On the 30th January 2013 at around 6:15 AM my mobile phone rang and I suddenly waking up from my sleep wondered who could be calling so early in the morning. As I sat there half awake half asleep I picked up the phone and responded saying “hello” and another voice was to be heard on the other end. The other voice said “I am Ghulam Abbas Daha’s son and I have called to inform that he is no more”. When I heard these words I was shocked and suddenly the sleep from my eyes had been snatched away. I simply couldn’t believe the words I had heard. All I could say to his son was an “okay....”. He then said “the funeral of Mr. Daha Is today at eleven o’clock from our house in Lahore”. After these words had been spoken he cut the phone. By now the sleep was far beyond my reach as I was slipped into the past. I remembered all the years I had spent with this friend I had just lost. It was like as if a movie was playing inside my head. I remembered the first time I ever met Mr. Daha and the joint struggle we had. All these old memories played in my mind as if the pages of the book of life were being turned.
I met Mr. Daha with the reference of our comrade and leader of Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz, Meer Sultan Sangati some twenty years ago. Mr. Daha was employed in Pakistan Railways and was activist of the Railway Workers Union Open Line. I don’t remember what office he was holding in the union because he was a person who held no ego. He wasn’t interested in the post that he held in the union rather he believed in the struggle and he also believed that that struggle was life. He used to speak in a calm Saraiki accent which I personally liked a lot. He was very humble with a strong and healthy body and a tan complexion, a medium height and he was a man full of confidence. His eyes would shine with the light of life. All in all he never failed to impress me. I recalled that in the same meeting I found out that he worked as a gang man in the railway. A gang man is like the spinal cord of the railway structure who kept a canvas bag on his shoulder and a hammer in his hand. He would walk along the railway tracks for miles and miles just to make sure that the nuts and bolts of the railway tracks were kept in order. He was our Ghulam Abbas Daha.
After this meeting I continued meeting him. After joining Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz he started to organize PMM in Multan and its surroundings. Meer Sultan Sangati and Mr. Daha used to meet every evening in front of Multan railway station in a tea stall. Everybody around them used to crowd, even people from the political and social backgrounds. Whenever I went to Multan I always used to go there and join in those meetings outside the railway station in the tea stall.
In those meetings I was introduced to many political workers, labour leaders, lawyers and journalists. Mr Daha got an early retirement from railway so he got time to roam around for organizational work. All day long Mr Daha and Meer Sultan Sangati roamed around on their bicycle from Katcheri to Ghanta Ghar and they’re are the two who introduced monthly Manshoor to Multan. Both of them did their political work in the same manner for years, sometimes he went to Shujabad, sometimes Khanewal, sometimes Bahawalpur or Lodhran or Karor Pakka in short whenever there was a meeting, procession or demonstration of Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz the presence of Mr Daha was a must. I don’t remember him missing at any meeting of PMM and he never hesitated in taking any political assignment which was given to him. He was very active in meetings of the Pakistan Railway Workers (open line) activities.
During the same time I came to know from the leaders of Railway Workers Union (open line) Zafar Malik, Rao Naseem and Junaid Awan that during the era of General Zia-Ul-Haq martial law the government had registered Prem Union and an announced referendum and at that time the government of Zia-Ul-Haq used all their resources to make sure that Prem Union won that referendum. At that time the leadership of Railway Worker Union was in the hands of Mirza Ibrahim and in the very same referendum in the Multan division with the use of excessive government resources and government machinery Railway Workers Union defeated the Prem Union and according to some friends the whole credit goes to Ghulam Abbas Daha. He had traveled many miles on his bicycle so that Railway Workers Union won and in this struggle all including Iqbal Shaad and Akhtar Awan unanimously agreed that the man whose efforts were behind that success was Ghulam abbas Daha.
When I reached Multan on 1st February to attend Ghulam Abbas Daha’s Soyem (second day after death) many people were gathered at his house for and were discussing and crediting him for that victory and all his efforts during his lifetime.
Ghulam Abbas Daha wasn’t very educated, but in his house there were books of Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Aristotle, Socrates, Sibte Hassan, Dr Mubarak Ali, Ali Abbas Jalal Puri, Hassan Jaffar Zaidi in short he had a collection of many famous books of the prominent writers all over the world and he had carefully studied and understood those books. Every time I used to go to Multan from Lahore Daha sahib used to tell me to bring him more books and I always bought those books for him and gave them to him. With reading he also used to enjoy writing, he always used to try to write pamphlets about important topics, he used to write and then get it printed out and then distribute them in the whole of Multan and he also used to send them by post to all the friends of Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz and Railway Workers Union. In the monthly Manshoor many of his writing have been published and are in the record.
As he was employed in a very low income category after his retirement his pension wasn’t sufficient and he couldn’t raise his children and continue his political activities with that much money and as he was a man with a very high self respect he didn’t go to anyone for money and instead he started to go to the vegetable market at 5 A.M. to do labour work and he continued this practice for many years. With the earning he got from this work he used to manage his household affairs and continue doing the political activities, I mentioned the above because most off his friends may not know of this aspect of his life.
This situation caused him to become a sugar patient and he started to stay extremely worried. With this illness he fulfilled all of his responsibilities; he never liked to restrain himself and so at times he would do things which would make his health deteriorate. He never liked to stay at home and take rest, I never saw him take rest for more than a day. If he was sick today he would take rest today and then tomorrow he’d go out on his cycle to the field again.
Meer Sultan Sangati shifted along with his family to Quetta from Multan, after this event Ghulam abbas Daha felt like as if he was all alone. Ghulam Abbas Daha had a gigantic circle of friends but he was a close friend of Meer Sultan Sangati and they enjoyed a great comradeship. Daha sahib was a great organizer who organized all the gatherings of Railway Workers Union in Multan. Whenever he used to chant slogans in his heavy voice everyone’s attention would turn to him. From Peshawar to Karachi and Quetta all his friends loved him, Daha sahib deserved all the love and affection he got. He was such a kind man who used to give all he had to his friends.
He was extremely impressed by the chairman of PMM, Tufail Abbas and also loved him deeply. As Tufail Abbas used to write the editorial he used print it out and distribute it to his friends.
Two to three months back he came to Lahore and he was admitted in the railway hospital and he called me and told me that he wasn’t feeling well and that’s why he was referred to Lahore for some tests. I have visiting him along with the leaders of railway workers open line Anwar Gujar, Zafar Malik, Aijaz, Mohammad Akbar, Wazir Saho and Fazale Wahid. His wife was also over there, after all the test results came out it was known that he was suffering form hepatitis. Diabetics had already made his health deteriorate and this added to it. He collected all the reports and went back to Multan; Dr Ali Amin general secretary PMM Punjab started sending him medicines after reviewing his reports from Chinniot to Multan. He used to send diabetics medicines before as well but this time his health couldn’t be controlled. Railway doctors gave up and sent him back home; his children took his to Nashtar hospital but those doctors also gave up and he went to home again and in this way he died on the 30th January and our beloved comrade Ghulam Abbas Daha left us.
Here I also want to mention that Ghulam Abbas Daha was never absent from any of the meeting of PMM, on eleventh and twelfth of January there was a meeting of PMM executive comittee and he wasn’t there because of his illness, we never knew that his absence would be on permanent. Today Ghulam Abbas Daha is no more with us but his friends from all over Pakistan and comrades of railway workers union and PMM will never be able to forget him.
He was a true revolutionary!
Shaukat Ali Chaudry is General Secretary of Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz.
Translated from the Urdu by ParmaAbbas.Click here to return to the September 2013 index.