I was always fascinated by my Uncle Asim’s stories of his political struggle during the late seventies and early eighties, a child I had heard a lot of stories about nationalism. Once he had narrated a story about his escape from Nara Jail.
“It was a cold evening of December when I broke the prison and ran away from the cell…..” he said, he was telling me and my cousin Amar about faith.
“The police was after me and a dictator was ruling the country; Sindh was marching towards a revolution;” we looked at Uncle Asim with keen interest we were unable to understand what had all that to do with our innocent question about faith. Uncle Asim continued: “Sindh was inching towards communism; every individual of Sindh in 80s would have been a communist, if the establishment would not have introduced an ethnic party and mullacracy; which diverted almost all the Sindhis to nationalism.” we were still confused; Uncle Asim adjusting his shawl said in caring tone:
“The mass murder of Sindhis began in their own cities; they wanted to destroy us all; the ethnic riots reached at peak in two major cities of Sindh,” after a deep thought he said: “our mothers, sisters and daughters were being raped, their breasts were cut off and thrown to dogs; hot iron rods were inserted in their bodies,” he paused for a while took of his glasses touched his eyes and talked again:
“We formally joined the national struggle; when the incident of Thori Phattak happened.”
“What happened at Thori Phattak, uncle?” asked Amar, he looked into Amar’s twinkling eyes; and his lips started to move to narrate the incident: “a bus of students from University of Sindh was going to see their leader at Sunn, when they were killed brutally with the army bullets for the sin of being a Sindhi, when this news spread the sons of the soil woke up
“You see my son, independence doesn’t mean to have a piece of land only but it also means to have law and order, justice, equality, respecting other people’s beliefs, it also means free to say what one wants to say and free to believe what one wants to believe,” after saying that he asked
Both of us:
“Do you think we have that independence today?” both of us without uttering a word nodded
our heads in no. Uncle Asim started again moving his left hand in his beard:
“The main function of our party was to unite the Sindhi speaking people, to give them awareness about the conspiracies against Sindh and Sindhi nation, to fight for our rights and to even fight against feudal lords.” Amar lay down in uncle’s lap; his uncle started to move his hand in Amar’s hair and continued:
“We started to protest against a dictator under an Islamic mask, we used to arrange rallies, marches, and speeches; our aim was to fight against the gunmen without any gun, you know my sons the best Sindhi literature was published in that era…every day a Sindhi young soldier was killed and labeled a dacoit or a thief.” This brought a while of pause Uncle Asim lit a cigarette and inhaling the smoke and throwing it out said:
“If one Sindhi would be killed, we would kill two non-Sindhis in retaliation, this was decided,” after another puff of cigarette he said: “all the journalists of Sindh, poets and writers were behind the bars, but we were getting more and more support from the general public; Sindh became superior to us, even superior than Gita and Quran; Syed Badshah became our only leader,” Amar came out from uncle’s lap; who this time started to tell the us:
“I was amongst the best orators at that time, I and my family started getting threats, your father who was in a government job; lost his job because of me but we carried on, when things became unbearable a retaliation wing in our party was formed and the head quarter was the boys’ hostel at
University of Sindh;” after another puff he said: “anti-Sindhi elements feared to enter the premises of the university, but this was our greatest mistake for us Sindhis lost all the educational institutions at Karachi.” There was silence in the room for a while; and then Uncle Asim spoke:
“The law enforcing machinery woke up against us; they started searching us like hungry dogs; many of our companions were jailed including our leaders, all being tortured for just one sin; to be a Sindhi; the officials wanted us to confess that we were being supported by India, which was not true, when they started to torture us human souls cried.” And there was a pause; Amar‟s
“Just coming,” Asim replied her, the lady left the room and he carried on: “I too was caught in a case of treason against the state if proven death penalty or life imprisonment,” we
stared him with keen interest.
“I was brought to the military court;” he said: “and before the case could start we knew that army generals would hang us because treason is unbearable in the military camp.” Uncle Asim broke the neck of his cigarette in the ashtray and asked Amar: “my child please, give me a glass of water,” young Amar poured the water in the glass and gave it to him, Uncle Asim drank the water in one
breath and kept the empty glass on the table and started speaking again:
“We were sent to the Nara Jail; the furious police started to beat us with thick stick, and rubber hunters, to some of our companions the put chili powder in their eyes, to use abusive language was a routine,” and again there was a little pause after which the old guy said:
“They used to tell us;” he said: “to repeat that Muslims are brothers, Pakistan is our motherland, and we are one nation as Muslims.” Uncle Asim again lit his cigarette and with high spirits told us:
But we kept on repeating Sindh is our motherland, all Sindhis are our brothers without the discrimination of cast, colour, or religion and nationalism is our religion.” Amar’s mother came in again to remind them about the dinner, they went to the dining hall. After half an hour and
one more cigarette for Uncle Asim, we returned to his room which was filled with books on every topic, Uncle Asim sat on the bed, and Aunt Nadira brought a cup of tea and two glasses of hot chocolate milk for us, Asim hold the tea in his hand
“Yes,” Uncle Asim started again sipping the tea: “two months later the torture stopped and we were now political prisoners, which brought a period of relief for us,” he finished his tea and kept the
china clay cup on the table.
“Yes,” Asim started again sipping the tea: “two months later the torture stopped and we were now political prisoners, which brought a period of relief for us,” he finished his tea and kept the
china clay cup on the table.
