Jam Saqi’s name is synonymous with the leftist politics in Pakistan. As a social rights worker, his life was invested in a struggle against the feudal powers oppressing the poor downtrodden masses.
His political journey started during his school days with his signature campaign demanding education to include mother tongue. Formal political work commenced upon joining college in Hyderabad, as he became a member of communist Party and Sindh Hari Committee and served as the first general secretary of the Hyderabad Students’ Federation in 1964.
Born on October 31, 1944 in Tharparkar, Jam Saqi embodied the leftist communist ideology and remained a blue-blooded revolutionary throughout his life. Communist Party’s preceding leadership had paid a heavy price for their ideology with either their life and by forcible exile. Jam also served as the central secretary general of the Communist Party and also formed the Sindh Student Federation, becoming its first president, along with his likeminded progressive activists.
In his life, he paid for his convictions with jail time. Torture couldn’t break his spirit and he remained a stalwart political activist. After the 4th March 1966 movement, he was arrested and imprisoned for the first time. The march consisting of thousands of students started from Sindh University (SU) in Jamshoro enroute to Hyderabad. However, the martial regime forcibly intervened, injuring 17 students and arresting over 200.
Jam Saqi was renowned for his advocacy against the one-unit formula. Two weeks after he married his beloved cousin, Sukhan, in 1968 and 1969, he was arrested multiple times for instigating a movement against General Ayub Khan, One Unit In Pakistan and campaigning to declare Sindhi as the national language of Pakistan.
During the 1971 chaos, Jam Saqi became very unpopular with the regime and was ordered to be shot on sight for his movement against the army operation. He had to go in hiding.
In 1978 he experienced the longest incarceration, 18 months, torture and was awarded 10 years’ sentence for treason by the summary military courts. This trial against Jam and his 52 comrades was later known as Jam Saqi case. Benazir Bhutto, Mir Ghaus Bux Bizenjo and Khan Abdul Wali Khan, among many, were the famous political personalities of the time who came to attest on behalf of Jam Saqi’s patriotism, calling for an end to their incarceration on dubious grounds. The PIA plane hijackers demanded that Jam Saqi and his 52 comrades be released and sent abroad, but Jam and his comrades refused to leave the country.
His wife, upon hearing rumors of his murder in 1979, drowned herself in a well leaving two children behind.
He was released in 1986, remarried, fathering four children.
In 1988 Jam contested elections from a Tharparkar constituency, but lost to the influential Arbab Ameer Hassan. In 1991, still the secretary genera of the communist party, he started Jamhoori Tehreek and his long march started across the province was joined by people of every political orientation. Around this time Saqi decided to leave the Communist Party
In 1992 Benazir Bhutto invited him to join Pakistan People’s Party, which he did the succeeding year. In PPP he served as the labour advisor and later in his politically dormant days, he remained the voice of consciousness. His close aides remember Jam Saqi’s vehement protest upon the move to remove the word socialist from PPP’s manifesto.
Jam Saqi lived an exemplary and spartan life and crusaded for the uplift of the masses and the underdogs. His enemies too praised him for his honesty and dedication to give voice, opportunity and an equal measure of respect to every citizen of the country. Upon his illness all mosques and temples held special prayers for him.
Leftist comrade and a human rights activist expired here today at the age of 74 due to kidney failure. He had authored seven books in his life