"Since the main leadership of the MRD had been arrested, I was assigned the task of going underground. It was expected of me that despite the continuous arrests going on, I was to keep the momentum of the movement in full force"
The Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was formed in 1981 with eleven parties as its components, with the goal of getting rid of military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. He is a figure still notorious decades after his death for having destroyed the social, economic and political fabric of Pakistani society, which had been envisioned in a far more pluralistic way by the founder of the country Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Instead, through his manipulation and coercion, General Zia was able to bring about the judicial murder of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose government he overthrew.
A particularly important moment of struggle for the MRD was in 1983, when literally hundreds of thousands of people came out on the streets in support of the movement – joined even by prominent feudals and other notables.
This literally shook the brutal Zia regime. As per a decision in Zia’s cabinet, the then Defence Minister was sent to my house and he even offered me the so-called bonanza of a cabinet portfolio. I still remember the fear in his eyes when I refused and said, “You please take care of yourself. You people will face the wrath of the people and your days are numbered.”
The marathon agitation in Sindh and the voluntary courting of arrests on a daily basis (accompanied by protests) indeed created a dent in the Zia regime. One is reminded of the perspective of dialectical materialism, wherein a liquid at its boiling point takes its time to change into a gas. Rome was not built in a day, after all.
Despite so many people hanged, lashed, imprisoned and even tortured at the notorious Lahore Fort, political activists stood by their convictions and remained steadfast on democracy and human rights.
Since the main leadership of the MRD had been arrested, I was assigned the task of going underground. It was expected of me that despite the continuous arrests going on, I was to keep the momentum of the movement in full force. Though it was an ardous task, I honoured my commitment – moving from one house to another, addressing press conferences clandestinely, etc. The police and the intelligence agencies were constantly trying to pursue and arrest me, but luckily our strategy proved superior and they could not get hold of me.
Finally, when I was instructed by the MRD leadership, I courted arrest myself – amidst thousands of MRD supporters.
They incarcerated me at the notorious Lahore Fort and tortured me. According to the authorities’ own words, “We have incarcerated you at the Lahore Fort, to give you a Stinker.”
The dismal environment at the notorious Lahore Fort needs to be elaborated in another Article, for want of space.
Well, life goes on. We must do our best for the amelioration of the conditions of our poor masses in particular.Nothing goes to waste. At least we have been able to achieve something. Today, people can’t be hanged, lashed and tortured so easily. Censorship cannot be imposed as conveniently as during Zia’s era, and so and so forth.