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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 14 New Delhi March 21, 2020

Remembering Dr Mubashir Hasan

Tuesday 24 March 2020


Dr Mubashir Hasan, 98, one of the most prominent crusaders for India-Pakistan amity at the people’s level besides being an outstanding champion of democracy in Pakistan, breathed his last at his residence in Lahore on March 14, 2020 leaving behind countless peace activists in both India and Pakistan who had been inspired by his tireless activities for Indo-Pakistan friendship and cooperation over the last 25 years. Dr Hasan was Pakistan’s Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Affairs in Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Cabinet (1971-74) besides being the Secretary-General of the Pakistan People’s Party (1975-77). He was imprisoned under three military dictators—Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia-ul-Haq; Zia placed him in the torture cell of the Lahore prison. Following the highly successful Third Convention of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy in Kolkata (December 28-31, 1996) Dr Hasan gave a wideranging interview to the Mainstream editor in Kolkata (the full text of which was carried in the Republic Day Special issue of the journal dated January 25, 1997). As a token of our tribute to his abiding memory we are carrying some excerpts from that interview here. He had also come to Delhi to attend Nikhil Chakravartty’s 90th birth anniversary on November 3, 2003 where he delivered a lecture on ’India-Pakistan: “Walls Must Come Down”’. Excerpts from that speech are also being published here. Furthermore, he wrote an article on N.C. on the occasion of Nikhil Chakravartty’s birth centenary on November 3, 2013; the full text of that article is also being carried here.

People are now Moved to Strive for Indo-Pak Amity

SC: Dr Hasan, you have been one of the moving spirits behind this Forum since its inception. What are your impressions of the Third Convention of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy which has just concluded in Calcutta? How do you compare this with the previous Conventions?

MH: Well, others in India as well as Pakistan have been of great help in building up this forum. I have also been involved in the activities of the Forum since the beginning but most of the papwerwork and legwork has been done by others.

As far as this Convention is concerned. I think it has been a roaring success. The First Convention was held in an atmosphere of uncertainty. There was great opposition in a section of the Pakistani press that we should not go at all. Some well known leaders had appealed in the newspapers that we should not proceed to Delhi, that is, in February 1995. The Indian High Commission (in Islamabad) had issued 123 visas (to Pakistani nationals to travel to India) but because of what appeared against us quite a few dropped out. But when we came to Delhi we had a well-oiled machinery at the Convention, we sailed through all the sessions and there was unanimity all along.

By the time of the Second Convention in Lahore (November 1995), we had no problem in holding the Convention and all our fears that there may be some demonstration against the Indian delegation whom we had put up in two hotels far away from each other—and we had made eleboarate security arrangements for them—were allayed. You’ll be glad to know that there was no untoward incident at all. There was no protest and not a policeman was to be seen in the vicinity of the place where the Convention was held. The Indian delegates were supposed to come on Thursday, the Convention was to have taken place on Friday and Saturday, and they were to return on Sunday. But when they arrived we found that there was no plane on Sunday. So they had an extra day at their disposal and we were very delighted that they stayed an extra day, went about visiting Lahore and the Lahoris received them very well. A Indian girl’s purse was pickpocketed; I appealed in the press that its contents should be returned; and those were returned.

All that was done in a rather hurry. To hold a Convention in February (1995) and by the time you recover and collect your papers and write your reports it is April-May and then you start making arrangements for the next Convention in November. So we didn’t get much time for preparation. Yet, as it was in Delhi, there was a consensus in Lahore.

Then we decided that two Conventions are one too many and in 1996 we’ll hold just one Convention; and the Indian hosts decided that it should be held in Calcutta. At this Convention we had double the number of delegates and double the number of days for discussions.

This Conventions, as I said, has been a roaring success. Now I think in both sides the Forum members understand the problems that are on the way of improving Indo-Pakistan relations.

The talks here were of a substantive nature about what should be done, and we have chalked out programmes. We hope that much of those programmes will be carried out.

And then for us it was a wonderful opportunity to come to Calcutta. I knew Calcutta to be, as always, a very hospitable and cosmopolitan city—a city much relaxed, not like Karachi or Bombay where there is so much pressure all the time. We found that very good arrangements had been made for our stay as well as for our Convention, and we had the opportunity to meet a lot of people. Whatever we requested from the West Bengal Government by way of information was made available to us. The Speaker of the State Assembly was kind enough to host a dinner for us and there were other dinners as well. The Chief Minister was kind enough to come to the Speaker’s dinner and talk to us for quite a while. That was very encouraging.

SC: Did you have any special discussion with him on the Forum and the Convention?

MH: No. He was very glad to know that there was such a Forum. He appreciated what we are doing. There was no special discussion.

SC: Did you extend any invitation to him to visit Pakistan?

MH: Yes, we did. We did request him to come to Pakistan. And he said he’ll be very glad to visit our country. Now we’ll have to work out the modalities.

SC: Can you please be more specific? When you say the Convention was a roaring success can you explain in what way was it so? Were the discussions more extensive, more wider-ranging and comprehensive?

MH: The discussions were more..

SC: Indepth?

MH: Yes, more indepth, more target-oriented.

SC: And more frank?

