30 Jun A History of the Left in Pakistan – 23
By Ahmed Kamran
Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued)
Formation of the Communist Party of Pakistan
The Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) was formally established in the Second Congress of the Communist Party of India (CPI) held in February-March 1948 in Calcutta It was in line with the decision taken in the central committee of the party in July 1947 when the policy switch took place between losing P.C. Joshi group and the rising B.T. Ranadive group in the party. Out of about 800 delegates to the Congress only three members represented the areas now forming Pakistan. These included Prof. Eric Cyprian from Punjab, Muhammad Hussain Ata from NWFP (now KPK), and Jamaluddin Bukhari from Sindh. Two other nominated delegates from Punjab, Mirza Muhammad Ibrahim and C.R. Aslam couldn’t attend the Congress as they were reportedly caught in the last moment organising a railway workers’ strike in Lahore. Moreover, Kanwar Moni Singh, Khokha Roy and Kalpana Dutt (69) attended the Congress together with about thirty other delegates representing party organisation in the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Because of the partition and resulting transfer of population, the communist organisation in the areas of the newly established Pakistan had suffered a major set-back. In the wake of drawing arbitrary lines of partition of Bengal and Punjab provinces, cutting each into Pakistani and Indian parts, worst communal riots among Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs erupted. In these communal riots, massive killing, arson, torching of homes and commercial properties, and abduction and rape of women on unprecedented scale engulfed particularly Punjab, Bihar, and Bengal. An estimated number of about one and half million were killed, 75,000 women were raped, and about 15 million people were uprooted and crossed the border on either side to save their lives and honour. Most of the prominent CPI leaders and communist workers from Pakistani areas belonged to Hindu and Sikh religion. All of them from Punjab and NWFP barring a few exceptions in Sindh migrated to India, leaving behind a severely fractured and almost dysfunctional party in Pakistan. Western Punjab and eastern Bengal were engulfed in the flames of worst communal riots never witnessed before. The situation was equally gruesome in the Indian parts of the eastern Punjab and western Bengal. The CPI leadership, however, made efforts to reorganize the party structure with the help of local Muslim members in Pakistan including a few veterans of 1920s e.g. Firozuddin Mansoor, Fazal Elahi Qurban and Amir Hyder Khan. These local communists were gradually joined by those Muslim comrades who were immigrating into the new country from the areas now forming India. The party organization was still a part of CPI, with its headquarters in Bombay.
Ajoy Kumar Ghosh had been made in-charge of the activities of the Pakistani communists. He visited Lahore in October 1947 and re-organised the party structure with the remaining Muslim and a few Christian members of the party who opted to live in Pakistan. Punjab Provincial Committee was formed with Mirza Muhammad Ibrahim (secretary), Chaudhry Rehmatullah (C.R.) Aslam, Firozuddin Mansoor, and Eric Cyprian as members. Whereas Jamaluddin Bukhari was made secretary in Sindh and Muhammad Hussain Ata held the position of secretary in NWFP.
The Lahore District Committee had Shamim Ashraf Malik (Secretary), Abdullah Malik, Ghulam Muhammad, Prof Muhammad Safdar, and Abdul Ghafoor as members. Rawalpindi District Committee had Mirza Aziz (Secretary), Dada Amir Hyder, and Soofi Allah Ditta as members. Ajoy Kumar Ghosh was followed by Sajjad Zaheer visiting Pakistan in November 1947 to mobilize party members for the Calcutta Congress. He came to Lahore staying at 114, McLeod Road, the CPI headquarter in Lahore. He extensively toured other parts of Punjab, NWFP, Sindh and Karachi to do his spade work for the Party Congress and held organizational meetings. He also organised a conference of the progressive writers at Lahore on December 5, 1947 at YMCA Hall. He returned to India in January 1948. At the time of Calcutta Congress, the CPI had only four Muslim members in the Central Committee: Syed Sajjad Zaheer and S.S. Yousuf both from the U.P. and Muzaffar Ahmed and Ismail, both from Bengal. Sajjad Zaheer was Incharge of the Muslim front, Progressive Writers Association, and the Editor of one of the party organs ‘Naya Zamana’. Few other prominent Muslim leaders of the party attending the Calcutta Congress, included Mohyuddin Farooqi, Z.A. Ahmed, and Mehmudul Zafar from UP, and Makhdoom Mohyuddin from Hyderabad, Deccan.
The Calcutta Congress of Feb-Mar 1948 approved founding of a separate party for Pakistan namely the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP). The Congress also nominated and approved the appointment of Syed Sajjad Zaheer as the first General Secretary of the proposed party. In line with the approved B.T. Ranadive Thesis, the newly formed CPP was to organize a militant struggle to replace the weak and unstable reactionary regime in Pakistan that had just taken over the reins of power in the new country. In accordance with the party Congress decision, the delegates from areas forming Pakistan, together with few other Muslim delegates from India immediately held a separate meeting presided over by the General Secretary, Sajjad Zaheer to formalize the founding of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in early March 1948. A Central Committee of the CPP was elected with Jamaluddin Bukhari, Muhammad Hussain Ata and Mirza Ibrahim as its members.
