Remembrances – by Hilda Saeed, July 27, 2009

Hilda SaeedHilda Saeed works in the area of population and development, reproductive health and gender. She is a long-time women’s rights activist, among the founder members of Women Action Forum (WAF), and was among the 1000 global nominees for the “1000 Nobel Peacewomen Award” 2005

Father and sonIt’s taken me a long time, just to sit and write these thoughts… Memories can be difficult things to deal with at times, nor are tears enough to express the grief you feel.

As we sat together at the PMA hall in Karachi on May 31 this year, remembering Sarwar, and friends recalled their particular memories, I felt Sarwar is still with us, large as life. So many recollections…. incidents, shared laughter, political discussions, recalling the years of student activism, happy times together.

I entered this group of friends, doctors, political and human rights activists, poets and artists after meeting Mazhar Saeed in the early ‘60s,  much later than their time of student activism: by that time,  we were all already involved in our different careers: I hadn’t been with them in my student days.

Coming from the cloistered surroundings of a women’s college into the stimulating activity of the DJ (Science College), and its student union, was an elating experience, even though, as I learnt subsequently, college student unions in those days, in 1957-1958, were on their last legs.

That was when we learnt of the earlier activism of the DSF (Democratic Student’s Federation), their media link with the public, the “Students Herald”, a fortnightly magazine published by the DSF and edited by S.M. Naseem, which noticeably impacted the student movement, and in that brief period, also gained international repute. We learnt of the struggles of this student group with the politicians of that time, the formation of the Inter Collegiate Body, and the involvement of Sarwar, Adib Rizvi, Haroon Ahmed, Zain Alavi and his brother Hamza Alavi, Mazhar Saeed, Salieem Asmi, S.M. Naseem  and other student activists.

Those were wonderful learning years, when we gained so much awareness about rights, democracy, the fast changing political scenario – yet, paradoxically, as we entered university in 1958, and Ayub Khan became the first military dictator, they were also the years when we realized how much our rights as students and as human beings were being eroded.

Mazhar Saeed, Dr Sarwar, Dr Badar, Karachi 2008

Mazhar Saeed, Dr Sarwar, Dr Badar, Karachi 2008

Later  after Mazhar and I were married in 1962, Sarwar and Zakia (she’ll always be Zakko to me) became close friends. For a long time, we were neighbours, with our children growing up together….I’d often walk across at tea time, with my own special mug of tea, for a chat…. He loved some of my cooking, especially the rice and chops. Many were the impromptu evenings when we’d get together with friends at each other’s homes (Come on over, Zakko or I would say, I’ve made paya, or khichri, or besan ki roti, or whatever)… In the 70s, and early 80s, Sibte Bhai, Suroor Bhai (scholar, writer Sibte Hassan, poet Suroor Barabankvi), with Anis and Haroon, Dr Badar and Shaheena Siddiqi, Mazhar, and so many more were often part of this lively, enriching group of friends. Sarwar, in his own quiet way, contributed so much, to such a variety of issues.

He was, for me, also the sympathetic doctor who saw us worried young mothers, and our children, through childhood illnesses, laughed and joked to make us feel better — I really valued his diagnostic skills.

But he was for me, above all, friend and confidante, someone to turn to. I can never forget the time when Mazhar was seriously ill. Sarwar sat up, virtually all night, and only retired when he was repeatedly assured that his patient and friend was fine.

A rare trip abroad: Mazhar and Sarwar, Paris 1978

A rare trip abroad: Mazhar and Sarwar, Paris 1978

How much he valued his friends—and how often he recalled their memorable trip together to London and Paris in 1978 —Haroon, Sarwar and Mazhar, one of the few times Sarwar ever traveled abroad (on a subsequent trip that the friends had planned he actually returned home along with his packed suitcase before even reaching the airport, already nostalgic for his own bed and armchair).

