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Lasharie, a pacifist who supports guerrillas too
Mushtaq Lasharie is from the breed of political workers who opened their eye of consciousness in a world divided into left and right; and taking the left turn would have come quite naturally to him for being Baloch and then hailing from rural Pakistan. Balochs are undoubtedly the least religious people in Pakistan while religious tradition in rural Pakistan used to be more on the side of tolerant Sufis than the puritan Islam of Wahabis and Salfis before the so-called Afghan Jihad.
Lasharie who is the moving spirit behind organisation Third World Solidarity was born in 1952 in a village called Maliya which then was the part of Jhang, the town which is famous for the shrine of Heer, the heroin of Punjabi language’s epic love story of Heer Ranjha. His father had married to a woman twice of his age out of what Lasharie believed sympathy for the lady who was getting too old to get married in his Lasharie Baloch tribe.
Lasharie was only five when his mother departed after a prolonged illness. When his father married to another woman, young Mushtaq decided to move to his uncle advocate Lal Khan’s home in Lahore rather than living with the step mom in Maliya. Lal Khan was a political activist and Lasharie considers him as his mentor. “I was kind of his secretary who carried his diary and always flanked him in political meetings,” Lasharie recalled fondly.
Lal Khan’s political clout made Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to meet him when he was in the process of forming Pakistan People’s Party. “Bhutto wanted uncle Lal to join PPP but he excused for being an ally of (then a dreadful character in Pakistan’s politics) Nawab Amir Muhammad Khan of Kalabgah.”
Lasharie told an interesting thing about the delegation Bhutto came with to see Lal Khan that Mirza Tahir Ahmed of Jamat-e-Ahmediya was also part of it. Mirza Tahir later became spiritual leader (caliph) of the Ahmediya movement while Bhutto declared Ahmedis as non-Muslims through a constitutional amendment in 1974.
After passing his secondary school exam (metric), Lasharie moved to the industrial city of Lyallpur (now Faiselabad)
to take up a job in a factory. His liberal political grooming made him join the communist party led by trade unionist Tufail Abbas.
Abbas was among the initial core team of Zulfiqar Bhutto that shaped his party and its manifesto. As the political murshid supported PPP so did the disciples including Lasharie and there started a long association with the party of Bhuttos which according to Lasharie ended in around mid 1980s when what Lasharie thinks Benazir Bhutto started marginalising progressive elements in the party.
Lasharie moved to Karachi in mid 1970s and later got an engineering job with the Pakistan International Airlines in 1977. The leftist group of Tufail Abbas had a strong presence in the national flag carrier’s trade union. Gen Ziaul Haq toppled Zulfiqar Bhutto’s government in 1977 as the fallout of multiparty alliance PNA’s movement and started his murder trial, Lasharie was among the workers who were trying to mobilise people to refrain Zia from hanging Bhutto.
The efforts could not overcome Zia’s fear of a living Bhutto. The most popular leader in the history of current Pakistan was hanged through what is now considered by many in Pakistan ‘judicial assassination’.
“That was an awful shock,” Lasharie recalled with a saddened voice, saying “No one was expecting that junta would take this extreme step”. After the shock the task was to keep the party alive, active and resistant to Zia’s dictatorship. Lasharie was among the workers who were keeping the ball rolling in close liaison with 70-Clifton, the home of Bhuttos in Karachi.
“Young Benazir Bhutto used to consult me on labour and student affairs of the party and to avoid uncles (her father’s party associates) she sometimes even took us to the kitchen of 70-clifton to discuss party matters,” he recollected.
“Party’s official organ daily Musawat had been banned but we were managing to bring it out from underground whenever was possible and to get it printed was my task. To trick the regime the print line of the paper claimed ‘Printed and Published in Abu Dhabi’ and interestingly the intelligence agencies also kept on groping in the Gulf to find out the printer until the comrade who used to keep record of the party publications was arrested in the crackdown on PPP workers after the hijacking of PIA’s plane in March 1981”.
There was an entry in the name of Mushtaq Lasharie. Police started looking for him and even interrogated Begum Nusrat Bhutto about him while she was detained by the martial law authorities. “Begum Bhutto sent me a message through her lawyer Hafeez Lakho to run away to save life as sooner or later the regime would get my whereabouts.”
Lasharie remained on the run until 5 June 1981 when Ghulam Musfata Jatoi arranged tickets for him to fly out of the country to a safe place. A week later, he landed in London where he immediately started taking part in oversees activities of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy in Pakistan.
In 1984, Benazir Bhutto also moved to the UK but the party’s left-leaning leaders and workers soon got sense that
she was no more the leader who used to challenge military establishment in Pakistan as her so-called pragmatism had started triumphing over the ideals for which thousands of people had faced brutalities of the regime. “I called it a day in the party when Benazir Bhutto exonerated both America and Pakistan Army from having any role in her father’s tragic fate”.
Thereafter, he formed the Third World Solidarity, an organisation aspiring peace, justice, tolerance and equality in the world especially in the under-developed third world countries. “We stress for equality both among people and the states,” he explained.
Though propagating peace from the platform of TWS, Lasharie still believes that real political change can only be bring about in the countries like Pakistan where military institutions are influential with a coordinated effort of political and guerrilla operations. “That was why supported the idea of Al-Zulfiqar irrespective of the debate whether the plane hijacking was too early to be carried out.”
However, he is sceptic of the success and achievements of what western media is labelling as rebels in Libya. “NTC has no political commitment, world doesn’t know who they are and what shape they will give Libya in days to come. Support of the West and NATO are not for the people of Libya’s sake, its oil they are eying”.
Lasharie thinks the intervention in Libya would probably be proved last as emerging economic powers like China, India, Brazil, Russia and Vietnam would soon be demanding their meaningful say in the world affairs. “China has increased its economic interests in Africa and therefore the West won’t be able to ignore it in the continent’s affair”.
On Pakistan and India, Lasharie says both the countries are facing lots of problems including poverty which can only be addressed by peaceful co-existence as neighbours.
Lasharie has adopted the country that provided him shelter while he was on the run to save his life. He became councillor in 1992 and opted for retirement in 2010. He worked as deputy mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in the year 2003/04 while now he is Honorary Alderman for life of the borough.
He gives a lot of credit to his wife Abida for standing with him through thick and thin like a rock. Lasharie and Abida are blessed with four sons – Gee, Razzaq, Sajjad and Rehan Beebraq - and daughter Benazir Sadaf Lasharie.