In his farewell address to the Senate of Pakistan, Usman Khan Kakar alias Usman Lala, while addressing the Chairman of the Senate on the floor of the House, said, “I am receiving threats. If anything happens to me or my family, two top intelligence agencies will be responsible.”
Thereafter, on 21 June 2021, he was found injured in the guestroom of his house in Quetta. A strange blow was struck on his head. Inside, a part of the brain was completely damaged. The neurosurgeon who was treating Usman Kakar had said that a person who falls from the eighth or ninth floor of a building suffers such an injury. At the request of doctors, he was shifted to Aga Khan Hospital, Karachi, but could not recover and succumbed to his injuries.
Usman Lala was born in 1961 (now Muslim Bagh) to Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan Kakar in Hindu Bagh, district Killa Saifullah. Along with education, his prime focus was politics. He started his political career with student activism in 1977, and became the secretary of Pashtunkhwa Students Organisation (PSO) in 1987. After becoming senior provincial secretary of Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) in 1989, he was elected provincial president of the party in the 2007 intra-party central elections.
In the 2015 Senate elections, Usman Lala became a member of the Senate of Pakistan from the PKMAP for the general seat of Balochistan, where he played the historic role of a truly democratic politician. He was a simple man of the highest caliber in terms of ethical standards, unbiased attitude, smiling face, coupled with being a staunch supporter of the supremacy of parliament and rule of law in the land.
Mr. Kakar, who started his career as student politics from PSO, a student organisation of PKMAP, had a cool temperament. He became known as someone who remained calm, well composed and confident on political issues, but never compromised on his political ideology for the oppressed class.
His advocacy for human rights, especially the rights of minorities, protection of students, missing persons and ending forced disappearances throughout Pakistan sensitised the floor of the house about these grave issues.
Usman Kakar was clear that unless all the institutions work within the constitutional framework, and the law of the land is respected by all, democratic culture as well as processes won’t improve. In terms of provincial autonomy, he had a firm stance that all Provinces should be autonomous in their respective domain, within the federation of Pakistan.
Unfortunately, there are a number of misconceptions created about Usman Lala, for instance the suggestion that he was anti-army, or opposed to certain ethnic groups. In fact, he was only against those who sabotaged democracy, exceeded their constitutional limits and exploited the country’s resources while appropriating for themselves the proceeds. Even being part of the coalition government of the PMLN, he always condemned the oppressive policies of the state.
Moreover, Usman Kakar was a staunch critic and opponent of censorship, always terming it a threat to democracy and political stability. He himself was a victim of the same censorship. Mr. Kakar’s narrative was not acceptable to either the government or the establishment.
Usman Lala’s role in ensuring and advocating women’s rights and empowerment is unparalleled. His stance on women’s rights was very clear: that for a democratic, political, parliamentary and constitutional Pakistan, it is essential to bring women forward and give them a voice to become part of mainstream politics. It is utterly illogical and pathetic too to keep women within the four walls of the house, and still hope for social and political stability.
The 21st of June is marked as his first death anniversary, but he is remembered throughout Pakistan for his unprecedented services to the parliament, constitution, democracy and the oppressed class. His voice for victims of target killings, his support for missing persons, his voice against Hazara killing in Quetta and Pashtun targets in Karachi and every oppressed class was loud and clear.
He had a short stay in the highest policy-making forum, but will be remembered for long. Working to empower the Senate, being the only policy forum with equal representation, Lala was conscious of the fact that until the Senate has financial power, it is not possible to protect the rights of smaller provinces in a majoritarian democracy.
He buried many secrets with his dead body, but left a legacy of struggle for the right causes in Pakistan. As such, he never had personal grudges with people, despite having political and ideological differences. His political perspective was clear: that the viewpoint of a person should not be confused with their personality.
The death of Usman Kakar is a question mark over the neutrality and democratic status of the state. The mysterious death of a political and democratic man like Mr. Kakar is not less than a political tragedy. If the state continues its traditional bigotry and obfuscates the death of Usman Lala in the courts and files, then it is right to hold the state itself responsible for his untimely and enigmatic death.