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Raja Anwar’s two visits to Dera Ismail Khan

Fayyaz Baqir

March 7th, 2017

 

 

Raja Anwar made two visits to Dera during my stint at Gomal University. I have earlier mentioned that he came first as part of Prime Minister Bhutto’s delegation. Bhutto Sahib addressed the conference of party workers during this visit. PPP’s local president Shaista Khan Baloch and General Secretary Farooq made fiery speeches and Bhutto pointing to Shaista Khan’s long hair and mustaches said, “I know the Che Guevara’s in Dera. I want them to understand the compulsions of politics”. Raja perhaps made friends with Shaista Khan during that visit. When he came next, times had changed and he decided to go straight to Shaista Khan.

 

During Bhutto’s trial, Raja had started a movement amongst PPPs most devoted and most vulnerable followers to go for self-immolation against the death sentence to Bhutto. He was trying to copy the example of Buddhist Bhikshu’s in South Vietnam who burnt themselves to death as a protest against the American occupation of their country. This self-immolation carried nuisance value but I considered it very brutal and callous in Pakistan’s context. Zia ul Haq’s agencies were on their toes to grab Raja and stop his campaign.

 

One afternoon I received a call from Shaista Khan to visit him. I told my housemates that I will be returning after meeting Shaista Khan. When I entered Shaista Khan’s drawing room I saw a clean-shaven man sitting next to him. Shaista told me that this guy was from Lahore and wanted to see me. We exchanged pleasantries but I could not place him. Then this Lahori guy said, “Fayyaz Baqir, you have not recognized me”. The voice sounded familiar. I tried hard to recall my memory but failed. Then he extended his hand and both of us almost simultaneously shouted, “Raja Anwar”. That was a pleasant surprise. Raja and I both had lived in the same hostel, Sir Syed Hall, for almost two years and had countless meetings, conversations and discussions together. We used to have tea, Omelet’s and snacks at Mooda’s Khokha (tea stall), so it was not possible that I would not recognize his Potohari accent and jolly way of talking. We had to catch up on lots of things.  The only time I met Raja after his previous visit to DIK was at Shuja ul Haq’s house in Rehmanpura where he came unannounced because he was hiding from Police and his movements were not known to anyone but himself. We promised to meet again and here he was. This visit was different from the previous one. I now fully supported Raja’s cause even if I had disagreements with his method. We had a very warm conversation and I asked for leave but Raja insisted that I should stay over for some more time.

 

From Shaista’s house, we moved to Omar Khan’s exclusive guest house which was almost unknown to everyone except a few of his friends. I wanted to call my cousin Barkat to tell him that I will return next morning but Raja, Shaista, and Umar would not allow me to make a call. I later realized that it was due to high-security concern that they did not want anyone to have even the faintest idea that I was in the company of Raja Anwar . We spent the night together and talked in detail about national politics, resistance against Zia ul Haq and Raja’s self-immolation movement. Raja was of the view that idea of this movement originated with Bhutto’s devotees and he only rolled the ball forward. We spent the night together.

 

In the morning we talked a bit more after the breakfast. Raja’s hosts were willing to drop him at the Bus Stand but he asked me to see him off. We went to the Bus Stand on a bicycle rickshaw. Raja boarded on a Dera Ghazi Khan bound GTS bus, and as a precaution told me that “if anybody asks you about my destination, tell them that I went to Peshawar”. I kept his words. Despite my harsh response to him during his first visit, he was sure that there was no personal hostility between us; he could fully trust me when he was up in arms against Zia ul Haq’s brutal rule. There was also no confusion among any of the progressive political workers in Dera that it was our common cause, not the cause of a single party, group or individual. That is the practice we followed throughout Zia ul Haq’s rule.   

 

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