In the fifth part of this series on B M Kutty published yesterday in these pages, we discussed the formation of the NAP provincial governments in Balochistan and the NWFP, and how Kutty became the...
In the fifth part of this series on B M Kutty published yesterday in these pages, we discussed the formation of the NAP provincial governments in Balochistan and the (then) NWFP, and how Kutty became the political secretary of the new governor of Balochistan, G B Bizenjo.
Kutty recalls that the first of May 1972, was a day of celebration in Balochistan as journalists, political activists, labour leaders, and students, all gathered in Liaquat Bagh to make it a memorable day. Popular progressive poet, Habib Jalib, was there to enthral the students of the Balochistan Student Organization (BSO) and Pakhtun Student Federation.
Kutty acknowledges the fact that the NAP activists and the BSO leaders became so enthusiastic that they had started staging protests against the king of Iran who was persecuting the Baloch in his country. Even before the NAP government was sworn in, the portraits of the king of Iran hanging in the Iranian cultural centres and in Irani restaurants were set ablaze in Baloch-majority areas of Karachi and Quetta. Amid this turmoil, Z A Bhutto invited Princess Ashraf Pahlavi of Iran to visit Quetta. Bhutto called Governor Bizenjo and CM Mengal to Islamabad on May 13, 1972.
Bhutto informed them that the princess of Iran would be coming on an official visit to Quetta in the same week. This was a challenge to the NAP government, which they could not decline or refuse to accept. The NAP government was hardly two-weeks old and any untoward incident would be blamed on it. Interestingly, Kutty informs us that there was no proper accommodation even for the governor or the CM in Quetta, and they were staying in bungalows here and there. With the visit of the princess, Bhutto wanted to show to the king that Balochistan was under his control.
Kutty narrates that when Bhutto arrived in Quetta on May 17, 1972, he brought with him the governors of all provinces and the entire federal cabinet with their official entourage. Moreover, almost all senior leaders of the PPP were also asked to come and join him. Bhutto planned to address a public gathering on the second day of the visit. Qayyum Khan came with over 40 mercenaries with him. These armed mercenaries roamed around in Quetta raising slogans against the NAP, resulting in clashes with the local people. They also resorted to aerial firing which killed a local rickshaw driver and injured many.
Qayyum Khan was federal interior minister and nearly all high officials in the police had been recruited or appointed by the federal government. From the time of the One Unit, most bureaucracy had come from the NWFP and Punjab, thanks to the former governor of West Pakistan, Nawab Amir Mohammad Khan of Kalabagh who had ruled from Lahore, the erstwhile capital of West Pakistan. This bureaucracy had developed and was encouraged to display a hostile attitude towards the NAP. That’s how the visit of the princess was marred by infighting.
But the NAP government ordered its activists and BSO leaders to remain vigilant so that Bhutto and the princess could address the public rally. After the visit, the NAP government announced its economic and land reforms and also the elimination of all curbs on the press and the introduction of Urdu as the official language of Balochistan. Kutty narrates that the PPP chief minister of Sindh, Mumtaz Bhutto, was particularly incensed at these reforms. Kutty describes the two chief ministers as being poles apart, and says that Mengal was a highly refined personality who was informal, friendly and always approachable.
The BSO and NAP activists used to come to meet CM Mengal who sat with them in traditional Baloch setting on the carpet, and treated them equally. Discussing Mumtaz Bhutto, Kutty tells us that after the visit of the Iranian princess, Mumtaz Bhutto wrote a letter of protest to Mengal complaining that as Sindh chief minister he was not accorded proper protocol in Quetta. That started a series of acrimonious letters between the two CMs. Mumtaz Bhutto also complained that the government of Balochistan was protecting ‘absconders’ wanted by the Sindh Police.
