Fatehyab is an icon for the young generation
The legendary Pakistani politician Fatehyab Ali Khan (1936-2010) was born in Hyderabad, India. He was of Rajput descent and led movements for democracy during successive martial law eras that have stained the history of Pakistan. After Bhutto’s judicial murder he advised and represented Nusrat Bhutto. He was a friend of their murdered daughter former two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Handwritten notes sent by her about secret meetings during the agitation they mounted against Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s are nestled somewhere in a treasure trove of resistance related documents that Fatehyab has left behind. His odium for successive despotic governments and the corrupt judiciary – which repeatedly destroyed Pakistan’s democracy – meant that he chose a life of asceticism and renounced material wealth. Coupled with his gravitation towards simplicity, his passion for advocating the human rights causes of the common people of Pakistan meant that in his politics he ironically resembled more closely the great pre-partition leaders whose connections to the poor were rather profound.
Fatehyab was a grassroots politician. His politics represented an ideology linked to empowering the voiceless masses. Even so, his weighty writings and reflections on the Constitution are largely unpublished but we hope to publish them in due course. Speaking to the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) in a session chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan on 1 October 2016, Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said: “Today we find that we are where Fatehyab left us and have not progressed after that. Article 6 of the Constitution failed to bring a culprit, a former head of state, to book, and allowed him to leave the country.” Last year while addressing the members of PIIA, Mr IA Rehman, Secretary-General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, remarked: “Fatehyab Ali Khan was the brightest star in the galaxy of progressive politicians.”
Coverage and reportage from our event can be found below.
Senate chairman questions world community’s double standards over human rights violations. Pakistan is a peaceful country, rich in tradition, home to Sufis and saints but we just cannot remain oblivious to the atrocities being perpetrated on the people of Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian government for something as innocuous as the people of the area asking for their fundamental right to self-determination.
These views were expressed by the chairman of the Senate, Raza Rabbani, while addressing members of the PIIA, the media and the intellectual glitterati at the institute on Saturday evening.
“How can Pakistan remain a silent spectator to Kashmiri young men and women being disabled physically for life?” he queried.
Rabbani said that the Kashmiris had been given the right of self-determination by the United Nations resolution to that effect.
“If action could be taken in Iraq on the basis of a UN resolution, then why this glaring duality of approach?” he asked.
He asked as to why those westerners who were habitual of making so much of political capital of the fundamental rights issues were totally silent in the case of the blatant violations of fundamental rights in Jammu and Kashmir. “Why this silence?” he posed the question.
The Senate chairman said, “We seek a reduction in tensions but when there’s talk of revoking the Indus Water Treaty (see here), we cannot remain silent. This would be tantamount to war. India is just not within its right to revoke the treaty unilaterally.”
The treaty, he said, did not allow India to build dams on rivers allocated to Pakistan, yet India was doing so in flagrant violation of the accord:
Any attempt to cut off water supplies will be considered an act of war and we shan’t permit that.
On the cancellation of the Saarc Summit in Islamabad, he said that Saarc countries must ponder the issue as to why a country should opt out of the conference on the basis of its bilateral disputes with a member country. The countries, he said, should rather consider excluding the boycotting country.
“There’s urgent need to revisit our foreign policy. Far too long has it been arduously pro-West.. Let it now be pro-Asia. Asia is where the future lies. We are Asians and that’s where our interests should lie,” he said.
Rabbani extolled the service to democracy and rule of law by the late Fatehyab Ali Khan. The meeting was held in memory of the late Fatehyab Ali Khan, and recalled his sacrifices for democracy, social justice and the rule of law.
He said that the story of Fatehyab’s struggle and sacrifices, including jail and internment, is an icon for the young generation. He regretted that this struggle had never been documented.
He was really bitter about the way history was toyed about with in our set-up and said that he had seen government-printed textbooks wherein things that never happened were mentioned.
