The veteran politician: Rasool Bux Palijo

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By Naveed Sandeelo
Rasool Bux Palijo took his last breath on 7 June 2018, at 88 years old. He was a prolific writer, political thinker, socialist, literary critic, distinguished lawyer and an avid scholar of great repute. He was one of the last men left in Pakistan who championed leftist politics in the country, and was heavily influenced by the writings of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Ho Chi Minh.
Palijo was a notable writer, and a multi-dimensional politician, who worked on different platforms. He was an influential member of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) and remained a member of the central executive committee on the Asia Pacific Peace Forum. He was also a member of the World Social Forum, President of the Sindh Water Committee, the member of Anti-Greater Thal Canal and Anti-Kala Bag Dam Action Committee. As a member of the Pakistan Oppressed Nation’s Movement (Ponam), he became a pioneer for the national unity of the Sindhi people and he led long marches for the greater cause of the Indus river water theft by the Punjab establishment. He also led long marches from Sukkur to Karachi twice; first in 1991 and then again in 1995 to protest against the proposed construction of Kala Bag Dam. In 2001 he led another long march from Bhitt Shah to Karachi for the same cause.
Palijo was born on 20 January 1930, at Jungshahi of the Thatta district of Sindh. He got his early education at his village, and later travelled to Karachi to complete his schooling at the Sindh Madarsatul Islam. He then decided to pursue a law degree at the Muslim Law College and started practicing as a lawyer after graduating. This is also the time he started getting involved in political movements, and became a member of the Sindh Hari Committee (peasantry movement) in 1953. He went on to join the National Awami Party (NAP) in 1964, although he quit some time later, citing the party’s lack of motivation in solving national issues as his main reason for leaving. He was also general Secretary of Bazm-e-Sufia-e-Sindh, whose goal is to promote the message of the Sufi saints of the province.
Moreover, he actively participated in Sindhi Adabi Sangat sittings. At a time when religious parties and fundamentalists openly criticized the progressive poets and writers of Sindh, he wrote a book in defence, called the Andha Undha Wejja (The blind doctors). He also played a very active role in mobilizing the people of Sindh to unite against the one unit policy of 1954 and also successfully protested the release of voter lists in the Urdu language, with the government forced to release new ones in Sindhi. In 1970, he founded the Awami Tahreek party, which promoted a socialist platform and fought for equality amongst all the different communities of Pakistan.
For his many struggles for people’s rights, Palijo was arrested a number of times and spent an accumulated eleven years in jail. For his great sacrifice, Amnesty International declared him a Prisoner of Conscience (Zameer ka kedi). He spent his entire life in the service of the public, especially the Sindhis, and even though he suffered greatly because of his beliefs, he never lost sight of his mission.
Palijo was an avant-garde who introduced new trends to Sindhi literature. Being a voracious reader himself, as well as a student of history, he had a deep insight in to the literature of other nations and their history. He could talk for hours on German, French, Russian, Chinese, Greek, Vietnamese, English, Persian, Punjabi and Urdu poetry, history, politics, literature and philosophy. While, he always quoted Shah Latif, Sheikh Ayaz, Ustad Bukhari in his speeches and writings, he also had a good command over Faiz, Saher, Mira Baee, Bulleh Shah, Galib, Rumi, Walt Whitman and Mayakovsky among countless others. He wrote 35 books during his lifetime, which included short stories, criticisms, political writings, translations, speeches, articles and Latifiat (analysis of Shah Latif’s poetry). Palijo was an orator of tremendous qualities as well. He attracted thousands of people to his public speeches, and was known in certain circles as the Socrates of Sindh. He was one of the very few people, who could instil in his followers and friends the same excitement for gaining knowledge and reading books that he himself felt.
Palijo’s struggle was emblematic of his personality and will to never give up, even in the face of adversity. He was unique and a great thinker who was an authority on a wide range of subjects, which attracted admirers the world over. He was never afraid to call out people in power for their various shortcomings, and his ultimate desire was to rid the country of the corrupt and greedy forces that threaten to ruin it. Being a socialist, he believed in the power of the community, and that all were created equal. In this regard he empowered women, and other disenfranchised groups in the country to fight for their rights and speak their minds. He did not simply sit and wait for change to come about; he understood the significance of the struggle. His comrades always followed their great leader’s exceptional discipline and this was observed during his funeral as well. The day of his departure left an unprecedented expression of love and affinity. By virtue of his political astuteness, Palijo will surely be remembered for centuries.
(The writer can be reached at naveeduni48@gmail.com)