JOURNEY THROUGH PUNJAB UNIVERSITY – 1970 UNION ELECTIONS

Friends I have enjoyed this journey through Punjab University with you. In this post reliving the 70’s election campaign has been emotionally rewarding to reconnect with such beautiful people and memories.

Now I am going to pause it for a while for 2 reasons.

1.I won the election, writing about my tenure would be like taking a victory lap 50 years too late!

2. I just returned from an extended visit to Pakistan and want to go on record about what I experienced and feel in my next post. I hope to keep you engaged and involved!

Hafeez Khan

1970/71 Session started. National political activities were at their peak. Elections were scheduled for December 7th 1970. The nation was polarized and Punjab University was no exception. Student Union activities started in earnest and all groups were wooing the new entrants. Pressure was on to announce election panels. Left announced their Presidential Candidate first. Jahangir Badar was a natural. He had enormous name recognition as past President of Hailey and Law College. This was a big chunk of PU electorate. PPP’s upsurge in popularity translated into a greater support for Leftists. Being in jail, he was viewed as a victim of Martial Law oppression. He was very charming and courageous having an edge of being born and raised in Old Lahore. A formidable contender.

IJT was in overdrive. Its leaders Liaqat Baluch, Farid Piracha, Latif Mirza, Abdul Shakoor ( 3 of them became Union Presidents!) and others were busy scrutinizing their ranks for a suitable alternative to heavy weight Jahangir Badar. They all realized the importance of this contest. Student politics had become relevant globally and more so in Pakistan. They eventually became a bulwark of resistance to Mr. Bhutto. The rightists were encouraged by previous years’ perceived near win. They were emboldened and not willing to yield an inch of space created. Jahangir Badar’s nomination was further strengthened by adding Rashid Butt as Vice Presidential candidate. A close friend of mine, he was a heavy weight as the past President of Islamia College Civil Lines, a hotbed of student activism and I believe FC College. His casual,  affable persona made him very popular. The Left snatched a close friend Anwar Chaudry from our base, Hostel 1 as General Secretary. It depleted our close circle of friends.

Meantime I had lost the appetite for the rough and tumble
world of Student Politics. The stint in jail where I had escaped conviction by
the skin of my teeth, its demand on time and resources, being under constant
scrutiny was not the lifestyle I sought. But destiny had other plans. Realists
ITJ were soon looking beyond their organization. I was approached but I
declined. I suggested Iftikhar Feroze, as I considered him a better
communicator and closer to their thinking. However they did not give up that easily,
first they convinced my close friends 
including Ifitkhar Feroze, Rahim Din, Yousaf Honda, Munawar Ghafoor,
Salim Chaudhry and a few others. Thereafter they jointly approached someone I
could never refuse. They convinced Baji Zia, my eldest sister. I had no choice
and the rest is history. I became the Presidential candidate for the Rightists.
However I had no illusions, I knew the strengths of Jahangir Badar  coupled with Rashid Butt’s, the PPP wave of
popularity, the commitment and dedication of NSO/NSF members. Up to filing
nomination papers I tried to convince Iftikhar Feroze to re-consider. I had
jumped into the deep end of the pool.

It was a daunting task and a huge undertaking, I was definitely the underdog but having thrown the gauntlet, I was serious about putting up a good fight. I have always believed in trying my best and leaving the rest to Allah, it takes the stress away. The process started with me being introduced to the IJT panel, now my team. The Vice President nominee was Qayyum Chaudhry, probably a student of Mathematics belonging to Jhang. To me he was a non starter. He would repeat same thing five times and still ask “samaj aa gaye”? The Joint Secretary nominee was lovable Murtaza Rahim from Oriental College. He went on to join PIA and sadly departed early. Allah bless him and his family. However the most memorable introduction was with General Secretary nominee Javed Hashmi. He rose to great political heights, ambitious and determined, brave to a fault. He achieved national prominence, high offices, added “Makhdoum” to his name, suffered torture and jail leading him to be nicknamed “Baghi”. He was widely respected and then at his peak went into self destruct mode politically. We stayed in touch till recently, mostly when he was out of power, however I still don’t understand his blowout decision. Back to our first meeting. I found him a bit shy, tentative, awkwardly dressed but his eyes gave him away – defiance was writ large in them. I liked it and we bonded quickly.

