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Call to Arms

Fayyaz Baqir

March 15th, 2017



When I left DIK and moved to Lahore by the end December 1978 I bumped into many people busy in recruiting guerrillas for armed struggle. The first group I encountered in a half-lit room at a friend’s house was Malik Mukhtar Awan accompanied by another Multani Zaman Jaffari who hailed from my neighborhood in Multan. I was not sure about the credentials of Zaman Jaffari. He made a sign of revolver with his hand and then pronounced “thish thish” asking in signs if I wanted to be a guerilla fighter. Mukhtar Awan knew that I had declined one such offer by him and his boss many years ago. When I gave them a blank look, Awan said, no, no; he is not interested. Apparently, they were looking for gun fodder for Al Zulfiqar. A few years later a reliable friend of mine from Peshawar came up with a similar proposal but I told him politics behind the gun is more important than the gun itself. "Armed struggle" as Mao Tse Tung said, “is a higher form of politics". We need to agree on politics before we agree on the necessity of pursuing a higher form of this politics.

 Sometime later I heard about the convention of Lok Party being held under the leadership of Imtiaz Alam. Imtiaz had separated from Mazdoor Kissan Party with a big faction of young workers and announced his own party, Lok Party. One of his justifications for separation was that senior leadership of MKP was dragging feet on the armed uprising. I did not see it happening through Lok Party’s politics so I did not attend the convention. At the time of the convention, I was visited by Fauzia Rafiq and Shamoon Saleem at Zoya Sajid's flat at Angoori Bagh. They had both attended the Convention. They were very excited about the proceedings of the Convention. They asked my views about the current political situation, Pakistan's socio-economic reality and revolutionary discourse in Pakistan. They told me that they had a similar discussion with Imtiaz and he happened to share their views.

Shamoon, I think met Fauzia through weekly Dhanak. I had known Fauzia since her campus days at journalism department. She perhaps started her engagement in campus life with Ashraf Raza of Youth Cultural Organization (YCO) and through YCO she also got Sarmad Sehbai’s play Haish staged at the new campus. We had had very limited personal interaction. But it was refreshing to talk to her and Shamoon on their ideological and political views. Fauzia was never a part of the NSO or NSF. She joined YPF after the murder of Dr. Azizul Haq. She had worked with Women's Front at Punjab University and through the Front, she participated with workers unions and students organizations. Then she moved to the UK, where she worked with Workers Socialist League for a year or so when a split occurred and a portion of its leadership and cadre went to London's Sparticist League. Within six months, she returned to Pakistan for personal reasons, also with the assignment to initiate a branch of Spartacists in Pakistan. To her, it was the culmination of a process begun in the early 70s where she was looking to participate in organized movements to create societal change. Subsequently, she shunned participation in organized movements of all kinds. 

We agreed that Pakistani economy was a capitalist economy and working class would play a leading role in bringing about revolutionary changes in our society. Fauzia introduced me to the brilliant writings of Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky. I read Rosa Luxemburg's "Reform or Revolution" and Trotsky's Permanent Revolution. I learned for the first time that October Revolution took place after Bolsheviks took away power from the Mensheviks who had staged ‘Bourgeois Democratic February Revolution’. I found Trotsky’s work very sophisticated and fascinating. Through Trotsky’s work I learned about Permanent Revolution, Armed Propaganda, General Strike of the working class and dictatorship of the proletariat as the democracy of the proletariat- a concept far more sophisticated than the Stalinist view of the dictatorship of the proletariat and based on a highly developed vision of a socialist society. Fauzia and Shamoon told me that they had discussed their views in detail with Imtiaz Alam and he was most likely to join them.

Fauzia told me that if I shared her vision then we have to work together as part of an organization. We also agreed that we need to take up arms to fight the battle but we need, to begin with, undertake armed propaganda to unnerve the enemy. Both Shamoon and I agreed to be part of the Fourth International’s local cell. While we started talking about our vision, strategy and future course of work I was approached by a “man of letters” having similar views to form a cell of intellectuals to pursue similar objectives. I was in a fix. I could not be part of two cells simultaneously but I could not disclose that I was already a member of a similar cell. I had to maintain secrecy. I figured out that there was a very credible and seasoned Trotskyite point man who was guiding both the cells. Of course, my decision was very much based on my assessment of the Point Man's standing. Point Man was part of the Cambridge Group. Cambridge Group had joined hands with Baloch insurgents and Point Man had also served the prison term in Hyderabad jail. Rasool Bakhsh Palejo had commended his courage by saying that state agencies could not break him. Najam Hussain Syed, at one time, commented about the Cambridge Group that “they are like French Generals of Ranjit Singh’s army”.  Perhaps he was right, perhaps he was not. Anyways the credentials of the Point Man were impeccable. Fauzia did not tell me about the Point Man but the man of letters in the next meeting asked me, "Are you member of another similar cell also", I said, "Yes". "You should not have consented to join me then", he said. The discussion was brief but we agreed to discuss the issue in more detail in the next meeting. In the meantime, PPP’s Chairman Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged by General Zia ul Haq and we thought that this was the most appropriate moment to act. The situation of Maoist groups in Punjab at that time reminded me of Woody Allen’s quip “I am not afraid of death but I don’t want to be there when it happens”. So we decided to proceed independently.

Professor Khalid Mahmood had a different explanation of Punjabi lethargy. According to him, "Lenin once desired to visit Punjab to hold a face to face meeting with Punjabi comrades to figure out what was dragging the comrades behind". On arrival, he was taken to Gujranwala Unit of Communist Party and he immediately summoned a meeting. Local Comrades told him that he had come a long way so he should rest a little bit and then the meeting will be convened. Comrade Lenin said, "No, I want the meeting right away". "Okay sir, at least have a drink before you begin," said, local comrades. "Fine", said Lenin. He was offered a glass of Lassi (a local drink made of yogurt). The drink had a sedative effect and comrade Lenin went to sleep immediately. When he woke up, all the comrades had assembled for the meeting. "No need for a meeting now”, said comrade Lenin.  “I understand the whole thing now”, he said and left.    


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