History, he said, had been terribly mutilated. He said that 1971 was a watershed year in Pakistan’s history in that it was the year the country was amputated with 57 percent of it being broken away, but in a textbook that he read, only a paragraph had been devoted to the massive tragedy.
Textbooks, he said, just did not say anything about the umpteen people’s struggles that had taken place and glorified events which, perhaps, never occurred.
He said it was sad that today young people were being taught that dictatorship was preferable to democracy. This he said, was on account of the disconnect because we had not acquainted our youth with the story of the sweat and toil of leaders like Fatehyab and their struggle for democracy.
He said that whatever semblance of democracy we had today was on account of the selfless struggle of Fatehyab and the likes of him. “Today we find that we are where Fatehyab left us and have not progressed after that. Article 6 of the constitution failed to bring a culprit, a former head of state, to book, and allowed him to leave the country.”
In the case of Akbar Bugti’s murder, the culprit refused to appear before the court in Quetta. In Pakistan, he said there were different sets of laws for various categories of people.
He said that if you are from the ruling elite, there’s one set of laws, and if you are from the civilian ruling elite, there’s another set of laws. He maintained that if you are a collaborator with the civilian ruling elite, there’s another set of laws, and if you are from the rich and the powerful, you can just buy justice.
Rabbani further stated that if you’re from among the common folk, you’ve had it. He emphasised that the people would themselves have to come forward and place the constitution on an even footing.
The talk which seemed to evince lots of interest was followed by a lengthy question-answer session.
In a thinly veiled reference to the powerful military-led establishment, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Khurshid Ahmed Shah have called for an across-the-board accountability to prove that there are no “sacred cows”.
The two PPP leaders expressed their sentiments in a calculated and cautious manner, but at the same time were extremely critical of a much-trumpeted accountability process that is apparently being carried out at the behest of the military establishment against politicians and civil officials only.
Mr Rabbani spoke as the chief guest at an elocution contest organised in memory of the late Fatehyab Ali Khan in Karachi on Wednesday, while Mr Shah issued a statement in Islamabad.
“Today anyone whose views and opinions clash with the people in authority is seen as a corrupt person or a loser. This has become too much of a joke,” said the Senate chairman. “I agree that political workers are corrupt. Most are but does this make the rest of the country and those working in the military as well as civil sectors clean?”
About special courts, Mr Rabbani said: “Have the special courts been set up to try political figures alone? No, sir! If I have to be tried, do it in a court where my peers, the common people, are being tried. Or try us all in your special courts. There should be no difference here. We are all equal in the eyes of the law.”
He further said:
There is no holy cow here. Ehtesab, or accountability, should be carried out across the board. We must check the National Accountability Bureau, too. But who will carry out the accountability of the institution holding others accountable?
Similar views were also shared by PPP leader Khurshid Shah. He said his party would never support any extra-constitutional step and never allow “institutions to ridicule politicians”.
“Accountability must be across the board and the concept of sacred cows should end now,” he said, adding that the PPP-led federal government did not use any institution against its political opponents during its entire tenure.
The opposition leader demanded that a parliamentary committee be formed to stop what he called partiality in the accountability process.
And at the debate programme, Mr Rabbani also suggested formation of a national commission for common people. Turning his attention to students and teachers sitting before him in the Urdu University auditorium, the Senate chairman said the history being taught in Pakistan was not the “real history” of this country. “It has been designed to prepare a special kind of mindset. Your course books are missing important portions of democratic struggles and you are being taught to eulogise the ruling elite and glamourise wars,” he pointed out.
“Today even I am told that Sindhi culture is not really my culture and neither are the cultures of Balochistan, Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa mine. I’m told to follow Arabs because as Muslims we should have the same culture as the Arabs. But sorry, I cannot do that,” he said.
He also remarked:
Tell me how will the feeling of ownership come this way? Fake nationalism we have seen. But real nationalism comes from a feeling of ownership, when you feel you belong somewhere. But sadly that feeling was not allowed to develop. It was killed by General Ziaul Haq.