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May 30, 2008



May 30, 2008

The Manzoor Ahmeds I have known are many. It seems to be a common name in our country. But somehow most of those I know and perhaps many of them you also know are quite illustrious people. Prof Dr Manzoor Ahmed from Karachi University's philosophy department who is now the rector of International Islamic University, Islamabad, Prof Manzoor Ahmed, a leftwing leader, intellectual and co-founder of Shah Hussain College, Lahore, another Dr Manzoor Ahmed from Karachi who besides being a medical practitioner spent a large part of his life struggling for workers rights, and then Mr Manzoor Ahmed, a friend of my father's who hailed from Delhi and occasionally contributed brilliant political columns in an Urdu daily. However, the greatest Manzoor Ahmed of them all and a greater human being than most of us passed away unsung, uncelebrated and in oblivion on Wednesday, May 21, 2008, at 9:30am in a modest dwelling of Kot Lakhpat, Lahore.

Manzoor Ahmed alias Comrade Manzoor son of Mohammed Bakhsh was born 55 years ago in Chak 307 EB, Burewala, Vehari district. His career as a teenage political worker began with chanting slogans and organising meetings for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party in the late 1960s. He was once badly beaten and his arms broken by some people including his co-workers acting on behalf of the management of Ittefaq Foundries where he was employed. Later, he became a member of Muttahida Mazdoor Majlis-i-Amal (United Labour Action Committee), one of the largest trade unions in the country and, if I remember correctly, the predecessor of Muttahida (United) Labour Federation. Much before the emergence of the full-fledged Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in 1983, General Ziaul Haq and his coterie started muffling any voice which was raised against their autocracy and state-sponsored terrorism. Manzoor became a part of the newly formed Punjab Lok Party and got arrested in June 1980 on the charge of being in possession of and

distributing pamphlets called Jamhoori Pakistan, Gajar and Chanan. Before being tried for sedition against the state of Pakistan in a military court and kept in Camp Jail, Lahore, he was first taken to Lal Qila, Waris Road, and then Shahi Qila torture cells. He was kept awake for sixteen days and sixteen nights. When they couldn't break his will, he was hung from the fan hook in the ceiling of the cell with bar fetters and chains squeezing his arms and legs and an iron yoke bolted around his neck. Besides inflicting terrible physical pain, this brutality caused a permanent damage to his spine and the nervous system. He started deteriorating and in a few years became completely immobile. He was unable to move his hands and lower parts of his legs for years before falling terminally ill a few months ago.

Being found innocent, the court released him after two and a half years. But a few years after his own release, paying no heed to his falling health, he organised the grand reception for Jam Saqi, another famous political prisoner, who visited Lahore in 1987. About the same time Manzoor opened a small shop selling pan, cigarettes, and candies to run his household and to provide for not only his own but his brother's family. He never asked any of his friends for support, ran his shop with dignity. Manzoor Ahmed was one of the many political workers who irrespective of their affiliations give meaning to the struggle for a just and prosperous homeland.

The great man's funeral was attended by a few of his old pals including trade unionists and political activists Chaudhry Shaukat Ali, Tauqeer Riaz, Haneef Ramay and Rana Shafiq-ur-Rehman. I am told there were about 20 people in the graveyard to pay their last respects. Shaukat Ali said that with an undying smile on his face, the man neither complained nor felt any remorse ever for what he got in return against the sacrifices he made for his people, his cause and his country. Cry Pakistan.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and rights campaigner. Email: [email protected]

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