For the record

Published February 16, 2024

THIS is with reference to the column “Smokers’ Corner: The Bandwagon Left” (Jan 7). I am an avid reader of the column and more often than not I tend to agree with the views expressed by the columnist. However, the column in question here contained a historical mistake that needs to be corrected.

While discussing the role of Meraj Mohammed Khan, it noted that the fiery leftist politician had a falling out with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1973 and then, in 1976, decided to support the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA).

As Meraj’s friend and his biographer, I wish to clarify that he did not support the PNA movement. All through the PNA peak, he remained incarcerated in the fabricated Hyderabad Conspiracy Case. He, along with all the other accused, was released from jail after the military coup in September 1977.

He was arrested again in 1978 after he took part in a rally taken out by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), and was awarded a one-year sentence. Within a month of his arrest, however, he was forcibly taken to meet Gen Ziaul Haq.

The general was all sugar and honey during the meeting. He offered Meraj ministership in his forthcoming cabinet. What he wanted in return was that Meraj should come out with a detailed description in the media of the excesses he had faced at the hands of Bhutto. Meraj flatly refused. He, to the chagrin of the general, praised Bhutto, and appealed to him not to be vindictive towards the former prime minister.

The detailed description of the meeting is part of my next book, Meraj, My Friend: An intimate biography, which is due out soon.

What I wish to emphasise here is that though Meraj had a falling out with Bhutto, he never ever publicly opposed him, or supported the PNA movement.

Shamim Ahmad
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2024

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