Sleep well, my friend…I can’t help recalling these words from a Christina Rossetti poem “Better by far that you should forget and smile, rather than remember and be sad”.

Yes, Sarwar, we’ll try to smile, and look forward, and continue the struggle for rights in our own separate ways. Maybe someday our future generations will succeed in making Pakistan what we want it to be — a world where religion doesn’t hold sway in this bigoted fashion, as it does now, a country that is secular, that values each human life, where each individual has human rights, equality, healthcare and education, and a chance to grow to her or his full human potential……yes, we’ll smile, but we cannot forget you, or the joy and learning and wonderful friendship that you brought to so many of us

Karachi, July 27, 2009

PMA’s Faiz mushaira – photos 1983

Dr Sarwar was General Secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association when they held a ‘mushaira’  in 1983 to honour the progressive poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz whose poetry was anathema to the military regime of Gen. Ziaul Haq. In these photos, Dr Sarwar, Dr Badar Siddiqi and Dr Tipu Sultan sit on the dias along with Faiz Sahib, all of them clearly enjoying themselves.

Dr Badar Siddiqi, Faiz, Dr Tipu Sultan, Sarwar - PMA mushaira 1983

Dr Badar Siddiqi, Faiz, Dr Tipu Sultan, Sarwar - PMA mushaira 1983

Dr Badar Siddiqi, Faiz, Dr Tipu Sultan & Dr Sarwar at PMA mushaira

Dr Badar Siddiqi, Faiz, Dr Tipu Sultan & Dr Sarwar at PMA mushaira

PMA Faiz mushaira 1983

PMA Faiz mushaira 1983

‘Time to create a left-oriented think tank’, News, Jun 1, 2009

‘Time to create a left-oriented think tank’

Monday, June 01, 2009
By Shahid Husain


Eminent jurist and former governor of Sindh, Justice (Retired) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim said on Sunday it was high time a “left-oriented” think tank was established in Pakistan.

Speaking at a memorial meeting for the late Dr Mohammad Sarwar at the PMA House Sunday evening, he said people said that Pakistan was a failed state but one should remember that it was the establishment and not the people of Pakistan who had failed. “Things are changing for the better,” he said.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with us. Religion has become a cause of killing,” he remarked. He said people were ready to listen today and this was evident from the fact that there were few people around when the Judges’ movement kicked off but it culminated in a huge success.

He said it was time to live up to the ideals of Dr Sarwar since “it’s our time to say.” He said the people of Pakistan needed a new leadership since the old leadership had failed totally. He said Dr Sarwar fought for a just society, a society free from exploitation and it was time to create a just society.

Dr Badar Siddiqi, former General Secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) said death was more universal than life because every body dies but there are people who live on even after they’re gone through their noble deeds and universal love. Dr Sarwar, he said, was one such person who strove for the establishment of a just society.

He said Dr Sarwar established the Democratic Students Federation (DSF) that happened to be the first students’ organisation in Pakistan. Thereafter, he also established the All- Pakistan Students Organisation (APSO) and the Inter-Collegiate Body that comprised students unions from across the country.

Dr Siddiqi pointed out that Dr Sarwar led the historic 1953 student movement that forced the authorities to accept many demands of the students, including the establishment of the University of Karachi.

He said Dr Sarwar was injured when police resorted to firing on a student’s procession on January 8, 1953 in which seven students and a child were killed, and he also was arrested.

He said after he was released from jail, he along with his colleagues, including Dr Adib-ul-Hasan Rizvi, Dr Syed Haroon Ahmed, Dr Moinuddin Ahmed, and Dr Jaffer Naqvi played a vital role in the affairs of the Pakistan Medical Association and transformed it into a strong and dynamic force.

He said Dr Sarwar struggled for provision of health cover to the people and was never overwhelmed even by ferocious dictators such as Gen. Ziaul Haq while negotiating on behalf of PMA.

