Shakeel Pathan – A True Beacon of Hope
The concept of change has various meanings but as Noble prize winner George Bernard Shaw remarked that ‘progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything’ so those who are destined for change brings such a change within themselves before a social change.
Shakeel Pathan-a progressive crusader for downtrodden people of Sindh was among those individuals who make sincere effort to bring about change within before challenging the outer world. Today marks his 18th death anniversary but he is still present with us and his followers in spiritually.
He struggled and challenged the status quo. The beginning was from inside not from outside therefore in pursuit of the same, he avoided to accept that being physically paralyzed he cannot struggle for oppressed or vulnerable segments of the society.
Every year, when I pen down his introduction some new insights into the life of my father Shakeel Pathan who is still seen as beacon of hope for those thousands of oppressed peoples who were facing discrimination in the society, pops up.
He lived an inspirational life comprised of 42 years before physically leaving this universe in 1998 not only for his family members, friends, and colleagues but also for scores of freed laborers who have started raising voice against injustice in the society.
He was a political activist since his early educational days and was firm on his opinion that equal distribution of resources and getting away from injustices and discrimination was the only way forward towards progress.
This, in my view, was a turning point in his activism journey which took him to heights of being ‘messiah’ for downtrodden citizens of his native area-the province of Sindh and this can be seen in a locality named after him set up by freed peasants in Jamshoro district.
This struggle which comprised of a very short span of his life, hardly for six years (1992-1998) but the impact was huge-thus he challenged the feudal and helped the peasants in bondage to live a free life instead of being indebted to the landlords especially of the agricultural sector.
Unlike other areas of human rights violation persisted in then Sindh, the bonded laborers issue was new in the mainstream discourse because this remained in back burners for decades if not centuries though some indigenous movements remained but without pace.
However this cruel practice was in place for centuries, he extended help in collaboration with district administration including police and media under the aegis of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and brought Shakeel Pathan to attain medals of ‘traitors’ and anti-Sindh and anti-provincial economy person to Indian agent.
By, then his previous contribution into during Movement for Restoration of Democracy and other political as well as democratic movement were overshadowed and HRCP was known with him and he campaigned for oppressed be it violence against women and children or violence on religious minorities.
He was a progressive person who was mentored and nourished under the guidance of veterans like Mairaj Mohammed Khan especially on the political front and when it comes to human rights, he derived guidance from veterans such as I.A.Rehman.
His dream, however, was partially accomplished during his lifetime but not to the complete since the life after bondage for peasants have not been an easy ones, they continued to be exploited and intimidated in fake cases and have no proper living conditions even after two decades -as first private jail where laborers were kept was busted back in 1992.
His list of dreams are several that includes restoration of democracy both in the country and also in the mindset of individuals driving the democracy and uplifting of human dignity irrespective of religion, color and creed.
On his 18th death anniversary, his admirers and friends not only remembers his services towards human rights and rights of oppressed but also remembers his dynamic style of getting things done in a collective manner besides organizing and mobilizing individuals under one umbrella.
Humans play their role and leaves the universe but good deeds remain forever and this was something which can be witnessed in shape of the ongoing struggle against bondage laborer and change process for the safeguarding of basic human rights.
The writer is the son of late Shakeel Pathan based in Islamabad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org