The election results for East Pakistan parliament in 1954 speak of the communists’ success. In all 22 communists managed to win elections
The Communist Party of Pakistan [CPP] was an offshoot of the Communist Party of India (CPI). The CPI, at its Second Congress held in February 1948, decided to divide the party in two branches: CPI and CPP.
From West Pakistan, five delegates were supposed to attend the Second Congress of the CPI. They included Eric Saprien, Mirza Ibrahim, C.R. Aslam [Punjab province], Muhammad Hussain Ata [North Western Frontier Provinces or NWFP] and Jamal-ud-Din Bokhari [Sindh province]. C.R. Aslam and Mirza Ibrahim, however, could not attend the Second Congress since both were busy organizing a strike by the railway workers. Sajjad Zaheer, a noted literary critic of his times, was appointed as Secretary General of the CPP.
On his arrival in Pakistan, Sajjad Zaheer nominated a Central Committee to run the party affairs. The Central Committee comprised Syed Sibte Hasan, Mirza Ishfaq Beg, Mohammed Afzal, Muhammad Hussein Ata, Shaukat Ali, Mirza Ibrahim and Sobogyanchandani.
Meanwhile radical nationalists from Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa [KP] and Sindh joined hands to form All Pakistan Peoples Party [PPP]. Its founding document envisaged Pakistan as a Union of Free Socialist Republics. The party was formally founded on May 8, 1948 at Karachi. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan was elected president of the party while G.M. Sayyid as general secretary. The PPP was brutally crushed through state repression.
While the PPP brought together radical nationalists from Balochistan, Sindh and KP, the Punjab found its radical expression in the Azad Pakistan Party [APP], founded in November 1950 by Mian Iftikhar-ud-Din, a parliamentarian known for his Marxist views.
The APP, in its manifesto, demanded abolition of feudal system, fresh elections on the basis of adult franchise and a ‘people’s revolution in Kashmir’. It managed to win at least one seat in the provincial parliament in 1951. But it was most active in the Constituent Assembly (national parliament) where three independent members ---Mian Iftikhar-ud-Din, Sardar Shaukat Hayat and Sardar Assad Allah Jan--- organized its parliamentary party in April 1951. The APP suffered a blow when Sardar Shaukat rejoined Muslim League while ‘Nationalist’ faction of the party led by Shaikh Muhammad Rashid left the party. Later it merged itself into a new left party, Pakistan National Party [PNP], in 1956.
The PNP was a merger of radical nationalist and Marxist forces. It included remnants of Kalat National Party, Asthman Gal of Prince Aga Abdul Karim, Wrore Pakhtoon of Abd al-Samad Achakzai, Red Shirts of Abdul Ghaffar Khan (NWFP), Sindh Awami Mahaz of G.M. Sayyid and Sind Harri Committee of Haider Bux Jataoi besides Azad Pakistan Party of Mian Iftikhar-ud-Din.
The official CPP by now had been banned following the so-called Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case in 1954. Its front organizations: Pakistan Trade Union Federation, Democratic Students Federation, and Association of the Democratic Women and Progressive Writers Association were also banned.
At the time of ban, it had a membership of 200. This low level of membership in no way reflects the influence communists commanded over student and trade union movement. There was an added advantage the left had: Progressive Papers Limited (PPL) was established in 1947 by Mian Iftikhar ud Din. The PPL started bringing out English daily, Pakistan Times, an Urdu daily, Amroz and later on a weekly, Lail o Nehar. All three soon became the largest circulating newspapers in West Pakistan. Faiz Ahmed Faiz was PPL’s group editor while Mazhar Ali Khan was appointed as the editor of the Pakistan Times.
In East Pakistan, the Communist Party of East Pakistan [CPEP], more linked to CPI rather than CPP, was growing apace. The election results for East Pakistan parliament in 1954 speak of the communists’ success. In all 22 communists managed to win elections: 18 as Awami League members and four as independents.
Following the ban on CPP, the CPEP went underground and advised its cadre to work inside radical organizations. and later communists in both the wings entered Awami National Party [NAP].
Left ideas on the rise:
The formation of NAP came into being when a radical faction of the Awami League, led by Maulana Bhashani, split with the party and joined hands with PNP to form Awami National Party. Founded on July 25, 1957 at a Workers Convention held in Dacca, NAP was the first ever radical formation that represented East as well as West Pakistan. Apart from Awami League, Ganatantri Dal [Democratic Party] of Mahmud Ali of Sylhet was also one of its constituents.
