Sindh bade farewell to a champion of the nationalist movement on Saturday after Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) Chairperson Bashir Qureshi died in mysterious circumstances in Sakrand, district Shaheed Benazirabad.
Qureshi, originally from Motan Pur Mohalla in Ratodero, Larkana district, was born on August 10, 1959 in a lower middle class family. After completing his primary and secondary education in Ratodero, Qureshi went to college in Shikarpur and was enrolled at the Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam in 1976.
His father, Ghulam Murtaza Qureshi, wanted him to be an agriculture expert. But a meeting in Sann with the iconic leader of the Sindh nationalist movement and head of the Jeay Sindh Tehreek, GM Syed, was the start of Bashir Qureshi’s eventful political career. He became an active member of the Jeay Sindh Student Federation (JSSF).
The imposition of martial law by General Ziaul Haq and the execution of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sparked protests in Sindh against the military regime. Qureshi and his friends were arrested by the police.
The turning point in Qureshi’s life came in 1984, when five students from his university were killed by armed forces as they headed to protest against the regime. University students in Sindh began a campaign against the military. Bashir Qureshi was arrested and awarded a one-year prison sentence by a military court and was severely tortured by army personnel.
After his release, Qureshi was first elected as the JSSF’s vice president, and in 1986 became the central president. He remained in and out of jail.
After GM Syed’s death in 1995, the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz was formed and Qureshi elected as its deputy convener. He went on to head the party.
It was widely believed that the Sindh nationalist movement would end with the death of GM Syed, but Qureshi took charge. He travelled throughout the province to rally people for the cause of Sindh’s independence and played a key role in resolving tribal clashes in the province.
Even though nationalist parties are considered rivals of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the Qureshi-led JSQM and other groups protested with Benazir Bhutto against the Kalabagh Dam at the Kamon Shaheed Bridge, which borders Sindh and Balochistan, in 1998. In 2007, the JSQM organised a massive event – a march from Sukkur to Karachi – and it took 146 days for them to reach the provincial capital.
Qureshi had also pledged to work with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain in 1998 and the two leaders had vowed to campaign for the rights of Urdu and Sindhi-speakers. This fell through when the MQM joined General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s government, because the JSQM had been campaigning against the establishment.
His party took a vocal stance and was behind major protests in the province. Its last event was a ‘freedom march’ in Karachi on March 23, which was attended by thousands of people.
He was the only Sindh nationalist leader who lived in Karachi with his family. A compilation of his articles titled Jaagia Juge Jawan has also been published. Qureshi is survived by his widow, four daughters and three sons.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2012.