Three Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) employees protesting against the privatisation of the national carrier have died as the Singh Rangers countered their peaceful demonstration with water cannons, tear gas, baton charge, and bullets. The victims include PIA Assistant Manager Inayat Raza and engineer Saleem Akbar while a third victim, Zubair, succumbed to his wounds in hospital yesterday. The knee-jerk response of the administration to citizens exercising their right of peaceful assembly and protest is not new, and it has always backfired.
Instead of condoling with the families of those killed, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (who is believed to have a vested interest in privatising the airline), has suspended the PIA employees’ right to protest under the Essential Services Act, and threatened the them with loss of job and incarceration.
Killed by a bullet to the chest, Inayat Raza was a former student union leader with the National Students’ Federation (NSF) in Karachi in the 1980s. He is survived by his wife and three daughters. Below, a moving tribute to him by activist and researcher Mansoor Raza in Karachi:
INAYET BHAI AS I KNOW HIM
By Mansoor Raza
May 1983…. At the impressionable young age of sixteen, as a pre-engineering student waiting for admissions to open up at NED University, as I sat in the drawing room of my home in North Nazimabad, a smart, confident young fellow in his early twenties approached me. He asked why I and my parents hated Zia-ul-Haq… Our house (North Nazimabad) in the midst of many Jamaat-e-Islami minded households was distinguished for supporting PPP.
“Because he hanged Bhutto”, I responded.
“It was not a clash of personalities… it is a battle of ideas”, he said vehemently
“What do you mean by that?” I asked
His response and the ensuing process changed my life. The man was Inayet Raza, the former President Union of Shipowners’ Government College, Karachi, 1977 – 78, and the Head of Progressive Students Council of National Students Federation (NSF), comprising 22 educational institutions.
Forward… Feb 1984, General Zia and his flirt with the religo-elite of Pakistan banned students’ unions. NSF shook Karachi and put an halt to all academic activities for 100 days. Inayet Bahi remained a mentor for the strategies of protests and how to stay safe while maintaining the struggle against the dictator. Later, the ever-increasing coziness of IJT with the state-sponsored Islam, betrayed the cause of students. “Never bow down to injustices”, he often said.
Forward… on the night of April 15, 1985, he came after dusk. “Look, Bushra is killed and Najma is in dire straits, Police lathi charged on protesting girls and it needs to be stopped. We have to do something.” We did and pushed the police on back foot.
“Always fight for the helpless”, that should be the objective of a human life, he said to me a couple of times. His thunderous voice and the earth shaking slogan “marshal law ke aewano ko aag lagado… aag lagado” (set fire to the houses of martial law), rocked the streets of North Nazimabad more than once.
Fast forward… mid ninetees – we both were professionals and had got married. He kicked one of his coworkers on the butt who had sexually harassed a female co-worker. “Women should be supported to make them strong, so that they can live their lives”, said Inayet Bhai.
Throughout his 58 years of a well-lived life, he remained a fighter, a relentless supporter of the poor and a teeth-cracking opponent of religious orthodoxy.
He often said to me, I don’t want to die lying on my bed…. and he did that. On Tuesday February 02, 2016, while protesting the PML-N government’s flawed privatization policy of PIA, he braved a single bullet on the right-side of his chest and died.
He remained a life long fighter. He lived like hero and died like a hero.
As now he is gone, it’s a matter of triviality who fired from where. His killers don’t know that they can kill a person but not his thoughts.
He remained a man of dissent and his legacy continues…. as more people are ready to die for progressive ideas, if that is the cost one has to pay for dissent and difference with the narrative of the elite.
The lion will never roar again.
And dear is the roar but dearer is the courage behind the roar. Inayet Bahi died and so does the roar… The courage survived and so does the message.
(Article received via email, slightly edited for punctuation and clarity)