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.

Honouring Zaheer Kashmiri and the PWA

Dr Farrukh Gulzar, the progressive minded medical practitioner from Lahore who was the driving force behind the Reference for Dr M. Sarwar and the 1950s student movement on Aug 8, has now thrown his energies into helping organise a remembrance for the late poet Zaheer Kashmiri. Friends in Lahore, please do attend. Here is the invitation he sent:

Zaheer Kashmiri
Zaheer Kashmiri


Gone are the sensitive hearts or insightful visionaries
In this oppressive darkness, no morning sun arises)

Remembering the life and works of the legendary Marxist, progressive poet and activist, a literary critic, and a strong influence of and upon Progressive Writers Movement (Anjuman-e-Taraqi Pasand Musanafeen)


Hailing from Amritsar, Zaheer Kashmiri spent his life in Lahore, and was a very popular and respected figure in the liberal, progressive youth and seniors alike. When Faiz Ahmed Faiz headed the editorial board of ‘Sawera’ PWA’s monthly magazine devoted to socialist and progressive thought, the other board members included Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Zaheer Kashmiri. Please join his friends, family and followers to pay tribute to him at this occasion. His poetry and articles compiled in his book “Ishq-o-Inqilab” will be available for sale at discounted rates.

4-8 PM





We are acutely aware that
We are like flickering candles in the dying night
There is no gloomy dark after us
Only bright light will prevail)

‘Dr Sarwar ki yaad mein’ – Zaman Khan

Opinion piece by Zaman Khan in daily 'Aaj Kal', Aug 24, 2009

Opinion piece by Zaman Khan in daily 'Aaj Kal', Aug 24, 2009

Friends, followers pay tributes to Dr Sarwar

Scan of a report published in Dawn, Lahore edition, Aug 9, 2009 (not available on the website).

N.B. Note of correction below

Sarwar Dawn Aug 9 09

Correction: As mentioned in the press release sent out earlier, the event was organised by ‘friends and admirers of Dr Sarwar and his legacy’. The initiator of the event was Dr Farrukh Gulzar, working in his individual capacity as an admirer and follower of Dr Sarwar, the HRCP (Husain Naqi and Zaman Khan, use of the auditorium and staff), the Labour Party Pakistan (Ammar Ali Jan and Farooq Sulehria, who also published a booklet compiling articles related to Dr Sarwar and the 1950s student movement), and Dr Sarwar’s family.

The Awami Jamhoori Forum was not involved in the organisation, nor is Dr Farrukh Gulzar a member of the AJF as the report states.

Pioneer of progressive student unionism remembered

Report in Daily Times, Aug 9, 2009

(Note: According to the published report, the event was about ‘Dr Hasan Sarwar’. They did later correct the error on the website. Some of the spellings are also incorrect and according to the reporter the ‘known progressives’ who spoke included Muneeza Hashmi, Dr Mubashir Hasan and Syeda Diep. For the record, they didn’t speak, but were certainly there throughout, which was a great source of moral support)

Copies of the booklet 'Celebrating Dr Sarwar' published by the Labour Party Pakistan on a table outside the hall. Photo: Daily Times

Copies of the booklet 'Celebrating Dr Sarwar' published by the Labour Party Pakistan on a table outside the hall. Photo: Daily Times

* Hameed Akhtar says succeeding generations acting as mere guardians of previous generation’s ideology

* IA Rehman says Dr Sarwar spent his life building country’s future

Staff Report

LAHORE: Famous student leaders of their time paid tribute to the pioneer of progressive student unionism in the country, late Dr Mohammed Sarwar at the Dorab Patel Auditorium of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Saturday.

Known progressive leaders and professionals like Minhaj Barna, Hameed Akhtar, IA Rehman, Hussain Naqi, Abid Manto, Dr Mubashar Hassan, Prof Afzal Tauseef, Moneeza Hashmi, Saleema Hashmi, Saeeda Diep, Zaman Khan, Dr Farrukh Gulzar and many others shared their experiences and friendship with the former student leader. Sarwar’s wife Zakia and his daughter Beena were also present.

The speakers said Sarwar pioneered the Democratic Students Federation (DSF) in the early 1950s in order to give the students a platform to make themselves heard. The DSF played a vital role in developing a progressive ideology in the country, and later became the base of a number of other student organisations like the National Students Federation. Barna said the DSF, labour unions and the society of progressive writers were three forces that rendered remarkable sacrifices to rid the society of imperialism and it was the duty of the next generation to honour their sacrifices and envision their dreams.

