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NSO launches itself –first major political statement

Fayyaz Baqir

January 9th, 2017

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Visit of American Student Delegation to Punjab University

From November 1969 to December 1970- when first general elections were held in Pakistan- NSO found many strategic opportunities to demonstrate its power. In the meanwhile organizational work to establish NSO units continued inside and outside Lahore. Details of various units, their conveners and activists will follow description of show of power of NSO in dealing with some major events. Subsequent to the ban on students union led by Islami Jameeat e Talaba’s Barik Ullah Khan by the Governor Amir Muhammad Khan, A Student Council was handpicked by the university administration to deal with students affairs. A Students Affairs Department was also established. Some of the prominent members of the Students Council were Shahid Nadeem, Munawwar Hayat, Khwaja Salim and perhaps Rao Usman. Architectural and educational design of university’s new campus and many of its new departments like Administrative Sciences Department, IER and Applied Psychology were inspired by American education system and funded by American assistance. As part of a youth development initiative under the new education system a cultural exchange program between Pakistani and American universities was also started.

These were also ‘hot days’ of Cold War. Pakistan had agreed to be the front line ally in the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) and South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) military alliances with the West to encircle the Socialist Camp in the name of breaking the Iron Curtain. American Ambassador Joseph Simpson Farland assumed the charge of Ambassador to Pakistan in these days. Mr. Bhutto expressed his anxiety over Farland’s posting in Pakistan. He thought that Farland might try to influence national elections in Pakistan. Maulana Maudoodi, who had recently returned after his medical treatment from Buffalo, USA; had threatened that Pakistani communists will be treated the same way that communists were dealt with in Indonesia. According to an estimate one million communists were killed in this massacre which followed overthrow of Indonesia’s Father Suekarno. Suekarno had led Indonesia’s war of freedom against the Dutch and was one of the leading 5 members of Bandung Conference who emerged as the leaders of the Third World. This created fear, anxiety and expression of public anger against perceived American designs in Pakistan. This was the time when American campuses were echoing the slogans of “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh” and Anti Vietnam War. World Bank’s American President and former American Secretary of Defence Robert Strange McNamara had said that “Hunger is the major communist ally in Asia”. Chinese Communist Party had introduced the slogans of “East is Red”, “Americans, Leave Asia” and “American Imperialism is Paper Tiger”. Soviet leadership added to the anxiety by ‘disagreeing’ with Mao on the paper tiger statement by saying that “American Imperialism is a paper tiger with nuclear teeth”. The air was filled with anti Imperialist emotions.

This was the time when an American student delegation visited Punjab University as part of American cultural exchange programme. It was second half of 1970. Members of this delegation were hosted by the Students Council and planned to deliver speeches, play music and mix with local students. Their reception was held on the third floor of Student Affairs Building at Punjab University New Campus.. NSO made strategic use of this event to declare its presence and demonstrate its power. A group of leading NSO activists including Imtiaz Alam, Zaman Khan, Khalid Mahmood, Arif Raja, Shuja ul Haq, Fayyaz Baqir, Manzur Ejaz and their allies like Idrees Khatana got seated in the middle of the hall. As soon as the program started the hall was filled with roars of anti American slogans; “Down with US Imperialism”, “Yankees go back”, Asia Surkh Hey (Asia is Red) and “Americans Leave Vietnam”. Te memory of Mohammad Ali Clay’s imprisonment on his refusal to be drafted for Vietnam War and his poem “White man’s paradise is black man’s hell” was fresh in many minds. Cultural programme’s atmosphere got charged with expression of anti imperialist anger. Hosts were very upset and soon a physical brawl started. NSO agitators could have been over powered but they were joined by Palestinian and Bengali students. Eventually the organizers agreed to allow the protestors to raise questions to the visiting delegation after the musical performance. A very hot and hostile exchange of views followed. NSO had succeeded in making its presence felt and appear on the radar of university administration.  Imtiaz made the point by asking questions in Urdu and insisting on the answer being translated for him in Urdu. Khawaj Saleem volunteered to translate. Idrees Khatana, one of the leading figure in anti Ayub movement at Punjab University campus, questioned why no black student was part of American delegation. I still remember his question, “So many blacks in America; no black in the delegation; why?” Most of the questions were about American role in Vietnam War and American opposition to freedom struggle of people in Palestine, Iran and other parts of the world. This event established NSO’s credentials as a vocal nationalist and anti imperialist student organization in Punjab University. It also raised NSO’s profile as a formidable force at university campus.  

Interestingly enough something similar happened at Nishter Medical College Multan. Ambassador Farland decided to visit the college and a big crowd of students gathered to welcome him on both sides of the passage leading from the college gate to the main building. Local administration made all the security arrangements and deputed personnel of police and intelligence agencies to watch the crowd. Multan had been a centre of anti Ayub student movement and progressive politics. Zulfiqar Ali Bhtto had also announced his candidacy to contest election for the National Assembly seat from Multan. But due to Mr. Bhutto’s statement about Farland’s posting, progressive youth was charged with anti American feelings. As the car entered the college gate, it slowed down. There were cheers, claps and slogans and security people were busy watching the mood of the crowd. All of a sudden a zealous teenager moved close to the Ambassadors’ car; snatched way the American flag fluttering at the bonnet of his vehicle and disappeared in the crowd. There was some commotion in the crowd; some slogans and counter slogans but the young man disappeared. The act was so spontaneous and so sudden for the security personnel that they watched it in dumb silence. No one could imagine such a display of anger, defiance and courage. But the statement had been made. People did not trust Americans. Although it was a period of American honeymoon with Pakistan’s right wing parties the public mood was completely different. Local administration tried in vain to trace the ‘culprit’. No luck. It is ironic that one of the local religious leaders who was contesting election against Bhutto Sahib for the local seat, when questioned about his views on Farland, responded, “ We want cordial relations with every country, whether it is Greenland, England or Farland”.  


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Visitors Comments

Name:Fayyaz Baqir
Date:10th January

Comment: I clearly remember that I and Khalid Mahmood were there. Khalid may also comment if he remembers the event. I met Zaman Khan for the first time at this event. He was
Dressesed in dark brown khaddar bush shirt like prof Azizuddin. You were of course there. I remember Khwaja Saleem and Idrees Khatana as well.

Visitors Comments

Name:Manzur Ejaz
Date:10th January

Comment: I remember the event differently: As for as I remember, it was me and Zaman Khan who raised the anti-American slogans. A scuffle broke out and we were going to be beaten when Palestinian students came to our rescue. I don't remember other friends being there. Zaman Khan can comment and verify.

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