Money collection tradition by spreading the long shirt to collect donations). Workers' wives and sisters were sitting there in veils carrying their little children. This raised not only enough funds but also sympathies with the people outside the working class area. On the third day when they were collecting funds, the demands of the workers were accepted.

Due to her interest in the trade unions Bhashani on his visit to Karachi asked her to work in his party's trade union bureau. Then she went to the Rasheed Textile Mills and other industries and started gate meetings. She also went to labour colonies and organised study circles. She was arrested many times during the Ayub regime and expelled from the city. In her disputes with industrialists life attempts were made on her many times.

In 1966, she led a large rally of women workers for the rights of labourers working in various industries.

Then the all-powerful Deputy Commissioner of Karachi called her in his office and said that he had all the powers and could destroy her. She replied by throwing a paperweight on his face and said, "I have all the powers". The next day she was expelled from the city and sent to Thatta, where again she organized the workers.

Her main strength was the union of the Karachi Shipyard workers that had a militant character. She also organised the municipal worker of Karachi in KMC (Karachi Municipal Corporation).

She went to East Pakistan, to attend Santosh Conference in which all the left parties gathered to chalk out a new strategy. She was not allowed to leave the premises of Dacca airport by the government officials but the masses who had come there to receive her broke the doors of the airport and took her to attend the conference.

She came back to Karachi in 1967 and was involved in labour activities. Yahya Khan again expelled her from the city in 1969. She was elected president of the Shipyard Union in her absence and when she came back 7,500 workers welcomed her at the Karachi Shipyard. Her role in the 1968-69 movement was not as significant as her stature in the Trade Union movement.

Though she was a leading figure among the workers and had a background of resistance against Ayub, due to the Maoist degeneration of the NAP she was not able to play a leading role. She was vice-president of NAP with Bhashani as President, and they had a pacifist stand against Ayub Khan's regime due to his deep friendship with the Chinese Stalinists.

In this interview with the author, she said that she herself persuaded Bhashani to go to China and broker a deal between Ayub and the Chinese government. "At first Maulana was not ready. He was in Karachi and was very ill. I was taking care of him and along with that persuading him to go to China. At last he agreed and I called Islamabad and told the officials that Maulana is ready. We were very excited". 4

After this meeting with Mao, Bhashani abandoned the agitation against Ayub, and went back into his rather modest boathouse dwelling from which he never came out again. The bourgeois nationalist Mujib ur Rehman and his Awami League got hold of the movement in East Bengal on a platter.

A veteran trade unionist from PIA G.M. Anjum told the author that all the unions were going on strikes against Ayub except the unions led by Maoist parties. An example is the union of PIA led by Tuffail Abbas.

Fatima also cited an incident about the Kissan conference in Toba Tek Singh. She said that, "I was sitting along Maulana Bhashani and Mirza Ibrahim on a cart wheel while going to Toba Tek Singh. A group of young boys came to us holding flags of the PPP and raised slogans, "Bhutto, Bhashani Bhai Bhai", (Bhutto and Bhashani are brothers). This made Maulana very angry. He snatched the flags from those boys and threw them away and said, 'Bhashani cannot become a brother of a feudal and a landlord, I will become brothers of peasants and workers'." 5 This incident shows the zigzags between opportunism and adventurism.

In the 1970 election she contested elections from the platform of NAP and came third while the candidate of Jamat-i-Islami won in that constituency in Karachi.

After losing the elections, Bhashani asked her "if guerrilla war is possible in Karachi. I replied, 'no, it's not possible here, maybe in Balochistan and some areas of NWFP'. Bhashani replied that then revolution is not possible here". 6


Ilyas Khan, a revolutionary Marxist from Multan, explains the events of Multan in those revolutionary days.

Multan was also the hub of many revolutionary struggles and protests. In the historic conference of Toba Tek Singh many caravans from adjoining rural areas of Multan participated with hundreds of peasants travelling under the leadership of people like Taj Longah, Rabnawaz Chawan, Nur Muhammad Chohan, Parvez Aftab, Malik Altaf Ali Khokhar and Mahmood Nawaz Khan Babar.

In Multan workers took control of many factories, which included Allah Wasaya Textile mills and Gul Ahmed textile mills. These takeovers were led by Khan Muhammad Nisar, Aziz Niazi, Parvez Aftab and others.

Sheikh Rashid has written in his book 'Jehde Musalsil' (Permanent Struggle) that he convened a meeting of the workers and peasants of Punjab and decided to take over all factories and lands in the province. Bhutto was in Dacca at that time and when he returned he was angry with Rashid on this act and rejected takeovers. In Faislabad Mukhtar Rana and his sister were leading factory occupations.

A party conference by Bhutto was convened in Hala, a city in Sindh, which is an unforgettable event in the history of Pakistan. A debate about the upcoming elections took place in that conference. Some left leaning leaders were demanding revolution, a destiny of the party instead of elections (Inqilaab ya Intikhab). They raised the slogan Barchi ya Parchi (ballot or spear). However, due to the strong hold of right-wing leaders it was decided to go for elections.

