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A Red revolution in Karachi for 50 paisas a week

SAMAA | - Posted: Apr 29, 2020 | Last Updated: 3 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Apr 29, 2020 | Last Updated: 3 months ago
A Red revolution in Karachi for 50 paisas a week

Zulfikar Bhutto on the cover of Nusrat in 1970. Credit: Mansoor Raza

In the late 1960s, my father Marghoob Raza earned Rs125 a month as Chief Medical Technologist at Liaquat National Hospital in Karachi. His salary was not much but he would religiously dedicate two rupees a month on his reluctant love affair: revolution.
For 50 paisas each, he would buy weekly magazines Al Fateh, Nusrat and Lail-o-Nahar, which were a major source of propagation in those days. The mandate of these periodicals was to state the “party line” on contemporary local, national and regional political and economic issues in unequivocal terms. They were especially popular with the assembly of believers of Marxist ideology as their diction or language was inspired by Lenin and Mao. They were run by revolutionaries such as Irshad Rao and Hamza Wahid and attracted accomplished writers such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Syed Sibte Hasan.

The left wing movement inspired middle class youngsters as it gave space to dissent to those who wanted to rebel against the state-sponsored narrative. Indeed, the late 1960s and 1970s were a time of populist politics and agitation, trade union activism and taking ideological positions.
I was introduced to these magazines through my father whose days were filled chasing the aspirations of a struggling head of a lower middle class household. His spare time was, however, filled with the revolutionary poems of Faiz and Josh. My first introduction to this literature was benign and limited to their cover drawings and sketches. It was only later, when I became a student activist that my second proper introduction gained more meaning from between the covers. When I joined the National Students Federation at NED University of Engineering and Technology my father’s magazines provided the ammunition with which I could articulate my position and fortify my logic to propagate a new world view. Needless to say, like all other emotional attachments, this one too was blind and ruthless.
When my student life ended, like all other young idealists I too lost the fervor for revolution as life presented challenges more selfish and myopic in their essence but just as necessary and evil to deal with. And so this cherished stockpile of 300 magazines, shorn of their utility, were archived in the attic.
It was only decades later, in 2015, when my sister and I decided to dispose of the house that I realized something needed to be done with this treasure trove which now, (after the demise of both parents) carried great nostalgic value. So I scanned all of them.
The coronavirus proved to be a blessing in disguise and during the lockdown I was able to put together the first of the series. This document is based on the sketches and covers of those 275 magazines. It is my hope that this series of publications will prove useful for students of political sciences or anthropologists. They can be referred to and cited for fair use without permission.

If anyone wishes to get in touch with Mansoor Raza for the 323-page document please email him at mansooraza@gmail.com
Raza is visiting faculty at Program of Development Studies, Department of Architecture and Planning, NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi. His areas of interests are urban issues, societal and demographic changes in Pakistan.

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