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September 9, 2009

Nishtar Park: grounded in political history


September 9, 2009


Nishtar Park, situated at Parsee Colony, off M.A. Jinnah Road, and previously called Patel Park holds a rich history to itself. The present name of the park has been kept after Pakistan Movement stalwart Sardar Abdul Rab Nishtar and it has throughout its history laid the ground for many political movements to emerge from.

“The most important political gathering I witnessed at Nishtar Park was when Combined Opposition Parties (COP), a motley alliance of many opposition parties decided to choose Mohtarama Fatima Jinnah as their presidential candidate in 1964 presidential elections against military dictator Gen. Ayub Khan and organized a massive public meeting at Nishtar Park,” Abdul Hameed Chhapra, a veteran journalist told The News.

“There was no proper lightening arrangement and despite the fact that the park has a capacity of about 40,000 people, more than 100,000 people had gathered when an announcement was made that Ms Jinnah will be opposition candidate in presidential elections,” he said. “Jaamat-e-Islami Amir Maulana Maudoodi was alive then and he was there. Also present was revolutionary poet Habib Jalib who played a pivotal role in Ms Jinnah’s election campaign by reciting his inspiring poems,” he added.

The 1964 presidential elections were held under the notorious Basic Democracy system where only 80,000 BD members were allowed to cast their votes. Although President Ayub won the elections through deceit and demagogy, Fatima Jinnah made a significant dent in military dictatorship and the dictator ultimately had to step down in early 1969 when he announced that he would not participate in the next elections.

“In July 1967 when Mohtarama Fatima Jinnah passed away leaving the entire nation mourning, tens of thousands of people gathered at the Quaid’s Mazaar, opposite Nishtar Park, to bury their leader, but so ferocious was the military regime that it tried to prevent her burial there and hundreds

of people were injured in a ‘lathi charge’ while many were arrested,” Chhapra said.

“Pakistan People’s Party founding chairman Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also addressed a massive rally at Nishtar Park on January 4, 1970 as part of his election campaign,” Chhapra said.

It was Nishtar Park where slain Awami League leader Shaikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman addressed a big public meeting in 1970 and one of the biggest gatherings of Bengalis was witnessed in Karachi city. Similarly National Awami Party leader and one of Pakistan’s greatest peasant leader Maulana Abdul Hameed Khan Bhashani also addressed a big public meeting at this park in 1970.

In 1976 again, Nishtar Park witnessed a massive public meeting under the auspices of Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), a motley alliance of seven opposition parties including National Awami Party and Jaamat-e-Islami that launched a movement against the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

It was again Nishtar Park where Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain held a massive public meeting in 1986 and announced the formation of the Muhajir Qaumi Movement.

Besides these political movements, unfortunately enough, Nishtar Park has also been a witness to bloodshed. On April 11, 2006, a public meeting of Sunni Tehreek was bombed killing at least 50 people, including the top leadership of Sunni Tehreek and injuring more than 100 people.

Nishtar Park also has historical significance with respect to the Muharram congregations that are held here every year. Tens of thousands of mourners gather here to listen to scholarly speeches of Shia scholars and on Moharram 9 and 10 a huge rally begins from the park commemorating the tradegy of Karbala. The rally culminates at Hussaini Iranian, Kharadar.

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