Celebrating Dr M. Sarwar: Student movement revisited – Aug 8 Lahore event

Dr Farrukh Gulzar & Abid Minto

Dr Farrukh Gulzar & Abid Minto

Dr Sarwar’s Reference at the HRCP on Aug 8 was very well attended thanks to the passion, commitment and hard work of Dr Farrukh Gulzar, and also the involvement of Husain Naqi and Zaman Khan of HRCP and Ammar Ali Jan of the Labour Party Pakistan. The veteran journalist Minhaj Barna, despite his frailty and ill-health traveled by bus to Lahore with the political analyst and former editor of ‘Student Herald’ S.M.  Naseem. Hameed Akhtar, Abid Hasan Minto, I.A. Rehman, Salima Hashmi and others spoke very well as expected.

Hameed Akhtar addressing the gathering; Husain Naqi on stairs at left

Hameed Akhtar addressing the gathering; Husain Naqi on stairs at left

Dr Farrukh Gulzar sang Faiz’ ‘Nuskha hai wafa’ in his powerful and intense voice, carrying the audience along. Of the other speakers, Dr Haroon Ahmed could not make it because
he is unwell while Farooq Tariq was in Nepal. Zakia Sarwar wound up the evening with a note of thanks to all those present and those who made the event happen.

The LPP published a comprehensive bilingual compilation of articles about Dr Sarwar and the student movement. Farooq Sulehria in Sweden initiated the booklet, that Ammar compiled (I helped). It got a bit late coming to the venue from the printers and there was a problem with the binding but it was greatly appreciated. The remaining copies will hopefully be salvaged. The copies were to be available free of cost but the size and paper took them over budget. People are encouraged to contribute Rs 50 or Rs 100 towards this valuable historical reference.

Grateful thanks to other contributions to the evening – Waseem at the Interactive Resource Center who arranged the video recording and most importantly, HRCP for their hall and staff, and the multimedia equipment. Thanks also to PMA Karachi for the banner and to Qasim Jafri for finding Dr Sarwar’s favourite jugalbandi so that we could play it along with the slide show at the beginning, Ustads Bismillah Khan and Vilayat Ali Khan (in the rush I forgot the
CD in Karachi). Thanks also to friends at the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA) for hosting Minhaj Barna at their hostel and facilitating his visit by providing transport.

Photos of the event at:


— beena sarwar, karachi, aug 10, 2009

4 Responses

  1. The organizers, especially Beena Sarwar and Dr Farrukh Gulzar (who was a discovery for all of us as much as Sarwar was a discovery for him) deserve our deepest gratitude for putting together such an excellent and wide-ranging program involving a diversity of age, experience and knowledge, in such a short time.

    Despite being occasionally jarring and discordant, it had a spiritual harmony of its own and the mere fact that so many people turned out to pay tribute to the hero of an event that occurred 50 years ago and 1000 miles away, made it remarkable and inspirational.

    I think Abid Minto, with whose interpretation of the movement I have some reservations, put it best by saying (to paraphrase him) that all who had the good fortune “to be there”, felt that those 5 years of their lives were unmatched in value to anything they achieved during the rest of their lives. Sarwar would have been more than pleased had he somehow been able to watch the event.

    • Dr Farrukh rendered “kab yad mainh tera saath nahi-kab haath mai tera haath nahi,” a poem from Faiz Ahmad Faiz`s Kuliyat Nuskha-hai-wafa, and dedicated it to the memory of all selfless activists who followed Dr Sarwar, like Hassan Nasir, Nazeer Abbasi, and whose legacy is an institution for every selfless progressive being, now and for the times to come…

  2. Dear S M Naseem sb,
    Kindly elaborate upon your reservations about what you think Abid Hassan Minto expressed, it will be a learning. The reason to commemorate the memory of Dr Sarwar and the students movements for me, was the reason to applaud, recognise and learn from the spirit of defying oppression, struggling to make lives of people around us more comfortable.
    Dr Sarwar and his contemporaries did that, and we ought to bring their lives as role models for the current and subsequent generations. Their selfless lives, the sacrifices which they made, the acheivment which they gathered thus are an institution themselves. We need to focus upon the conditions which were affected by such a political struggle, as those conditions will continue surfacing again and again, unless we transform this society into a equitable one.
    Dr Sarwar and many like him, all were and will remain our heroes thus, it doesn’t matter what trivial differences one can have, while remaining in the movement to emancipate humans,what matters is the times and their cruelty. We, you will agree are fortunate to have many such heroes who strived to harness the cycle of evolution. Dr Sarwar was one of them, transforming him into an icon is a political need, not only the expression of our admiration – after all we are focussed on the reasons which define a personality, not the personality alone. Kindly opine.

  3. Dear Dr. Gulzar,

    First of all let me once again thank you for such a memorable event in Lahore for Sarwar and the movement he led and remained faithful to the end of his life. I also agree that we don’t need to get bogged down in small differences that always exist in a broad movement which DSF epitomized. What counted most was the spirit and unity of purpose that brought us together and helped pave the way for subsequent generations to benefit from. The specific reservation that I had about Abid Minto’s presentation was his overemphasis on the role of the Communist Party at that time. Although some in the DSF leadership, including Sarwar, were close to the Party, most of the members of DSF and the student movement at large was largely apolitical and interested more in improving the educational facilities at that time. The Communist Party may have provided valuable guidance to the student movement, but it recognized its autonomous and dynamic character.
    The only reason I quibble with Minto Sahib, is that his overemphasis could validate the Government’s action in its large-scale attack on the student and trade union movement in 1954, which was mainly designed to please the Americans and thank them for the military and economic aid under the US-Pakistan military pact. However, I have no serious difference with his presentation which brought out many facts and events which had slipped from my memory.

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