Looking back to look forward: Event Book, Jan 9, 2010

Scans of the 36-page booklet published to commemorate the students movement, at the event held at the Karachi Arts Council on Jan 10, 2010.

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Introduction to Event Book, Jan 9, 2010

Thanks to S.M. Naseem for writing the introduction to the Event Book produced for the Jan 9, 2010 event at the Arts Council Karachi, ‘Looking Back to Look Forward’ (a phrase borrowed from Eric Rahim’s email of Dec 12, 2009)


The January 1953 student movement was a result of a confluence of social and political factors, including the influx of a large population into Karachi from all parts of the sub-continent, which became imminent after the Partition. A thorough analysis of these factors and their interaction has yet to be undertaken. However, one factor that stands out on looking back is the role of the collective efforts of a large number of student activists – mostly belonging to the Democratic Students’ Federation (DSF) – in the affiliated Colleges of Karachi University, spread across the city. Continue reading

POETRY AND POLITICS: Jyoti Basu, Fehmida Riaz, Khushwant Singh, Badri Raina

This post is not directly relevant to the student movement that Dr Sarwar was involved with but it does involve people close to his heart – he admired Jyoti Basu and followed politics in West Bengal keenly, enjoyed reading Khushwant Singh, was close to Fehmida Riaz, and I read out Badri Raina’s poetry to him while he was in hospital in April 2009, which he liked. Posted to Journeys to Democracy yesterday:

Prof. Badri Raina <badri.raina@gmail.com> sent this heartfelt tribute to Jyoti Basu, the veteran Communist leader of West Bengal, on the night of Jan 17 – which is how I learnt of Basu’s demise. Over to Badri Raina: “a humble tribute with a heavy heart”

Jyoti Basu

Jyoti Basu

As I write, you seem set
To bid adieu—
Your life’s work more than done.
We would be truly greedy
To ask more of you.

What man walked so straight
And for so long
With a single thought in mind—
To do what you could
For fellow men and women
At the end of the line.

For the complete post, including Fehmida Riaz’s poem sent to Badri Raina, at this link.

Prof. Khwaja Masud: Another comrade passes on

We were sad to learn of the passing away of Prof Khwaja Masud on Saturday, Jan 16, 2010. The well known educationist, newspaper columnist, Marxist intellectual and writer died in Islamabad after a brief illness, aged 88, leaving behind two sons. He played a good innings.

According to an obituary note in Dawn on Sunday, he was born in Campbellpur (now Attock) in 1922. He attended Scotch Mission School in Daska, graduated from Murray College, Sialkot, and had a Masters degree in mathematics from Government College, Lahore (1944), after which he joined Gordon College, Rawalpindi, as lecturer. Appointed principal of the college in 1972, he retired in 1982. 
He played a leading role in setting up the Progressive Writers Association in Rawalpindi, was an active trade unionist, and a founder member of the Islamabad Culture Forum and Islamabad Philosophical Society. He was associated with progressive writers and intellectuals like Sajjad Zaheer, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Mohammad Hussain Ata and Sibte Hassan. The obituary note draws from a Dawn report of August 11, 2007, ‘Khwaja Masud — a teacher par excellence’ by Ashfaq Saleem Mirza commemorating Prof Masud’s 85th birthday.

NOTE: The Dawn note is somewhat inaccurate in its mention of Prof Khwaja Masud’s association with Democratic Students Federation and the Pindi Conspiracy Case. Prof Masud did not “join” the DSF although he “certainly mentored DSF activists in Gordon College, including Abid Minto”. (Also, the DSF launched in Karachi at least was not “the student wing of the Communist Party”). Prof Masud was also not part of the Pindi Conspiracy Case, “which was in any case manufactured to snuff out the nascent left and the Communist Party” (S.M. Naseem).

“Students Movement leaders remembered: Revival of student activism termed must for reshaping society” – PPI report

Rahat Kazmi listens to Alia Amirali's fiery speech. Photo by Sakhawat Ali

PPI report by Azhar Khan

KARACHI, Jan 10 (PPI): In order to bringing positive, deep and lasting sociopolitical changes in Pakistani society it is necessary that students should play their due role and mount pressure on the policymakers through their activism to focus on the burning problems faced by our society and its people. For this purpose it is a must that student unions should be strengthened and their elections held on urgent basis.

This was said by speakers of a moot here on Saturday evening at Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi to pay rich tributes to the martyrs of “Students Movement 1953”.

