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The inimitable Sufi Sibghatullah

Fayyaz Baqir

March 10th, 2017

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Sufi Sibghatullah was a Leghari Baloch from Rahim Yar Khan. He was in his thirties when I met him. He had a big thick beard, a smiling face, and soft eyes. He was very intelligent and sharp in dealing with people around him. I enjoyed his encounter with Imtiaz Alim. Many a time he outwitted Imtiaz with his razor sharp wit. He dealt with the most mundane matters with same precision and clarity. One of his amazing feats was successfully fighting out the blockade of his sub-tribe by armed Hur contingent sent to his village by Makhdoomzada Hasan Mahmood. He was a member of MKP and used to attend its extremely lengthy meetings on ideological and political issues. Like all practical field workers, he used to go to sleep during lengthy hair-splitting discussions on ideological issues which seemed to be of no practical consequence to him. I remember Tariq Latif used to do the same in Labour Bureau meetings.  But Tariq was clever and whenever anyone would nudge him during the meeting to wake up, he would hear and repeat the last sentence, saying, “I know what you are talking”.

 

Sufi was a Baloch from a rural area and could not resist going to sleep at sunset; the time when thick ideological discussions would start warming up. This would upset party intellectual Imtiaz Alam who would be elaborating on the class nature of “comprador, dependent, crony bourgeois class’s historic incompetence in dealing with the compulsion of the imperialist oligarchies and their tentacles in the semi-colonial, semi-feudal soil of Pakistan’s alienated ruling classes cultural practices under the contemporary alignment of anti-revolutionary forces from a Leninist perspective in the post-colonial arrangement”. Expression of such ideas and artificially designed Urdu terminology to convey them used to be lethal for faint hearted students of ‘Marxism’ like Sufi Sibghatullah. Imtiaz once teased him saying “Sufi what a committed comrade you are, you go to sleep during the party meetings”.  Sufi’s reply was brilliant. He said, “No that is not the case, I can keep awake till early hours in the morning, provided I am doing something interesting”. Sufi was a TV mechanic by profession and loved to do his work. “What do you mean by interesting?”  Imtiaz would ask. “Well, when I am doing some repair work at my shop and I have to diagnose and solve the problem, I keep awake till 2 or 3 in the morning at times.” End of the discussion.

 

On another occasion, Imtiaz gave him a tape recorder to repair. Sufi repaired the tape recorder and asked for Rs. 60 as repair fee when returning the item. “What do you mean”, asked Imtiaz; it is Party’s tape recorder. “If I receive the fee that will also be spent on the Party eh” said Sufi. Imtiaz was speechless. A ‘collegiate’ intellect should not underestimate the folk intellect.

 

A classic encounter took place during a peasant gathering in Rahim Yar Khan. Imtiaz made a very elaborate and motivational speech calling peasants to raise arms against local Waderas (Feudal Lords). When he finished the speech a peasant stood up and said, “If you want us to take up arms against the Wadera, then I would be right to demand that you should be standing with us, shoulder to shoulder when this battle takes place”. Imtiaz tried hard to explain in ‘collegiate’ logic that it is a class war; your war with the feudal lord, you have to fight it, the party cannot be present everywhere. The peasant was confused that ‘advanced consciousness’ is abandoning the ‘backward consciousness’ even before the battle has started. He did not budge from his position and Imtiaz Alam had a hard time getting his point across. At this time Sufi came to Imtiaz’s rescue. He said, “Imtiaz Sahib, you sit down, let me explain the point to him”. Then he addressed the peasant and said, “Look, my brother, Party’s job is the job of a Qazi who performs the wedding ceremony; we have performed your wedding with the ideology; you are the bridegroom; do you want the Qazi to do the job of bridegroom also?” demanded Sufi. No, No said the peasant; the peasant found even the thought of this possibility very embarrassing; “Now I understand it. We can do it ourselves”.

 

Sufi meant what he said and he proved it in his own case. Makhdoomzada Hasan Mahmood was not only a feudal lord but a spiritual leader in the area where Sufi lived. His peasants believed that Mahkdoom had the power to listen to things which they said to one another in private. They were so terrified of Makhdoom’s worldly and supernatural powers that they would not even listen to a word against him even in the privacy of their homes. Sufi worked on one person at a time. He would take one person in confidence, use some abusive word against the Makhdoom and then ask his partner, “Let us see if he finds it out and something horrible happens to you”. Nothing would happen. That way Sufi won the confidence of quite a few people in his tribe and started defying Makdoom’s directives on small matters. This way he built the confidence of the people to have a showdown with Makhdoom on bigger issues. A point came when Makhdoom thought it necessary to give a big snub to Sufi. He sought help from Pir of Pagara and asked him to send his armed disciples (known as Hurs) to teach Sufi a lesson. Hurs came and surrounded his hamlet. Sufi lived in a walled compound so his movements could not be watched. He loudly started instructing his people to take positions at various points, stock ammunition and be ready for the combat. Then he started asking them to move and change their position. In the meanwhile, he had quietly told them to sneak out of the area through an undisclosed hole in the wall. When everybody had left Sufi followed them. There was a long pause. No further commands were heard by Sufi. For a long time,  Hurs waited for the combat to begin. When they entered the compound, there were no arms, no ammunition, no fighters; everyone had relocated to a safe place.   

 

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