Sindh is mourning the death of Bashir Khan Qureshi, the chairman of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM), died of a heart attack on Saturday morning.
Businesses in a number of cities, towns and villages in the province remained closed in mourning of the death of the nationalist leader. In some towns, enraged activists burnt tyres to disrupt traffic; however, the situation was generally calm.
Qureshi was among the more radical elements of the Sindhi nationalist movement.
He was visiting JSQM supporters in Dari Magsi village, Nawabshah district, when he suffered a heart attack. He complained of chest pain and was advised to seek medical attention at the nearby Taluka hospital. He refused, saying that the pain was “because of tiredness and a long journey.” He collapsed shortly afterwards and died while being taken to the hospital.
News of his death quickly spread across Sindh, and hundreds of party activists, friends, family members and leaders gathered at his place of death in Sakrand.
Qureshi was the leader of the JSQM-Qureshi, a nationalist party that came into existence after a split in the Jeay Sindh Tehreek (JST), which struggled after the death of JST founder GM Syed.
Though the most significant aspect of the JST was its propagation of a culture of non-violence, the Jeay Sindh Tehreek ultimately collapsed due to an ideological divide within the party. While some in the party believed that issues should be tackled with political maturity and intellectual honesty, there were others who were in favour of a more radical party manifesto. Qureshi became the leader of the more radical JSQM-Qureshi, while Abdul Wahid Areesar took the leadership of the more politically mature JSQM-Areesar.
Political analysts termed the split in the party a serious setback for the JSQM as a political movement; they believed that the demands of the nationalists could have been expressed in a more balanced way if it was headed by a mature political leadership.
JSQM General Secretary Asif Baladi termed the party leader’s death a conspiracy, and said that the party would not rule out any possibilities until they had received the post-mortem report.
“He was active and healthy and never had any health problems, which is why we have our suspicions about the manner in which he died. It might be conspiracy. We will only know the actual cause of death after the post-mortem report,” he informed The News.
Shah Mohammed Shah, vice president of the Sindh United Party (SUP), observed that Qureshi had always been a committed and loyal worker, who, despite having political differences with SUP chief Jalal Mahmood Shah, had always been respected for his political activism.
According to Shah, Qureshi’s family and the JSQM leadership had initially agreed to hold Qureshi’s funeral in the Sann graveyard, which is the hometown of GM Syed. However, upon a request from his family, it was decided that he would be buried in his hometown of Rotadero.
After the demise of GM Syed, Qureshi became leader of a major group of the Jeay Sindh Tehreek (JST) and convinced people to come out on the roads over the major issues of Sindh. He played an important role in the two of the biggest protest rallies held in Sindh in recent times: the first was a protest against the influx of people to Sindh, who, according to the JST, were illegal immigrants in the province.
The second protest was to stop the construction of the Kalabagh Dam. In the latter protest, hundreds of thousands people blocked the National Highway near Kamon Shaheed. The second rally against the Kalabagh Dam was also attended by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairperson Benazir Bhutto.
Jeay Sindh Mahaz (JSM) leader Hashim Khoso, while recognising Qureshi’s bravery in mobilising the public, said that he introduced the JSQM as the voice of the common man. Khoso said that Qureshi’s stance on political issues was far bolder than that of other nationalist leaders, and that this was the reason for his success in bringing people onto the streets.
Qureshi also started a peace caravan to end tribal conflicts in Sindh. Though this approach inspired the people, some party leaders challenged the initiative on the basis that it would “further strengthen the powers of feudal lords and tribal chieftains, which was not in the interest of the common people living under the tribal system.”
Qureshi was named after the co-founder of the Palestinian Al-Fatah and military commander Abu Jihad. His portraits are displayed on major roads and roundabouts in different cities and towns across Sindh. His bravery has also inspired the youth, a number of whom left their political parties and joined the JSQM under his leadership .
Born on August 10, 1959, to Ghulam Murtaza Qureshi, JSQM leader Bashir Khan Qureshi joined student politics in 1976 while studying at the Agriculture University, Tando Jam. He was unable to complete his education at the university on account of rustication.
Before his speech at the Karachi Freedom Rally on March 23, 2012, Qureshi attended a gathering titled “Political Discourse”, which was attended by isolated political activists, civil society leaders, writers and intellectuals.
Qureshi, who was the key speaker at the gathering, was presented with a volley of questions about the failures and achievements of the nationalist movement in Sindh.