The Struggle for Democracy: Resistance and Dissent in Pakistani Politics

Voice of Dissent, Mairaj Muhammad Khan and a lifelong struggle for democracy by Kamal Siddiqi and Azhar Jamil (“the authors”) is a fascinating and detailed article which meticulously teases out the roots of resistance in Pakistan. It chronicles the great movement of resistance that challenged the abuses of power and dictatorships that have plagued Pakistan. As emphasised by the authors, whilst a chief protagonist, Mairaj was not alone in his struggle and the article traces time back to the heyday of dissent and agitation; techniques which he, of course, famously pioneered together with Fatehyab Ali Khan in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The regime considered them and their other companions – such as Anwar Ahsan Siddiqui, Agha Jaffer, Johar Hussain, Iqbal Ahmed Memon, Ali Mukhtar Rizvi, Ameer Haider Kazmi, Sher Afzal Mulk, Mehboob Ali Mehboob – to be mere student leaders. But as demonstrated by the historical process, after their monumental struggle as students these individuals would go on to lay the bedrock of national resistance in our country.

These activists, whose longstanding efforts defined the tactics of agitation for half a century, produced remarkable methods and modes of resistance for future generations to employ in their fight against injustice, venality, abuse of power and oppression. As recalled by the authors, for their opposition to dictatorship, all of them were sentenced to prison for a year to six months by a military court on March 30, 1961, for demonstrating against Ayub Khan’s authoritarian military regime.

Yet, as the authors argue, the seeds of dissent were sown long before in the year 1954 (see here) – the year that is considered to be the “turning point” in Pakistan’s history whereafter America dominated events. Lamentably, as the authors explain, the plot to overthrow true democracy to make Pakistan a weak state was a joint enterprise between civilian and military elements. In essence, Ghulam Muhammad, Iskander Mirza, Muhammad Ali Bogra, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali and General Ayub Khan jointly steered Pakistan’s:

gradual slide to dictatorship and the end of any semblance of independent foreign policy ….

In their brilliant exposition of the history of the resistance movement, the authors note that tragedies such as the killing of socialist leader Hasan Nasir – who died under mysterious circumstances under torture in 1959 – only emboldened Fatehyab and Mairaj whose role in Pakistan’s politics became more amplified with each passing decade.

You can watch Mairaj’s speech in tribute to Fatehyab from a couple of years ago here. Other blogs on constitutional dilemmas and historic dissent and its evolution are available in the posts highlighted and linked below:

1 Comment

Filed under Constitution 1973, Discussion, Fatehyab, MRD, Pakistan Horizon, Politics

One response to “The Struggle for Democracy: Resistance and Dissent in Pakistani Politics

  1. Pingback: A Talk by Raza Rabbani in Memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan | Pakistan Horizon

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