Political parties owe a lot to their workers and, in the absence of vibrant political workers, they tend to become clubs. Politics in Pakistan is in disarray because political worker is an endangered species these days. Other factors of course being money and the inclusion of apolitical elements in politics that began in the 1980s, owing to the extremist policies of the ‘agents of change’.
Islam ul Haq, born on January 9, 1954 in Sahiwal, was a vibrant political asset for the left liberal forces in Pakistan. According to Professor Ijaz ul Hassan, his mentor, the 17-year-old Islam was present in the November 1967 political meeting at Lahore where Zulfikar Ali Bhutto founded his new party. From that day until his death, he remained with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), never losing his commitment regarding the left liberal agenda. Like many PPP workers of the late 1960s, communists groomed him but, instead of being strangled in the iron curtain of smaller left formations, he opted to swim in the ocean of people.
Progressive ideology was in his blood and that is why he remained aloof from the double standards unlike some of his fellow comrades. Despite being born into a middle class family, he was a feminist to the core. In a reference organised at the Lahore Press Club, his wife and daughter acknowledged it publicly.
After passing matriculation examination from Sadiqabad, he got his diploma from Government College for Technology (Rasul). He did his BA from Karachi and in 1976 he got employment in Sui Northern Gas.
He was among those political workers who challenged the authoritarianism of Zia on the streets of Lahore. His tiny flat was a haven for all who were part of the anti-martial law struggle. One of our common friends met people like Rasul Baksh Paleejo in early 1980s at Islam’s tiny flat near Riwaz Gardens in Lahore. He was a supporter of nationality rights. After their engagement, his wife-to-be got a gift of Punjabi books as Islam wanted her future life partner to learn her mother tongue.
In 1986, he married Samina Mussarat but when he refused dowry, even his opponents said that progressive ideology runs in his veins. If you are progressive and anti-imperialist politically but have regressive ideas socially, there is no difference between a mullah and a comrade.
Islam was friendly with everyone and, due to his humane attitude, remained aloof from the ‘sectarianism’ of traditional left. Among his comrades you would find people from all communist formations i.e. Pakistan Socialist Party, Communist Party of Pakistan, Mazdoor Kissan Party, Punjab Lok Party, NAP, ANP, PNP etc. He was not only a contact between the PPP and communists, but also a binding force among the various left formations.
He was a strong critic of inclusion of money in Pakistani politics. A trained and seasoned political worker, he knew the phenomenon would ruin politics from within. He knew very well how the new ‘money-lenders’ had captured the PPP and the party was not on the right track. He often said the left should play its role to strengthen PPP as it did in the late 1960s because PPP was the sole progressive option and the last hope of the disadvantaged groups in Pakistan.
In his last meeting, a few days before his untimely death, he was ready to revive the “Tuesday Group” which played an important role in the early days of anti-Zia struggle.
He did not take any financial advantage for his struggle; he had no claims of leadership. No doubt he was the unsung hero of the progressive movement and we can find many Islams in all Pakistani districts, even in the presence of ‘money-lenders’ in politics. It is time to rethink for once what are we promoting through politics and media? In the absence of political workers like Islam, no political party can function. Likewise, in the absence of professional journalists, no media can serve people. In the new political milieu where ‘electables’ rule the roost and we need more workers like Islam ul Haq to change its face in favour of people of Pakistan.