On March 14, 2020, people from all walks of life gathered to pay their last tribute to a great comrade. The socialist, democrat politician who rose to be the Finance Minister in the first cabinet of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) passed away at the age of 98 years. He took on the elite who were the beneficiaries of the benevolence of the first dictator that had divided the nation into have and have-nots. Though in the long run, the mismanagement in the state-run sector proved to be counterproductive, yet he stuck to his beliefs till the end.

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was the first genuine political outfit after the formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906. In November 1967, the movement started from his house located on 4K Gulberg Main Boulevard. Later, the launch formally took place at the YMCA hall on Mall Road. Lahore responded to his call for social equality. In the 1970 elections he secured 82,746 votes the highest by any candidate. His socialist mandate had overwhelming support which he then implemented with courage and conviction with no personal benefits. Till the end, he lived in the same house and drove his old car, a 1966 model Volkswagen. Compared to some of the politicians of our times, he was a saint.

After leaving the government, he was stopped on the Mall for a traffic violation. The constable asked him about his current profession, to which he replied he was unemployed. Before writing the challan, he asked about his previous job. Dr Sahib’s reply surprised the constable. An Ex-Finance Minister driving a small beat-up car; the constable’s remarks were, “You are an honest man, I will let you go.” Up until the 1985 partyless elections, politics were relatively clean with honest and able leadership which served, not ruled.

In Pakistan, it was the People’s Party government that started making steel in the country, followed the fertiliser complexes and the defence production sector. Major revamping of the Atomic Energy Commission took place with a clear focus to produce nuclear arms under the leadership of Engr Munir Ahmed Khan, who was a key player in convincing ZAB to move forward.

Dr Hasan authored ten books, mostly on developing a corrective course for the nation to follow. In 1992, when I was working as a consultant on the Saindak Copper-Gold Project, I sought his advice to save the project by containing the mismanagement and corruption of the managers at the helm. He not only guided me but wrote an article to guide the future course. It was due to his encouragement that I started to document and then write about my experiences in the land of the pure.

In 2016, he was invited to deliver the Dr Khalifa Abdul Hakim memorial lecture at the Quaid-e-Azam library. He delivered a very interesting talk on the scientific approach in search of truth in the creation of the universe. Search for truth has always been the hallmark of human efforts. He remarked that the Sufis, yogis and scientists all strive to unfold the mysteries of the universe but a true man of science only believes in what he can prove in his laboratory. Continuing on the same theme in 2017, the lecture was delivered by his friend and contemporary Engr Masood Hassan. I wrote an article titled, ‘Technology Touches Philosophy’ to sum up the views of the two heavyweights of our times.

About two years ago, I asked another stalwart of PPP, if the revival of the party was possible. Rana Shaukat Mahmood promptly replied ‘Bhutto’s party was formed to give not to take.’ The era of giving ended with the fall of the elected government in July 1977. Now it is just ‘taking’ and more ‘taking’ with an insatiable appetite. Dr Sahib played a long and useful innings that will be remembered by the progressives for all times to come. He was an engineer, teacher, reformer, visionary, nationalist, democrat and above all a socialist who lived according to his beliefs and died fighting for change till the end. His dream of a socialist state will probably come true one day when the Islamic Republic of Pakistan becomes a welfare state where the needs of the citizens are catered for. My salute to the now extinct breed of ‘comrades’ who came to the fore to give and only give.

Dr. Farid A Malik

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation. Email: fmaliks@hotmail.com