Dr Sarwar, the importance of civil discourse, and the art of listening

Ali Jafari-Jaspal

S. Ali Jafari reading his essay; Jaspal Singh in background. Video screen grab.

At a small gathering last year, S. Ali Jafari read his essay in Urdu about Dr M. Sarwar, whom he called “Doc”. His son Salman videotaped the reading, which forms the basis of this 14-minute video edited for 26 May 2019, ten years after Dr M. Sarwar passed away peacefully at home in Karachi, at age 79.

Son of the famous satirical poet S. M. Jafari, Ali Jafari’s essay in chaste Urdu humorously captures the spirit and idealism of progressive politics. It also contains critical observations about the art of listening, and conversing with civility, respect and humour without making personal attacks, regardless of differences in opinion.

Babba-Nathia-1995

The importance of civil discourse and the art of listening: An enduring lesson from Dr M. Sarwar. Photo: 1995, Nathiagali, by Beena Sarwar.

As a student at Dow Medical College, Sarwar led Pakistan’s first nation-wide student movement spearheaded by the Democratic Students Federation. The movement carries enduring lessons about the importance of unity and forging a one-point agenda for larger goals.

For more on Dr Sarwar, DSF and the student movement see the Dr Sarwar website.

There’s also this 30 minute documentary made after Dr Sarwar passed away, Aur Niklen.ge Ushhaq ke Qafle (There will be more caravans of passion), below, with interviews of people like Zehra Nigah, Saleem Asmi and Dr Haroon Ahmed. Here’s the link to a piece about it by Agha Iqrar Haroon: Ushhaq ke Qafley— A Documentary about the Power of Student Unions and Forgotten Chapter of Political Activism in Pakistan.

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S. Ali Jafari: ‘Remembering Doc’

At a small private gathering last year, S. Ali Jafari, son of the famous satirical poet S. M. Jafari, read his essay “Remembering Doc”. His son Salman videotaped the reading, which forms the basis of this edited version. The essay in chaste Urdu humorously captures the spirit and idealism of progressive politics. It also contains observations about the art of listening, and conversing with civility and respect despite differences in opinion.

Dr M. Sarwar passed away peacefully at his residence in Karachi on 26 May 2009

As a student at Dow Medical College, Sarwar led Pakistan’s first nation-wide student movement spearheaded by the Democratic Students Federation. The movement carries enduring lessons about the importance of unity and forging a one-point agenda for larger goals. Continue reading

‘Blood on the streets’

Journeys to democracy

Student mtg 1951 or 52 M. Sarwar addressing a meeting in Karachi, early 1950s, Khaliqdina Hall. Seated left: Rehman Ali Hashmi.

Looking back to look forward: The DSF-led movement of the 1950s eschewed party politics, was inclusive, and focused on student unity. Besides students from medical, engineering and and law colleges, it involved students from girls’ and boys’ high schools, and women’s colleges. 

Below, an extract from my forthcoming memoir on the struggle for democratic spaces in Pakistan. This is from the chapter about the student movement of 1953 that shook the country and laid the foundations for the University of Karachi, published in The Friday Times, Jan. 8, 2016. Thanks to Raza Rumi for pushing me to share this

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Remembering the historic January 7 student movement

DSF poster Jan 2016Message from DSF: In memory of the great struggle and demands day led by the then Democratic Students Federation of 1950’s, the present cadre of Democratic Students Federation Sindh is holding a program to highlight the achievements of that struggle and movement. Please join us on 9th January 2016 5.00pm at Railway High School, Kotri, Hyderabad. The program will be marked with speeches from student activists, trade unionists and Political activists – DSF secretary.

Remembering the historic January 7 student movement – by Shahid Husain in The News, Jan 6, 2016. Text below: Continue reading

Commemorating Jan 8, 1953: 2013 events, Jan 6 and 8, by DSF and NSF

2012 Jan 8-NSF Demands DayAs we remember Jan 8, 1953 Demands Day and those who gave their lives for the cause of students’ rights, it is good to see that progressive young people in Pakistan are organising and work for students’ rights, with the revival of Democratic Students Federation and the National Students Federation. In keeping with the rallying cry of the original movement – ‘Student Unity’ – activists of DSF and NSF must put up a united front, and attend and support each others’ events even if they don’t merge into one organisation. Demands should include lifting the ongoing ban on student unions. Below, information about several events being organised this year, some on Jan 6, in different cities of Sindh and Punjab by DSF, and NSF event on Jan 8: Continue reading

Former DSF activist Dr Ghalib Lodhi makes a quiet exit

Dr Ghalib Lodhi (left) in London, with Dr M. Sarwar, April 2001

Karachi, Aug 3, 2012: Tahir Wasti in London emailed recently that Dr Ghalib Lodhi expired in Karachi. I contacted some of Dr Ghalib’s old comrades. None of them had heard of his demise.

“Shocked and saddened to learn the demise of our friend, and comrade in arms. I am ashamed that despite knowing his address and phone number I did not call him for last two months,” responded Iqbal Alavi.

He subsequently visited Dr Ghalib’s sister Zahida Shamshad in Karachi to condole and learnt that Dr Ghalib breathed his last on July 4 2012, at 5 am,at Agha Khan Hospital and was laid to rest in the graveyard at Dalmia Cement Factory Area. Continue reading

Remembering Mir Rehman Ali Hashmi

Article published in The News, Sunday, March 11, 2012 (some edits here for clarity).

By Prof S. Haroon Ahmed

Dr M. R. A. Hashmi (1929-2003)

Dr Mir Rehman Ali Hashmi (MRA) was a man of all seasons. He enjoyed many, many references to remember him, each more compelling than the other: 29 Mitha Ram Hostel, the hub of heated discussions and planning for the activists of the Democratic Students Federation (DSF); the highly charged convention at Katrak Hall; the historic and heroic protest day on January 8, 1953 and its equally heroic follow-up leading to the creation of All Pakistan Students Organisation (APSO). Then there were the post-college days; the reorganisation along radical lines of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA); the launching of the Medical Gazette, the setting up of the College of Family Medicine and the Sindh Medical College. There were progressive movements like the International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), and the Committee for Amity Peace in Sindh (CAPS). And don’t forget the pioneering work Dr Hashmi put in for the establishment of Blood Bank. Continue reading

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