Mere guardians: Akhtar said people like Sarwar gave their lives to bring a change in society but the next generation acted as if was a mere guardian of those ideals (majawar). He said the struggle and ideology should be carried forward.

Building futures: Rehman said when Pakistan came into existence, the people of that time thought about freedom and prosperity. “The farmers thought that there would be an abundance of water for their fields and countless resources. But a boy from Allahabad travelled all the way to Karachi and became busy in thinking about building the future of the country. His name was Dr Sarwar and he dedicated his whole life to the purpose,” he said.

Naqi and Manto said Sarwar successfully led his students union against all odds and continued to do so despite facing torture, persecution and crackdown by governments.


Abid Hasan Minto on Dr Sarwar and the DSF

A lifelong struggle for the downtrodden, an untiring commitment towards humanity

At Dr Sarwar's Reference, Aug 8, 2009: Abid Hasan Minto gives a lively account of the DSF struggle

At Dr Sarwar's Reference, Aug 8, 2009: Abid Hasan Minto gives a lively account of the DSF struggle

Leading political activist and senior advocate Abid Hasan Minto talks to Ammar Ali Jan about the formation of the Democratic Students Federation, Dr Sarwar’s role in the student movement, and his hopes for the future

You and Dr Sarwar were together in the formation of the first left-wing student organization in Pakistan. Tell us how was the DSF created and what its aims and objectives were?

At the time of partition of India, there was no major left-wing student organization in the region that became Pakistan – the Communist Party of India (CPI) did not have many roots here. In 1948, the CPI asked some of its leading comrades to set up  the Communist Party of Pakistan (CCP). Syed Sajjad Zaheer was appointed its Sectary General with the task of building mass organizations in the country. The Communist Party set up trade unions, peasant committees, women organisations and the much celebrated Progressive Writer’s Association. It was with this intent of building a mass base for the party that the Democratic Students Federation was set up in 1949.

Dr Sarwar and I were in the DSF when we were asked to join the Communist Party in 1949. I was studying in Rawalpindi at that time while Dr Sarwar was in Karachi. We had started organising the DSF throughout the country in order to build a progressive and militant student organization and to use that platform to induct new cadres into the Communist Party.  During this entire process, Dr Sarwar emerged as a key figure in the DSF due to his tremendous energy and excellent organizational skills.

What role did Dr. Sarwar play in the “January student movement” in 1953?

We should first analyze the context in which this student movement occurred. Right after independence, people got disappointed by the anti-people policies of the ruling elite and their decadent political parties. The youth had hopes for a better future with the creation of Pakistan but the post-47 scenario only brought disappointment. In such a situation, it was natural that a movement challenging the status quo would definitely emerge. The important task was to build an organisation to lead that movement. It is the pre-1953 work of the likes of Dr Sarwar that has to be given a lot of importance whenever we study this movement.

Dr Sarwar would walk through the bazaars of Karachi asking people to give donations for the DSF. They would hold meetings all over Karachi and in different universities, explaining to students why things had gone wrong in the newly created state of Pakistan and why it was important to become active in politics. This groundwork laid the foundations for the 1953 movement.

When the movement broke out in January 1953 it immediately struck a chord with students all over the country and became the first nation-wide progressive movement. Seven students were killed during the demonstration of Jan. 9, 1953 and it became evident that this state would do anything crush dissent. It was alleged that the movement was being led by Communists. Given the cold war hysteria and the Pakistani State’s new-found love for the US, it was no surprise that the State acted in the way it did.

After the brutal crackdown on student activists, how did the nascent student movement react?

After the January movement, we realized that we needed to increase our strength. The DSF leadership decided to form the All Pakistan Student Organization (APSO). It was also decided that we will hold an All Pakistan students’ convention on the 25th of December 1954 in Karachi which would be organized by Dr Sarwar. We had sent an invitation to A.K. Brohi, who was the law minister at that time, to be the chief guest at the opening ceremony of the function which he had accepted. According to our information, his colleagues in the cabinet were not happy with his decision of accepting the invitation and there was a clear split in the government on whether to allow this function to go ahead, considering the violence of the January movement. Such was the power of the progressive student’s movement that the government was too scared to allow us to hold a peaceful convention despite the fact that we had invited their own law minister as the Chief Guest.

A few minutes before the start of the function, Jamiat activists, backed by the police, attacked the Katrack Hall where the event was taking place. Bricks were flying all over the venue as many students got injured by this aggression of the State machinery and the goons of the Jamiat. Mr Brohi contacted Dr Sarwar who described the police highhandedness to the law minister. Mr Brohi immediately rushed towards the spot and in the midst of Jamiat’s hooliganism, opened our convention. On this day, Dr Sarwar gave a memorable speech in which he spoke about the importance of 25th of December as the birthday of Jesus Christ and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, both of whom were born on this date. He shed light on their commitment for social change and in a masterful way, depicted the progressive movement as heirs to their legacy.

