Volume 6, No. 2, February 2024
Editor: Rashed Rahman
Known historian K K Aziz had titled his inimitable treatise The Murder of History. I had read it a few years ago. But I never imagined that one day I would literally see this proverbial murder of history with my own eyes. I never conceived that history would be bleeding in front of me. However, it all happened recently in the centre of the heart of Sindh, Karachi.
It was the demolition and tearing apart of Hyder Manzil, residence of G M Syed, the most influential and inspiring person of 20th century Sindh. Hyder Manzil has not only been witness to the unfolding of history but has played a pivotal role in the making of the history of this region.
As we all know the quest for Pakistan received a huge impetus when the Sindh Assembly passed G M Syed’s sponsored resolution in support of the movement in 1942. The resolution was planned and prepared at Hyder Manzil. This place remained the centripetal force of the politics of this region straddling the Partition of the Subcontinent. Many coalitions, and subsequently governments, were formed and broken here. Several political parties were midwifed here, which played an important role in the politics of Sindh. Pakistan Muslim League found its feet in Sindh only when G M Syed joined it. And the campaign was launched from Hyder Manzil. Immediately after the Partition, Pakistan People’s Organisation was created here, having a very progressive and pro-people manifesto, which if followed could have saved Pakistan from many of the ills this country is suffering from.
The famous anti-One Unit movement was originated and led from this house. After the 1970-71 crisis and creation of Bangladesh, being disappointed by the rulers’ contemptuous attitude to the democratic process, G M Syed founded Jeay Sindh Mahaz, the last political party of his life, at this very place on June 18, 1972 with the motto ‘political, economic and cultural liberation of Sindh’. The delegates to the founding session included this writer.
The galaxy of leaders who frequented Hyder Manzil over the years included Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Abul Kalam Azad, Obeidullah Sindhi, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, Allah Bux Soomro, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Abdullah Haroon, Abdul Samad Achakzai, Qaswar Gardezi, Mian Iftikharuddin, Hyder Bux Jatoi, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, Abdul Majeed Sindhi, Abdul Wali Khan, Ghous Bux Bizenjo, Attaullah Mengal, Mirza Ibrahim and so on.
Apart from politics, G M Syed also played a leading role in the fields of literature, culture and social work and was amongst the pioneers of the ‘people’s history’ in the region. So many luminaries of these fields such as Pir Hissamuddin Rashdi and Shaikh Ayaz used to visit Hyder Manzil. For the youth of Sindh, Hyder Manzil remained a source of inspiration and a centre of political, ideological and moral training to prepare them for the protracted and arduous struggle against the old, outdated and rotten system.
To my knowledge there have been only two other residences in the Subcontinent, Aanand Bhawan of the Nehru family and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Dhan Mandi house, which played such a busy, momentous and leading role in politics as the Hyder Manzil.
My personal affiliation with Hyder Manzil spanned over 23 years (1972-1995). I started as an outsider but with time grew into a member of the household. During the process a personal bond and emotional attachment developed. So when the hammers started hitting the house, I felt the blows on my heart and my soul. While writing this obituary, tears of blood are flowing along with the ink of the pen. Twenty-eight years ago, at the time of the counter-revolution, when the statues of Lenin and other symbols of the Soviet era were being brought down, I received the shock of my life. Now, seeing the hammers falling on Hyder Manzil made me feel as if old wounds were being reopened.
How very sad and unfortunate it is that the last occupants of this historical house treated it as just a mix of steel and cement and demolished it with such ease. However, history makes its own decisions and the history of Sindh will never absolve the destroyers of Hyder Manzil.