This historic student movement was launched by Dr. Mohammad Sarwar, which played an important role in strengthening the leftist student movement in Pakistan.

Hundreds of students and civil society members attended the moot and paid rich tributes to the martyrs of “Students Movement 1953”. They also paid rich tribute to Dr. Mohammad Sarwar, who they said was the core catalyst for the formation of Students Unions for the first time in Pakistan. Continue reading

‘Look back to look forward’: curtain raisers and news reports

Dr Haroon Ahmed making a point; Iqbal Alavi, Shahid Husain and Anis Haroon also visible.

  • Report on seminar organised by Irtiqa and Friends of Dr Sarwar, in The News:‘Majoritarian’ state a tyranny: IA Rehman”, by Shahid Husain, Jan 11: It was high time the people of Pakistan made a break from a “majoritarian state” since it had become a tyranny, veteran journalist and Human Rights activist I.A Rehman said on Sunday. He was speaking at a closed-door meeting organised at the PMA House by “Friends of Dr Sarwar” and the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences. (Complete report here)
  • PPI report in Daily Times on the Jan 9 event: “Revival of student activism ‘vital for reshaping society’”, Jan 10:  *Speakers at Karachi moot recall students’ struggle for rights, martyrs of 1953 students’ movement launched by Dr Sarwar 
*Say movement changed fate of students through demands for basic rights *HRCP Secretary General IA Rehman says 1953 movement represented all segments of society (Complete report here)
  • Dawn report on the Jan 9 event at Arts Council: “Students’ movement of 1953 celebrated” by Peerzada Salman,  Jan 10: Tinged with nostalgic moments, moving speeches and poetic renditions, the programme to commemorate a nationwide student movement of the 1950s entitled ‘Celebrating the 1953 student movement, looking back to look forward’ held at the Arts Council Karachi on Saturday evening turned out to be a memorable event. (Complete report here)
  • Curtain raiser in The News on the Jan 9 event at Arts Council:  “Remembering a leader; inspiring the future” by Shahid Husain,  Jan 08: Amidst an environment wherein malignant aggression has taken deep root in Pakistani society and suicide bombing and terrorism have become the order of the day, students and youth of Karachi will assemble on January 9 at the Arts Council of Pakistan to pay homage to Dr Mohammad Sarwar, leader of the January 1953, students’ movement. The gathering, it is hoped, will act as a catalyst for the revival of a genuine democratic movement in Pakistan. (Complete report here)

More photos from Jan 9 student movement event

Young people, guests and volunteers, enjoy Laal's music

PHOTOS: More photos of the Jan 9 event, taken by Sakhawat Ali, uploaded at this web album

Appeal to help Haiti

PAKISTAN AND HAITI: How and why Pakistanis can help Haiti – doctors and skilled help urgently needed, in addition to money (thanks Ethan Casey)

Photos: ‘Looking back to look forward’

‘Looking back to look forward: Celebrating the 1953 student movement, two events held in Karachi to commemorate the 1953 student movement and its activists. Click the image below for album.

'Looking back to look forward: celebrating the 1953 student movement' - Pix by Sakhawat Ali

More photos at the album at this link.

‘Looking back to look forward’ – amazing turnout, thanks everyone

Rahat Kazmi introducing speakers – photo by Aliya Nisar

What an amazing response to ‘Looking Back to Look Forward – Celebrating the 1953 Student Movement’. (‘…we look back not to revel in nostalgia, WE LOOK BACK TO LOOK FORWARD,’ said veteran journalist Eric Rahim in an email while we were conceptualising the event).

We didn’t think we’d be able to fill the 1000-seater hall. Everyone said “be happy if 500 people turn up”. The hall was FULL, thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers and participants – students and youngsters from Sindh Awami Sangat (huge team of volunteers and a crowded bus-load of participants), Szabist University, Ziauddin Medical College, PECHS Girls’ School (thanks to Seema Malik, 150 students who formed the heart of the audience and kept up the tempo with their youthful energy), and other groups.

View of the audience with PECHS Girls School students – photo Aliya Nisar

“It’s not just the event, it’s the timing of the event that’s important,” said Hiba Ali Raza, one of the student volunteers. “At a time when things look so bleak, and people are so depressed, this was very significant”.

Many had come expecting the usual 200-300 crowd of old lefties with a sprinkling of the young ones. Instead, we had a hall full of young people, boys and girls, students and young professionals who listened attentively to the speakers – Continue reading

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