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September 27, 2020

Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan remembered


September 27, 2020

On September 20, 2020 a political alliance in the name of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was formed against the government of PM Imran. At this time we missed Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan who always formed political alliance against military and civil dictatorship.

In 1998, late Nasrullah Khan formed PAI and GDA in which PM Imran Khan, Akbar Bugti, MQM and Asfandyar Wali were also part of the alliance. Moreover, he formed ARD in which two all-time opposite parties were in the one platform. He believed in democracy and was of the view that Pakistan could flourish through real democracy.

We observed his death anniversary on September 26 (Saturday). He breathed his last on September 26, 2003. He was respected even by his political foes. He continued to live in the hearts of people because of his relentless struggle for democracy.

Due to his struggle, General Musharraf compelled to hold 2002 elections. The 2008, 2013 and 2018 elections and transfer of power were the fruits of democracy and were made possible due to the struggle and sacrifices of Nawabzada. Due to his belief in common man rule and democracy, PTI emerged and today Imran Khan became the Prime Minister. He believed that in the 21st century, military rule, direct or indirect, constituted an aberration and was universally unacceptable.

The National Assembly on September29, 2003 paid rich tributes and declared him a great politician who spent his whole life to strengthen democracy since inception of Pakistan. The towering personality would always be remembered as a beacon of light in the history of Pakistan and his struggle for democracy would be on even after his life. The leaders paid tribute and said, “No chapter of our national history could be completed without mentioning him. He was the unique politician of Pakistan. No political activity could have taken place without the presence of NNK and that he was the last political leader of the highest caliber”.

Known for his Hukka, dark Achkan and distinctive cap, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan spent all his life to strengthen the parliamentary democracy. Military dictators feared him more than any opposition leader, mainly because of his uncanny ability to unite diverse parties around the fundamentals of the rule of law and the constitution.

Nawabzada always used to say during the oppressed days of martial laws imposed by Ayub, Zia and Musharraf, “Either there is democracy or there’s no democracy. There’s no third situation”.

I had the honour of staying very close to Nawab Sahib during the last six years of his life, being the Central Secretary Information of three opposition alliances namely Pakistan Awami Ittehad (PAI), Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), being a nominee of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed. I had also travelled with Nawabzada during his last international trip along with Senior Journalist Sohail Warraich. We remained with him during all the meetings with Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif and learnt a lot from him. NNK travelled London, Dubai and Jeddah braving his fragile health for the sake of persuading Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan for strengthening the movement against Pervez as he was out of faith that it was high time to invigorate the movement and dislodge the Musharraf led government. He prepared the basic draft of Charter of Democracy.

Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan was born in Khangarh in 1918. He was educated at the Aitchison College, Lahore, from 1928 to 1933 and did his Senior Cambridge. He emerged as a student leader in politics around 1933. He had opposed the British Rulers and joined a revolutionary group ‘Majlis-e-Ihrar’ till the creation of Pakistan.

He joined the opposition party, ‘Jinnah Awami League’ and later on this party was renamed as ‘Awami League’. He supported Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah in the Presidential Elections of 1964 against Ayub Khan.

In 1969, he founded his own party with the collaboration of four other parties and named it as ‘Pakistan Jamhuri Party’ and became its Vice President. In 1977, Nawabzada was one of the senior leaders of the Pakistan National Alliance in their campaign against Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. In the elections of 1977, he was elected as the MNA but following the party policy refused to take oath. He was one of member who negotiated with the PPP government for holding new elections. But unfortunately when the government and the PNA had reached an agreement to hold fresh elections, Gen Zia imposed martial law. Nawabzada stood against Zia Martial Law.

The formation of the MRD was reflective of the Nawabzada’s political craftsmanship as the platform was shared by the PPP and the parties responsible for the ouster of the Bhutto government. In the 1980s, Nasrullah began assembling democratic forces to challenge the military rule of the general. This resulted in the formation of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), which developed into a highly successful grassroots pro-democracy movement. In 1983, the MRD launched a successful countrywide civil disobedience movement that was ruthlessly suppressed by the military regime.

He participated in the presidential election of 1988 in which Ghulam Ishaq came out as winner while Nawabzada got 98 votes. In the elections of 1993 once again he was elected as the MNA. He was made Chairman of Kashmir Committee.

Nawabzada visited many countries at the head of a delegation to highlight the Kashmir cause. Because of his efforts the OIC summit at Casablanca had unanimously adopted a resolution seeking solution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN resolutions, ignoring the Shimla Accord which makes the dispute a bilateral issue. As a result of his efforts the Labour Party of Britain had included the Kashmir issue in its manifesto.

The Nawabzada formed many alliances during his fifty years or so of active political career. He used to say that it is beyond a single party to challenge dictatorship and thus parties of all shades of opinion should join forces.

He was also a poet, allergic to philistinism. He had a sharp memory, remembered thousands of verses, both Urdu and Persian, and would immediately come up with couplets to describe any situation.

Many will remember the many years he spent in that large room in that modest house on Nicholson Road in Lahore, in which he lodged, boarded, held meetings and met visitors.

Nawabzada gave a lesson of dialogue. He met Ayub Khan, Bhutto, Zia ul Haq and Gen Musharraf for the sake of democracy.

(The writer, Munir Ahmad Khan, is Chairman of the National Institute of Political Education (NIPE) and former Central Secretary Information ARD.)