MH: Well, the discussions in the Conventions of our Forum have always been frank. But this time there were far less misunderstandings. I think the points of view of the Forum have by now got consolidated.

SC: Although quite a few of the participants, even among the Pakistani delegates, were attending the Convention for the first time, isn’t it so?

MH: That’s true. But the fact is that we had done homework in Lahore and had circulated the minutes and details of the decisions of the last two Conventions. So they knew the background.

But not only that. Throughout 1996 we have been holding meetings in various cities—seminars, workshops, even processions have been organised. So the cause of improving Indo-Pakistan relations is well known to the people, particulary those who are interested in coming.

Now, the Convention was a success in the sense that I think people—both Indians and Pakistanis—will be returning from here with better defined aims about what they have to do and also we will be able to show to the govern-ments in a better manner that we are just not few in number but we represent the trend of public opinion in both the countries and that they should better pay heed to what we are saying, otherwise they will be the losers.

(Excerpts from the interview of Dr Mubashir Hasan in Kolkata, January 1, 1997—published in Mainstream Republic Day Special, New Delhi, Janaury 25, 1997)

Nikhil Chakravartty and the Growing Momentum of Peace

Today in the fifty-seventh year after independence, the people as well as the elites of

India and Pakistan are questioning the wisdom of maintaining a state of confrontation between the two countries. The power of the pundits of old mind-sets is declining. The momentum for peace is growing. Nikhil Chakravarty played the most outstanding role in bringing about this great change. I propose to trace in some detail the three phases in which this change has come about. In the first phase the two governments were the principal actors. In the second phase—in the beginning of the eighties—the intelligentsia of the two countries started playing an important role. The third phase is the era of people-to-people diplomacy.

The partition of the subcontinent into Pakistan and India in 1947 was accompanied by very large traumatic exchange of population and horrible massacres. That these events should cast long shadows over the attitudes of the peoples of the two countries towards each other, was only natural. Not natural, however, was that the two governments should confront each other for more than a few years. Countries go to war but with signatures on a peace treaty, normal intercourse is quickly resumed. That did not take place in our subcontinent. The opportunities we have missed of ushering progress and prosperity for the two peoples have been nothing short of tragic.

[(Excerpts from Dr Mubashir Hasan’s article on N.C. at the 90th anniversary of Nikhil Chakravartty’s birth, New Delhi, November 3, 2003—published in Mainstream (November 22, 2003)]

Knowledge blended with Wisdom

Dear Sumit,

An unfortunate accident is preventing me to attend the gathering in Delhi in honour of your illustrious father and my friend Nikhil Chakravartty. We had become friends in the early nineties when I became active in improving relations between India and Pakistan. I had occasion to visit India four or five times every year. The very next morning of my arrival in Delhi, Nikhil very graciously would be there to visit me at the residence of Syeda Hameed at Jamia.

We would discuss the world situation, the regional situation and India-Pakistan relations. In his view, and I agreed with him fully, the specifics of our situation in the subcontinent could best be understood keeping in mind the geopolitical and economic environment of the region and the world as a whole.

N.C. was a great mind. He well knew the entire background of the Indian political leaders. He had followed their successes and failures and he knew their strong points and weaknesses. His knowledge of the Indian political scene and the Indian state made him aware of what a particular leader could do and could not do and what to expect from him.

Nikhil fully understood the limitations the state put forward in the conduct of a Prime Minister and other senior Ministers. N.C. appreciated what came in the way of a Prime Minister, not letting him act the way he would have acted if he were acting as an individual keeping in mind what the people and the media desired. However, also being the custodian of the interest of the state uppermost, the PM was obliged on occasions to opt for another path.

I well remember that a certain matter of public importance had awaited a decision of the Prime Minister Narasimha Rao for a long time. N.C. took up the matter in his column saying that perhaps the Prime Minister was the follower of a certain Chinese philosopher who held that no decision on a matter was also a decision.

The next day after the column appeared there was a gathering of journalists with the Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. N.C. was also present in the gathering. When the PM saw N.C. he beckoned him to come near. N.C. told me that he thought the PM was irked by the column and wanted to explain something about it. However, as N.C. approached, all the PM had to say was: “What was the name of the Chinese philoso-pher?”

N.C. was highly respected by political leaders and journalist alike. The leaders of the ideology of the Right stoutly opposed N.C.’s Left-wing beliefs but they had to respect him for his integrity as a journalist. He was a thorough investigator. Not a word would slip out of his pen that was not true and could not be shown to be true. What made him great in his profession was not merely the knowledge but the wisdom that went with it. He was the greatest journalist of the twentieth century. He stood for peace, prosperity and equality all over the world. He was an indefectible and indefatigable fighter for the cause of the poor and downtrodden everywhere.

Nearer home, constantly improving relations between the peoples and governments of India and Pakistan was his cherished goal. Among many others he was a great supporter of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy from the first day of its founding. He lauded the efforts of the Forum for holding joint conventions in various cities of India and Pakistan.

Nikhil Chakrvaratty was a great Indian, a great South Asian and a great citizen of the world. His fight for freedom, truth and peace shall long be remembered.

(Dr Mubashir Hasan’s letter to Sumit Chakravartty and article on N.C. during the latter’s birth centenary, New Delhi, November 3, 2013—published the Mainstream issue of November 9, 2013)

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