Abdullah Jan Jamaldini
Reviewed By: Manzoor Mosiani
Abdullah Jan Jamaldini (1922-2016), recollects his memories in the posthumous book, Lat Khana-the house of the care free, gild. The house was like a widow’s hut, the only room carried portraits of Joan of Arc (1412-1431) raising a banner for freedom–a heroic French lady remembered for her role during the Lancastrian hundred years war, and was considered as a Roman Catholic saint, the other was of Julius Fucik (1903-1943) looking brilliantly out of his cell, was a Czechoslovakia journalist, an active member of Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and part of the forefront anti Nazi resistance. He has been imprisoned, tortured and executed by Nazis. He is also known for his book ‘Notes from the Gallows’ and many other works. The third portrait was of Dante (1265-1321) and Beatrice from Italy. A history was in the making inside the rented house, having a grape plant in the front yard with enough space to grow flowers as well, situated in the Balochi Street Quetta, on a high ground to the street.
The story goes on; remembering the good old days the author describes, the year was 1950. Lat Khana was a centre for a movement for progressiveness and enlightenment, in Balochistan. A troika from revenue administration—Naib Tehsildars, living there, feeling misfits amongst the gilded hands around—-exploitation, decided after serving for about five years, to resign from the Public Service. The news of the perilous step annoyed their families most, including another fellow from the foothills of Shashan—Mir Ghouse Bakhsh Bizanjo as they saw a bright career for them in service in future. They remained fast on their word and venture, only through altruism to get the work done.
It’s narrated, as they were ideologues, with a clear aim in mind, not only to be able to serve the people, but to increase their circle for the achievement of the objective. It was felt that the task only could be completed through developing conscientiousness amongst the oppressed, hopeless and poor people to throw away the burden of ignorance, which they relentlessly carried over their shoulders. The universal illiteracy, false consciousness, and poverty stricken faces bothered them most. In addition to that they knew that the leadership was a selfish lot, considered resource development and people backwardness in their best interest. Therefore they perceived themselves as the agents of social change to construct a society on scientific socialist lines, to only their amazement in later days to found that the path has already been traversed by many.
Happy-go-Lucy as we were, well fed and well suited, Sandemanian’s at Pishin School, and then graduates from Islamia College Peshawar. At the same time, somewhat aware of the demanding challenges ahead, still remained undeterred as having chosen the socialist ideology, with consensus, as the end all and be all, the writer mentions. The spirited group of Lat Khana represented by Sain Kamal Khan Sherani, included Abdullah Jan Jamaldini, and Sardar Bhadur khan Bangulzai; they were joined by Khudaidad, (later on to be known as Dr. Khudaidad) too, a service man, who resigned to have a contribution in the making of the social change to be introduced.
Lat Khana only provided a shelter from the vagaries weather; the resignation had cost them pay, perks privileges to do the house keeping as well. Khudaidad and the author were the permanent residents of Lat Khana, to promote the cause while the other colleagues were often there. To cover the livelihood expenses required at least a small enterprise. Thus it was decided to open a book shop with the name Filhal stationary Mart, at Masjid road Quetta, for the time being this stationary, since the list of to dos was long. The bookshop was equally stuffed for young and adult, the young had reading and writing material and the adult books on Urdu literature and Progressive literature. In addition, a red banner with silver paint read the name of the shop to make their inclinations known. The red-banner startled the common people, however attracted the progressive and nationalist elements locally to find a talking point.
Relations with Sayyed Kamil ul Qadri and Anjum Qaz Labash facilitated contacts and consultations with the progressive writers, leftist political leaders, and trade unionists at Lahore, Karachi and elsewhere in the country. A message was heralded across the country to the socialists of establishment of Lat Khana. The author inform that the prominent personalities of the left of that time, Ferozuddin Mansoor, C.R. Aslam, Faiz ahmed Faiz, Sibt Hassan , Zaheer Kasmir, Safdar Mir, Imam Ali Nazish, Qadir Bakhsh Nizamani, Sobo Gian Chandani, to name a few shall have fascinated our action. Soon after Pouring in began of the Progressive papers and magazines, Pakistan Times, Lal-o-Nihar (Night and Day), Imroze (Today), Sawera (Dawn) and the other literary dispatches from Peoples Publishing House Lahore to the shop, which was a matter of great pleasure for us, and the circulars were distributed to those who were on the same wave length as we were. This kept us educated further on current streams of progressive thought and activities in country.