In terms of the informal structure of the then Cominform, most of the parties in Europe, America and other parts of the world were to seek ideological and other guidance from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Communist Party of India (CPI) was, however, not reporting directly to Moscow but to the Communist Party of Great Britain. The Communist Party of Pakistan was made subservient to CPI and was not supposed to approach directly to the British Communist Party in London. Similarly, a separate organising committee was formed for the East Pakistan with Moni Singh as its secretary, reporting directly to CPI Calcutta office instead of CPP headquartered in Lahore. On the question of providing initial support the CPI declined to provide any funds to the newly established CPP but, instead, handed it over its three printing presses, one at Karachi and two at Lahore. Peoples Publishing House at Lahore was also transferred to CPP to use its income to meet local expenses. One of the presses was declared evacuee property by the Punjab government after its Sikh caretaker left for India and the other press was taken over by the Industries department. Having not much cash available to meet daily expenses, Sajjad Zaheer decided to sell the Party’s press in Karachi for Rs. 16,000.
To bolster support of the nascent party, Muslim members of CPI were encouraged to migrate to Pakistan and work for organising CPP. Sajjad Zaheer requested his former colleagues and friends in CPI, especially Dr. Ashraf, Z.A. Ahmed, and Ismail to come to Pakistan and help him but they all politely declined. Sibte Hasan (from Azamgarh, UP), Hasan Nasir (from Hyderabad, Deccan) and few others, however, joined him and migrated to Pakistan. Hameed Akhtar who got trapped amid Hindu-Muslim riots in his home town near Ludhiana in East Punjab where he had gone from Bombay to visit his family, somehow managed to escape on a long trail of fire and blood to cross the border and reach Lahore, where the news of his death in the riots in Punjab was already circulating (70).
The First Schism
Even before its formal incorporation at Calcutta in March 1948, the Communist Party of Pakistan experienced its first leadership dispute. Shortly before partition, there already had developed two sub-groups within the Punjab Communist Party; one was led by Sohan Singh Josh and included Karam Singh Mann and Firozuddin Mansoor while the other was led by Teja Singh Swatantar and included Fazal Elahi Qurban and Abdul Qadir, with support from Qadir Bukhsh Nizamani in Sindh. Nizamani was already disgruntled with the leadership of CPI because ill treatment of him in 1941. In the heat of the partition of India and after being expelled from the party, Teja Singh formed a separate ‘Pakistan Communist Party’ in July 1947. He later migrated to India, handing over the leadership of the new ‘Pakistan Communist Party’ to his protégé, Fazal Elahi Qurban. Teja Singh, subsequently, formed an independent ‘Red Flag Communist Party’ in East Punjab in India.
The CPI’s central leadership took Fazal Elahi Qurban’s actions as a violation of party discipline and termed him as ‘disruptionist’. Ajoy Kumar Ghosh during his visit in October 1947 did his investigations and asked Qurban to repent and retrace his steps but Fazal Elahi Qurban evaded signing a statement declaring Teja Singh’s actions and the formation of ‘Pakistan Communist Party’ as ‘anti-party, anti-national and anti-working class revolt’. Ajoy Ghosh accordingly left Qurban out of the interim Provincial Organising Committee. After the arrest of leading communists in Lahore like Eric Cyprian and Firozuddin Mansoor, Qurban with the help of his supporters in the Punjab party attempted to occupy the CPI Punjab office located at 114, McLeod Road, Lahore. Sajjad Zaheer, after assuming his role as the new General Secretary of the CPP formally Issued a charge sheet to Qurban on 18 March, 1948 and finally expelled him and other ‘disruptionists’ from the party in October 1948.
This was, perhaps, the first sign of an under-current in the Communist Party reflecting the brewing conflict between the communists in the Punjab and the dominance of the leaders from other regions, particularly from U.P. The already restless communists from Punjab were even more concerned at the prospect of an impending imposition of a leadership from outside, particularly from UP. Although, Ajoy Ghosh (incharge of Punjab Party) was from Bengal but had mostly lived in the UP, Sajjad Zaheer from UP oversaw the work among Muslims and was a strong and likely candidate for leading the yet-to-be-formed new Communist Party of Pakistan. The sitting General Secretary of the CPI, P.C. Joshi, among other many leading communists, was from Almora in northern UP (now included in the newer province of Uttarkhand) had good working and personal relations with Sajjad Zaheer.
The apprehensions of the Punjabi communists turned out to be quite true with the predominant positions soon occupied by the communists arriving in large number from UP, C.P., and Deccan. With the expulsion of Fazal Elahi Qurban in Punjab and Abdul Qadir Nizamani in Sindh, Syed Jamaluddin Bukhari was hastily sent from Punjab to take over as the secretary of the Sindh Communist Party.
B.T. Ranadive Thesis
The new Secretary General of CPI, B.T. Ranadive’s aggressive policies adopted in the Second Congress in Calcutta in 1948 were soon manifested in the party activities everywhere. A spate of calls for general strikes and revolutionary fervor in trade unions in Bombay, Calcutta, Karachi, and other industrial towns was evident. The party rejected the independence as false and partition of India as an ‘imperialist conspiracy’ and exhorted the people for a renewed militant struggle for a real independence. This policy was translated into a catchy slogan: “Yeh Azadi Jhooti Hai.” (This is a false freedom!). Faiz Ahmed Faiz had put it in a subtler and beautifully poetic way:
Yeh daagh daagh ujala, yeh shab gazeeda sahar
Woh intizar tha jis ka, yeh woh sahar tau nahiN
Nijaat-e deeda-o dil ki ghari nahiN aa’yi
Chaley chalo keh woh manzil abhi nahiN aa’yi
This stain-covered daybreak, this night bitten dawn,
This is not that dawn of which there was expectation
The hour of deliverance of eye and heart has not arrived
Come on, come on, for that goal has still not arrived.
69. Kalpana Dutt was the wife of P.C. Joshi.
70. Hameed Akhtar, Ahwal-Waqyi, Book Home, Lahore, 2005, p. 360.
Chapter 4… Concluded