Manzoorul Hassan, our friend, comrade, and mentor passed away at his residence in Green Town, Lahore late Saturday night.
He was a labour leader who worked tirelessly for the downtrodden masses of our country. He became involved with Left politics as a student leader against the Ayub dictatorship in the late 60s. This initial commitment to resistance and emancipation guided his entire life and saw him endure imprisonment, torture, and exile.
Manzoor sb was one of those rare human beings who used his extraordinary capabilities for the well-being of his fellow compatriots and chose an extremely modest lifestyle in a working-class area of Lahore.
I remember him telling me once, with a usual smile on his face, that he had very little time for those who become bitter in the path of struggle. He said he had forgiven those who tortured him because he could not carry the burden of hate for anyone. More importantly, he said he never for once envied those who used politics as a tool for personal advancement, nor did he regret taking the path that he chose for his life.
He regretted that tactical mistakes were made in the struggle. But in terms of orientation, he would never apologise for his commitment, since he believed that there could not be a better decision than choosing to live a life in the service of humanity.
He was the founding member and the guiding light of the Haqooq-e-Khalq Movement that we formed last year. He persistently asked us to remain optimistic, to look for opportunities to connect with the masses, and to always stay true to the principles of justice and non-violence. He was excited to see the progress we were making as a group and promised to become more active with us when his health improved. But last night, the body that endured the burden of carrying the bravest and self-sacrificing of souls finally gave up, and now we no longer have him with us other than in the memories that we shall always cherish.
Today, we are also mourning the great Asma Jehangir, who left us exactly one year ago. It is only in her absence that we can fully appreciate the calming effect she had on all of us. No matter how murky the political discourse was, she could cut through it with her sharp intellect and bring forth clarity for all of us. And no matter how dangerous the situation was, we knew Asma would be there, shielding us all from any potential harm. Words are not enough to describe how much I missed her calming presence this past weekend, and how much poorer our city is without its bravest daughter.
We are fast losing the giants of an entire generation. Other than Asma and Manzoor Sb, we have also lost Fanoos Gujjar, Fahmida Riaz and Nigar Ahmad (among others) this past year. These people embodied the idealism of a bygone era, when the possibility of a different world was still on the horizon. They lived their lives as champions, indifferent to the suffocating logic of the world, and always ready to transform the anxiety of uncertainty into hope for a better tomorrow. These are the real heroes of our land and we will be a much more optimistic society if the younger generation chooses to connect with the glorious legacy left behind by these exemplary individuals.
Farewell, comrade Manzoor. I hope you are in a better place where you can finally get a chance to relax. Every time I am able to stay true to the principles that you taught us, I will feel that you are looking down at me with your characteristic smile of approval, and encouraging me with your soothing words “Shabash, comrade”.
Dr Ammar Ali Jan is a teacher, progressive thinker and activist. He teaches at Foremen Christian College, Lahore. He has done PhD in History from University of Cambridge, UK.