Being a youth is a blessing, as scarcity, family problems concern none. So he shares they were, healthy the day long activities did not make them tired, never despaired, ever remained resolute, courageous, and committed. It was an interesting time; there were revolutions, freedom movements, anti-imperialists and class struggles at very many places around the world. He continues that, we loved the people where ever on earth they fought against oppression and suppression. Our study and efforts were in line with the promotion of socialism. Ideologically we were indoctrinated, that the system was the only solution to human exploitation, abuse and sufferings. Having vast knowledge of Marxism, Progressive literature and classic literature on a variety of subjects, we had set to work for the destination in our sight. The age saw the formation of Communist bloc, China going socialist along with many Far Eastern, as well as, East European countries. The WW II had left Nazi Germany and its nexus Japan and Italy defeated. The colonial powers rolled back, from many countries to be independent. The war had been won by the colossal struggle of Soviet Union. The morale of the socialists was high finding a savior for the mankind to depend upon, to pin their hopes to win their struggles as well. In his opinion, Soviet Union taught world Centrally Planned Economic System, concept of a scientific society, and social equality which were then replicated in many countries including the liberals with certain degrees.
On partition of Sub-Continent, his point of view is the political closeness of India with Soviet Union helped it to develop, promote human freedoms, laid the strong foundation for its economy and democracy to be on track. While the case for Pakistan was contrary, as joining the capitalist reactionaries, it tuned to a policy to throttle freedoms to keep the status quo maintained leading to an economic stagnation. Further the armed race across the borders set aside the policies of people interest to deepen the rivalries the crises at the cost of public welfare.
He refers to the reign of the than Shah in Iran, and speaks of it as a war between Yazdan and Aharman (in Zoroastrian mythological characters respectively for light and darkness), as Amanullah Barakzai makes his way straight to Lat Khana to tell the horrible stories of ruthlessness against the opponents to the Shah.
The author continues the story, in the year 1951, we were at our best, and spirits high, ideological concepts more clear, an improved literacy drive, having an exposure into the secrets, practically skillful to grope in the deep darkness for a few more like minded people. By the time the stationary had lost its meager capital as feeding a commune back at Lat Khana after about a year. However it had helped to increase our area of influence. Now Lat Khana has turned into a reading club for its residents, a library for take home books, a debating club to different opinions, a refuge for socialists, a guest house for the friends , a nursery for youth and a centre for community. Ghulam Muhammad Shwani, Malik Muhammad Panah, Babu Abdul Kareem Shorish had been the frequent visitors, with many others, besides the other companions.
He reveals that their name and fame as communists initially kept people at a distance from them, but gradually they realized and saw that we were humble down to earth people to communicate with and get along for common social good. The differences based on cast, creed, color, class, tradition, culture and language had already caved in our minds, the open doors of Lat Khana had a magical touch to hail all and sundry.
Mama Abdullah Jan Jamaldini the author knew Pashto language well, after reading Afghan writers, ‘Pashtana Shaira’ of Abdul Hayee Habibi and ‘Mili Hendara; of Gul Muhammad Noori, together with his colleagues interest in reading Pashto, which was their mother tongue, inspired him to read Balochi–his mother tongue. However the non availability of literature in Balochi was the difficulty to face; therefore he began to listen the classic Balochi poems and used to write them to collect the heritage of past. Another interesting event he reminds was his visit to Sibi Mela in 1952, enabling him to collect a vast portion of Balochi epic poetry, go around the ruins of Chakar–fort, and get an insight into the thirty years long Rind-Lashar bloody conflict, started over a disputed horse race winning between Ramain Lashari and Rehan Rind leaved the both tribes inundated.
Taking an initiative the author describes that, Dr. Khudaidad had arranged a meeting of Pashtoon literary and political figures at Lat Khana and laid the foundation of Pashto Toli, Tolna (Group), the meeting had agreed on the publication of monthly Pashto which was started publishing in 1953.Their progressive leanings links of Lat Khana to the leaders of Pashtoonistan, alarmed the establishment, thus eaves dropping began, as the posts were bugged prior to delivery, their activities were watched constantly, coupled with threats of dire consequences from the administration. Nevertheless that was taken for granted as we counted it our strength as being a potential threat. Keeping in view the courage of conviction and sincerity of purpose, of Lat Khana, the dwellers were being informed of coming under observation by the very point persons, out of sympathy.