The capitulation of some of the PPP left leaders to Bhutto's personality also led to this policy of degeneration.


Karamat Ali is a veteran trade unionist, a muralist, pioneer of the Indo Pakistan people's initiative for peace and an active participant of the1968-69 revolutionary movement. He was one of the first proclaimed Trotskyist in Pakistan. In an interview with the author he narrated his reminisces of those heady days. He is the founding director of PILER (Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research).

"The 1968-69 movement against the decade old dictatorship of General Ayub Khan was perhaps the greatest mass mobilisation in the history of Pakistan. It was unique in that it was initiated by the students and later energised and sustained, for almost six long months, by an unprecedented participation of labour.

Given the nature of its movers, the social and political content of the movement had a clear stamp of the working classes from the very beginning. Its demands and slogans were unambiguous expressions of the aspirations of the workers, peasants and the lower middle classes- for a life of dignity, social justice and equality, and freedom for all. These were often stated in very direct demands for establishing a socialist order in the country.

The movement began in the first week of October 1968 when the NSF (National Students Federation) decided to observe a Demands Week in Karachi. The NSF in those days was the most significant left oriented students organisation. Even though it had split into two factions known as Mairaj group and Kazmi group, in 1966. This split was in fact a manifestation of the deep fissures that had occurred in the left movement consequent to the Sino- Soviet rivalry in the communist movement across the globe. However this particular split materialized soon after the Tashkent Declaration was signed between Indian and Pakistani leadership in the aftermath of their war of September 1965. Since the deal was brokered by the Soviet leadership the supporters of Maoist Peking had to oppose it. In the event Mairaj group happened to be pro-Peking and the other one pro-Moscow in orientation.

Meanwhile Ayub Khan's foreign minister Z.A. Bhutto had openly opposed the Tashkent accord and was thrown out by his erstwhile mentor. Bhutto defiantly went public against the accord and the Ayub government and eventually formed his own political party-PPP, with the help of radical student leaders like Mairaj Mohammad Khan and some trade union activists as well as some radical professionals among others. Bhutto put out a radical programme of economic reforms couched in socialist rhetoric coupled with extremely jingoistic anti-Indianism, and managed to attract large number of especially pro-Peking student and labour activists.

Despite these divisions the left remained the largest influence over the labour and student organisations in Pakistan. In this backdrop the NSF gave out the call for a Demands Week, in response to the so-called Decade of Development celebrations of the Ayub Government.

A graduate student and a member of the NSF Mairaj group (by now known as Rasheed Group) I was at the time studying at the Jinnah College Nazimabad in Karachi, where the NSF had won the student union elections that year. Our college had some of the finest cadres of the NSF. There was Ziaullah, the president of the student union, Mumtaz Mehkri the great agitator of those times and of course Baseer Naveed to name a few.

On the first day of the demands week, we came to know of a seminar, to eulogise Ayub Khan for his achievements in the field of education, was being held at the auditorium of the Board of Secondary and Intermediate Education just opposite our college. The students marched into the building and disrupted the seminar. A procession then left for Burns Road where a large complex of colleges was situated and was traditionally a site of student protests. On the way large numbers of school and college students joined in and by the time it reached D.J.College the numbers had swelled to thousands. This was beyond all expectations of the organisers and set the tone for the days and months to come. The next six days saw protest rallies emerging from every nook and corner of the city. Schools and colleges remained shut. The demands week caused a big stir all around among all sections of the society in and beyond Karachi across the length and breadth of West Pakistan. There was hardly any direct contact among student between the two wings of Pakistan at that stage. After the demands week contacts were established with students and labour groups across the country. Thus the basis was created for a country wide movement culminating in the resignation of Ayub Khan and the imposition of a new Martial law by General Yahya Khan on 25 March 1969.

This great mobilisation did not happen in isolation. It was indeed part of a process that began with student and labour protests, mainly in Karachi, since early 1960s. The more important among these were the student protests against communal riots in Jabalpur, India, the movement against 3-year Degree course proposal (1961) when a group of 12 most prominent student leaders were expelled from Karachi and subsequently from every other city they went to, till they landed at Multan and were able to mobilise students of Emerson College in their support. A fiery speech by the late Ali Mukhtar Rizvi so deeply motivated the audience that it decided to go on an indefinite strike, which eventually forced the Multan administration to allow the Karachi leaders to stay in Multan for as long as they wished to. I happened to be a first year student at the college and came to know about the student movement through that interaction and forged linkages with the leadership which was picked up upon my shift to Karachi in 1963. I joined the NSF in 1964.

Similarly there were regular upsurges of labour during these years. The collapse of the state-sponsored, anti-communist trade union confederation APCOL, in 1962, paved the way for the formation of various independent unions as well as the emergence of numerous progressive labour leaders with close linkages with the shop floor as well the student community. Thus the individual unit based mobilisation of workers in 1962 led to the great struggle of Textile workers in March 1963. The strike by Railway workers in 1967 was an important milestone leading to the great upheavals of 1968-69. When the workers took over control of numerous large-scale Textile mills and other factories and forced the employers and the state to accept their longstanding demands.