“There I met Chacha Mohan;” he told us: “he told me that even with a Pakistani identity card he was being charged of Indian spy, the old guy told me that actually he was an activist of nationalism and communism, I found him a soft hearted man and was in the jail since the time of One Unit, when he cried that One Unit is the death of state and his words came true in 1971. Police tortured him and Chacha Mohan lost his legs, I learnt a lot of things about nationalism from him.” It was now time for another cigarette, and as he lit it there was a cloud of smoke in the room.
“Mohan, the old guy had the map of the jail;” Uncle Asim said puffing the cigarette: “and told about me the escape way beneath the drainage system, for three nights he told me everything about the map, and when I learnt the map completely I tried to escape, in which I was successful but at the last minute the guard sitting in the tower at the top saw some movement, he whistled and shouted to stop or he would shoot, but I kept on running, they opened the fires straight on me.”
“Not even one bullet touched you, uncle!” I asked amazingly, Uncle Asim smiled and said: “no all of them were miss-shoots,” and carried on with story: “I ran into the fields; the police was after me all the check points were made high alert, I could hear the police on loud speakers and their sirens, running through the corn fields I came across a small village, I was not familiar with that at all prior to that moment, there was hardly any house or human before my eyes, nor were there any dogs, I kept on running until I came to a house that had a wooden door, hurriedly knocked it but there was no answer, few moments later knocked it again, yet no reply I looked here and there everywhere to have a look that police has not reached, and on the third knock an old man opened the door.” At this point the old uncle of the kids stopped talking, dived into his
“Chacha, I am the soldier of freedom, the cops are after me, I want a night’s protection in your house,” I replied to him he looked deep in my face and said: “Come inside quickly son.” Entering the house I thanked him as he gave the way from the
“My son;” he said in same tone: “take off your cloths,” hearing this I was shocked and my jaw dropped, he continued: “I live here with my daughter, who is of your age and there is only one room in the house.” I glanced in his face that was brightening like a moon; he called a girl’s
“Moomal……Moomal……” and moments later a young blonde girl came out of the room to the
“Listen daughter he is soldier of freedom, but now is in danger, he wants our help to escape from the cops,” his daughter heard him passionately, hope came into her eyes.
“you both go inside and sleep together,” her father said, these were the most surprising words for me in my entire life, we Sindhis believe that for us the most important things are our land and our women, we don‟t compromise on these two things, how is it possible, that a father is asking his young daughter to sleep with a complete stranger, it was even embarrassing for me I thought I should break his head, bash his jaw how can he utter such stupid words, then he said to me:
“You go inside and lay down with my daughter under same blanket, when the cops will come I will tell them, no one is here other than my daughter and her husband, who are sleeping inside.” I don‟t know why, but I went inside the room that was dark along with his young blonde daughter,
she first went into the blanket and called me: “Come inside,” I followed her. After a good half an hour there was a knock on the door all the fear of world entered my heart, my soul was trembling that sooner or later I will be back in police custody.
“Coming…..coming,” the old man replied, and then the door was opened the cops entered the
“No sahib;” the old man replied: “no one has come here, only my daughter and her husband are sleeping inside the room, you can check it up.” The SHO signaled one of his constables with his eye, who looked inside and reported that the old man was telling the truth, they left with an order:
If you find a suspicious guy around here report the police. “Yes sahib,” the old guy replied, and they left the house. I was totally surprised on this little scene and thank God they believed the old man’s words, had they inspected properly they would have killed all three of us. When I thought it was save, I came out from the bed and went out to the veranda, I thanked the old man and holding his shoulders asked:
“Chacha, how did you believe that I won’t harm your daughter?” a smile of hope and pride came
over his face as he said:
“Son how I could doubt you, who is the protector of my motherland, I know well all the daughters of this land are your sisters.” I bowed down and touched his feet; he took me up, and hugged. Putting my hand on girl’s head I told her: “By God, I thought I was laying with my own blood sister,” She gave me a pleasant smile and said:
“O brother! I am your sister, we both have tasted the milk of same mother,” after a little pause she said: “Sindh is our mother and its water is like milk to us, coming out from mother’s breasts, so in that way we are brother and sister.”
Then for a long time Uncle Asim was silent, and after lightening another cigarette he said: “The next day I ran out from this country; through border to Afghanistan, and then to Russia where I
studied journalism and social sciences.” After taking a deep breath he commented:
“That should be the state of faith; when you believe in something or cause no doubt should enter your hearts.”
Defense View, Karachi…. 9:15 pm
I was laying with Samreen, she is really a terrific lover, I stared in her twinkling eyes and said:
“You know human beings are very funny creatures, they always are in search of happiness, no matter even it is a bit, whether you be a religious are not but whenever Eid comes you try to celebrate it by putting new clothes.” Samreen hugged and kissed me.
“You nationalists are astonishing creatures,” she said with a shining smile, this brought a smile on my face and I said:
“No we aren’t astonishing, we are crazy, and secondly Sindh is a land which has faced invasion after invasion in every period of history.” I took a cool breath and then uttered a couplet of Sindhi poet Haleem Baghi:
“O Sindh! In every age thee have been ruined;
Yesterday thy Thatta was burnt; today thy Karachi is lost;
The Mohanas were kicked out from Tamachi’s country;
Here are the dead bodies of Ami and Phaphi…..”
“What are you murmuring?” Samreen asked coming over me, I translated the couplet for her.
“How sad that couplet was!” she said in a sad tone, I felt it hard to breath and stood up and walked towards the window and gazing into the dark sky of Karachi started singing:
“Whether I live or not….
May my Sindh be there forever….” and after a small pause I sang:
“When I testified thy art my God!
At that very moment God made Sindh my land….” Samreen came behind me and gave a hug, her firm tits were pressed against my back.