Meanwhile, the multi-dimensional personality of Gul Khan Naseer called his attention, politician, poet, historian, translator, journalist, whom he equates, for Balochi language and literature with, Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963) for Turkish, Abolqasem Lahouti (1887-1957) for Persian, Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) for Spanish, and what Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) was for Urdu language. A detail of the literary works of Gul Khan Naseer is available in the book for further reading.
There is a long list of Baloch political leaders who often visited Gul Khan Naseer, distinguished among them was his boon companion Mir Ghouse Bakhsh Bizanjo. But the political thoughts of Gul Khan Naseer and Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizanjo were not in harmony with those of socialist ideals of Lat Khana. Both of the said leaders had lost their anchor, Khanat-at-Kalat, navigating in rough seas, to survive the political upheavals yet intended to remain on the right side in history. Lat khana was talking of a democratically represented Balochistan province, thus they formed Dema-Raok-e-ulse (Progressive Peoples Movement) that could not make a worthwhile progress amongst the masses. The times were difficult for all, as Bizanjo and Naseer were desperate and in duress suggesting going with the tide of time, which he elaborates we criticized vehemently.
Gul khan Naseer then was the editor of Nawa-e-Balochistan (voice of Balochistan), he asserted them to do political organization, as otherwise it would be impossible to do a social reengineering as they desired. Under his head ship they formed Balochi- Zuban-o-Adab-e-Diwan (An association for Balochi language and literature) but that was not a success, due to a variety of reasons. At least, Naseer’s poetry and some other works were published to be read by Baloch in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. On winding up of the stationary, Gul Khan Naseer had employed him as co-editor, but soon the paper got closed. Both the media men losing their jobs Gul khan Naseer and Abdullah Jan Jamaldini go to their home town Noshki. Again to be called by Mir Ghous Bakhsh Bizanjo, to work with Gul khan Naseer as co-editor of another paper, Nawa-e-watan (voice of homeland), in the year 1953, at Quetta, which he accepts wholeheartedly.
The journey to Eastern Balochistan, is recounted with Shair Muhammad Marri-General Sherouf and Sardar Bhadur Khan Bangulzai, in 1954, particularly of Kohlu—the land of Sajjis. The visit to the shrine of Mast Tawakali, on horseback, which he mentions, as Marri tribe considered a true lover poet, an elder and a saint, was an exhilarating trip. Then they move to Dera Ghazi Khan to meet the friends and return back via Koh-e-Sulaiman to adore its natural beauty in the book. Being a naturalist the author describes the deserts, semi-deserts, mountainous ranges and green patches, trees, bushes and flowers of Baloch land in a very beautiful manner, reminds of Rebindar Nath Tagore’s love for depiction of rains and floods, rivers and boats of Bengal in his fiction works.
Rightly the Lat Khana has taken a bee line, however to make short of the long story, the few and far between comrades, amongst a mass of unreceptive folk, with constant financial crunch, a hostile environment had to say goodbye to Lat-Khana, in a couple. While they ideologically stood together forever to be remembered for the establishment of the said school of thought, which has left a big impression in Balochistan, their foot prints still visible. Keeping in view the sacrifices made, this Sanskrit proverb, may describe apt Lat Khana, ” for the family sacrifice individual, for the community the family, for the country the community, and for the soul whole world.” The group had given their soul to Socialism for a socio–economic change. In spite of the tremendous sacrifices they made thetask only partially could be achieved of Lat Khana, as the delayed, inadequate, incremental changes, corruption and cyclical boom and bursts by the market forces still haunts without any countervailing power.
Lat Khana initially had been published in a series, in monthly Nokain Doar (Modern Age) and then in monthly Sangat (Comrade), form 1993 t0 2000, Quetta. Then compiled by Dr. Shah Muhammad Mari, this is the third edition of the book, published by Sangat Academy Quetta. Lat Khana, contains many other areas to write on, but to limit myself would say, indeed it has a good lesson to learn how it had gathered a wide circle of people together to flourish as politicians, intellectuals, poets, readers and writers to continue the struggle in Balochistan.