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Student Movement in Punjab

Fayyaz Baqir

January 2nd, 2017

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Communist movement in West Pakistan had three major setbacks in its early years; migration of the most experienced and active Hindu and Sikh leaders to India after partition, reverse migration of a second generation of communist intellectuals and leaders to India due to crackdown after the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case; and imposition of ban on the Communist Party. Due to the compulsions of clandestine work, low level of experience and limited leadership capability communist movement split into small groups. Sino-Soviet split in the communist movement, political immaturity and narrow ideological interpretations further enhanced these rivalries. There were fierce ideological divisions prevalent between these groups.   

Soon after the overthrow of Ayub Khan, hostilities between Jamaa’t e Islami’s student wing Islami Jameeat e Talaba and left wing student organizations came in the open and Jamaa’t’s leader Maulana Maudoodi threatened to turn Pakistan into a killing field of communists like Indonesia. This threat to massacre communists was accompanied by formation of Democratic Youth Force (DYF) in Lahore to subdue Jamaa’ts’ opponents. In one incident DYF goons attacked socialist workers on charges of burning Quran at Nila Gunbad. Under these circumstances various left wing group started forming or activating their student fronts. Left wing political parties or groups in Punjab included Pro Soviet National Awami Party (NAP) Wali Khan Group and Pro Chinese NAP Bhashani Group- which later split into Socialist Party led by C.R. Aslam and Mazdoor Kissan Party led by Ishaq Mohammad. In Lahore there was a study group called Halqa e Mutalia e Tareekh which later on split into Aziz ud Din and Aziz ul Haq’s led Pro Chinese communist circles. Professor Mubarak Haider formed his own Maoist group. 

At this time many student groups were already in existence. These groups included National Students Federation (NSF) represented in Punjab by Hasam ul Haq - whole time worker of Pro Chinese Tufail Abbas Group. Hasam ul Haq was a fiery speaker and a big time networker.NSF had the advantage of being recognized as the sole representative of left wing student politics and was led at national level by iconic student leader Meraj Mohammad Khan. Socialist Party had formed Socialist Students Organization (SSO) led by Tanveer Ali and Adam Nayyar of Engineering University; NAP Wali’s student wing in Punjab was Punjab Student’s Union (PUNJSU). PUNJSU believed in secularism, right of nationalities and greater share of smaller nationalities in the power structure. They believed in struggling for socialism through peaceful parliamentary politics. It was led by Hafiz Mahmood, Mohammad Ashraf and Zahid Hussain. Mazdoor Kissan Party had formed Nawa e Talaba and at that time perhaps student leader Iftikhar Ahmad (known in close circles as Iftikhar Fitna) was one of its leading lights. Some of the People’s Party followers formed People’s Students Federation (PSF) but they had little presence in Lahore at that time. Ahmad Zoy was one of Mubarak Haider Group’s members who bitterly parted his way from the group due to its naïve practice of armed struggle and revolutionary art. Later on Professor Mubarak Haider continued his student politics through PSF. Professor Aziz ud Din’s Group which acquired fame as Professor’s Group (PG) decided to create its own student’s wing.

At this point Aziz ud Din and Aziz ul Haq worked together. The two separated later on due to difference of opinion on People’s Party, army action in Bangladesh and nature of revolutionary politics. Professor’s Group accused Aziz ul Haq of being a Trotskyite, former member of a Canadian Trotskyite group Chingari (The Spark)- exact translation of Iskra- and an adventurist. After parting ways with the Professors, Aziz ul Haq formed Young People’s Front (YPP). At this time there were numerous student leaders and activists who were not committed to any party. They included the likes of Zafar Yab Ahmad, Rao Tariq Latif, Shahid Nadeem, Mohammad Sami, Iqbal But, Rashid But and many others. Some of the progressive students who wanted expression of their revolutionary ideals through literature formed Nai Log. Its founders included Manzur Ejaz, Shahid Nadeem and Faheem Jozi. A couple of years later a centrist nationalist organization Student Own Power (SOP) was formed and led by Jameel Umar and patronized by professor Javed Kamran Bashir, fondly called JKB by his friends and followers.       

In 1960s Lahore used to be the centre of radical student politics in Punjab. Punjab University with a strength of 7000 students and numerous affiliated colleges was the centre of Lahore’s politics. It was expected that the ban imposed on student unions by Ayub Khan would soon be lifted and Punjab University Student Union election would be the first and most important battle field for various contenders of student leadership. People’s Party’s movement against Ayub Khan had created tens of thousands of young new entrants in politics. These young activists were seen as potential cadre for the communist movement and all the left wing groups wanted to harvest this new crop of idealists. Aziz ud Din justified creation of a separate group and a student wing on the ground that politics based on secularism, right of nationalities and peaceful non capitalist transition was not in line with Pakistani reality. He disagreed with other Maoist left wing groups on the ground that they lacked commitment, discipline and ideological clarity; they only provided lip service to the revolution and could raise storm in a tea cup at best. He did not see much hope in forming alliance with these groups because he thought that zero plus zero plus zero is equal to zero. He was among the intellectuals who did not oppose People’s Party but wanted to use People’s Party as a platform for promoting communist ideology through various interventions and recruiting ground for revolutionary cadre. PG made informal alliance with PPP leader Shaikh Rasheed to make inroads in the party.

 

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