He’s a criminal lawyer by profession and the brains behind the Awami Tehreek – he also turned 82 on Wednesday.
Rasool Bux Palijo celebrated his birthday by cutting the cake with 20,000 people, including Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Maulana Asadullah Bhutto and Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, in London Town, Qasimabad.
As a Sindhi nationalist, Palijo has struggled for what he believed in but has never tasted power. He spent 11 years in prison at various stages during Gen. Ayub Khan’s government and Gen. Ziaul Haq’s military dictatorship.
“Palijo is a man who has never bowed down to anyone,” said Bhutto, the JI’s Sindh ameer. “Many politicians in Sindh claim to be revolutionaries but only Palijo had the courage to reject power.”
Bhutto was among the many political leaders, social activists and writers who had gathered to celebrate Palijo’s nine-hour long birthday festivities.
Getting to know you
The 82-year-old nationalist is a multilingual constitutional and criminal lawyer who loves literature, history, politics and philosophy. It was his opposition to feudalism, martial law and colonialism that made him a part of many political movements such as the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy. He formed the AT in 1970 and was imprisoned for over a decade and declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International in 1981. He is also considered to be a founding member of the Awami National Party, Sindh Qaumi Ittehad and Sindhi Adabi Sangat.
While speaking at the event, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) Ismail Rahu thanked Palijo for fighting for Sindh. The PML-N’s Saleem Zia said that although the AT was not represented in the assemblies, it had played an integral part in opposing the government in Sindh. He added that the PML-N would never allow anyone to divide the province.
While talking about Balochistan, Senator Hasil Bux Bizenjo said that the people of Balochistan wanted to remain a part of the federation but on its own terms.
He asked the nationalists to get the people of Sindh together to fight for Balochistan. “If you [the Sindhis] don’t then it will be your turn next,” he said.
According to the AT’s president Ayaz Latif Palijo, the country needs a new social contract. “The centre should only control foreign policy, defence and the central bank,” he said. “Sindh contributes 69 per cent of oil and 73 per cent of gas to the country’s net production which should be under the province’s control.” He added that the Pakistan Peoples Party was playing with the sentiments of the Sindhi people. “We don’t want a graveyard for the martyred,” he said. “We want our rights. We want a new Pakistan and a new Sindh.”
Ayaz Latif Paliji added that the clash between the Sindh University’s faculty and vice chancellor was a plot. He blamed them for making it easy for the governor of Sindh to announce that the government would establish a new university in Hyderabad.
In his concluding speech Palijo Sr. sounded more like a teacher giving his students a lecture. He asked the people to stay alert and keep an eye on their leaders because they had become merciless and shameless.
Correction: An earlier version of the story misstated the name of Mir Hasil Bizenjo as Hasil Bux Bizenjo. The correction has been made.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2012.