In Orangi, a 100-year-old diehard fan of two Quaids
A few months short of his 100th birthday, Aseeruddin Ahmed, makes a fraction of the 0.225 percent of Pakistani voters, who have lived for more than 91 years.
Clad in a white kurta and a chequered dhoti, he holds in his right hand a walking stick, which, when it does not support his frail body, is used to hit anyone who speaks against Mohammad Ali Jinnah or Altaf Hussain – the two Quaids he refuses to hear ill of.
“Till my last breath,” he vows, “I will vote for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.”
Such is his loyalty toward the party that he still remembers the number plate of Hussain’s motorcycle (KAJ-161), on which the MQM chief came to Orangi Town.
“Bhai would sit on the floor with us and hold meetings,” Ahmed recalls. “Those were the good days, filled with hope.”
In his neighbourhood, where he has lived most of his life, people lovingly call him Chacha. And though he cannot walk around the streets anymore, his grandsons also find it impossible to move around with him in a car because passersby keep stopping them, to invite their beloved Chacha for a cup of tea.
Till the last elections in 2008, his health allowed him to walk door to door in Orangi Town to motivate the people to come out and vote but wisely “for the person who gave you your identity” he would hint.
He struggles to remember the infamous Operation Cleanup against the MQM in the 90s that forced many of the party leaders to escape but then drifts off to the days before partition.
An employee at the British Railways, Ahmed was 35 at the time of Partition. “I remember filling a form, writing I am a Muslim and in favour of Pakistan,” he recalls.
Back then, he lived in Saidpur, where the largest railway workshop for Assam-Bengal province was established by the British. After Partition, Saidpur came under East Pakistan – now Bangladesh. Ahmed remembers the massive bloodshed forced the Hindus to flee to the Indian border while the Muslims migrated to the other side of the border. “But there was hope. We were ready to sacrifice everything for the homeland our leaders had carved out for us.”
Not yet had the emotions of living in a Muslim homeland fizzled away, when there was the second partition, as Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan.
Every now and then, Chacha brings up a town called Munger in his conversation. His son explains Munger was mainly an Urdu-speaking town of Bihar, India. When Bangladesh was created, the Urdu-speaking community there fled to East Pakistan fearing for their lives in communal violence.
Ahmed became a migrant for the second time. He landed in Quetta. Much later, in 1974, he arrived in Karachi and made it his permanent residence. But if there is anything that he winds up after all his struggles, it is the fact that he had lost two homes. “We were two nations before Partition based on the two-nation theory. Then we became three when Bangladesh was carved out. Now four or five nations inhabit Pakistan. There will be more partitions,” Ahmed warns.