Abid Hassan Minto aka Abid Minto (Urdu: عابد حسن منٹو)
(born 3 February 1932, Rawalpindi, Pakistan) is a constitutional expert and
senior lawyer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He is also a literary critic
and a leftwing civic and political leader. His legal career spans over 50 years
during which he was elected member of the Pakistan Bar Council from 1966 up to
1983; President, Lahore High Court Bar Association (1982); Chairman,
National Coordination Committee of Lawyers (1981 to 1985) and President,
Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBA) (1997 to 1999). Minto has
also been affiliated with the International Association of Democratic Lawyers
(IADL) in which he was elected vice president at its Barcelona Congress (1990)
and Bureau Member at its Cape Town Congress (1995). He was professor of law at
the Law College of the Punjab University (Punjab University Law College) 1963
Minto belongs to the Marxist school of thought in politics
Minto attended Islamia High School, Rawalpindi and Gordon
College (Rawalpindi). He received his law degree (LL.B) from the Punjab
University Law College in 1955. While at Law College he was elected President
of the Students Union and won and retained the title of "Best All Pakistan
Debater" for four years.
Minto became a member of The Communist Party of Pakistan
(CPP) in 1949 and remained with it until it was banned in 1954 after the
Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case along with the Democratic Students Federation (DSF)
which was also co-founded by Minto in 1949 while at Gordon College. The DSF had
been popular in all four provinces and was succeeded, after its ban, by the
National Students Federation (NSF) which exists to date.
Trade unions: In his younger days Minto was an active Trade
Unionist and organized the Military Engineering Service (MES) Workers Union. He
worked for the Attock Oil Company Workers Union in Rawalpindi and the Railway
Workers Union which was led by Mirza Muhammad Ibrahim, a veteran trade union
leader of the Indo Pak sub continent. Minto was a member of the Central
Executive of the Pakistan Trade Union Federation (affiliated with the World
Federation of Trade Unions) from 1967–1986.
Farmers/peasants: Minto's ties with local peasant movements
are in place to date. Along with veteran peasant leader Chaudhry Fateh
Muhammad, he has worked to organize Kissan (peasant) Committees (کسان کمیٹی) in rural Punjab. These committees provide
local farmers with a platform for discussion and action in respect to the
problems faced by them in Pakistan's agrarian society where ownership of land
vests predominantly in big landowners.
Minto joined the Progressive Writers Association (PWA) in
1949. He is a literary critic. His first essay "The Issue of Language in
Pakistan" was published in 1951 in the literary journal Adb e Latif (Urdu:
ادب لطیف). Other essays by him,
later published as a collection "Nuqta e Nazarنقطہ نظر"
(The Viewpoint: 1st Edition 1986 2nd Edition 2003) include: The Problem of
Religious Literature (Shahrah شاہراہ
1954); Literary Criticism (Adb e Latif 1954ادب
لطیف); The Issue of
Ideologies in Literature (Adb e Latif 1955ادب
Ideology and Contemporary Literature (Adb e Latif 1960ادب لطیف);
Problems of Modern Poetry (Nayee Shairi 1964نئ
شاعری) and Eternal Values
in Literature (Auraq 1967اوراق).
His essay The Technique of the One Act Playایکانکی
ڈرامہ (Adb e Latif 1957ادب لطیف) was part of the curriculum for graduate
studies in Urdu literature.
Legal career (1955-)
Minto began law practice in 1955 at Rawalpindi where his
father and, before him, his grandfather had also practiced. He moved to Lahore
in 1958, was admitted, Advocate of the Lahore High Court in 1957 and of the
Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1963. He remains a practicing lawyer and is the
Senior Consultant to "Minto and Mirza , a Lahore based law firm.
Minto conducted several cases of constitutional, political
and legal importance. These include:
The Ganga Hijacking Case: Minto appeared for one of the
accused, Hashim Qureshi, before a special tribunal set up to try Kashmiri
freedom fighters who had hijacked an Indian aircraft into Pakistan.
