KARACHI, Jan 6: Students traditionally observed January 8th as ‘Martyrs’ Day’ in memory of the students and passers-by killed by police firing on Jan 7, 1953, during the peaceful ‘Demands Day’ procession organised by Inter Collegiate Body (ICB) and Democratic Students Federation (DSF). The High School Students Federation (HSSF) also actively participated in this movement and some of those killed were high school students.

Their demands were education-related, including: revise the fee structure (make fees payable monthly instead of six-monthly), improve laboratory, library, and hostel facilities, build a proper University in Karachi (where none existed) and provide security of employment to graduates. The High School Students Federation also actively participated.

The police action sparked off massive student protests across Pakistan and catapulted DSF into a nation-wide, broad-based student movement, standing for student unity across all divides. The momentum led to the formation of an All Pakistan Students’ Organisation (APSO) in December 1953.

However, within months DSF and all other progressive bodes were banned and their leadership arrested, following Pakistan’s signing of the Baghdad military pact with America in Feb 1954. This was the Cold War era and Pakistan was trying to align with USA, where the anti-Communist McCarthy movement was at its peak.

Members of the public, especially students, are invited to a commemorative event titled ‘LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD’ on January 9, 2010, 4.30 pm, at Bokhari Open Air Auditorium, Arts Council, Karachi, organised by friends of the late Dr M Sarwar who led DSF. Passes will be available at the gate on the day of the event.

The programme, compered by Rahat Kazmi, includes a slide show ‘Honouring the January 1953 movement activists’, a documentary film on the 1950’s student movement, comments by Alia Amirali (Quaid-e-Azam Uni), Varda Nisar (Karachi Uni), Amar Sindhu (Uni of Sindh, Jamshoro) and Ali Cheema (LUMS); renditions by Fehmida Riaz and Tina Sani; concluding remarks by I.A. Rehman, Director HRCP; and performance by the popular band Laal.

In honouring the 1953 activists today – more than a third have already departed from this world – two facts speak for themselves. First, the movement was really broad-based and took roots in almost all colleges, even though its seeds were sown mostly in Dow Medical College, and spread into high schools as well.

Secondly, these activists were not professional politicos or troublemakers, but serious students who cared about their studies as much as about the environment they studied in. Most of them pursued purposeful careers and distinguished themselves later in life as distinguished doctors, surgeons, educators, journalists, diplomats, lawyers, judges, writers, economists, broadcasters, scientists and managers.

In one way or other, they continued their struggle in the political field or in their own way and fought the battle of truth, fairness and justice, possibly in less conspicuous ways, but seldom lacking in determination, whose spirit they had learned from the January 1953 struggle. Their journeys may have been interrupted, but few, if any, lost sight of the road map they had perceived 57 years ago.

The January ’53 movement activists include: The departed: Dr. M. Sarwar, Dr. M.R.A. Hashmi, Dr. Khwaja Muin Ahmad, Nooruddin Sarki, Afzal Shirvani, Fasih Zuberi, Niaz Ahmad, Sartaj Alam, Mohammad Shafi, Saghir Ahmad, Wilayat Ali, and Barkat Alam; in absentia: Dr. Asif Ali Hameedi, Dr. M. Ayub Mirza, Dr. M. Yusuf Ali ‘Marshal’, Wasi Ahmad Hai, Asaf Jillani; and those with us today: Dr Haroon Ahmed, Syed Iqbal Ahmed, Zain Alavi, Saleem Asmi, Moizuddin Farooqui, M. Abul Fazl, Sibghatullah Kadri, Shahida Haleem Saad, Rashida Haleem Iqbal, Mazhar Jameel, Dr Ghalib Lodhi, Mirza Mohammad Kazim, Jamal Naqvi, S.M. Naseem, Adib ul Hasan Rizvi, Mazhar Saeed, and Ghazi Salahuddin.

As student unions are revived in principle after a long hiatus, it is imperative to re-visit and claim this part of our past and to honour those who were active in this movement. We hope the event will feed into the process of strengthening politics in Pakistan at a time when meaningful, issues-driven politics are direly needed

Related material & Dr M Sarwar Facebook Group and Fan Page


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