During the 1980s and 1990s a large number of Left-wing activists and progressive citizens formed or joined new institutions to pursue the path of alternative development through NGOs, government departments and charities. They went beyond the conventional discourse of ideological education or politics of propagating socialist ideology in pursuit of social change. I shall describe the course taken by the conventional practice in the coming post. In this post, I want to mention about the people who followed the NGOised path. These individuals include activists from the Professor’s Group, Socialist Party, Communist Party, Mazdoor Kissan Party, Awami National Party, People’s Party, Tehrik e Istiqlal, Sindhi nationalist movement, NSF, NSO, DSF, trade unionist movement and Trotskyite guerilla insurgency. I personally interacted with most of them during the last three decades and provided some of them strategic support which led to development of their outfits as renowned institutions at national level. I would like to name some of them and describe briefly the nature of their work and their impact at national level. I want to mention here that NGOs’ work is not a substitute for politics but through NGOs, Left wing leaders have been providing much greater public service than through political work. This subject needs much detailed treatment but I would like to point out the significance of this work by saying that the size of Pakistan’s philanthropy is twice the size of Government of Pakistan’s social sector budget. Therefore NGOs outperform the government and political parties and their work should not be treated as something trivial and inconsequential. Starting in Zia ul Haq’s time Left’s work proceeded through partisan and non-partisan streams. Partisan stream emphasised the narrative of capturing power and the non-partisan stream followed the vision of “working within the system and living within the means” and moving from agitation to “the negotiation table”.
Some of the leading names include Abdus Sattar Edhi, who is among one of the three people to have had a state funeral and the only citizen in whose name a coin is being issued. He lost the election in the beginning of his public service career but won the hearts of entire Pakistani nation through his services to the people. Adeeb Rizvi former NSF activist through his services to kidney patients under the auspices of a government facility has shown that if one wants to serve government rules or lack of resources never come in his or her way. Similar work was done by Tasneem Siddiqi who regularised almost 50% of Karachi’s Katchi Abadis during his tenure as Director General of Sindh Katchi Abadi Authority (SKAA). On community health Association of Pakistani Physicians in North America (APPNA), Human Development Foundation (HDF) did pioneering work which led to the creation of Human Development network at the national level by the Government. Javed Jabbar during his PPP days formed Baanh Beli to serve the people of Thar and Suleman Shaikh’s legendary work in the form of -Sindh Graduates Association (SGA) has led to the creation of a network for the provision of health and education services all over Sindh. It is important to mention here that NGOs has worked in areas ranging from field and policy research to advocacy for legislative reforms and policy change to direct service delivery and provision of micro credit and in this process they have reached out to millions of households across all the districts of Pakistan. In this regard, their impact is far more impressive than their political work.
Karamat Ali continued the work that he did as part of trade union movement through Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research (PILER), Sami Mustafa did path-breaking work on revision of curriculum, promotion of interactive pedagogy and school management through The Book Group, Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) introduced the powerful practice of improving livelihoods of the people through the well-developed model of partnership between communities and the government through its demonstration in the largest Katchi Abadi (informal settlement) of Karachi Orangi, Urban Resource Centre (URC) did very valuable work in preventing evictions on the basis of sound documentation. Naved Ahmed of (Shehri), set a model for social accountability of the government and Jamil Yusuf’s Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) played an important role in crime-bashing in Karachi. Amjad Rashid, a worker of Socialist Party Quetta, who started Taraqee with a modest grant in Quetta,now like many other left-wingactivists has raised the size of his NGOs portfolio to the multimillionmark. Mohammad Tehsin’s South Asia Partnership (SAP), Khawar Mumtaz ‘s Shirkat Gah, Nigar Ahmad’s–Aurat Foundation and Imtiaz Alam’s, South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) fall in the category generously funded NGOs. But people like MKP’s Qurban Reza Shah of who formed OPD and GulbazAfaqi’s Soan Valley Development Programme (SVDP) started at a settlement level and are now registered with SECP as microfinance institutions with multimillion rupee portfolio. Hamid Qazilbash and Fareeha Zafar of Professor’s Group formed Society for Development of Higher Education (SAHE), Sarwar Bari formed (Pattan), Aurangzeb Khan, a trade unionist of communist party formed and many of his other comrades in Railways formed their NGOs and Hamidullah and Sumera Gul formed Akhter Hamid Khan Memorial Trust (AHKMT). Liberal Forum was formed by Asif Khan and many other progressive political workers all over Pakistan. Saraiki activist of DSF Zafar Lund formed Hirak, Ahsan Wagha formed Sanjh, Mushtaq Gadi laid the foundation of Sindhu Bachoo Tarla, Amjad Bhatti established Rural Development Policy Institute (RDPI), Omar Asghar Khan established Sungi Development Foundation (SDF), I.A. Rehman, Afrasiab Khattak Zaman Khan, Mahbub Khan are part of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), YamimaMitha and Zafar Mirza joined hands to create The Network for Consumer Protection, Asma Jahangir established her own institution to support women victim’s of violence, Izzat Majeed and Mushtaq Sufi carried out the work for conserving music heritage through Sachal Foundation and Fauzia Saeed actively worked for legislative reforms through her NGO Mehr Garh. Asad Rehman formed Marri Environment Development Association (MEDA) and later served as CEO of Sungi.There are numerous other NGOs of various sizes, shapes and colours that have significantly contributed to the struggle for social change. What I have described is less than the tip of the iceberg. It would be interesting to develop a scorecard of the performance of these NGOs and compare it with the performance of their fraternal Left wing parties.