Some people have the god gifted ability to make their place in other people’s heart. Wherever they go they gather a crowd of friends around them. Meer Sultan Sangati had a personality which was similar to this. He added the word “Sangati” to his name because of this nature. Sangati means a person who loves to be with friends and the friends of friends. Meer Sultan Sangati was employed in the railway police when he was introduced to Zaki Abbas (late). Gradually he became inspired by his progressive thoughts.
Tufail Abbas got him employed in Pakistan International Airlines, in this way he became an active worker of Airways Employees Union of PIA. Here I want to mention that Airways Employees Union is the union of financially strong organisation of Pakistan and most of the workers were white collared but they left inerasable foot prints on the labour movement of Pakistan. This was the only union which was active in both the wings of Pakistan (East and West) and it was always struggling day and night to organise labour and students movements. In my view no other political party has ever done as much organised work as the Airways Employees Union did amongst students, women, workers, farmers and writers. As for now let us keep aside the role of the Airways Employees Union for some other time and let’s get back to Meer Sultan Sangati. Meer Sultan Sangati was married and had a big family. His ancestral village was Tarbela. Due to the construction of Tarbela Dam when his neighbourhood was flooded away, he and his neighbourhood friends migrated to different areas.
This is the talk of the days when Karachi was not divided on an ethnic and sectarian basis. Karachi was filled with love, knowledge and people loved literature and art. No one in Karachi had even imagined the smell of explosives and gunpowder. During those days Karachi was the centre of the Pakistan progressive movement. Everyone in Pakistan looked up to Karachi to satisfy their ideological thirst.
Tufail Abbas and Zaki Abbas were counted as the leaders of that progressive tribe. The galaxy was decorated with the Airways Employees Union, National Student Federation, Qaumi Mazdoor Mahaz, and Anjuman Mafad-e-Niswan and Monthly Manshoor. Somewhere study circles were being organised and at other times for the rights of labour, the students, youth, the old, women and people from every walk of life would be holding a red flag and were protesting against every type of oppression. During those days there was no shortage of people when it came to the issue of Israel’s aggression on Palestine or India’s atrocity on the weaponless Kashmiris, or the American bombardment on Vietnam or at other times the imperialists were trying to control the Africans and enslave them. It was in these days when Meer Sultan Sangati met Zaki Abbas and that one meeting led to a series of meetings and then one fine day Meer Sultan Sangati resigned from his railway job saying that, “I cannot hold a red flag and protest while I work here”.
Meer Sultan was a worker who never tired; he possessed a face which always wore a smile and a body which was strong and he himself was a handsome person. Looking at all of his qualities his friends got him transferred to Peshawar PIA. In Peshawar he created a gigantic social circle in just a matter of time. He could not speak the language spoken in Peshawar (Pashto) but he understood it, also as he was from Tarbela he basically belonged to Pukhtoonkhaw. After some time he was sent to Quetta.
As per Meer Sultan wherever he goes along with his family, people around them felt their presence. Even in Quetta he soon created a social circle for himself. His comrades were the workers of PIA, lawyers, teachers, and professors of universities, reporters and editors of news papers, doctors and students. Meer Sultan Sangati had a personality which was full of life. He was a passionate man who always wanted to do something or the other. He would never sit and take rest. He was very fond of reading, and even though he was not very educated he had the ability of understanding a book. He could speak, read and write Sindhi and in the same way he could understand the Brohi language too. He had a really good memory, once he read or heard something he would never forget it. He was popular amongst both the educated and uneducated. He also wrote very well and he was a good orator. He used to like giving pens and books as a gift and till date I and Shamim Chaudry have many of his books and pens. He would always give his feedback to Shamim Chaudry over the phone or by letter on her articles which were published on and off in Monthly Manshoor and always insisted that she keep on writing such powerful articles as they were wonderful. In short, Meer Sultan Sangati possessed thousands of good qualities.
