By Zia Ur Rehman
March 7, 2016
Like a number of journalists, and political and civil society activists of the city, Arshad Kundi, a Landhi-based young Pashtun activist, and his friends would head to Lasbela Chowk every week to meet veteran political leader Amin Khattak.
Khattak’s passing of a heart attack on March 6, 2011, after being hospitalised for an extensive period, was a significant blow to Kundi and others like him who, in their own words, were deprived of a political teacher.
“Khattak sahib was at Lasbela Chowk every evening to meet people. These people belonged to all walks of life; they included journalists, members of political and religious parties, and civil society activists, all of whom would gather to discuss political developments on the national and international fronts,” recalled Kundi in a conversation with The News. “With his death, however, ended those gatherings and the informative discussions that have helped us all develop on an individual level.”
Khattak, born in the Jalozai area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Nowshera District, moved to Karachi after completing his matriculation and spent the rest of his life immersed in political activism in the metropolis.
He served on various key positions, including Sindh president, secretary general and central joint secretary of the Awami National Party (ANP)
In his early political career, Khattak was influenced by leftist leaders including Dr Aizaz Nazir, Saleem Raza, Babu Fazal Khaliq, Riazul Hasan, Mehmood ul Hasan Usmani, and Fasihudduin Salar.
“He used to tell us that he had not migrated to Karachi to earn a livelihood; his aim was to learn and participate in the politics of social change,’’ narrated Kundi.
When a ban was imposed on the ANP and its key leaders, including Wali Khan, who was sent to Hyderabad Jail, Khattak formed the ‘Wali Khan Release Committee’, after which he became active in the National Democratic Party.
In 1982, he became the president of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in Karachi. On August 14, 1983, Khattak was arrested for a year in Hyderabad and, after his release, became the NDP’s provincial information secretary.
When the NDP was merged with the Mazdoor Kissan Party, the Sindh Awami Tehreek and the Pakistan National Party to create ANP in 1986, he became its first Karachi president and served a two-year term.
Khattak had also played a key role in the formation of the ‘Pakistan Oppressed Nation Movement (PONM)’, an alliance of the country’s nationalist and progressive political parties, in Sindh.
During the Musharraf regime, he left ANP and joined the Ajmal Khattak-led National Awami Party Pakistan but, after a few years, decided to rejoin the ANP.
Interviews with ANP members and journalists suggest that Khattak always opposed the use of violent means in politics and played a key role in ending ethnic violence in 1980s.
Imtiaz Khan Faran, a veteran journalist who also frequented the Lasbela Chowk meetings, said that during the peak of ethnic violence in the city during the 1980s and more recently, from 2007 to 2009, Khattak regularly used to meet people of all communities.
“Through his politics, Khattak practically proved that he was a true follower of the non-violence philosophy of Baacha Khan,” Faran told The News. “Various political leaders would visit him at the chowk to discuss political affairs and seek his counsel.’’
Although ANP came to power several times, Khattak never took undo advantage of its successes to change his own economic status, spending his entire life in a small house owned by his brother in Patel Para. While the ANP’s Sindh chapter failed to organise any event to commemorate his fifth death anniversary, a number of progressive political activists and civil activists from across the city organised condolence meetings to remember and honour the veteran Pashtun leader.