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Fourth International 1:International Spartacist Tendency (IST)

Fayyaz Baqir

March 16th, 2017



We started studying and meeting regularly in the first quarter of 1979 in Sahamoon’s apartment located across the road from Gulberg Police station. Fauzia said that she reported to IST’s South Asian cell in Sri Lanka and received guidance on party matters from them. One thing different from our earlier method of work was that we kept written records of all our meetings. Although our minutes mentioned that our cell consisted of only three members ,our records not only included the points we had discussed and decided but also the persons of other groups we met and the issues we discussed with them. We had initial disagreement with Fauzia on this point because we thought it would put all the names mentioned in the minutes at risk if during any Police raid these records were captured. Fauzia said that in absence of records we cannot review our own progress, and as happen in the case of many other left groups, change our position as it suits us. After much discussion we agreed to accept this practice as a worthwhile risk and started keeping written record.

Fauzia was known as a radical feminist those days. Our common friend Zubair Rana wrote a humorous column those days where he made up a quotation in the name of Fauzia, saying “Kaash ortain bhi Imam Masjid hua karteen” meaning “I wish women were also given the role of prayer leader in the mosques”. Although this might never happen in Pakistan, Shamoon and I agreed to have Fauzia as our political Imam. We depended on our Imam’s advice because we thought she represented the experience and maturity of an international organization. We formed a three person army to fight a highly trained, well equipped and generously funded army having strength of more than a hundred thousand soldiers. Our action would Don Quixote to shame. Our ferocious call to people of Punjab to rise in rebellion against Pakistan Army was based on the assumption that “iron clad dictatorship of bourgeois over proletarian masses required this action”. In hindsight I think there was one major flaw in this formulation. The ironclad dictatorship of the bourgeois existed only in relation to Bengalis, Balochis and Pukhtuns. Therefore our army did not show any reluctance in carrying out operations in Bengal, Baluchistan and Dir. It was only when the army was called out by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to open fire on protestors in Lahore that they declined to oblige. There was no way Punjabis were going to pick a battle with Pakistan army. Secondly even under the army rule constitutional space was never totally abandoned. Expecting people to resort to extra constitutional means when constitutional means have not been fully exhausted does not work.  That is true to this day.   

After Bhutto’s hanging we thought it was right time to give a general call for armed uprising against Zia ul Haq’s oppressive, unjust and despotic rule. This would be our first act of Armed Propaganda. There was a general anger against Zia and young people were expressing their anger on streets and in protest marches. We were just three people. Should we have done it? What inspired me was Mao Tse Tung’s short essay “A single spark can build a prairie fire”. We thought it was important to begin, to fire the first shot and then be ready to deal with the consequences. Even if we fail, we shall make a beginning and someone else will keep the ball rolling. So we decided to cyclostyle and distribute our call for armed attack on armed forces through a handbill. This handbill was to be called Bolshevik and was meant to be a serial publication. I wrote the draft, which was discussed and revised in the party meeting; Shamoon transferred it to the stencil paper in his handwriting and Fauzia got it cyclostyled. All of us took the responsibility to distribute it among our contacts in various left groups. You might call it sheer madness; but such things cannot happen without madness. As three decades later I heard a quotation of Dr. Karrar Hussain, “Extremely totalitarian societies give birth to lunatic fringes because they provide no space for dissent”. So the attack could most probably be launched by a lunatic fringe and we fit the bill.

Bolshevik vol. 1 no.1, the first and last issue of the Lahore cell of IST, was distributed among student activists, trade union workers and leaders, intellectuals and members of left wing political parties with utmost secrecy in one on one meetings. Recipients of the handbill knew that it was an explosive document and they should destroy it instantly which most of them might have done. If it posed any direct threat it posed it to three of us. At that time Imtiaz Alam had camped at Apa Razia’s house and her house was serving as the headquarter of Lok Party. One of the pamphlets was given to Apa Razia’s teenage son Shadab by Shamoon. Police raided at Apaa Razia’s house in search of some Lok Party’s workers and got their hand on a copy of the Bolshevik. Their eyes must have popped out on reading this pamphlet. They must have also seen some grand conspiracy cooking behind this handbill. They immediately arrested Shadab and his brother Javed and took them to Lahore Fort.

Perhaps the Police did not need to grill Shadab and Javed at all to scare them enough to speak out the name of the person who had handed out this pamphlet to them. They were both very young and inexperienced and were caught off guard in this raid. Their confession led the Police trail to Shamoon’s apartment at Gulberg.  Police were able to nab Samoon and confiscate all the books and documents in his possession. (to be continued)  


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