In memoriam: Nazir Abbasi

09 Aug 2010


TWO inspiring characteristics that emerge from a number of profiles written on Nazir Abbasi are his selflessness and calmness in the face of tyranny. One of his friends, late Anwar Pirzado, remembers Nazir Abbasi as a person “capable of retaining courage and serenity in the presence of extreme physical threat”.

Nazir Abbasi was a front-line progressive political worker who was tortured to death on Aug 9, 1980, in an intelligence interrogation camp at Mauripur, Karachi.

Comrade Nazir (as he is fondly remembered) was born on April 10, 1953 in a lower-middle class family in Tando Allahyar. He entered into what proved to be a highly active political life at a very young age by joining a hunger strike of Baldia Employees Union at Tando Allahyar and was arrested for it. His first political school, like a large number of political workers in Sindh at that time, was jail, where he met Jam Saqi, Dr Aizaz Nazir and Professor Jamal Naqvi. All three belonged to progressive organisations and this captivity entirely transformed his ideas on social justice.

During the Patt Feeder peasant movement of Balochistan in 1976, Nazir was one of the key political activists to organise and educate the local population to strongly resist displacement of peasants by local land-owners.

The Patt Feeder movement started in retaliation to land-owners' bids to dislocate peasants but later on, it paved the way for farm workers' unity and on the outlines of the Sindh Hari Committee, evolved into the Balochistan Bazgar Committee.

In the same year, Nazir became vice-chairperson of the Pakistan Federal Union of Students, with Raziq Bugti (now assassinated) as its chairperson. He played a seminal role for the unity of students and it was because of his efforts that a number of student organisations such as the Sindh National Students Federation, Baloch Students Organisation and Pakhtun Students Federation developed a consensus to form a single united forum for progressive students, later on to be known as the Democratic Students Federation. DSF was born shortly after his death.

On July 4, 1977, after the dismissal of the Z.A. Bhutto government, Martial Law was enforced with a complete ban on political parties and suspension of constitutional rights. In a letter written to the delegates of a student's convention in 1979, Nazir Abbasi said, “General Ziaul Haq is terrified by people's consciousness and he believes that like Iran, people's power may also defeat dictatorship in Pakistan”.

On July 30, 1980, Nazir was arrested from Karachi, taken to a military interrogation camp in Mauripur and brutally tortured for undertaking a campaign against dictatorship. When he died on Aug 9 he was only 27.

Nazir Abbasi lived a life of incorruptible ideals by associating himself with the most marginalised and oppressed classes in Pakistan. In his writings and speeches, Nazir advocated a sovereign, progressive and democratic Pakistan which must abolish all forms of exploitation and misery of working people. Nazir Abbasi, like so many political workers slain in the path of restoration of democracy in Pakistan, has now re-emerged in the folklore of Sindh and inspires political workers striving for social justice in Pakistan.