17 June 2021 was a sad recap of 2 December 1973, which brought the episode of the gruesome death of Usman Kakar in a manner reminiscent of his leader Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai. On 2 December 1973, grenades were hurled at the house of veteran Pashtun leader Khan Shaheed, who was resting at his house. They claimed the life of this great anti-imperial figure. 46 years on, a very dedicated worker and valiant soldier treading on the path and philosophy of his leader was attacked in his house in Quetta. He was rushed to the nearby hospital and then referred to Karachi, where he succumbed to the wounds and breathed his last on 21 June 2021.
His death altered the course of history in the context of Balochistan and exacerbated the rage and anger of the people. They were dismayed at the state’s response on the death of their beloved Lala, as the people would call him. This event proved to be a spark igniting the consciousness of these people ignored by the state, the subalterns. The frustration was unprecedented, sending tremors throughout Pakistan and beyond.
The tragic demise of Usman Kakar came to induce a sense of bereavement and alienation in the hearts and minds of Pashtuns and Baloch. Now when a complete year has passed since this murder, the anger hasn’t diminished but rather intensified because the due process that the party and his family cried for, is a demand that has fallen on deaf ears and he still awaits justice.
Usman Kakar was born in a dusty town located in southern Balochistan, Hindu Bagh. He joined politics in his student life and remained a key member of the students’ chapter of PMAP, the Pashtoonkhwa Students Organization (PSO). Since his student life, he remained a steadfast political worker and carried it on till his final breath. His political struggle expanded to more than four decades. Throughout his life, he remained a very humble figure. Based on my personal observations, I witnessed him listening to everyone, high and low. He engaged with the most famous figures and men in the street with the same respect and importance – and gave a very considered response to each.
He served as provincial president of PMAP from 2008 onwards and was the second most important figure of the party, just after the party Chairman Mahmood Khan Achakzai. He was a brilliant strategist and always strived to strengthen the party organisation. Politics was a life-long mission for him.
The Senator remained an active political figure during the most tumultuous period for democracy, federalism and constitutionalism. The dilemma in the Land of the Pure is that the only pat needed on the shoulders to propel into power is that of the security establishment. Once the establishmentarian breeze hits you, no one can stop you from achieving power. The recent failed experiment of the hybrid regime has lessons to be learned, but the manufacturers of that regime seem unlikely to learn from their follies.
Hybrid systems don’t work and this grotesque dance of picking one favoured political figure and then the other has cost the general public a lot, and has distorted the growth of the country: Kakar minced no words in criticising the role of security agencies who have forced us into the current abyss. The solution to our problems lies in showing the mirror to the one politico-economically monopolist institution of state. The elected government and the political forces should unapologetically forge ahead and take the bull by its horns – this was what he believed.
If there is anyone that has to be policed, it is the agencies which plunged the nation into this fiasco. Politicians may have done a lot of wrong, they may be ‘corrupt’, but they have not dismembered the country, and they have not abrogated the sacred document that is the constitution. Usman Lala said all of this and much more on the floor of the house. He argued that the cure lies in ending these clueless experiments and restoring a democratic order with a fair treatment to the peripheries.
He remained a vociferous critic of a foreign policy based on the dangerous sport of raising and funding militants to achieve regional goals and warned that this will have grave consequences and unleash terrorism and extremism at home.
In his untiring political struggle, he played a pivotal part in upholding the banner of democracy, federalism, supremacy of constitution and rights of the oppressed nations.
Usman Kakar was elected to the upper house for the first time from 2015 to 2021. His tenure is replete with bold speeches, an unequivocal stance on civilian supremacy and presenting the case of the voiceless . He raised his voice for the most marginalised. He dauntlessly spoke for lifting restrictions on student politics, recovering missing persons and halting the racial profiling of Pashtuns and Baloch.
He said on record that if one’s own house is a black hole for dissidents and activists then the concern for human rights violations abroad is hollow and devoid of moral grounds. Ex-FATA is under digital apartheid yet the self-proclaimed champions of human rights have the audacity to call on neighbouring countries to restore the internet services in territories like Indian Occupied Kashmir. What an irony, he argued.
National groups living on their lands since thousands of years are kept oppressed. They constantly ask as to why their lands and resources are so coveted while their dignity and political freedoms are glossed over. Usman Kakar spoke of this and much more. Yet in his six years as a senator, no one ever heard him saying an impolite word, acting in uncivil manner or losing his composure – a comportment which has, unfortunately, became a very rare sight in parliament, where members stoop to the lowest every other day. He was a selfless politician who didn’t chase a luxurious lifestyle but wore his brilliance very lightly.
He belonged to that rare breed of politicians who never compromised on their ideology and principles, and remained immune to threats and intimidation.
Usman Kakar was a progressive leader who was a staunch believer in women’s empowerment. He believed that women make up half the population of a nation and without them on board no political struggle can achieve its desired goals.
He was as much the leader and representative of other oppressed nations as he was of Pashtuns: even his death proved to be a moment of solidarity and liason between the oppressed nations.
The elderly, women, men, school children and people across all walks of life showered petals on his coffin. They came from across ethnic and religious divides. The whole province was grief-stricken, bidding farewell to their beloved leader who rendered the supreme sacrifice of his life for his motherland and the ideals that he stood for.
Every tyrant and oppressor must see a day of ignominy but heroes like Usman Lala will remain alive in the hearts of people and their legacy celebrated.
His was a tremendous loss indeed. To quote a line from a novel; “So many of us wish he lived forever.”