G.M Sayed’s Speech at the Vienna Congress 1952: An Epitome of His Vision
Sayed's speech at the convention is very significant as it was given when the world in general and Pakistan in particular were at the critical juncture of history.
Today’s pathetic political situation and impoverished socio-economic conditions are the direct results of the deliberate ignorance and rejection of the pluralistic vision of great scholars and thinkers like GM. Sayed.
By Sayed Ghulam Shah
Pakistan today is trapped into an unending cycle of socio-economic and politico-religious problems and, resultantly, it is facing existential threats. The necessary vision to drive the country out of this quagmire is missing. There is no clear and pragmatic vision to guide policies including internal security and foreign policies. None of the state pillars-executive, judiciary, parliament and media- are fulfilling their assigned roles. It seems there is no law or there is law of jungle. “Might is right is the only rule of the game in the country. Education, health and communication infrastructure are in pathetic conditions. Poverty, unemployment, crime, squandering of national resources, corruption and nepotism are on the rise. The sense of mutual respect and co-existence has almost completely vanished. People of one sect or religion consider it their religious obligation to convert people from other sect (s) or religion (s) to their own interpretation of religion and, to achieve this purpose, they resort to violent means. They believe that it is their prerogative to kill those whom they consider infidels owing to the disagreement with their beliefs.
Almost all his conjectures and warnings regarding the consequences of international powers’ patronage of the state’s collusion with religious orthodoxy have become reality today.
Now the question is how we have reached here. Has not any scholar or leader warned the policymakers of the perilous consequences that their flawed policies would result in? The answer is yes; there have been scholars and leaders in the past who were visionary enough to envisage the current menace the country is in. Prominent among them is GM Sayed. In fact, it can be safely argued that today’s pathetic political situation and impoverished socio-economic conditions are the direct results of the deliberate ignorance and rejection of the pluralistic vision of great scholars and thinkers like GM. Sayed. Therefore, only way to achieve political normalcy, economic stability, social cohesion and institutional harmony is to follow the progressive and all-encompassing ideology of leaders like GM Sayed.
Ghulam Murtaza Sayed (GM. Sayed) was a man of vision. Whatever he proposed or opposed essentially incorporated an element of long-sightedness. The precision and correctness of his vision, inter alia, is evident from the fact that almost all his conjectures and warnings regarding the consequences of international powers’ patronage of the state’s collusion with religious orthodoxy have become reality today.
However, he paid heavy price for awakening the rulers of the time from deep slumber of ignorance. He spent 31 years in jail without any legitimate reason and withstood the worst of civil and military rulers’ ire. Nevertheless, he did not give in. Notwithstanding all these hardships, he managed to write 64 books and simultaneously continued to struggle against the usurpation of his people’s rights at the hands of the tyrants of the time.
He articulated his vision on number of occasions like the World Economic Conference Moscow and Asia-Pacific Countries Conference Peking (Beijing). However, prominent among them is the Vienna Congress of the Peoples for Peace (1952) which he attended on the invitation of the organizers of the World Peace Conference. His speech at the convention is testimony to his political acumen and foresight.
The Vienna Congress of Peoples for Peace was organized in Austrian capital of Vienna from 12 to 19 December 1952. Around 1700 delegates attended it from 83 countries across the world. Eminent international figures like Jean-Paul Sartre (French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist, biographer, and literary critic), Paul Robeson (American bass baritone singer and actor who became involved with the Civil Rights Movement), and Pablo Neruda (Chilean poet, diplomat and Nobel laureate). Diego Rivera prominent Mexican painter), Saifuddin Kitchlew (Indian freedom fighter, barrister and an Indian Muslim nationalist leader), Mulk Raj Anand (an Indian writer in English, notable for his depiction of the lives of the poorer castes in traditional Indian society) and Louis Aragon French poet, novelist and editor, a long-time member of the Communist Party) attended the convention. Nazim Hikmat, (Turkish poet, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, director and memoirist) inaugurated the convention. Pablo Neruda penned the declaration of the convention and it started with these inspiring lines: We believe in the power of written words. We will continue to strive through our writings against religious, political, literary and other differences in this war torn world. Sayed’s speech at the convention is very significant in the sense that it was given when the world in general and Pakistan in particular were at the critical juncture of history. The aftershocks of the Second World War were still being felt and the world was still shifting to a new balance of power. The absence of a powerful and centralized international organization. The UN was just four years old at the time further compounded the already volatile world peace. Moreover, Pakistan was also in its embryonic stage. It was just five year old. Hence, Sayed’s speech was a right attempt at the right time to warn the world and Pakistan of grave consequences that their flawed policies would cause. Had his vision been given its due consideration, the world and Pakistan would have been saved from the irreversible loss caused by extremism and terrorism.
Following are excerpts from Sayed’s historic speech at the Vienna Congress:
Mr. Chairman! The aim of this convention is to promote peace. I would like to tell the delegates from across the world in general and from Britain and America in particular that the British and American governments’ attempts to align Muslim countries along religious lines are pregnant with perilous consequences. These governments should know that it is because of their patronage that religious bigotry, extremist mindset and fascist inclinations are taking roots and it is because of their patronage that the central eastern countries are drifting away from democratic arrangements and a durable social order with each passing day. I feel utmost grief to say that Muslim countries are selling their sovereignty and providing logistic support to the armies of imperialistic powers to facilitate the realization of their sinister designs. What sort of consequences such agreements of national governments will bear is not difficult to tell? The presence of foreign powers armies will deprive countries of their sovereignty. We feel very ashamed to witness that the government of our countries are compromising on the national dignity and pride.
