The rebel in Hashmi
JAVED Hashmi`s case evokes sentiment against a tradition where `ideological workers` are used to keep a party afloat before the real masters return to take charge. It transcends partisan boundaries.
Ask a Makhdoom Amin Fahim fan and he will describe it as a problem with Pakistani politics. Javed Hashmi was born into a `family of Muslim Leaguers` but it took him time to personally swear allegiance to the party. PTI being his fourth political party he has been loyal to his creed which, due to Pakistani politics` fetish with one individual, can be described as anti-Bhutto.
This constant in his politics, his avowed fight against the feudal and his defiance of the military during Musharraf`s regime have earned him widespread respect. His defection to PTI amounts to an explosion in the PML-N ranks at a time when Nawaz Sharif is striving to publicly promote himself as an anti-establishment candidate and paint Imran Khan as an agencies` man.
Like many others, Hashmi was briefly attracted to Asghar Khan`s politics and joined his Tehrik-i-Istaqlal in the 1970s. Going by his own all too polite references he does appear to have played a role in initiating the Sharifs of Lahore into politics, with Nawaz Sharif`s equally forgettable and impatient Istaqlal stint.
It was not before 1988 that JH formally joined the Muslim League — the party that was to now spearhead Hamid Gul`s anti-Bhutto Islami Jamhoori Ittihad.
Into politics as a teenager, back in the 1960s, JH was impressed with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto`s politics — only to be disappointed by ZAB`s courting of the feudal. Maulana Maudoodi showed him the way and by the 1970s, he was an important enough politician.
He claims the PPP founder who had been alternatively seen going out of his way to oblige the jagirdars , wanted this young rebel to work as Punjab governor or as a replacement for the experienced and very feudal Mumtaz Daultana as Pakistan`s envoy in London.
A Makhdoom himself, JH is proud of his modest background and the success of his popular politics in the bastion of the pirs . In his book Haan Main Baghi Hoon (`Yes I am a rebel`) he talks about how a concerned Nawaz Sharif had once advised him to set up a sugar mill of his own, in aid of his anti-feudal politics.
The sympathetic offer was refused. JH chose to use the available resources to promote his politics which he says was beholden to certain national ideals in comparison to the narrow local interests of his rivals such as the Gilanis and Qureshis.
JH explains his joining Zia`s government as necessary to his fight against feudal politicians. In retrospect, however, he terms his alliance with Zia as the only mistake of his political career. Like ZAB, Zia recognised the power of the old set-up and was all too willing to utilise the services of the feudal politicians.
JH`s politics came of age when he won a National Assembly seat in the 1985 `non-party` polls. He joined the Muslim League in 1988 to formalise a long partnership with Nawaz Sharif whom he had met in 1976.
The alliance between someone who had proudly risen from the ranks and the ambitious industrialist called for sacrifices — not from the industrialist. Thus, when the IJI was being formed in 1988, JH was nominated (by Hameed Gul or someone else, we don`t know) as its additional secretary. Nawaz intervened on behalf of Asif Vardag. JH says he immediately withdrew his name.
Similarly, JH was `offered` the IJI`s presidency in Punjab but dropped out when Nawaz said he wanted the position.
In time, Nawaz also could not escape the scourge of the feudal, to JH`s disapproval. According to his own explanation, JH joined the Nawaz cabinet in 1991 only after he was assured he would be free to criticise the government.
In more recent years, the PML-N hailed Javed Hashmi as a rebel against the establishment, and he was praise by democrats for his brave stand against the Musharraf government which tried him in an infamous treason case. He came to be regarded as a symbol of democracy and headed a big political party at a time when its original leadership had been forced into exile.
Yet, JH`s ultimate sidelining within the PML-N was a foregone conclusion ever since a rather small PML-N crowd greeted him upon his release from Kot Lakhpat jail in August 2007. A groom conscious of his social status would have wished for a bigger wedding procession.
The leaders, forever eager to preclude the emergence of stakeholders around them to ensure their own grip, were not prepared to risk any adventurous advances by him. The process of putting him in his place ensued, and continued after the 2008 election, widening the gulf between JH and the Sharifs.
The ranker finally took his revenge a few months ago. He used the high moral ground imprisonment had provided him with and called on the Sharifs to apologise for having fled the country following the Musharraf coup.
It was only a matter of time after that. JH, the consistent politician, had a viable option in Imran Khan whom he could join without having to leave the old anti-PPP camp. Perhaps this was more important to him than the dangers of being seen in the company of old feudal rivals such as Shah Mehmood Qureshi. National ideals once again took precedence over narrow local interests, ostensibly at least.
One small criticism would be in order though. Javed Hashmi took it upon himself to announce that Maimoona Hashmi would be following him into the PTI. Feudalism is a system in which what has been achieved is then sought to be consolidated and built upon through the family and the order of the feudal lord.
The respected anti-feudal from Multan could have at least permitted his daughter to make her own declarations even if he has been unable to escape the temptation of creating his own little dynasty.
The writer is Dawn `s resident editor in Lahore.