LAHORE – Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan was regarded as the icon of democratic struggles in Pakistan. Whenever the democratic system was derailed, he came to the forefront to form an alliance of parties of all shades of opinion, including the ones which were poles apart. No other leader in the country can claim to have played a similar role against dictatorships, military as well as civilian. And there is none like him at present who can gather all parties on a single platform.

The Nawabzada has not received a fair treatment - both from his sons and other political parties, which have been the beneficiaries of movements.

He spent some four decades of his active political career at 32-Nicholson Road, Lahore, a two-storey building whose ground floor was used by the veteran leader as a tenant. The upper storey served as a hotel. It was here that almost all top leaders, whether presidents, prime ministers or the ones in opposition used to visit the Aitchison-educated leader from Muzaffargarh, discuss with him the political situation and hammer out future course of action.

Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari, Benazir Bhutto, Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Sardar Balakh Sher Mazari, Hamid Nasir Chattha, Asfandyar Wali Khan, Chaudhry Shujaat Husain, Dr Tahirul Qadri, Professor Ghafoor Ahmed, Imran Khan, Pir Pagara, Kabir Ali Wasti, Meraj Muhammad Khan, Maulana Kausar Niazi, Fatehyab Ali Khan are some of the leaders who visited the PDP president many a time at his residence on various occasions.

Junior leaders of many other parties were always present there in large numbers.

A number of opposition movements against various rulers had been started from here. The building is privy to many secrets of our political history. But, unfortunately, the portion which was used by the Nawabzada for his residence as well as office has been converted into a shoe market. The room which served as drawing-cum-dining-cum-bedroom of the veteran leader is now a shoe shop, where Pathans from Pakhtunkhwa have been selling their stuff for the past couple of years. The rooms where conferences were held or the Nawabzada’s secretarial staff worked are also part of the shoe market. The same is the fate of the kitchen, verandah and other portions of the building.

About 17 shoe shops have replaced what was once the centre of democratic struggles.

This shows how much importance we give to a person who dedicated his life to democratic rule. Neither his sons, nor any political party thought of preserving the place used by a great leader for such a long time.

Still worse, his son Mansoor Khan has merged the Pakistan Democratic Party with the PTI of Imran Khan.

Although leaders like Arshad Chaudhry, Nawaz Gondal and Rashid Qureshi have decided to keep the party alive, none of them will be able to spare much time to carry out political activities from this platform.

Now, something about the politics of the Nawabzada. The writer covered almost all political activities of the veteran leader for about two decades. He shared many an information with me.

He was the most capable and witty leader of the country, knowing even the minutest details of political history. Allah had blessed him with an excellent memory. He could recall the events of the past centuries as if they were fresh in his mind. He was the one who could deliver speeches in poetry, according to the requirements of a situation. Never would he use chits to remind himself of the subjects he would speak about. In this write-up, I will not like to repeat things already published by the press.

During the martial law of Gen Zia, the Nawabzada was heading the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy. Maulana Shah Ahmed Noorani’s JUP was not part of this alliance. The JUP president, who had diamonds business, spent most of his time out of the country. But whenever he came to Pakistan, he used to issue fiery statements against Gen Zia, giving the impression that he was a stronger critic of the military leader than the opposition alliance. The Nawabzada did not like the role of the JUP chief.  Once the Nawabzada decided to hold an all-party conference on some issue. Reporters asked Maulana Noorani if he would like to participate in the moot. Rejecting the idea, he said: “It’s an ill-timed symphony (Bey Waqt Ki Raagni).”

Then the journalists approached the Nawabzada to get his reaction. “Waqt Ka Raag to mein bhi nahin jaanta,” he said, clearly critical of the Maulana’s policies.

After the dismissal of the second Benazir government, then caretaker prime minister Malik Meraj Khalid called on the Nawabzada and told him that Mumtaz Ali Bhutto had been appointed as caretaker Sindh chief minister to cut the PPP to size. The Nawabzada got angry and told his guest that poll rigging would be a great disservice to the country.

Not many people know why the MQM had been expelled from the Grand Democratic Alliance, which was working parallel to the Pakistan Awami Ittehad.

The reason was that the MQM had started interpreting the Pakistan Resolution in a way that was not acceptable to the Nawabzada. MQM leader Aftab Sheikh had said that in MQM’s opinion the Pakistan Resolution talks of independent ‘states’, not just one state.

The senior leader said in categorical terms that with this point of view he would not like the MQM to stay as a part of the GDA.

He called the writer and broke the news. When the report was carried, a day later the MQM said it had ‘left’ the GDA. While the Nawabzada was always very quick to answer even the most difficult questions, he became almost speechless at a news conference. Gen Musharraf had disallowed the ARD leaders to hold a rally at Mochi Gate, Lahore, on March 23.

The ARD leaders were insisting that they would hold the rally to highlight the significance of the day. They met at the DHA residence of Tehmina Daultana and addressed a news conference to make public their resolve.

The Nawabzada was flanked by Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi.

The writer asked all three leaders to enlighten him as to how and where they had celebrated this ‘important day’ last year.

They had no answer.

When they left the venue of the news conference, they were arrested by the police.

Once I asked the Nawabzada which of his sons could carry his flag in an effective way, he said: Mansoor Khan.

This has proved as a great miscalculation.

Then I asked him which politician he was impressed by most. The answer was: Jawaharlal Nehru. May the departed soul rest in peace.