OBITUARY: C.R. ASLAM (1915-2007)

Veteran Communist leader and a life-long campaigner for the rights of the workers, peasants and other downtrodden sections of society, C R Aslam expired on July 10, 2007 in Lahore after a prolonged illness. He was 92. His funeral was scheduled on July 11at 5.00 pm at his residence, Temple Road, Park Lane, Lahore.


C. R. Aslam (Chaudhari Rehmat Ullah Aslam) was born at Shahkot near Sheikhupura on January 15, 1915. He completed his schooling at Sangla Hill in 1930. His teacher, Abdul Hakeem initiated him into oriental studies, especially Persian poetry. However, his regular education continued uninterrupted and he received his LLB degree in 1936. During this period, he was deeply impressed by the writings of Allama Iqbal and remained a frequent face in doyen’s evening ensemble. In 1936, the declaration for weekly Nawa-i-Waqat was acquired in his name. His circle included passionate young Muslims students like Hameed Nizamai, Abul Sattar Niazi, Shabbar Hassan and Mian Shafi (Meem Sheen). Heated debates around the contemporary issues like fascism and liberation movement at their shared Railway Road abode brought about a change in C R Aslam’s outlook and he embraced communist philosophy and politics. Speaking to his innumerable students about the craft of politics, C.R. Aslam often quoted two primary inspirations for his intellectual metamorphosis; Marx’s Wage, Labour & Profit and Lenin’s State & Revolution. In 1940, he became a member of the All India Communist Party and his allegiance to the cause of the working class remained unwavering for the rest of his energetic and eventful life. His mentors in communist circles included stalwarts like Ajay Kumar Ghosh, Sardar Teja Singh and Feroz ud Din Mansoor.


His personal background beckoned him to work among the peasantry but his party asked him to organize trade union activities. Disciplined to a fault, he took up the task with such verve that sent him behind bars in 1948. Come 1951 and he was rounded up along with scores of leftist activists under the blanket ruse of Pindi Conspiracy Case.


He married Syeda Aslam in 1953 and his twin sons Qais and Sufian (both holding doctorate in Economics and Nuclear Physics respectively and renowned scholars at national and international level) were born while C R Aslam was again detained at Lahore Central jail.


From 1948 to 1954, C R Aslam tried to bring out at least four weekly papers but each of his attempts was frustrated by governmental injunctions. Not the one to be deterred, he continued to improvise his tactics till 1969 when he successfully launched weekly Awami Jamhuriat that educated at least two successive generations of political workers.


Communist Party was banned in 1954 and C R Aslam joined NAP where he emerged as the West Pakistani leader of its Bhashani faction. Curiously, he never took sides in the notorious divide of Pro-Peking and Pro Moscow communists. In late sixties, when communist states like Cuba and Vietnam decided to lean towards China, C R Aslam persuaded them to refrain from such factional act. Such was his weight in the international Marxist movement that he succeeded in impressing his standpoint upon international leadership.


 After founding Socialist party in 1970, his most outstanding contribution was to organize Peasant Conferences in all parts of Pakistan and his incessant efforts to wake up public opinion to the desirability of greater provincial autonomy. The only time his Weekly publication (Awami Jamhuriat) was banned by Bhutto regime was when he wrote a passionate editorial in favor of the demands of Baloch nationalists.


Z. A. Bhutto made several attempts to make him join People’s Party but he stuck to his guns. However, he was quick to resist Zia regime and went to jail along with his companions.


By mid eighties, some of his old comrades had died and some had opted to part ways, but C R Aslam continued to serve public to the best of his abilities well into his octogenarian years. In 1999, Pakistan Workers Party was founded and he was a member of its central committee, being too old to lead it.


 C R Aslam was the last of the Mohicans and this nomenclature prides itself of names like Mirza Ibrahim, Feroz ud Din Mansoor, Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo, Mian Mehmood and Syed Mutlabi Faridabadi. He authored more than a dozen books despite being one of the well-traveled politicians in the country.


With C R Aslam is gone a culture and a tradition that the people of Pakistan may have to wait a long time to see again.

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