HYDERABAD: Veteran Sindhi politician and rights activist Jam Saqi passed away in Hyderabad on Monday. According to family sources, Jam Saqi was suffering from multiple ailments, but the cause of death was kidney failure. He was laid to rest in Hyderabad.
Saqi, born October 31, 1944 in Tharparker, was a left-wing politician from Sindh. A staunch Communist, he served as the general secretary of the Communist Party of Pakistan. He remained the president of the Sindh National Students Federation in the 1960s. Jam Saqi is remembered as the leading advocate against the one-unit formula.
In the 1970s, he became a member of Comrade Haider Baksh Jatoi’s Sindh Hari Committee and was joint secretary of the National Awami Party. Afterward, he joined the Communist Party of Pakistan and remained detained during the General Ziaul Haq government. In his political career, he spend around 15 years behind bars.
He left the communist party in 1991 and joined the Pakistan Peoples’ Party in 1993. Jam Saqi authored seven books and married twice.
Saqi was arrested in 1978 during the Zia regime and tried before a military court in the 80s. As he was facing trial, Benazir Bhutto appeared before the same court and, as Saqi’s defence witness, deposed that “Jam Saqi is a patriotic citizen of the state and [must] be released.”
He was jailed for about seven years until 1988. His first wife ended her life upon learning that her husband was being tortured in solitary confinement.
He joined the Pakistan Peoples’ Party in the 90s. He has also remained a council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
It may be recalled that on 8th May 2017, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad hosted the launch of ‘Challe Chalo Keh Woh Manzil Abhi Nahi Ayee’, a book authored by Ahmed Salim and Nuzhat Abbas on the life of veteran politician and political activist Jam Saqi. It highlights various dimensions of Saqi’s struggle for the restoration of democracy and for ensuring fundamental human rights.
“This book can serve as a motivator for younger generations. I found the last chapter to be particularly important. The world is changing rapidly. I had a picture in my mind as I was reading the book of driving up the Karakoram Highway. As we travel on that highway today, there are signposts in Russian and Chinese,” said SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Suleri.
National Party General Secretary Dr Hassan Nasir Syed said: “Many of the people present today worked with Jam Saqi. He was a means of emancipation. I am inspired by him and Afrasiab Khattak and have gotten strength from them.
I remember Saqi from when I was a child and this book has brought up memories. Saqi’s life and the lives of his comrades were stories of devotion, commitment and passion for change and this book revives hope that we can also change.”
Naeem Ahmed Mirza, civil society representative, said: “There is very little literature on the history of communism in Pakistan.
This beautifully written, simple book traces the tale of communist Pakistan including the murder of Hassan Nisar, the difficulties communists underwent, their underground lives and the sacrifice of a personal life. With this book we see a revival of progressive communist Urdu literature.”
Nasreen Azhar, Council Member Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said: “I made theatre my means of expression along with Aslam Azhar. I did not have the opportunity to meet Jam Saqi much but I remember him from the days of the students’ movement when he was an excellent speaker at various meetings. I suggest the book be translated into English so that more young people are able to understand it and it informs their thoughts and public opinion.” Afraisiab Khattak, former senator from the Awami National Party, said: “We live in a country where history is often forgotten. This book fills the vacuum of the history of the communist party and communism in Pakistan. We must remember that the leftist movement played a role in emancipation from the British and socialism has not evaporated – it still exists.”
PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said: “There is no doubt that the collapse of communist Soviet Union, the veering of China towards market economy and the rise of religious extremism has dealt a mortal blow to the left. But given the weaknesses of political parties, whether religious or mainstream, and the establishment’s clinging to the status quo the left is a beacon of hope to set the nation’s moral compass. We need the left because its ideal is justice for all. When blood is shed on different pretexts we need the left that glorifies neither religion, nor ethnicity nor nationality. It will be an immense service if the leftist forces re-united on a common platform and re-framed the debate in terms of what matters to the state and society of Pakistan.”