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.

“Students Movement leaders remembered: Revival of student activism termed must for reshaping society” – PPI report

Rahat Kazmi listens to Alia Amirali's fiery speech. Photo by Sakhawat Ali

PPI report by Azhar Khan

KARACHI, Jan 10 (PPI): In order to bringing positive, deep and lasting sociopolitical changes in Pakistani society it is necessary that students should play their due role and mount pressure on the policymakers through their activism to focus on the burning problems faced by our society and its people. For this purpose it is a must that student unions should be strengthened and their elections held on urgent basis.

This was said by speakers of a moot here on Saturday evening at Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi to pay rich tributes to the martyrs of “Students Movement 1953”.

This historic student movement was launched by Dr. Mohammad Sarwar, which played an important role in strengthening the leftist student movement in Pakistan.

Hundreds of students and civil society members attended the moot and paid rich tributes to the martyrs of “Students Movement 1953”. They also paid rich tribute to Dr. Mohammad Sarwar, who they said was the core catalyst for the formation of Students Unions for the first time in Pakistan. Continue reading

‘Looking back to look forward’ – amazing turnout, thanks everyone

Rahat Kazmi introducing speakers – photo by Aliya Nisar

What an amazing response to ‘Looking Back to Look Forward – Celebrating the 1953 Student Movement’. (‘…we look back not to revel in nostalgia, WE LOOK BACK TO LOOK FORWARD,’ said veteran journalist Eric Rahim in an email while we were conceptualising the event).

We didn’t think we’d be able to fill the 1000-seater hall. Everyone said “be happy if 500 people turn up”. The hall was FULL, thanks to the energy and enthusiasm of the volunteers and participants – students and youngsters from Sindh Awami Sangat (huge team of volunteers and a crowded bus-load of participants), Szabist University, Ziauddin Medical College, PECHS Girls’ School (thanks to Seema Malik, 150 students who formed the heart of the audience and kept up the tempo with their youthful energy), and other groups.

View of the audience with PECHS Girls School students – photo Aliya Nisar

“It’s not just the event, it’s the timing of the event that’s important,” said Hiba Ali Raza, one of the student volunteers. “At a time when things look so bleak, and people are so depressed, this was very significant”.

Many had come expecting the usual 200-300 crowd of old lefties with a sprinkling of the young ones. Instead, we had a hall full of young people, boys and girls, students and young professionals who listened attentively to the speakers – Continue reading

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.


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)


‘A freedom man’ – I.A. Rehman

The News on Sunday, June 7, 2009

I.A> Rehman, Dr Sarwar and Salim Asmi, Karachi

I.A. Rehman, Dr Sarwar and Salim Asmi, Karachi

A freedom man

By I. A. Rehman

Providence had given Dr Mohammad Sarwar a tall frame but he made himself stand taller. That is the only true measure of the gentle and large-hearted physician who recently decided he had had enough of this rowdy, irrational and violent world.

No honest chronicler of the story of Pakistan will fail to record, and this with appreciation, Dr Sarwar’s struggle to realise his people’s dream of liberty and equality. He was one of the founders (and one of its most dedicated leaders) of the Democratic Students Federation (DSF) — which was one of the few glorious offshoots in Pakistan of the subcontinent’s fight for freedom.

For the love of freedom and the rights of the young ones, he cheerfully faced bullets and suffered imprisonment when jails had none of the facilities they now have. The banning of the Democratic Students Federation and All Pakistan Students’ Organisation could not force him to surrender. He carried on his romance with liberty as one of the leading lights of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) that has been in the vanguard of civil society’s movements for the rights of the people, specially the under-privileged.

All this will hopefully be written in a legitimate history of the Pakistani people. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity of directly witnessing the events that have been recalled in Dr Sarwar’s obituaries and memorial addresses. But that does not matter. The dedication with which the DSF and PMA stalwarts stuck to their noble mission of liberating and completing the lives of their compatriots, even after becoming successful doctors, lawyers and journalists, can tell us all we need to know about their mettle. Dr Sarwar was one of those who tempered the steel. In any case, he was larger than his work.

Quite often Dr Sarwar (or his DSF comrades, for sometimes it is difficult to mention them individually) reminded me of what Pakistan’s promise was and how the people were cheated out of it. Breaking with his family’s nationalist politics in his early youth, he raised the crescent-and-star flag and travelled to Karachi to savour the joys of a nation in the making. He fell so deeply in love with the challenge as to stay on and meet it. But when the people chose imbeciles as their rulers, democrats like Dr Sarwar decided to serve the people in whatever ways were open to them. He became a dispenser of relief from pain and suffering to a large congregation that he loved and cared for as his extended family. But the man was bigger than the doctor too.

He was bigger because he had the courage of his conviction and the strength to keep the book of his life always open. The freedom his marvellous life-partner and children enjoyed was a reflection of his appreciation of the meaning of freedom. He loved laughing with children and was not afraid of being laughed at. He made no effort to hide what his friends considered his weaknesses — his languorous life-style, his aversion to travelling (and his penchant for giving up the idea of going abroad minutes before boarding the plane), and his refusal to be drawn into battles he could not accept as genuine.

Dr Sarwar was a friends’ friend. Strangers could have no idea of his ability to develop his argument and hold on to it because in their presence he limited his utterances to words of cultured courtesy. But in the company of friends, especially the knowledgeable ones, he enjoyed having a vigorous discourse and nobody could doubt that he kept himself informed and abreast of times. What, however, hurt his friends sometimes was his loss of optimism. The collapse of the world of his dreams exacted in such moments the heaviest possible price — frustration replacing hope.

He had the capacity of bearing his losses and adversity — and he had his share of both — with the patience of a stoic. Nothing proved this better than his reaction on being told a couple of years ago that he might not survive for more than a few months. As a doctor he knew that he was melting away day by day. He was in and out of hospitals and he had pain and discomfort for considerable spells. But he refused to be broken. His robust spirit kept him going longer than his doctors expected.Dr Sarwar belonged to that group of human beings who win recognition not only by what they do but also by simply being themselves. They may well be called normal persons — by all accounts a vanishing breed in our land. That cuts deeper than the loss of an esteemed friend.


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