Kabir Ali Wasti will be remembered as a teacher of Pakistani politics and its history
yed Kabir Ali Wasti led a small political group called the Pakistan Muslim League-Qasim till 2003-4 and made ripples in national politics several times through the positions he took. He was a political activist but not meant for today’s polity. He breathed his last at the age of 78 on August 20 after suffering cardiac arrest in Rawalpindi.
Wasti mentored several journalists in the twin cities in the 1990s about Pakistan’s political history. Lahore’s journalists would spot him at the Nicholson Road residence of Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, who spearheaded several political movements. During those days, Wasti was president of the PML-Qasim, named after Malik Muhammad Qasim, a noble politician from Attock, who was in the spotlight during the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against Zia’s martial law. He would keep telling the young journalists about the MRD and his memories with Malik Qasim.
Wasti’s family had migrated from Muradabad (India) and settled in Rawalpindi after the Partition. He belonged to the middle class and was a self-made person. After finishing his schooling, Wasti had set up a small printing business in Rawalpindi. Once, he told some reporters in Lahore during an informal chat that he had entered active politics after being inspired by Malik Qasim in the 1970s. Qasim had left Pir Pagaro’s Functional League in 1978 and formed his own faction, PML-Qasim. In later years, Wasti became secretary general of the faction and represented it in the MRD.
Wasti was part of the MRD agitation against Zia’s martial law. In the 1988 elections, Qasim and Wasti supported the PPP. After the demise of Malik Qasim, Wasti became president of PML-Qasim and joined the Pakistan Awami Ittehad against Nawaz Sharif’s 1997 government with the PPP, the Pakistan Democratic Party, the Pakistan Awami Tehrik and several other parties under the chairmanship of Dr Tahirul Qadri, who was later replaced by Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan.
Syed Kabir Ali Wasti had high family values. His house in Rawalpindi was open to everybody. Even strangers were welcomed and served excellent meals and food for thought. “His house has been a witness to Pakistan’s political history of four decades,” says Munir Ahmed Khan.
When Gen Musharraf ousted Nawaz Sharif from power in a bloodless coup, the PAI expanded and renamed the Grand Democratic Alliance. Wasti was part of it. After the PML-N, the ANP, the JUI-F and several other parties joined it, the GDA became the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) against Musharraf’s military rule. Wasti played a key role in the formation of the alliance. However, in 2004 he stunned all friends and foes by merging his faction, the PML-Qasim into PML-Quaid, then known as the king’s party. Wasti was appointed the senior vice president of the PML-Q. In 2005 when Musharraf decided to contest the presidential elections while remaining the army chief with the support of the PML-Q, Wasti revolted against the party’s decision. For this, he was expelled from the party by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. He kept a low profile for a while before joining the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in 2013. However, he soon got frustrated with Imran Khan’s style of politics. In 2017, he and his son Awais Wasti joined the PPP after a meeting with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.
Wasti’s old friend, Munir Ahmed Khan (a former PPP leader, now a PTI member), says, “In the 1990s, Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan and Kabir Ali Wasti were the two people who had the ability to bring political rivals to the same table.” Syed Kabir Ali Wasti had high family values. His house in Rawalpindi was open to everybody. Even total strangers were welcomed with excellent meals and food for thought. “His house has been a witness to Pakistan’s political history of four decades,” says Khan.
Wasti’s demise has deprived the youth of Pakistan of a teacher who always taught political ethics and methods to keep the political struggle alive.
The writer is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and analyst. He tweets at @BukhariMubasher