At the time of this decision of August 1947, it was hope that the division of the subcontinent would put an end to communal differences finally and that the people of the subcontinent would amicably traverse the path of progress and respect each other’s hatred and widened the communal differences and it initiated a chain of unending tragedies for both the countries.
Ladies and gentleman. You can gauge the magnitude of such tragedies from the fact that about a million people lost their lives during the most unnatural migration of people in the known history of humankind. Around 15 million people were forced to leave their native towns and migrate to completely unknown places. About a quarter million women were forcibly abducted. Properties worth millions of rupees were vandalized.it was hope that after such a tremendous catastrophe the people would have learnt a lesson and would. Therefore, work for peace and mutual advancement.it is painful acknowledgement for me to say that instead of making any progress in national life the people of both the countries are still engaged in internecine squabbles.
The current leadership of Pakistan comprises of people who believe in the western democratic values. However, the amalgamation of the values on which Pakistan was established and values on which its demand was founded with the adoption of the objective resolution has resulted in the formation of groups both within and outside the Muslim league that are pressurizing the government to pursue non-secular policies. This will essentially transform Pakistan into a theocratic state and will definitely result in a war with India.
Problems like resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees, water dispute, disposal of evacuee property and settlement, peaceful and normal establishment of communication and of commerce and trade are still awaiting solution. Above all is the ticklish and knotty problem of Kashmir, which threatens to plunge the two sinister nations into mutual destructive war. The existence of these problems has created a certain kind of animosity between two governments and they are wildly and frantically squandering away national resources on unproductive expenditure of defense. These conflicts have, it is disconcerting to confess, exposed two nations to the machinations of the imperialistic powers who are selfish and are getting advantage from the troubles of others.
Democracy, freedom of opinion will have no place in this theocratic setup. They have already declared it legal according to their interpretations of the religious landlordism and unequal distribution of wealth and class distinction.
The people in power believe that the Muslims of the world are a nation on the basis of their belief and that God has entrusted them the mission of leading the world. In this there are not only two ideologies of Capitalism and Communism, but there is also a third ideology of international importance and significance that is Islamic ideology…. Many of the people who are mustering strength in the name of religion believe that we should do away with Anglo-Roman judicial system and replace it with obsolete mediaeval jurisprudence. According to which a thief will have his hands amputated and a fornicator will be stoned to death and people with different views on religion will be put to the sword. The reigns of the government will be in the hands of the so-called religious leaders and clerics (Mullahs) and they will run it on the theological interpretations of the religious books. Democracy, freedom of opinion will have no place in this theocratic setup. They have already declared it legal according to their interpretations of the religious landlordism and unequal distribution of wealth and class distinction. They want to see all present courts of law abolished. In order to secure the leadership of the world and domination of Islam they will propagate the “Jihad” and the Muslims will be converted into a jingoistic and chauvinistic society.
People are arrested on the pretext of expressing their ideas and thoughts which are in disagreement with those of rulers and which antagonize the religious groups in the country.
We are afraid that with the demands for Pan-Islamism, the unification of the Middle Eastern countries and by the passing of the Objective Resolution, the reactionary propaganda may have its effects. These so called religious groups may be successful in intimidating and cowing down the regime in the power with these demands and make them fall prey to their doctrines.
The result of all these proclivities is that the rulers of the country do not allow opposition even within constitutional ambit. People are arrested on the pretext of expressing their ideas and thoughts which are in disagreement with those of rulers and which antagonize the religious groups in the country. The imprisonment of Khan Ghaffar Khan from the N.W.F.P. province and Abdul Samad Khan Achakzai from Balochistan province are glaring examples of this. Both are languishing in the jails without any legitimate reason. Mr. Chairman and comrades! These people have religiously struggled against the British imperialism, led the movement for freedom from the front and withstood the worst of the foreign rulers’ wrath.
Our country is passing through a difficult phase of its life and we need the support of progressive forces of the world. I would request all delegates who are participating in this convention to help us fight the dark who have gathered under the umbrella of religion.
The only path to progressive and pluralistic Pakistan is to follow his vision and ideology in letter and spirit.
Ladies and gentlemen! Victories of peace are in no way less than the victories of war. This peace conference is an important milestone in the history of nations. I assure you the cooperation of peace-loving people from my country. Long live peace!
In retrospect, it can be said without an iota of doubt that Sayed’s vision was correct and plausible. The rise of extremism, rampant corruption, ubiquitous nepotism, institutional disharmony and weak democratic set up in the country prove the exactness of his vision. Therefore, only path to progressive and pluralistic Pakistan is to follow his vision and ideology in letter and spirit. Obliviousness of his vision has already cost the country and the world immensely.
Sayed Ghulam Shah Bukhari, MA. L.L.B. is Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan. He has been involved in active politics and served for Democratic, fundamental and national rights since 1972; participated in seminars and conferences on education, human rights, jurisprudence, legislation and legal aspects; performed as International Election Observer in USA, Canada, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, United Kingdom, Holland, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Turkey, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China. He is based in Karachi and can be accessed at Cell: +923028294589, E-mail: email@example.com