The next day, the police enforced Section 144 (forbidding public gatherings) throughout the city of Karachi and stopped us from holding any event. We were also adamant about holding the next session which was supposed to be a cultural night. We realized that Section 144 can only be imposed in the city. Hence, we rented a couple of ships and had our cultural event on the sea where the police could not interfere.

Why did the student movement in the1950s fail to change the basic structure of our State?

The biggest reason was that the movement was brutally crushed by the State and progressive trade unions and peasant committees were not large enough to come to its aid. The communist Party was banned in 1954 which was another blow as it not only deprived us of the support of a mother party, it also led to witch-hunt against all those organizations that were remotely linked with the CP. However, it would be wrong to suggest that this movement did not have an impact on the future generation of students as the powerful National Students Federation followed the legacy of the DSF. It also led to many other student struggles in the ‘50s and the ‘60s, particularly in East Pakistan. The fact that youngsters like you are trying to re-organize progressive students is a direct result of the struggles fought in the past by people like Dr. Sarwar.

Dr. Sarwar opted to leave politics after becoming a doctor. Do you think that was a loss to the left?

Absolutely. Dr. Sarwar was an excellent organizer and agitator and considering the difficulties the left was facing at that time, it was imperative to have a man of his stature with us. It is unfortunate that he decided to quit politics when his brother died and I have never agreed with this decision of his. However, he was always in touch with the masses with his clinic where he would treat many working class patients for free. This is a direct result of the philosophical training while we were engaged in the struggle. We were always supposed to keep the interest of the downtrodden above our personal interests. One can leave the Communist Party, but one can never leave the ideological commitment to the cause. I have always taken up trade union cases for free when my opposing lawyers would take hundreds of thousands of rupees defending the industrialists. The same way, Dr. Sarwar’s contemporaries went abroad and made millions but he stayed in Karachi and kept running his modest clinic for the benefit of ordinary people. This untiring commitment towards humanity was the hallmark of Dr. Sarwar’s life.

This interview was originally published in the booklet ‘Celebrating Dr Sarwar: Students Movement Re-visited’, published by the Labour Party Pakistan on the occasion of the Reference for Dr Sarwar in Lahore, Aug 8, 2009

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

Reference for student leader – press release

Press Release

for favour of publication

Lahore August 6: A Reference for the pioneering student leader Dr. Muhammad Sarwar will be held here at HRCP’s Dorab Patel Auditorium on Saturday August 8 at 5 p.m.

Dr. Muhammad Sarwar was amongst founding leaders of the Democratic Students Federation (DSF) and the All Pakistan Students Organisation (APSO). He was also instrumental in the formation of Inter-Collegiate Body of Karachi (ICB) which along with DSF spearheaded the students struggle for the acceptance of students charter of demands in 1953.

Twice elected to the office of General Secretary (national), Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) that continues to play a leading role in the affairs of medical profession, Dr. Muhammad Sarwar was amongst those who had formulated a people-friendly health policy. It was unfortunate that the policy, duly presented to the concerned quarters by the PMA, remains unimplemented.

Born at Allahabad, Dr. Sarwar came to Pakistan in 1948 and joined Dow Medical College,Karachi. After graduation he practiced for over forty (40) years at his clinic in the lower middle class locality, Golimar,

Coinciding with his Birthday, the Reference for Dr.Muhammmad Sarwar, will be addressed by Mr. Hameed Akhtar; Mr.I.A. Rehman;Mr. Abid Hasan Minto;Dr. Haroon Ahmad, Dr. M. Ilyas, Prof. Afzal Tauseef, Ms. Salima Hashmi; Dr.Izhar Chaudhry General Secretary PMA,Punjab, Mr.Farooq Tariq LPP leader,Mr.S.M. Naseem former editor “Students’ Herald”, Zaman Khan, Ammar Ali Jan, Dr. Farrukh Gulzar and Zakia Sarwar.

The Reference will be followed by tea. Later, participants may join discussion to be facilitated by Mr. S.M. Naseem, Beena Sarwar and Ali Cheema.

Issued on behalf of: Friends and Admirers of Dr. Muhammad Sarwar

By (Husain Naqi)


Reference for Dr Sarwar, Aug 8, 5.00 pm, HRCP Lahore

Final-Dr Sarwar reference-flyerFinal-Dr Sarwar reference-flyer

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