KARACHI: A book titled Sibghatullah Qadri — Bikhri Yaadein Aur Baatein penned by Barrister Sibghatullah Qadri was launched at the Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi on Saturday evening.
Mr Qadri, who lives in London, delivered a thought-provoking speech on the occasion. He said the event had enabled him to meet a lot of people who he hadn’t met in a long time and who were part of the students’ movements in the 1950s and ‘60s. He was 12 years old when he migrated to Pakistan. At the time, it was difficult to get admission to schools. At that point in time he ran into Mohammad Shafi, who asked him to join the High School Students Federation. When he went into college he joined the Democratic Students Federation (DSF), where he was guided by the likes of Dr M. Sarwar and Dr Ayub Mirza, among others. Then the National Students Federation (NSF) was made where he got to work with individuals such as Dr Sher Afzal Malik and Fatahyab Ali Khan, who struggled a great deal for democracy and went to jail. Dr Adib Rizvi was dubbed a communist. “I too was called a communist. I didn’t know much English in those days. I was told that I was ‘indoctrinating’ communist ideology. They turned me into a doctor. They considered us a security threat.” He also remembered his days in Hyderabad where he got to know Mohammad Ali (who later became a film star) and poet Himayat Ali Shair.
‘The slogan Pakistan Khappe won’t bring democracy’
Mr Qadri said Pakistan would never have democracy until the country was corruption-free. “Pakistan Khappe doesn’t get you democracy,” he remarked arguing that such slogans were chanted but [politicians] did not speak against corruption. He then recalled poet Habib Jalib who he knew very well, and lamented that people such as Shahbaz Sharif and Mushahidullah quoted his verses whereas what they quoted were pieces of poetry written against the Ziaul Haq regime when Nawaz Sharif was Punjab’s chief minister.
Mr Qadri said that a man the nation had forgotten was Hasan Nasir. Today those who harp about democracy forgot that they would not have done so had there been no students’ movement in the past, had Nasir not been brutally killed.
The Quaid-i-Azam did not make Pakistan for those [clergy] who now claim it’s theirs. Rather, he had made the country for the Muslims of the subcontinent who could move away from the Hindu-majority influence and progress in their lives. He said the Ulema-i-Deoband had opposed the formation of Pakistan, whereas the Barelvis did not. Mr Qadri emphasised that no democracy could work without the rule of law.
Dr Masuma Hasan was one of the speakers who spoke before Mr Qadri. She said she had just received the book and had quickly flipped through it. She congratulated the author for collecting his thoughts and publishing them into a book. She said Mr Qadri had achieved a great deal in the field of law, but in her view his major accomplishment was his contribution to the progressive movement in the country’s political growth. The youth did not know how chaotic things were when Pakistan came into being. It was evident in the field of education. A big number of young people had migrated to Pakistan and the education sector did not have space to accommodate them. The struggle in which that generation was involved formed the basis for the struggle for democracy in the country.
Dr Hasan said Mr Qadri was a junior in the DSF of the 1953 movement. Later, the government formed the NSF to dilute the students’ movement. But Mr Qadri and his comrades joined the NSF and changed its direction towards a progressive end. The thing to remember was that when Gen Ayub Khan’s martial law was imposed, the NSF was the only force that vehemently opposed it, despite the fact that there were many political parties at the time that had not taken stand against it.
Mr Qadri and his colleagues went to jail in the struggle. In the 1960s, Mr Qadri went to London for good, and even there he had to struggle, because at that time it was difficult for an Asian to prove his mettle as a lawyer. His efforts bore fruit. Also, he never lost touch with Pakistan or Pakistanis.
Justice Agha Rafique said it was former prime minister Benazir Bhutto who introduced Mr Qadri to him at her home in Dubai in 2005. She spoke very highly of him. Then he met him twice in London, where he treated him to Pakistani food.
Rasheed Jamal, prior to Mr Qadri’s speech, gave the book to the author who formally launched the memoir.
Mujahid Barelvi conducted the programme. Justice Rasheed A. Rizvi, Talat Husain, Ahmed Shah, Habib Jan and others also spoke.
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2018