These included well-respected intellectuals and leaders such as Amanullah Shaikh, Ghulam M Leghari, Jam Saqi, Iqbal Tareen, Rauf Warsi, Sobho Giyanchandani, and others. Quetta had become the only provincial capital in Pakistan where Kutty felt a sense of freedom with a free press and political camaraderie. Whereas the Bhutto government in Sindh had incarcerated dozens of NAP members including Lal Bukhsh Rind, who was severely tortured. When Mengal visited Karachi Central Jail and met these prisoners of conscience, Mumtaz Bhutto complained to Z A Bhutto. Bizenjo, as Balochistan governor, tried to settle the differences between the two CMs – with limited success.
Another interesting event cited by Kutty is Bizenjo’s address at the Soviet Cultural Centre, Friendship House, in Karachi. The USSR was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union, and Bizenjo expressed his dismay at the prolonged dictatorship there. He wondered that, even if it was a proletarian dictatorship why it had not transformed into a popular government. Kutty recalls how the participants of this event were shocked at this candid criticism of the USSR by Bizenjo. Some comrades called it ‘an unscientific’ point of view by Bizenjo. Bizenjo also said that the USSR could mediate between India and Pakistan.
In 1972, Quetta became a hub of progressive politics and intellectual gatherings. The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), Progressive Writers Association (PWA), and many other groups frequently visited Balochistan. Names such as Rehman Hashmi, Dr Muhammad Sarwar (whose daughter is academic and journalist, Beena Sarwar), Dr Adeeb Rizvi, Tipu Sultan, Haroon Ahmad, MA Mahboob, Nabi Ahmad, S P Lodhi, Kaneez Fatima, Mazhar Ali Khan, Shamim Malik, Amin Mughal, Anis Hashmi, Tahira Mazhar, M R Hassan, Ali Amjad, and many others were given full facilities and protocol by Governor Bizenjo and CM Mengal alike. Later on, Lal Bukhsh Rind, Nabi Bakhsh Khoso, and Shiyam Kumar launched daily ‘Azad’.
Ahmad Saleem and Rauf Warsi helped Bizen Bizenjo in the launch of weekly ‘Sangat’. Ghulam M Leghari shifted his magazine, ‘Sachchai’, from Mirpurkhas to Quetta. Kutty is also all praise for Ahmad Nawaz Bugti who was appointed finance minister of Balochistan. Though he was a Nawab and brother of Akbar Bugti, he worked diligently. During that period Kutty observed and appreciated Baloch intellectuals and leaders such as Ata Shad, Abdullah Jan Jamaldini, Niamatullah Gichki, Bizen Bizenjo, Abdul Hai Baloch, Raziq Bugti, and many others. At that time, some projects with Iranian help were also launched in Balochistan such as a textile mill in Uthal.
The mill was left incomplete and was abandoned for decades, before being converted into a university. Another important decision by Governor Bizenjo was the appointment of Prof Karrar Hussain as vice-chancellor of Balochistan University despite initial reservations from Attaullah Mengal who wanted a Baloch as VC. Prof Karrar Hussain had served as principal of Government College Quetta and was much appreciated and respected by students and teachers alike. Prof Hussain refused to stay in a VIP suite and preferred a common accommodation. In an impressive exchange, Bizenjo tells Hussain, “soon I will not be governor but you will always remain a professor”.
Kutty also mentions the Musti Khan family which did some good construction work in Balochistan at that time. In April 1972, an interim constitution was formulated with a presidential form of government, and a constituent committee was also set up. According to Kutty, Mir Bizenjo contributed greatly to the constitution formation especially related to the division of powers between the centre and the provinces.
As a member of the CPP organizing committee Bizenjo also consulted his comrades in this regard, especially with Ajmal Khattak, Jamal Naqvi, and Shamim Ashraf Malik. Mir Bizenjo signed the draft constitution on behalf of the NAP in October 1972, but unfortunately in February 1973, the NAP government was dismissed on the dubious charges of being involved in anti-state activities.
The writer holds a PhD from the
University of Birmingham, UK and works in Islamabad.