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Politics of Left in Punjab: Formation of NSO:

Fayyaz Baqir

January 3rd, 2017

 

 

Lawrence Garden Meeting, November 1969   


As there were many left wing student organizations in Lahore at the end of anti Ayub movement, it was very difficult to justify the creation of a new student organization. It also created confusion among sympathizers of the left in deciding who to support. Professor Azizuddin therefore decided that all the existing left wing student activists should be invited to a joint meeting to seek concensus on a joint programme or form a joint organization. If a joint organization emerged PG could have considerable influence over it; if not, then creation of a separate organization could be justified. It was a heads you lose, tails I win situation. A meeting for this purpose was convened in November 1969 in Lawrence Gardens Lahore. Some of those who attended the meeting included Imtiaz Alam, Manzoor Ejaz, Zaman Khan, Arif Raja, Shuja ulHaq, Faheem Jozi, Mohammad Ashraf, Zahid Hussain, Ahmad Zoy, Mohammad Sami. Iftikhar Ahmad, Fayyaz Baqir and Iqbal But. A heated debate took place on socialist politics, role of students in revolutionary politics, the need to form a united student front but no concensus could be developed on any issue. A 12-13 point manifesto prepared by founders of new outfit was presented for forming a joint organization. The name proposed for this organization was Nationalist Students Organizations (NSO). The manifesto called for mobilizing students to end feudalism, crony capitalism and imperialist domination in Pakistan in collaboration with workers and peasants. It also gave a call to express solidarity with the anti imperialist freedom movements across the world. Activists of other left wing organizations objected to the use of word nationalist and one clause in the manifesto which called for the struggle to achieve equality and justice in line with Islamic principles of egalitarianism. In a meeting next day Imtiaz Alam was elected the first Chief Convener of NSO. Manzur Ejaz was elected as convener of Punjab University New Campus Unit. It was decided to start membership and publicity campaign of the organization immediately.

Why and How of NSO?

One big challenge confronting NSO was to justify its separate existence and show the difference in its style of politics compared to other left wing organizations. NSO used the strategy of sustained personal contacts, study circles, high profile propaganda and display of power to show its superiority over other organizations. For winning support of neutral left wing students in meetings held with other left organizations NSO used its lobbying tactics to lethal impact. Professor Aziz believed that decisions were made outside the meetings not inside. Art of lobbying was very effectively used to achieve this outcome. Lobbying meant that before participating in any meeting NSO activist should individually meet as many invitees in the meeting as possible and win their support for NSO’s stand on the issues to be discussed during the meeting. During the discussion on issues personal commitments and capacities of activists from other fraternal organizations were also brought under scrutiny to undermine their support. This gave NSO an advantage in creating  a supportive atmosphere for its party line and getting the decisions made in its favor. Critical comments on leaders and activists of other organizations could range from polemics on their standpoint to character assassination and had to be handled very carefully to prevent degeneration of political differences into personality conflict. Most of the time NSO’s rival student organizations were caught unprepared in the joint meetings and NSO could easily get decisions made in its favor. This was especially true in selection of joint left candidates for Punjab University Student Union elections. I shall give further detail of NSO’s edge in election politics in my account of first three elections when I was closely associated with NSO’s election campaigns.

 
 

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