Omar Asghar Khan
Born on July3,1953 Omar Asghar Khan led an event ful life. In his school
days he was well-known for his exceptional sporting talents. He captained the school's swimming and hockey teams. Omer joined the Army in 1971 and soon rose to
the rank of Captain. Disillusioned with the debacle of East Pakistan and Army action in Balochistan he resigned from the Army in 1973. A year later he left for
England to pursue higher studies. He obtained an M-Phil in Economics from Cambridge University and returned to Pakistan in 1979.
In 1980 he began teaching Economics at the Punjab University. Omar's
popular efforts to promote progressive political thought among students instigated a physical attack on him by the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba. In 1983
Zia-ul-Haq's repressive regime ordered Omar's dismissal from Punjab University on the flimsy pretext of this presence at a labor rally. After leaving the
University Omar became more active in politics as a leader in Tehreek-I-Istiqlal. He leaded the Istiqlal Youth League and later became the Tehreek's central
Information Secretary. Omar contested the national elections in1988 and 1990-losing on both occasions a he practiced principled politics and resolutely
spurned the politics of money and biradari. He was part of a team of researchers that compiled the white paper on the 1990 elections: How an Election Was
Stolen, published in 1991.
Omar played a key role in setting up many successful initiatives. In
1982 helped establish the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research to promote worker's rights and served it as a faculty member all his life. In
1987 Omar established SEBCON(Socio-Economic and Business Consultants) with an aim to produce quality action research and policy analysis in Pakistan . In
1989 Omar established SUNGI Development Foundation.
Disgruntled with the shenanigans of electoral politics, Omar strived
to make SUNGI an alternate platform to fight for people's rights. The organization had humble beginnings with minimal staff and modest funds. Under Omar's
dynamic leadership SUNGI achieved phenomenal success. It pioneered a rights-based approach that continues to influences much of development effort in
Pakistan. By the time SUNGI celebrated its tenth anniversary in 1999 it had helped empower more than 200,000 women and men in over 100 villages in Hazara
with a staff of about 150 operating from nine offices in Abbottabad, Haripur ,Battagram, Balakot, Muzaffarabad, and Islamabad.
SUNGI's work and influence reached far beyond Hazara to the rest of
Pakistan, and also to south Asia. Omer and SUNGI provided critical leadership's civil society, successfully mobilizing collective action on range of issues
including protecting the rights of the marginalized particularly the poor and women, ensuring of equitable use of natural resources, promoting tolerance
and social justice in the society, and achieving peace India and Pakistan and a nuclear-free south Asia. SUNGI achievements command national and
international acclaim. In recognition of its works SUNGI received the 1996 UNESCAP Award for Human Development. In 1998 Omar conceptualized and initiated
the people's assemblies process. Recognizing the limitations of NGO work this process aimed to create broader civil society alliances as a platform for
public mobilization and action. It had wide appeal. More than 50 civil society organization soon entered its fold. Omar provided it inspiring leadership
until end 1999.
In late 1999 Omar resigned as SUNGI Executive director and accepted
General Pervaz Musharraf's offer to join his cabinet on 6 November 1999, Omar was sworn in as the Federal Minister for Environment, Local Government & Rural
Development, Labour, Manpower, and Overseas Pakistanis. In his 2 years tuner as federal minister, Omar was successful in shaping and influencing many key
policies. His unstinting efforts gave ownership rights to Karachi Abadi residents through the National Policy on Karachi Abadis. Omar's competence and
creativity facilitated the establishment of the first-ever Workers and Employers Bilateral Council of Pakistan that helped achieve consensus on substantive
policy giving greater social protection to workers. He played a pivotal role in the design of the devolution policy, focusing on creating political space
for woman, peasants, and workers and protecting provincial autonomy. He also lobbied for restoration of a joint electorate, ensuring equal rights for all
In December 2001 Omar resigned from the cabinet to play his role in
mainstream politics. He launched the Qaumi Jamhoori party on 28 December 2001. the party strives to establish a modern, progressive Pakistan in which the
rights of all citizens are protected. Omar was unanimously elected the party president at QJP's National Convention on 26 May 2002. on 15 June 2002 the
party announced its decision to contest the October 2002 election. Omar was working with determination and diligence to organize the young party until his
untimely death under mysterious circumstances in Karachi on 25 June 2002.
Omar's vision was a society based on values to equity, social justice
and tolerance. His compassion and the meek and his commitment to improving their well-being is reflected in every aspect of his work and accomplishments.
He strived to reform the state and make it responsive to the need and aspirations of its citizens, particularly the traditionally marginalized. He provided
leadership to Pakistan's civil society enabling it asserts itself to achieve democratic politics and governance in Pakistan. Razor-sharp intellect,
unwavering conviction, uncompromising integrity and unflinching courage were key elements of Omar's character. Add to that passionate energy, genuine
compassion, and disarming humility, and it was the stuff legends are made of. Omar's vision and accomplishments is the legacy he has left us with. Its
influence will place its footprint on our future as we continue to take his mission forward.