Meer Sultan Sangati loved to travel and it was one of his hobbies, whenever I used to ask him to go to Sindh, Peshawar, Multan, Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, and Quetta he was always ready to go. He never took anything as difficult and was always willing to face challenges and he always succeeded. During the era of Zia-ul-Haq he was forced to retire. Those were the dark days and difficult times faced by the PIA union and workers due to the implementation of martial law code 51 and 52. Tufail Abbas was forced during the era of Bhutto to leave the union by passing a new law through parliament and thus he resigned 14 years before his actual retirement because the rulers at that time wanted him to depute at a lucrative post and designation so that he would be separated from the labour movement.
After retirement Meer Sultan Sangati turned Multan into his permanent residence. Every street, lane and each corner of Multan is familiar with his laughter, loud voice and his political, ideological and literary activities. In Multan there is no political worker, leader or writer who is not a part of his social circle.
In Multan he worked extremely hard to organize Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz. Apart from Mohammed Rizwan Amir, Naeem-ur-Rahman, Malik Qasim, Ramzan Ansari, Fida Mohammed there is a long list of people who loved Meer sahib. These people gathered together each evening at Multan’s railway station platform. Ghulam Abbas Daha (late) and Ahmed Ali Shah were the hosts who were always punctual and present at the railway station. He always participated along with his friends in every protest, political and cultural activities. Tufail Abbas sahib would often call him to Karachi; he was as familiar with the roads and lanes of Karachi as he was with the lines of his palm. In Karachi he worked with such dedication that is seemed like as if he had never left. He was the resident of every city, village and area of Pakistan. He could never sit still, he would walk for miles without caring about his health or the weather.
After Multan the second in the list of the cities he loved was Quetta. He has only one daughter who is married in Quetta to Dr. Wali Mohammed Mengal, even the Doctor considered him his political guru. Their relationship was unlike one of a father-in-law and son-in-law. It was the wish of Tufail Abbas and Meer Sultan Sangati, himself was extremely eager to shift to Quetta to continue his political activities. His wish was finally fulfilled and he shifted to Quetta to organize Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz in Baluchistan. Believe it or not he organised Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz in all of Baluchistan and even Manzoor Baloch and Abdul Salam who are of a high political stature joined him and became his comrades. Twice he organized Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz workers’ convention and thousands of labour, political workers and leaders participated in those conventions.
On his invitation I have often visited Quetta and he would tire me by introducing me to different friends of his. His social circle was so big that times I would feel jealousy. Everything was going just fine but gradually as the days passed he would say that “Dear Chaudhry, I feel tired as I walk”, I would say in response that “Meer sahib, you walk a lot, take some rest”. Over time his tiredness increased. Dr. Wali Mohammed focused immensely on his health and treatment but Meer sahib’s health just kept on deteriorating. I last met him on the month of January 2013 in Multan on the death of our comrade Ghulam Abbas Daha. Daha sahib’s death had deeply saddened him; it seemed as if Ghulam Abbas Daha’s death had broken him. Even the death of Zaki Abbas had saddened him and the happy and jolly Meer Sultan Sangati used to get depressed when he was mentioned. Ghulam Abbas Daha’s death had stolen from him his joy and laughter and during these days he started suffering from breathing problems again and could not walk anymore. Rizwan, Fida and Malik Qasim would take him anywhere he wanted to go using their motorcycle. Whilst suffering from the same condition he went back to Quetta. One sad day we received the grievous news that Meer Sultan Sangati had passed away. The news was so horrible and shocking that it seemed as if someone had put burning coals on our ears. A man who for years and years struggled along with Tufail Abbas, Zaki Abbas, Azhar Abbas (late), Shafeeq Ahmed (late) and us for a classless and an oppression free society with full honesty. As per Zaki Abbas “old young man” is no more with us.
“From where should I get someone whom I could call like you?”
Translated from Urdu to English by Parma Abbas.Click here to return to the April 2014 index.