With the split in international communist movement, the NAP also got factionalized. One faction came to be known as Pro-Moscow and the other was now pro-Beijing. A formal split occurred in December 1967 when the pro-Moscow faction set up a separate NAP in East Pakistan under the leadership of Professor Muzaffar Ahmed. In April 1968, at a national meeting, the NAP elected Khan Abdul Wali Khan as its all-Pakistan president. The CPP entered the NAP (Wali) though the latter downplayed the socialist slogan while emphasizing restoration of democracy, independent foreign policy and regional autonomy. The other faction, now known as NAP Bhashani, also reorganized itself. Maulana Bhashani was elected as its president in 1968. The NAP Bhashani called for a new constitution on socialist pattern. Both the NAPs were factionalized. A dissident group of the NAP (Wali), led by Major Ishaq and Afzal Bangash, established NAP- Mazdoor Kissan which later organized itself as Mazdoor Kissan Party.
Following the division of Pakistan, the NAP Bhashani in West Pakistan re-organized itself as Socialist Party. The Socialist Party was founded in Karachi on March 23, 1971, at the first Socialist Workers’ Conference. The Socialist Party had a split in 1986. A faction led by Abid Hassan Manto formed Workers’ Party which later merged with QIP (Qaumi Inqlabi Party) and Qaumi Mahaz e Azadi in 1992 to form Awami Jamhoori Party. In 1999, the Awami Jamhoori Party and Socialist Party merged again, along with a faction of the PNP; to form National Workers Party (NWP). The NWP re-constituted itself as Workers Party when a split of CMKP and some social movements entered the NWP.
Meantime, the NAP (Wali) enthusiastically participated in 1970 elections and managed to bag considerable share of votes in Balochistan and NWFP. In both these provinces, the NAP formed coalition governments with Jamiat Ulema Islam. The federal government headed by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) dissolved NAP government in Balochistan while NWFP government resigned in protest. The NAP was banned in 1975. The NAP re-emerged as National Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP was formed in Islamabad at a convention held on November 6, 1975. The NDP refused to accept the communists in its fold hence the Communist Party (still underground despite the Bhutto government promise to lift the ban) formed the Progressive National Democratic Party, as its mass political front, at a convention held in Peshawar on December 7, 1975. The Progressive National Party was re-named as National Progressive Party. Prominent communist leader Aizaz Nazir was appointed as the president while Afrasiab Khattak was nominated as secretary general of the party.
Endless mergers/splits of the 1980s:
In 1986, NDP, PNP, Awami Tehreek and MKP (Workers Peasants Party) merged to form ANP (Awami National Party) in 1986. The founding conference was held on July 22. Soon, MKP, PNP and Awami Tehreek split with ANP, in fact, a major PNP faction did not join at all.
In 1989, the CPP had its Third Congress that led to a split. The minority formed QIP which got further factionalized and a faction, led by Afrasiab Khattak and Afzal Khan, went on to form Pakhtoonkhwa QIP. The Majority led by Imam Nazish merged with MKP in 1994 to form CMKP (Communist Workers Peasants Party). The CMKP soon suffered split and in 1999, a faction led by Qazi Imdad and Maula Bux Khaskhaili formed the CP. The CP since has seen further splits.
However in 1986 a new element, with Trotskyist bent, had entered the politics of the Pakistani left. This was the Struggle Group, activists who called themselves supporters of the monthly Mazdoor Jeddojuhd [Workers’ Struggle]. The Struggle Group, formed in 1980 in the Netherlands, was working inside the PPP as an entryist group.
The Trotskyist left:
In 1986, the group’s main leadership returned from exile because there were limited liberties available now under the military dictatorship. This group was affiliated with Trotskyist Committee for a Workers International [CWI]. As the CWI had a split in 1990-91, the Struggle group also suffered a split over the question of continued entryist work inside the PPP. One faction continues to follow the entryist policy inside PPP and is organized around the fortnightly Class Struggle. One of their members Chaudhury Manzoor Ahmad was elected to national parliament on PPP platform in 2002. Roughly two years ago, a group led by Manzoor Ahmad split from the parent group. The other Struggle Group faction ended the entryist policy and in 1997 it formed the Labor Party Pakistan (LPP).
Similarly, there is the International Socialists (IS), affiliated with British SWP [Socialist Workers Party], active since the late 1990s.
Another formation, built a few years ago, is Awami Party. Currently, the Workers Party, Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), and Awami Party are holding merger talks.
Farooq Sulehria is currently pursuing his media studies. Previously, he has worked with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. In Pakistan, he has worked with The Nation, The Frontier Post, The News, and the Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from the University of Punjab, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications internationally.