Monday September 27, 2021

Kerala to Karachi: the travails of B M Kutty - Part III

September 08, 2019

We continue with our discussion of B M Kutty’s life that we initiated last week. In the previous column published on September 2, 2019, we highlighted his early years in Pakistan and some important events that took place in the first four years of the country as recounted by Kutty in his autobiography tilted ‘60 years in self-exile: No regrets’.

Kutty recalls that in Balochistan, troubles started right from the beginning. Kalat and its sub-states Makran, Kharan, and Lasbela had been involved in a controversial merger with Pakistan and Baloch nationalists kept resisting the merger.

This resistance has continued in one form or another till today. On April 12, 1952, Pakistan’s ministry of states and frontier regions (Safron) announced that the states of Kalat, Makran, Lasbela, and Kharan had agreed to form a union with a united legislative assembly and judiciary. The announcement also declared that the rulers of the four states had, with mutual consensus, received an approval or endorsement from the government of Pakistan. According to this agreement the union of the states of Balochistan meant that feudalism would be done away with, and democracy would flourish for the benefit the people of Balochistan.

Kutty wonders how that agreement has failed to end feudalism and how democracy has not been allowed to take roots right from 1952. Kutty also recalls the anti-Ahmadi movement of the early 1950s and how it engulfed Punjab. The chief minister of Punjab, Mian Mumtaz Daultana, was eyeing the seat of the prime minister and blamed Nazimuddin for the unrest in the province. Many observers believed that Daultana himself was fanning the flames. The civil administration of Punjab had been paralyzed and the battle for power had created a crisis. Both the central and Punjab governments were victims of opportunism resulting in the first martial law in Lahore.

Kutty quotes Justice Munir’s book ‘From Jinnah to Zia’ in which he presents questions and answers with Maulana Maudoodi. This exchange is worth reproducing here: “Question: If we have this form of government in Pakistan (treating non-Muslims as zimmis), will you permit Hindus to have their constitution on the basis of their religion? Answer: Certainly, I should have no objection even if the Muslims of India are treated in that form of government as shudras and malishes and Manu’s laws are applied to them depriving them of all share in the government and the rights of a citizen.” (Page 65 of Justice Munirs’s book).

Another important event that Kutty cites was the dismissal of PM Nazimuddin. Kutty recalls that the government was the target of all sorts of accusations including its inability to control riots in Lahore and an artificial shortage of food grain. Despite all these allegations, Nazimuddin government commanded a majority in the assembly and in March 1953 had its budget passed. However, Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad dismissed Nazimuddin on April 18, 1953. According to Kutty, this misstep of Ghulam Mohammad was unconstitutional and unethical, but the US used it as a springboard to peddle its own influence in Pakistan.

The new prime minister, M A Bogra, had been Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and had a clear tilt towards America. The US immediately announced food aid to Pakistan and then extended the Baghdad Pact and Seato to include Pakistan. In 1954, the Muslim League lost the provincial elections when the Jagtu (united) Front of opposition parties won a landslide victory in East Pakistan. The United Front had not used religion for political purposes as the Muslim League had been doing, and the people of East Pakistan had given their verdict in favour of a more moderate political alliance.

But this victory for progressive forces, as Kutty highlights, was short-lived since the central government of the Muslim League dismissed a popularly elected government and imposed governor’s rule with Maj-Gen Iskandar Mirza as the new governor. With this dismissal, the path was paved for the dissolution of the central Constituent Assembly by Ghulam Mohammad in October 1954. The new government had Iskandar Mirza as interior minister, General Ayub Khan as defence minister, and Chaudhry Muhammad Ali as finance minister. Together with Ghulam Mohammad, they formed a gang of four which was responsible for the ultimate demise of democracy in the country.

Kutty was an eyewitness to the formation of One Unit in West Pakistan and the introduction of the Parity Formula which deprived East Pakistan of its quantitative majority. After a five-year stay in Lahore, Kutty moved back to Karachi in 1955 which was the capital and where a new constitution was being formulated for the country. The new constitution was promulgated in 1956 with a promise that general elections would be held soon. Left-wing activists and leaders in Karachi were preparing for the elections. Kutty remembers Comrade Aslam Butt who was Kaneez Fatima’s brother.

Other comrades included names such as Aziz Ahmed, Nazish Amrohi, Sharaf Ali, Tufail Abbas, Pohu Mal, Saeen Azizullah, Dr Aizaz Nazeer, Sobho Giyanchandani, Ishaq Kashmiri, Khalil Ahmed Tirmazi, Hakeem Ajmali, and Afzal Shirwani. In Karachi, Kutty also came into contact with the Pakistan Socialist Party led by Comrade Mubarak Saghar. In 1954, the government of Pakistan had imposed a ban on the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) and its activists and leaders were either arrested or went underground. Some of them decided to join other left-wing parties. Kutty informs us that the CPP’s central committee was mostly confined to West Pakistan and the comrades in East Pakistan worked independently.

The first central committee of the CPP had Sajjad Zaheer, Mirza Ibrahim, and Muhammad Hussain Ata. Later on, Sibte Hasan, Giyanchandani, C R Aslam, Ferozuddin Mansur, Eric Cyprian, and Shaukat Ali were also included. According to Kutty, when the CPP leadership went underground, in Lahore Zaheer Kaashmiri and Tahira Mazhar Ali had a strong influence. When Sajjad Zaheer left Pakistan after his release, Mirza Ibrahim and Dada Mansur vied for leadership and Mansur was elected general secretary of the CPP in a party conference in Lahore. From Sindh, Giyanchandani, Eric Raheem, and Hasan Nasir also participated.

In Sindh, Jamaluddin Bukhari was the provincial general secretary of the Communist Party, and Pohu Mal took over from Eric as the leader of Karachi committee. In Lahore, Shamim Ashraf Malik and Shaukat Ali also emerged as prominent communist leaders. In 1956, in preparation for the promised elections, many progressive groups joined hands to form the Pakistan National Party (PNP), and communist elements from Punjab and Sindh also came along. The PNP included the Red Shirts from NWFP (now KP), Azad Pakistan Party from Punjab, Sindh Awami Mahaz and Sindh Hari Committee, Wror Pushtoon and Ustman Gul from Balochistan.

Just like the United Front had done in East Pakistan, the PNP in West Pakistan became a strong force of left-wing and progressive politics. Kutty recalls that, apart from the formation of the PNP, another important event of 1956 was the appointment of H S Suhrawardy as the PM of Pakistan thought he did not have majority in the new assembly. Kutty thinks that as PM, Suhrawardy transformed himself into a pro-US politician who could do anything to please the Western powers. Kutty was disappointed in Suhrawardy and calls him “more loyal to the Crown than the king”.

Kutty narrates an interesting episode when Suhrawardy was meeting with his Awami League (AL) activists in the PM House. When Ishaq Kashmiri criticized Suhrawardy for his somersault, the PM shouted, “You comrades should know that now I need Nawabs and Pirs, and you should either support me or leave the party.”

Some right-wing members of the Awami League, supported by the police, occupied the party office and expelled left-wingers such as Afzal Shirwani. Suhrawardy also removed Mahmudul Haq Usmani from the post of party general secretary of AL on December 30, 1956.

To be continued

The writer holds a PhD from the

University of Birmingham, UK and works in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]