“I will not classify him as an individual; he was an institution,” he said. He said the number of people who visited Dr Sarwar’s residence was unbelievable and they included Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Syed Sibte Hasan, Habib Jalib, Zohra Nigah, Ali Imam, and Bashir Mirza, just to name a few.

Former student leader Mairaj Mohammad Khan said Dr Sarwar was an institution whose roots were very deep in society. He said 1953 movement led by Dr Sarwar was not confined to the students but impacted the entire society. “It was movement to change Pakistani society,” he said.

He said the DSF was banned in 1954 because it was against imperialist military pacts and was against a dependent economy. Prof. Dr Jaffer Naqvi said Dr Sarwar was a phenomenon and a staunch enemy of dictatorship. Prominent singer Tina Sani sang a poem of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

Messages of Asif Hameedi, Eric Rahim, and Dr Mangi who are abroad were also read at the ceremony. A six-minute documentary on Dr Sarwar was also shown in the programme.

KARACHI: Progressive student leader remembered, June 1, 2009

Progressive student leader remembered, Dawn  –

By Our Staff Reporter
Monday, 01 Jun, 2009 | 02:39 AM PST

KARACHI, May 31: Tributes were paid on Sunday to a pioneering former student leader, Dr Mohammad Sarwar, who struggled for the rights of students, workers and the downtrodden masses.

Friends and admirers of the late Dr Sarwar belonging to different walks of life, including law, engineering, literature and the fine arts, spoke of their association with the late general practitioner at a meeting organised by the Pakistan Medical Association at the PMA House.

Former Sindh Governor Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, who as a young lawyer had defended Dr Sarwar and many of his comrades in the 1950s, said that Dr Sarwar founded the Democratic Students Union in the early 1950s because he felt students adopted the “politics of idealism”, and he also created a body that linked all students in other educational institutions in the city together, so that “principled politics could be strengthened in the newly born country”.

Unfortunately, however, first the DSF was banned and then succeeding governments banned student unions altogether for many years, Mr Ebrahim said.

He said that the “old leadership has failed and it is high time that a new leadership, believing in high ideals, emerges to lead the country and bring justice to society. He said equal rights for all must be ensured.

Mairaj Mohammad Khan said that Dr Sarwar was a “true progressive”, having a broad minded and secular way of thought, he “respected religion but was against this kind of interpretation of religion under which women were lashed and people were beheaded”.

Dr Jaffer Naqvi said that people could have a discussion with Dr Sarwar for hours and while they may continue to disagree with him, he would always listen attentively and was so tolerant that would never get angry or raise his voice.

In an interesting revelation, Arif Hassan said that the government had originally prepared a master plan of the city in 1951, with the proposed federal government buildings located opposite the university. When the DSF brought students into politics, however, and took to agitations and protests against the government, voices were heard in cabinet meetings calling for a change in the proposals, to relocate the federal government buildings. Eventually, he said, Ayub Khan moved the federal government apparatus over 1,000 kilometres away.

Aziz Tank, Samreen Hashmi, Badar Siddiqui and others also spoke while Arshad Mehmood, Tina Sani and Atiya Dawood recited poetry. A few documentaries on interviews and discussions with Dr Sarwar were also screened.

‘Celebrating Sarwar’ – pix from PMA meeting, May 31, 2009

More photos here

'Celebrating Sarwar' - Banner at PMA Hall

'Celebrating Sarwar' - Banner at PMA Hall

Zakia Sarwar pays tribute to the man behind her success

Zakia Sarwar pays tribute to the man behind her success

Dr Badar at Memorial mtg at PMA, Karachi May 31, 2009
Dr Badar at Memorial mtg at PMA, Karachi May 31, 2009
Fakhruddin G Ebrahim at Memorial mtg at PMA, Karachi, May 31, 2009
Fakhruddin G Ebrahim at Memorial mtg at PMA, Karachi, May 31, 2009
Salima Hashmi remembers an old comrade
Salima Hashmi remembers an old comrade
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