Since the banning of the Communist Party in 1954, the left groups had to work mainly underground or within mainstream political parties. This coupled with continuing state oppression imposed severe constraints on them. However it must be recognised that they still managed to organise and radicalise both the labour and the student movement in the country. As observed earlier it soon managed to divide and fragment itself with concomitant negative impacts on the movements. However their greatest weakness lay in their incapacity to provide intellectual leadership.

The pro-Moscow and the pro-Peking factions both were almost blindly and slavishly following the ideological and strategic formulations devised by the Soviet and the Chinese leaderships respectively. In fact their perspectives were shaped more by the foreign policy imperatives of the two adversarial "Socialist" states, than by an informed analysis of the society and the state.

They were so completely sectarian in dealing with each other at all levels. There was no room for debate and discussion at inter or intra party level. While the Maoists were content with memorising and holding the Red Book close to their chests, the Revisionists were religiously parroting the tracts coming out of the CPSU's publishing house. Both of them actively prevented their cadres from even touching a book published in the perceived rival's press!

Similarly their relationship with Pakistan Government and the State were determined by its current relationship with Moscow or Peking respectively. In the late 1960s the Ayub government had become increasingly alienated from its patrons in the west specially the U.S. and was per force leaning towards China and to lesser extent the Soviet Union. The leadership in the left groups was quick to find shades of anti-imperialism in the government which should therefore not be opposed. Its brazenly capitalist, repressive and anti-people character not withstanding!

Thus the 1968 student and later the labour movement began without the blessings of the left leadership, even though it was being led by their own cadres. So for example the NSF launched the Demands Week at the behest of its former president Mairaj Mohammad Khan , as his party the PPP was keen on such agitation, while the top leadership of the Maoist party namely Tufail Abbas and others were yet undecided even openly sceptical about its advisability and success. On the other hand most of the Maoists found a natural affinity with Bhutto in his opposition to Tashkent accord as it had been brokered by the Soviets. Conversely the pro Moscow groups developed a soft corner for the Ayub regime for signing the accord in Tashkent!

Thus when the 1968 movement erupted both the leaderships were taken by surprise. One very important leader of the pro- Moscow faction, Mr. Anis Hashmi summoned me to his house one October evening and gave me a long lecture about we people were being foolish in opposing the Ayub regime, as due to his closeness to the socialist camp the American CIA was determined to hound him out of power! I asked him if there was no substance in popular grievances against the regime? His answer was, 'Imperialism must be opposed above everything else'!

The left leadership was evidently unable to grasp the pulse of the masses and their true aspirations. They therefore failed to take the initiative and benefit from this great opportunity to advance the cause of the teeming millions. This situation allowed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to monopolise the gains to the extent of West Pakistan. He expanded his organisational base as well as his mass support. He then very effectively converted and consolidated these gains in the form of his party's outstanding performance in the 1970 elections.

The initiators of the movement, on the other hand, failed miserably at all levels.

When General Yahya Khan imposed another martial law on 25 March 1969, there was no protest at all, as though the sole objective was to get rid of Ayub Khan!

In the post March-1969 period there were attempts and expanding organisation and the outreach of the NSF. A membership drive in Karachi alone enlisted over ten thousand members. However the Party leadership refused to allow an election through secret ballot to elect its leadership and insisted that the party must nominate leadership of all front organisations including students and labour!

When the general elections were scheduled to be held in December 1970, the pro-Peking group came up with a ridiculous slogan-"Parchi Naheen Barchhi" (Spear, not Ballot) and announced a boycott of those contesting the election! Even Mairaj Mohammad Khan did not contest. Such ideological bankruptcy resulted in the loss of a big opportunity of sending close to 50 socialists/workers to the Parliament.

To sum up, despite the avoidable failures on the part of left leadership, the movement itself was a great emancipatory experience for thousand upon thousands of student and labour activists as well as for ordinary people who participated in it or witnessed it from close quarters."

The 1968-69 Revolution was a watershed in the history of not just Pakistan but the whole subcontinent. Never had the revolutionary torrents lashed throughout a country with such ferocity in the post-partition period in South Asia. There was a classical situation of dual power for several months in Pakistan. Power had flowed down from the state and the grasp of the ruling class. In the streets, factories, towns, villages the masses had an intense feeling of that power. In spite of the fact that the revolution could not attain a socialist victory and overthrow of the rotten system, it changed the mass psychology in society. All methods of bourgeoisie rule, their ethics, morals, deceptions, mullahs, intellectuals, the media and structures were virtually smashed by the eruption of this mass revolt. It will go down in the annals of history as the greatest event of the hitherto history of the toiling masses of Pakistan. It set an example for the future generation that their ancestors had endeavoured to challenge the existing system and through this revolution they had brought the State and the ruling class to their knees. It was done here but will be repeated on a much higher plane, and this time it will not remain unfinished.

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1 Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Foreign languages press, Peking 1978, p. 9-10

2 Ayub Khan, Ayub Khan Diaries 1966-1972, Saturday, 2 December 1967, (Oxford), p.181

3 Interview with the author, June 2008

4 Interview with the author, July 2008

5 Ibid

6 Ibid