Naeem ul Haq, a close friend of the Prime Minister (PM) and PTI stalwart passed away on February 15, 2020. He was the third pillar of the party to have fallen after Comrade Ahsan Rashid and Syeda Saloni Bokhari. In his first speech, the Prime Minister (PM) acknowledged the services of both Ahsan Sahib and Saloni Sahiba, in their capacity as President (Punjab and Women’s Wing respectively). Naeem Bhai also served as President of Sindh. His passing away is a big blow to the movement. Today (February 20, 2020) prayers have been organized at the Governor’s House in Lahore. he will be greatly missed.
According to my information, Naeem-ul-Haq belonged to an established political family, was related to Maulana Ehtisham-ul-Haq Thanvi whom I had the chance of meeting in Lahore during one of his visits. He started his political innings from Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s Tehrik-e-Istiqlal. Like Ahsan Sahib he too was a founder member of PTI.
Naya Pakistan needs such pure and untainted leadership. After Comrade Ahsan Rashid, Syeda Saloni Bokhari, Naeem ul Haq was the third important pillar of PTI to fall
On May 01, 2010 PTI announced a 15 member shadow cabinet in which Naeem bhai was allocated the portfolio of finance while I was given science and technology. Later on Dr. Muhammad Shafique was inducted to head Irrigation and Water Management. It was the first such initiative in the country. Perhaps it was the ablest team of professionals with four Ph.Ds in it.
A team was also assigned to prepare the first 100 days plan which was presented to the Chairman and the core committee. As head of finance Naeem Bhai was tasked to prepare a framework for a welfare state which was then deliberated upon. Three areas were to be the responsibility of the state that included; education, health, and employment. Every five to thirty-five-year-old youth had to be covered.
Think tanks then started to prepare “policy papers’ which I co-ordinated. Implementable plans were prepared in all important areas like security, education, energy, agriculture, health, devolution, environment, women empowerment etc. Through its think tanks, shadow cabinet and first 100 days plan the party was preparing itself to deliver “Naya Pakistan’.
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The October 2011 mammoth gathering at Lahore followed by the December jalsa at Karachi changed the complexion of the party. Ahsan Sahib and Naeem bhai tried their best to strike a balance between the ideological old guard and the political new players but it was not to be.
As Punjab was the main battle ground Ahsan Sahib came under attack by the ambitious newcomers who had their eyes set on the coveted position of Chief Minister of the largest province. The inter party elections held in early 2013 further divided the party. Stalwarts like Ahsan Sahib and Dr. Arif Alvi lost the elections unexpectedly to the old political players who were fresh entrants to the PTI fold.
Ahsan Sahib who was the Chou-en-lai of PTI died on November 2014 after a long battle with cancer. A large number of party workers came for his funeral also expecting the Chairman to bid farewell to a fallen Comrade. Imran Khan arrived in time for the namaz-e-janaza after which we buried him in the Cavalry Ground graveyard. Keeping the Comrade traditions alive, I sought permission from the family to place the party flag on the janaza which was graciously allowed. It was a hero’s farewell to a person who had established the party with his own efforts and resources.
It is time to revisit and understand the efforts and struggle of comrades of change like Naeem-ul-Haq, Ahsan Rashid and Syeda Saloni Bokhari before the forces of stagnation prevail
Syeda Saloni Bokhari passed away in December 2017 after her valiant struggle against the same deadly disease. She kept her traditional smile till the end. Her contribution in building the Women Wing were remarkable. She was a committed, dedicated and ideological political worker who built the party from scratch.
While the old political players and PTI new comers scrambled for important positions (President, Secretary general) Naeem Bhai decided for himself the position of Chief of Staff to the Chairman. He moved to Islamabad and established residence in Bani Gala to be close by. Till the end he served his leader with dedicated honesty and integrity. In the government he was given the title of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) for political affairs. In fact he was the Deputy PM who held the pieces together by reaching out. His replacement will not be easy.
I kept in touch with him till the end. In the last few weeks he would not directly respond to my telephone calls but would call back all most every time. Dedicated, ideological political players like Naeem bhai are a rare breed in our times. ‘Naya Pakistan’ needs such pure and untainted leadership. After Comrade Ahsan Rashid, Syeda Saloni Bokhari, Naeem ul Haq was the third important pillar of PTI to fall.
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For players seeking change, Islamabad has always been a hazardous ground. Many star riders have fallen here. Status-quo is so entrenched in the capital city of the Islamic Republic to fight against its requires a Herculean effort. In the words of Naeem bhai, ‘we have to fight for change within the confines of the existing system’. After over four decades of stagnation the entire order is choked in Islamabad. Only after removing the blockages change will be possible.
Personally I think Naeem bhai is a fallen comrade of change in Islamabad. He went down fighting the system which over the years can only control not serve the people of Pakistan. I am equally concerned for the Chairman the PM who continues to fight on. As a political force PTI had prepared itself well to take on the forces of status-quo.
Naeem Bhai was an important player of this effort being an old ideological member of Kaptan’s team which has to be strengthened and reinforced to prevail over forces of status-quo within the governance system of the country and also in the fold of the party of change.
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It is time to revisit and understand the efforts and struggle of comrades of change like Naeem-ul-Haq, Ahsan Rashid and Syeda Saloni Bokhari before the forces of stagnation prevail. Red tape, paperwork, Baboo Blockades have to be understood and dealt with for ‘Naya Pakistan’ to emerge from the ashes of the old.
Dr. Farid A. Malik is Ex-Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation. The article was first published in The Nation and has been republished here with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.