Nazir Abbasi in Kuli Camp

Nazir Abbasi in Kuli Camp

He lived the life and died the death about which novels could be written. A handsome looking, tall, youthful, walrus like mustached, with razor edged sense of humor (was not really a cliché) which, what his old comrade Mir Theo says could not conceal a melancholy in his wide twinkling mischievous eyes. Yet, his was melodic voice. So melodic, the sentry soldiers of his cell at Kuli Camp Quetta, a historically notorious interrogation centre where he had been detained, would request him to sing "Roze di jail chum laiye"for them.

The captors at his Kuli Camp interrogation centre had warned him while he was being freed "we are letting you go alive this time, but next time, you wont have the chance." True to their warning, he was not let go alive while captured second time. He was tortured to death in custody of military intelligence agencies under military dictatorship of Zia regime on August 9, 1980. He was Nazir Abbasi, the student leader and leftist revolutionary who founded Democratic Student federation (DSF) nationwide in Pakistan. Nazir Abbasi was said to be an active member of the then underground Communist Party (CPP) that had remained disbanded from 1953 to 1989. The names of the members of the ‘party’ were kept secret except the few on active scene.

At the outset of martial law by dictator general Zia ul Haq, Nazeer Abbasi had been arrested with his other colleagues including Moolchand, Syed Shakir Sarah, Faiz Soomro, Ghanshyasm Deepak and Sindh’s peasants’ rights leader Mandela Shar from various places in Sindh, detained and remained incommunicado at Kuli Camp Quetta, historically notorious for housing torture cells in named of interrogation center. They were probably first of the missing persons who were made enforcedly disappeared within months of the Zia’s martial law in the country. Except Nazeer and Mandhal Shar, all were in their late teens then.

Nazir Abbasi and his leader Jam Saqi were fond of quoting from a book they had memorised. ‘The Method’ was authored  by Greek writer P Korovesis and was published in 1969. It was based on a first hand account of the horrifying tale of torture experienced by a theatre actor after his arrest 

Nazir Abbasi and his leader Jam Saqi were fond of quoting from a book they had memorised titled "The method" authored by a Greek writer P. Korovesis published in 1969. The book was based on the first hand account of horrifying tale of torture experienced by a theatre actor after his arrest and detention on charges of being a suspect communist conspirator in 1960s. I had also a chance reading the book in 1980s and that gave me few sleepless nights. The Greek theatre artist had also undergone ‘bastinado, an ancient method of torture by beating soles of his feet with sticks and got badly swollen. In the Greek interrogation center had different section where different method of torture was practiced and had different names. Hanging the prisoner upside down, hanging female prisoner from her genitalia from the prison roof naked all the night, burying the prisoner in ground up to his neck and give him electric shocks under the supervision of doctor, beating their feet soles with rifle some of the ‘Method’ witnessed by the Greek theatre actor. Nazir Abbasi and Jam Saqi were sounded like Don Quixotic revolutionary. Later Jam Saqi advised his interrogators during his incarceration at the interrogation center at Lahore Fort to read the ‘Method’. Probably, they seem to have read it by now.

Nazir Abbasi’s stay in detention center happened to be a company for his fellow inmates, even guards, soldiers and sometimes interrogators and captors. Once his interrogator, who was a senior colonel, brought a book on Marxism and began discussing with him. He asked him to reveal names of the communists in Pakistan. "Khurshid Hasan Mir, CR Aslam, Mairaj Mohammed Khan and Dr Musbashar Hasan" Nazir told the colonel. It made the colonel mad."They are fake tell me the names of real ones", hitting his table with his fist was colonel’s reaction.

Even after his release, one of his guards form his Kuli Camp days came to visit him in Hyderabad to thank him because he had his leave sanctioned because of Nazir’s pressing his officers on the issue.

(This column is based on my conversations with Nazir Abbasi and his fellow inmates soon after their release from Kuli Camp).


The writer is a journalist, poet, lyricist, writer and human rights defender, living in New York. He has worked with the Newsline and the BBC



Published in Daily Times, August 12th 2017.