As someone who learned the prime directives of Marxism at the age of thirteen, in the tutelage of Abid Hassan Minto himself, Aftab Gul’s “romance with the revolution” is as passionate as can be. He recounts a vision of Lahore that exists only in memory now; intellectuals rubbing shoulders with journalists and poets in packed coffeehouses, adjourning to stately restaurants to continue their heated debates as an air of momentous change hung in the air.
But he is quick to dilute these heady concoctions with a liberal dose of reality; outside newspaper columns and private drawing rooms, the Left found very little traction. “There were no leaders from the lower-middle-class”, Aftab Gul laments, pointing out that Leftist movements in East Pakistan, Kerala, and South America were all led by, and composed of, the working class.
“Perhaps if Tariq Ali hadn’t left for England,” Aftab Gul muses with a faraway, wistful look in his eyes, “perhaps if Miraj Muhammed and Bhutto hadn’t fallen out, the Left could have become something.”
In Part Four of the series, Aftab Gul recounts his first interactions with Lahore’s progressive leaders, explaining why they couldn’t join together to form a united front, why their politics were limited to urban centers, and how the movement has lost a sense of purpose over the decades.
Vivid and vast, the lived experiences of individuals carry more weight than the pages of history books; fleshing out the empty spaces between the black and white lines of endless text. As such, The Correspondent aims to document and preserve these accounts for those that follow.
Our first witness is Aftab Gul, a man who has lived multiple lifetimes in the space of one. A student leader of Pakistan’s emerging left in the 60s, an international test cricketer, a successful lawyer, and a close associate of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and a prominent member of the Pakistan People’s Party in its nascent days, Aftab Gul’s life is a treasure trove of history’s key moments.