LAHORE: Speakers at a condolence reference on Saturday paid rich tributes to the late Ms Tahira Mazhar Ali Khan for her devotion to the cause of the downtrodden and her fearless support to the politics of the Left.

The reference was organised by the Awami Workers Party (AWP) at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Garden Town offices.

Wife of iconic journalist and proponent of the Left’s politics, the late Mazhar Ali Khan, Ms Tahira passed away on March 23, 2015. Throughout her life, she remained associated with several Left-leaning political and rights organisations like the Communist Party of Pakistan, Democratic Women’s Association, the Women Action Forum and most recently the Awami Workers Party. Among her various achievements was marking of the International Working Women’s Day in Pakistan which she and her comrades started in 1948.

AWP president Abid Hasan Minto described how the late Ms Tahira stood her ground when the events in the 80’s greatly affected politics of the Left. Many a comrade abandoned politics when the capitalists took over the world. Many others bowed down before the New World Order (NWO) but Ms Tahira remained attached to the Left.

He mentioned how she married her cousin Mazhar Ali while defying the traditions of her feudal family. Taking her own decisions and not accepting the things as they were was her trait. She never accepted the view that Left had been defeated saying instead that “we have just stepped back and soon would move forward.”

Mr Minto said the NWO created many ills for the world in the shape of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other religious extremism. But she never accepted it. She agreed that the politics of the Left had been changed but tried to use her ideas in the new scenario.

He said the current leadership in Pakistan could not remove the ills it was facing without plugging the sources of ignorance and separating religion from politics and the affairs of the state. “We were opposed when we suggested good relations with the former USSR and India. The rulers later had to follow the path suggested by us because what we had been saying was plain truth.”

He said Ms Tahira remained steadfast to her ideas because they were truthful. “We have no interests. All others, whether in power, remained in power or seeking power, do serve someone’s interests. We don’t wait for our turn and say what is right,” he said.

HRCP secretary general I A Rehman said Ms Tahira revolted against her family traditions and carved her own course. She worked for democracy, justice, human and women rights, and was a complete political worker. She never lost hope in the Left, and openly said what she felt right even when the conditions were not favourable, Mr Rehman said.

“She was against the army action in Bangladesh and had openly said that we should apologise to its people for what we had done to them,” he said.

Former Awami National Party secretary general Ahsan Wayein said even as a 16-year-old, Ms Tahira was well-read and aware of the political realities of her time. A fearless activist, she argued publicly that the partition of India on religious lines would lead to bloodbath and rape. She understood the backlash of the partition and what she had feared did happen eventually.

“Tahira was a comrade, a mentor, a friend, a mother and an inspiration to many,” Nighat Saeed Khan of ASER Resource Centre said. She said Ms Tahira was deeply involved in politics. One of her earliest memories was of Tahira arguing with her father Sikander Hayat Khan that he wasn’t anti-imperialist enough.

She said that in 1971 Ms Tahira was among a group of progressives who held a massive demonstration on Beadon Road to support Bangladesh. “People threw rubbish at us,” she recalled.

Ms Tahira used to say, she recalled, “It might not be today, tomorrow, or even in my lifetime. But Inqilab will take place. On that day, from my grave, I will shout Zindabad’.”

Lums Assistant Professor Anushay Malik, Mr Yousaf Baloch, AWP Women Secretary Abida Chaudhry and Lahore president Zahid Pervaiz also spoke on the occasion.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2015

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