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Mohammad Fazal Rahu: A memoir

January 17, 2013

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It was a chilling night of Jan 17, 1987 when the BBC Urdu Service broadcast a shocking news that the popular hari (peasant) leader and the senior central vice president of Awami National Party (ANP), Mohammad Fazal Rahu had been axed to death in Golarchi town of Badin district at around two in the afternoon.

The renowned leader is still revered today and remembered by thousands of supporters in Sindh and beyond for his relentless struggle against the tyrannical rules and for the usurped rights of every one from peasants to journalists.

Mohammad Fazal Rahu was born in 1934 in Rahuki, a small town of Badin district, in the house of the local landowner Ahmed Khan Rahu. He struggled and bore the brunt of the brutal dictatorial rules of Generals Ayub Khan, Yahya and Zia.

He eventually fell victim to a deep-seated conspiracy and was axed to death by Fazil Chang on Jan 17, 1987 in Golarchi town in broad daylight.

Mr Rahu was assassinated at a time when he had become one of the most prominent leaders of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in the country.

Mr Rahu had kept the struggle against martial law going, along with Comrade Hussain Bux Narejo, Abdul Qadir Ranto, Dr Akash Ansari, Dr Munir Ahmed Bhurgri, Professor Abdullah Mallah, Qasim Mirjat, Mustafa Suhag, Suleman Daheri and other associates, when the chief of their party Awami Tehrik, Mr Rasool Bux Palejo was in jail from 1983 to 1986.

It was during that time that nearly 1,200 workers of Awami Tehrik were arrested along with hundreds of workers of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Mr Rahu staged a number of huge protest gatherings in Badin district during Zia's era to mobilise the masses against the military dictatorship.

Mr Rahu was elected the senior vice president of ANP in a massive public gathering in Nishtar Park where five parties, including National Democratic Party led by Wali Khan, Pakistan National Party of Ghous Bux Bizenjo, Qaumi Mahaz Azadi Party of Meraj Mohammad Khan and Iqbal Haider, Mazdoor Kisan Party of Sardar Shaukat Hayat and Awami Tehrik led by Rasool Bux Palejo had merged into one party, the ANP to jointly struggle against the military rule.

Fazal Rahu had started his pro-democratic struggle from the era of General Ayub Khan with a political career that was built more by his political acumen and true commitment towards serving the downtrodden people of Sindh, despite being equipped with nothing but the basic formal schooling.

Instead of supporting the then powerful president Field Marshal General Ayub Khan, Mr Rahu sided with Ms Fatima Jinnah, when the latter was contesting elections in 1965. He was elected Chairman of Tarai Union Council in those elections. It was also the time he used to actively take part in the anti-One Unit movements that were mostly organised in Hyderabad.

Hyderabad was the centre of the anti-One Unit movements at that time, which were launched by nationalists, socialists/communists, students, poets and journalists in the city.

He led a huge procession from Badin to Hyderabad against the One Unit system in 1968.

Mr Rahu also led protests against the ‘Publish the voter lists in Sindhi’ movement from the front in early 70s. The late Mr Rahu was one of the founding fathers of Awami Tehrik, which was formed in 1970 in Hyderabad.

In the Awami Tehrik, he was considered equal to Rasool Bux Palejo, the present party chief, in status. He also remained in forefront during the formation of different party wings, including Sindhi Sujag Bar Tehrik, Sindhiani Tehrik and Sindhi Shagrid Tehrik.

Mr Rahu was perhaps the first leader of Sindh who had believed in the active participation of women in the politics of resistance and agitation. His daughter, Shahnaz Rahu was elected as the first president of Sindhiani Tehrik.

Mr Rahu spent his entire life fighting against military rule to bring a real change in both the lives of the haris and the underprivileged class with the power of people. He died doing the same.

Fazal Rahu not only waged war for the haris and the other oppressed sections of society but also remained on the vanguard with journalists in their struggle against censorship laws imposed by General Zia.

He was sent to jail many times and was imprisoned in many well-known jails of Karachi, Hyderabad, Khairpur, Sukkur, Machh and others.

He was also fed some poison once by a fellow inmate in Karachi’s Landhi Jail under a conspiracy. However, he recovered from the ordeal after being unconscious for many days.

He was in Sukkur Jail when companion Mohammad Siddique Rahu had died in 1986 and authorities agreed to release him on parole for a few hours so that he could attend the funeral.

He left behind four sons and five daughters. His elder son, Mohammad Ismail Rahu was a minister in the Sindh Assembly twice and is now a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N).