Jam Saqi who Struggled for the Poor Is No More
Naya Daur remembers the iconic politician and comrade who struggled all his life for social justice, suffered but never gave up
Pakistan has lost yet another progressive icon: Jam Saqi, veteran left-wing leader, has passed away this week. In an era of opportunism and easy populism where leaders promise change within a span of months, without even bothering to think seriously about their political goals or ideological moorings, the story of Jam Saqi’s life shows what the real pursuit of social justice means. His was a life of struggle with seemingly no end in sight.
Here was a people’s political activist who had operated in a number of different political eras – and was an enemy of dictatorships in the country. He worked with a number of different organisations, but his commitment to progressive politics remained paramount. For this, he paid a heavy price during his life.
An endless struggle
Jam Saqi, born in the Thaparkar region in 1944, became involved in left-wing politics from a fairly early age. He was able to demonstrate his organizational mettle in his very early years of activism.
In the 1960s, Saqi formed the Sindh National Students Federation (SNSF), primarily as a student front for the Communist Party. The Party had to operate through such front organisations due to the fact that it had been banned since 1951 by Pakistan’s ruling elite – presumably to curry favour as an anti-communist ally of the United States in the Cold War.
Saqi went on to lead protests against the brutal state crackdown in East Pakistan, which led to the creation of Bangladesh in 1971.
In the 1970s, he led the struggles of haris in Sindh and worked with the left-wing National Awami Party (NAP).
Resistance to Zia regime and ‘Communist Case’
By 1977, Pakistan once again found itself under a military dictatorship. This time, it would seem, General Zia’s regime had decided to permanently redesign the fabric of society itself. There was to be no room for leftists and the form of dissent which they espoused. Jam Saqi, by then General Secretary of the underground Communist Party, became a natural lightning-rod for the repressive wrath of the Zia regime.
Along with other progressives, he stood accused of being an opponent of the “ideology of Pakistan” as defined by an unconstitutional dictatorial regime. This became known as the ‘Communist Case’ and the ‘Jam Saqi Case’.
Through the long hard years of the Zia era, Jam Saqi endured prison, torture and censorship. His first wife even committed suicide in her despair, on being falsely informed of his death during imprisonment.
Through all these horrific tribulations, Jam Saqi endured and became a symbol of the democratic and progressive movement against the Zia regime. Even Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, as the leader of the democratic movement, came to his defence before a military court – declaring Saqi to be a “patriotic citizen of the state”.
On regaining his freedom with the end of the Zia regime, Jam Saqi joined the PPP. There he became an important moral authority, particularly for the left-wing of the party. He leaves behind not just an exemplary political legacy but also a number of writings.
A year of loss
This year, Pakistan has already lost far too many icons of progressive values, democratic politics and human rights. They came from preceding generations which were trained in – and fully understood – the value of clear ideological politics and total commitment to a cause.
In the difficult years and decades to come, their work will remain a guiding light for current and future democratic voices.
Rest in peace, comrade Saqi.