|G M Syed
Daily Dawn, 16th April 1995
With the passing away of G.M Syed conies to an end an eventful -and equally controversial - political career is spanning more than seven decades. Also gone with him is probably the last of a generation of leaders of men for whom politics was a serious business demanding total commitment of one's time and energies. G.M Syed, like most of his contemporaries was fortunate to have been there when revolutionary changes were taking place in South Asia. Be it the Khilafat Movement early this century or the beginning of an awakening among the Muslims of the subcontinent for their rights, or the struggle for the separation of Sindh from Bombay presidency, Mr. Syed was there and not as a spectator but as an activist, always in the front line. He won many battles and lost many others, but a balance sheet of losses and gains can hardly serve as a criterion to determine a leader's place in history.
And yet G.M. Syed had several accomplishments of historic import to his credit that would do any politician anywhere proud. At least two of these need mention here. On March 3, 1943, he moved a resolution in the Sindh Assembly endorsing the demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent and had it carried with his forceful advocacy of the cause. That landmark development was another milestone along the path leading to the creation of Pakistan four years later. The other was his relentless crusade against one unit, which was finally crowned with success in 1970. During his long involvement in public life, Mr. Syed espoused many causes having a direct bearing on the life of the common man. Almost invariably these evoked hostile responses from the rulers. Mr. Syed had thus had to spend long spells in prison, often in solitary confinement, during successive regimes. But each such dose of administered rigor strengthened, rather than weakened, his will and determination to struggle on for the causes he believed in.
When still at 16 he played an enthusiastic role at the Khilafat conference held in Larkana where he met Moulana Abul Kalam Azad. Moulana Shaukat Ali, Moulana Abdul Ban Farangimehali and other Khilafat leaders. Promoting political awareness among the Muslims, particularly in his home province, was a cause he held dear all his life. Mr. Syed himself came from a family of landowners but early in his life he was deeply touched by the subhuman conditions in which Sindh’s landed aristocracy forced its peasants to live. He felt that unless the masses were emancipated from the stranglehold of the local tyrants, freedom from alien domination could serve no meaningful purpose.
This concern for the common man led him to organize a Hari Conference in Mirpuarkhas in 1930, which laid the foundation for the formation of the Sindh Hari Committee, which later emerged as a major political force under the leadership of Comrade Haider Bakhsh Jatoi. Barely a year before, Mr. Syed had joined forces with Hommie Mehta and Rukmani Advani to found a rural women's association in Karachi - Here Syed appeared probably as the first male politician of Sindh to see women's rights as integral to the rights of the masses at large.
G.M Syed formed many parties and launched many movements. In the process, he worked with one or the other of nearly all-top leaders of the province. But single-minded and totally devoted to his cause, he soon found himself at odds with his contemporaries who usually practiced the traditional politics of the drawing room. He always addressed his appeal directly to the masses, which gained him immense popularity but did not particularly endear him to the practitioners of elitist politics. Soon after independence, G.M Syed felt compelled to launch a movement against the federal government's decision to take Karachi under its own administrative control. Syed mobilized the masses but the movement lost its momentum and Karachi was finally cut off from Sindh to by restored to it only after the dissolution of the One Unit in 1970
Then came what the leaders of the smaller provinces unequivocally described as a national disaster the formation of a single province in the then West Pakistan. By this time the state of Pakistan had passed into the hands of the bureaucrats who were pathetically incapable of understanding political realities. Syed joined forces with leaders from the three smaller provinces of the western wing and formed the Anti One Unit Front, which soon became a forceful movement under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. The impact was so great that the West Pakistan assembly adopted a resolution for the dissolution of the "One Unit" this was yet another leather in Mr. G.M. Syed’s cap.
Mr. Syed was a multifarious personality. He was a thinker, a literary figure of repute. He wrote as many as 50 books on various subjects, besides countless articles in Sindhi Urdu and English, which served to illustrate his political philosophy. If he had not been a politician, he would have been a towering literary figure. He was a man of un-wavering convictions and like all men of conviction, he remained a controversial figure all his life. He inspired generation after generation of Sindhi youth and was widely revered by them. They will treasure his memory as an abiding source of inspiration.