Farewell Saleem Asmi

Journeys to democracy

A quiet warrior slips into the night

Saleem Asmi, Nov. 29, 1934 – Oct. 30, 2020

First published in The News on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. Reposted here with more photos.

Saleem Asmi: Portrait by Sharjil Baloch, 2014-2015.

By Beena Sarwar

His old friend S. M. Shahid termed Saleem Asmi a ‘Marxist Sufi’ in his compilation of biographical essays, ‘Living Souls: Memories’. Asmi Sahib would typically brush aside the accolades that came his way, not because he didn’t appreciate himself but because he had no false pride, false humility, or a shred of hypocrisy.

I can imagine his chuckle at the couplet by his favourite poet, chosen by family and friends to inscribe on his gravestone: Ye masaail-e-tassawuf, ye tera byan Ghalib / Tujhey hum vali samajhtalay jo na baada khwar hota (The way you talk of philosophy Ghalib, the mystical way you explain it/ You…

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A beloved jurist passes on

Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim (12 February 1928-7 January 2020) gained respect early on in his career for refusing to take oath under the military dictatorship of Gen. Ziaul Haq. Through his life he wore many hats — founder member Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Supreme Court judge, Governor Sindh, Chief Election Commissioner, to name some. But a little-known feather in his cap is his pro bono work for the imprisoned leftist and student activists of the 1950s, that he credited for his politicisation. Those, he would say, were “the best days” of his life. Here’s that story as I heard it from him and from my father Dr. M. Sarwar, published in The News on Sunday and The Wire a few days after Fakhru Uncle passed on. Also on my blog, Journeys to Democracy.

Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim: A fine legacy (online photo)

By Beena Sarwar

As the debate on the much-delayed restoration of student unions in Pakistan gathers momentum, we celebrate and commemorate a beloved jurist who cut his teeth by taking on cases of detained student activists pro bono in the 1950s.

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

Celebrating Dr Sarwar, DSF, Lahore, Aug 8, 2009

Video clips from the event Celebrating Dr Sarwar, DSF, Aug 8, 2009, at the HRCP auditorium in Lahore, organised by medical doctor Dr Farrukh Gulzar, Ammar Ali Jan of the Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) and friends of Dr Sarwar, now uploaded to the web. Below, the respected journalist Minhaj Barna speaking at the occasion. Other speakers included Abid Hasan Minto, I.A. Rehman, Hameed Akhtar, Zaman Khan, Afzal Tauseef, and others. For all the clips in this series, see this playlist.

Aur Nikle.nge Ushhaq ke Qafle: a documentary film on DSF

The inspiring story of Democratic Students Federation (DSF), Pakistan’s first nation-wide student movement, led by Dr M Sarwar (1930-2009). A historical documentary based on interviews, extensive research and archival material.

Credits: Continue reading

Adieu Minhaj Barna

Happy times: Dr Sarwar, Minhaj Barna, and Iqbal Alavi, at Dr Sarwar's residence, Karachi, 2007 (photo by beena sarwar)

Sad to hear about the passing away of Minhaj Barna, icon of struggle.

Condolence note from National Council of Academics and Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences

On behalf of the National Council of Academics, and Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences, we offer our heartfelt condolences on the demise of our stalwart of democracy, freedom of press, and one of the pioneers of democratic struggle, Mr. Minhaj Barna. He was a mentor of the political activists, poet, journalist, and advocate for the right of the down trodden. He was imprisoned several times for the cause of the rights of the information, and welfare of the working journalist. He was an avowed Marxist and remained steadfast in his bliefs and principles. His death is a loss to the democratic journalist fraternity all over Pakistan.
We offer our heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family members and his illustrious brother Mairaj Mohommad Khan.

Wahid Bashir, Former President of KUJ, Dr. Jaffar Ahmed, Iqbal A. Alavi
and members of the Executive Committee of National Council of Academics.

Condolence meeting for Fatehyab Oct 3, Arts Council Karachi

Dear friends,

Please attend a condolence meeting for our late respected comrade Fatehyab Ali Khan, political leader, activist, intellectual, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, Sun, Oct 3, 5.30pm, Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.

Please spread the word. Thank you.
On behalf of Iqbal Alavi Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences

PMA info session re floods, Sept 20, 3 pm, Karachi

Dr Sher Shah Syed. Photo: Jamal Ashiqain

ALL ARE INVITED

Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) information session:

Ø Installation of 21 water purification plants for internally displaced persons (IDPs): Experience; Hurdles; Successes Dr. Waqar Qurieshy, UK
ØLife in IDP Camps, Rehabilitation and Future Dr. Shershah Syed/ Dr. Kiran Ejaz
Ø Plans for Rehabilitation & SOG Dr Nighat Shah
Ø PMA Flood Relief Activities Dr. Samrina Hashmi

Monday, September 20th, 2010,
3:00 pm
PMA House, Garden Road, Karachi (MAP)

Dr Ayub Mirza passes on

Sad to hear that Dr Ayub Mirza passed away this morning. His daughter Alina Mirza, writes from  Glasgow:

He had another heart attack and collapsed. The doctors tried to resuscitate him but he had gone. He went peacefully and did not suffer. The last few days with him were a bonus for all of us.The love and affection shown by all of you helped him to recover from his initial illness. I used to read all the e-mails that you sent everyday to him and he would smile remembering the old days with his friends.

Mum is staying with Sarmed and their contact no is +44-141-4236534 [h], +44-7859897840 [M].

Ghazi Salahuddin: The High School Students’ Association and my rite of passage

Essay written for the booklet published to commemorate the 1953 movement, Jan, 2010

THE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS’ FEDERATION

My rite of passage

Ghazi Salahuddin

1953, and I have often thought about it, was the year that changed my life. It was my rite of passage. I say this not with any specific reference to its New Year stirrings. But my rather peripheral and juvenile involvement with the students’ movement had a lot to do with the transformation that I feel I had then experienced.

Old memories, we know, are not always reliable. We also change them in the process of our selective recollections. That is what makes the past another country in which they do things differently. We are talking about times that have slid to the very edge of living memory. Indeed, this article is written for an occasion that is meant to be a tribute to a man who passed away in the summer of 2009. The rest of us who were participants or observers of the students’ movement of 1953 – and I was among the youngest members of that caravan – are, in a sense, waiting for our departures. Fifty-seven years, after all, is a very long time. Continue reading

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