Palijo — A leader of unique political legacy

Updated June 08, 2018

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RASOOL Bakhsh Palijo with Benazir Bhutto.
RASOOL Bakhsh Palijo with Benazir Bhutto.

EMINENT leftist leader and celebrated progressive writer Rasool Bakhsh Palijo, who passed away on Thursday morning, was a leader of unique political legacy. Besides being an important political figure, he was an influential writer, a persuasive orator and a sensitive social worker.

A lawyer by profession, he strove hard for the deprived class besides working for the fundamental rights of people. An inspiring writer, an imposing leader and a stirring orator, he lived a full life. Owing to his multifaceted virtues he was loved by his friends and respected by his foes. He was 88.

He is survived by seven sons and four daughters and is scheduled to be laid to rest at his ancestral graveyard in Jungshahi.

Born in a moderate grower family of Jungshahi town in Thatta district on Feb 21, 1930, he got his education at his village and later at the Sindh Madressatul Islam, Karachi — the historic institution that saw many of its students rise to positions of eminence in various walks of life.

From the Sindh Law College, Karachi, he obtained his law degree and began practising law in the expanding metropolis. However, he soon moved to Hyderabad for which he had his reasons, the main one being that he wanted to remain close to the deprived peasants.

As a young lawyer he felt the pain of Sindh’s peasants and members of other working classes suffering at the hands of the feudal class that exploited them in collusion with the corrupt bureaucracy. Out of sheer sympathy, he helped them in legal matters.

In the 1960s when nationalist leaders Hyder Bakhsh Jatoi and G.M. Sayed led a campaign against One Unit, Palijo joined them and worked for the uplift of peasants in his own style of progressive nationalism. His deep study of history and contemporary politics allowed him to forge a socialist viewpoint. As a diehard Maoist he believed strongly that only a socialist approach could resolve the many issues of economic disparity and social degradation.

In February of 1970, he founded the Sindh Awami Tehreek, whose leaders included Hafeez Qureshi, Fazil Rahu, Comrade Ghulam Mohammad Leghari and writer-cum-lawyer Nooruddin Sarki. This party was later renamed as the Awami Tehreek and became a symbol for the struggle for rights of the deprived people. He was also founder of the Sindhiani Tehreek and Sindhi Shagrid Tehreek — the wings for women and students that sought to create awareness about important issue among the two segments of society.

He led many campaigns but his role in making the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy of 1983 a success was highly commendable. His party left a deep mark on the country’s political history by agitating against military rule. For his political and social struggles he was imprisoned many times and in all he spent 11 years in jail.

He developed a taste for reading at a young age, which later allowed him to delve deeper into literature as he became a writer with an inimitable style. Through the short story he depicted the miseries and agonies of the common man.

He had a unique vocabulary that allowed him to depict scenarios in true perspectives. His association with law enhanced his creativity.

He wrote a number of moving stories that form a brilliant chapter in modern Sindhi literature. When his first story Passi garha gul (As red flowers appear) was published in 1966, eminent writers took notice. His other stories — Jite baah bare (Where flames leap), Vadiyo heeniyen na veh (Don’t sit idle) and Aj agrria aaya (Mystics visited today) — are considered to be representative of his fiction. They depict rural life under feudal system and the miseries of men as well as women.

He translated verses of a number of revolutionary poets and published them in his party’s periodical called Tehreek, which was later banned by the government. He also penned many pieces of literary criticism to counter the revisionist propaganda.

His first book Andha oonda vej (criticism) appeared in 1961. His other works are Mao Zedong (biography, 1972), Ho Chi Monh ji atam kahani (biography, 1972), Jeki Bengal saan thio (politics, 1973), Subh theendo (politics, 1974), and Inqalab jid wa jahad mein adab jo hiso (political history, 1974).

During the 1988 elections, the Pakistan Peoples Party invited him to merge his party with it, but he declined the offer by saying that he did not believe in politics of sharing power. He was even offered a place in the forthcoming government, which he flatly refused and took part in the contest on his own and lost it without regrets.

His efforts for the uplift of the oppressed classes brought many nationalist leaders together but owing to conflicting ideals and moves by the bureaucracy they could not form a formidable force. However, this hardly mattered to him as he continued to wage a campaign for all oppressed classes. In later years, he even expressed differences with his son Ayaz Latif Palijo, also a political figure, over the multi-billion project of Benazirabad.

Rasool Bakhsh Palijo’s lifelong struggles brought about a commendable change in the thought process of the people, particularly those belonging to the deprived classes.

shaikhaziz38@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2018