The Hyderabad Conspiracy Case: Minto appeared before the
Hyderabad tribunal to defend political leaders Abdul Wali Khan, Ghaus Bakhsh
Bizenjo, Ataullah Mengal, Mir Gul Khan Nasir, Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and
others who had been charged with treason and for working against the Ideology
Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari (Farooq Leghari) versus The
Federation: Minto appeared as President, Supreme Court Bar Association of
Pakistan to assist the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the question of the
validity of imposition of Emergency and suspension of constitutional
Fundamental Rights by the President of Pakistan.
Minto has appeared in a large number of cases involving
issues such as:
Section 295 C of the Pakistan Penal Code, aka
"Blasphemy law in Pakistan", which prescribes the death penalty for
defiling the name of the prophet Muhammad.
The Islamic "Law of Evidence" or the "Qanun e
Shahadat" which discriminated against women in that it considers their
evidence as not at par with men in certain matters. This law was brought into
being during the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq.
The controversy attached to The law of Evidence gave birth
to a women's rights movement in Pakistan calling for equal rights and equal
treatment for women in all matters.(For more on Women's Movement in Pakistan
see Women's Action Forum)
Some of the other issues in Minto's legal battles include:
Constitutional right of workers to form Trade Unions.
Electoral laws providing for a separate electoral college
for minority religions.
Discrimination against women preventing them from competing
with men for admission to certain educational institutions.
Dissolution of federal and provincial legislatures by the
President of Pakistan and Governors of provinces.
Minto is currently the elected President of Workers Party of
Pakistan (WPP), founded on 20–21 March 2010 following a merger of five
leftwing parties of Pakistan.
Background: In 1967 Minto joined the National Awami Party
(NAP Balochistan). The following year, at the party's general elections in
Dacca, Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) he was elected member of its Central
Executive Committee. In 1971, on the eve of East Pakistan's separation from
(West) Pakistan, a number of leftwing political workers from NAP and other groups,
held a conference and founded the Pakistan Socialist Party (PSP). C. R. Aslam,
a veteran communist leader was elected President while Minto was elected first
General Secretary. He stayed with PSP until 1986 and was elected General
Secretary three times. Following a split in the PSP in 1986, Minto founded the
Awami Jamhoori Party (Peoples Democratic Party) in 1987, comprising dissidents
from the PSP and members of a Sindh based left group called the Communist
League. On 1 May 1999, the Awami Jamhoori Party, Pakistan Socialist Party and a
faction of Pakistan National Party (led by Baloch leader Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo)
formed the National Workers' Party. Minto was elected its first President. NWP
was a part of the All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) in lawyers movement.
Minto was elected first President of Workers Party of Pakistan, formed after
the merger of five leftwing parties and groups (Communist Mazdoor Kisan
Party,National Workers Party,Peoples Rights Movement,Watan Dost Mazdoor
Federation, Awami Mazdoor Anjuman) and holds the office to date by election.
Arrests: For his politics generally, and especially during
the lawyers movement against General Zia ul Haq, Minto faced arrests and
detentions several times.
A collection of Minto's essays mostly written during the
1950s and 1960s on ideological issues in literature was published in 1986
titled 'Nuqta-e-Nazar نقطہ
نظر' (The Viewpoint) with
a second edition in 2003 containing some later writings also. He belongs to the
Marxist school of literary criticism
Family and family name
The family name "Minto" was originally
"Manto" or "Mantu" and is still used as such by most of the
"Mantu" family. "Mantu" like Kichlu, Sapru, Nehru, and
Kaatju, signifies a caste of Hindu Brahmin pandits from Kashmir a number of
whom migrated to Amritsar, now in the Indian Punjab and then to Rawalpindi.
Minto's father Khawaja Ahmad Hassan (1896—1982), a well known civil lawyer in
Rawalpindi was a leader of the Indian National Congress until 1943 later
joining the Muslim League to play a role in its local politics during the
Pakistan movement. Khawaja Ahmad Hassan was a nephew of the Indian Nationalist
Leader Saifuddin Kichlu who was also the paternal uncle of Minto's mother, Aziz
Begum (1895—1981). The Urdu short story writer Saadat Hassan Manto (1912—1955)
was Minto's great-grand uncle. In 1961 Minto married Tasnim Minto née Kausar
(1935--), herself a writer who has published a collection of short stories
"Zara si Baat ذرا سی بات" ("A Small Matter"). They
have three children, two daughters and a son, from the marriage.