With the passing of Dr. Mubashir Hasan after his protracted illness, we bid farewell to not just a man but an entire world. For here was the man who, quite literally, gave the PPP its firm socialist mooring in the 1970s.
There are those who claim that the party itself was born in his residence. In any case, the radicalism of the early PPP manifesto bore a heavy imprint of Dr. Mubashir Hasan's worldview and politics. It was only appropriate that he took the helm of economic policy-making as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's Finance Minister.
The story of the PPP's drift away from its early politics goes back to the early 1970s. The most poignant symbol of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's break with the Left within his party was to be the 1974 resignation of Dr. Mubashir Hasan from his ministry. However, the left-wing thinker was not to fully turn his back on the party or its leadership.
It was an era where principled dissent was relatively more common and crass nihilistic opportunism had not yet been declared a cardinal political virtue, Dr. Mubashir Hasan fully personified his times. He was to face the reactionary wrath of General Zia-ul-Haq's regime, being imprisoned until well after the judicially-sanctioned elimination of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The PPP which Benazir Bhutto led to power in the aftermath of Zia's dramatic demise was a far cry from the party which chose Dr. Mubashir Hasan as Finance Minister in the early 1970s. The party had been mauled and tormented for its role in opposition to the military regime of the 1980s. It had also learned to dream less boldly.
It was no longer a question of merely tempering the party's radical left, as was the case in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's era. Arguably, Benazir Bhutto inherited the party's immense courage but somewhat lesser of its original ideological moorings. Like Dr. Mubashir Hasan and her own father, she, too, was a product of her own times: reasonably convinced that only cautious, limited changes were possible under the dominant Reagan-Thatcher mantra that “There Is No Alternative” (TINA).
A brutal US-backed dictatorship was over, but the economic policy imperatives of unfettered capitalism promoted by Washington Consensus were ever more triumphant. Pakistan was to deregulate its economy and acquiesce to the international financial institutions' directions.
In such circumstances, the party appears to have briefly toyed with the idea of appointing the old stalwart Finance Minister once again. But it was not to be. The party could no longer afford to affirm its own roots.
It is a testament to the conviction of the man and the values of his era that he acquitted himself with much dignity even when few in the corridors of power were willing to listen. To the end, he remained the man who tried to put Pakistan on a socialist path of development. He held firm to his policy prescriptions and his ideals until his death.
Today, as young people are once again engaged in political debate and mobilizations – some even audaciously under the shadow of red flags – they would do well to learn from the life and struggle of Dr. Mubashir Hasan.