The election campaign was an exhilarating experience. Campaigning in New, Old Campus, in Law and Oriental colleges and their hostels was quite a challenge both physically and emotionally. While I was experienced and fluent speaking in English, Urdu was a relatively new experience. With guidance from Ajmal Malik, Sajjad Mir and Dheli Badshah (Ifitkhar Feroze) I picked up rather quickly. We started to gain momentum, slowly the crowds and rallies became larger.

However Hailey College was another story. The Hallians were loyal to Jahangir Badar to a fault. They would not allow us to even enter Hailey College and would lock the college gates and pelt stones at us. After three aborted attempts we came up with a plan. We had and advance guards enter the premises discreetly and had our Commando team ready to scale the gate. Our procession arrived and we were welcomed with a barrage of stones with gates shut. The Commandos climbed over the gate while our advance guards engaged the aggressive ones. Gates were thrown open and we barged in. I don’t remember putting more energy and verbosity than in my opening speech. It started to have an impact. From my elevated position I saw some students removing Badar’s name badges. That was encouraging enough for me to continue. I spoke for more than an hour. By the end of it we had achieved a break through. We were invited to their hostel for tea. We had broken through a bastion! Election results reflected that.

My next biggest challenge was female students. IJT was not welcome in Liberal Arts departments. Period. Most vocal was Fine Arts students. They were more sophisticated than Hallians, they had no gates to lock but girl students would have a sit in on stairs blocking the entrance into the department. This time our female volunteers created a bridge for me to enter alone. With my back against the wall I let go a speech in English that even astonished me! I was able to convince them I wasn’t a monster, I could relate to them. I won a majority in final results thanks to Jawaid Iqbal (cartoonist) and my departed sweetheart Masud Dharu.   

But the issue was still unresolved. Among the female voters not only was I dealing with larger than life image of Mr. Badar, I had to overcome their reluctance to expose themselves to an extremely conservative environment associated with ITJ. At that point in history in Pakistan interaction between sexes was tolerated, the society was far more relaxed. Zia Ul Haq’s version of Islam was still a few years down the road. I was lucky to enlist support of English school background students from Cadet Colleges like Pataro, Hasanabadal, Achitison College, St . Anthony’s and of course my own Burn Hall. Late Javed Noor, Javed Mama, Sarwar Khan, Athar Mehmood, Naseem Ur Rehman, Rashid Khan, Amjad Mowaz and so many others improved my image and perception. I was not a dangerous Moulvi waiting to step out of a closet!     

Iftikhar Feroze had coined a slogan for me that had gained a
lot of traction. “Meri Aan Teri Aan, Hafeez Khan, Hafeez Khan”. The simple
rhyming words lent themselves to different versions. The female votes were
crucial to have a fighting chance at victory. Our female supporters were doing
an excellent job of connecting with voters for which I shall remain eternally
grateful. Sloganeering in male and female hostels was at its height especially
in the evenings. The day I heard the female version of the above slogan “Meri
Jan Teri Jan, Hafeez Khan, Hafeez Khan” dominating Badar’s slogan “Humra Sadr
Tumra Sadr, Jahangir Badar, Jahangir Badar”, I started to relax. In fact a lot
of pundits till this day attribute my victory to Female students. I am truly
humbled.

The battle was far from over. Jahangir Badar was in jail, my contest was with a larger than life myth. Finally lady luck smiled, I got a breakthrough, the incumbent Governor of West Pakistan was Lt. General Attiqur Rahman. His daughter Shaheen Atiq was a student in Business Administration. She was a close friend of my cousin Javed Hakim (formerly PIA now resident of Ottawa). She was supporting me and had become a good friend. One day she asked “Hafeez how can I help you?” My mind went into overdrive, I knew exactly what I wanted but was I stepping out of line? I blurted “Shaheen if you can ask your dad to release Jahangir Badar, it is not a fair contest for Bhutto’s blue eyed candidate!” She left without saying a word leaving me looking sheepishly at Javed. A few days later Jahangir Badar was released from Jail. That I believe was the turning point. Badar launched himself with a fervor. He was widely welcomed. But now voters had a comparison in real life. I won with a comfortable majority. My friend Jahangir Badar has left us for his eternal abode, he may have conceded the election but he won a friend for life. Badarji we miss you so much, may you rest in peace.

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