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

PMA condemns colleague’s murder | Dr Baqir Shah

31st December, 2011

Press Release
PMA CONDEMNS COLLEAGUE’S MURDER

The Pakistan Medical Association, Karachi has strongly condemned the brutal murder of Dr. Baqir Shah, Police Surgeon, Quetta while performing his official duties. The reason for his killing is obvious: that he was the key witness of the Kharotabad incident. He had conducted the post-mortem examination of the victims and had given the factual version that the victims had died due to the indiscriminate firing of the LEAs and not due to an explosion.

If truth is going to be silenced in this manner how can justice prevail? The government did not provide him any security inspite of the fact that an earlier attempt had been made on his life. How can the government function if it fails to protect its own functionaries? How will other medico-legal officers react to this incident: will they not be afraid to give their fair and factual finding in such cases?

The PMA calls upon the Government to hold an urgent judicial and arrest the perpetrators of this heineous crime. The PMA also urges the Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court, who is a very able and upright Judge, to take suo moto notice of this incident to ensure that those who help in the attainment of Justice are not silenced in this manner.

Dr. Salamat Kamal
Vice President
PMA, Karachi

Archival photos – AISF, APSO, DSF, PMA, Dow Medical College

AISF group at Allahabad U. 1948; Akhtar front left

SEE ALL 

Reference for Dr Ayub Mirza, Sept 26, Bradford

Received from Parvez Fateh:

South Asian Peoples Forum is holding a Condolence Reference to pay homage to the late Dr. Ayub Mirza, former President Pak-China Friendship Association, former President PMA (Pakistan Medical Association),  prominent Progressive Writer, biographer and Revolutionary Politician

You are cordially invited to please join us and pay glowing tributes to the dear departed.

Date: Sunday, September 26th 2010
Time: 3.00 to 5.00pm
Venue: Touchstone Center, 23 Merton Road, Bradford BD7 1RE

Speakers/ Contributors:
Rahat Saeed –  Deputy General Secretary Progressive Writers Association Pakistan
Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza –  Progressive activist and son of Dr Ayub Mirza
Prof. Nazir Tabassum –  Progressive Writer, SAPF UK Activist
Mohammad Ajeeb –  Former Lord Mayor Bradford, SAPF UK activist
Coll. Ghazanfer Khaliq –  Former Lord Mayor Bradford, SAPF UK activist Continue reading

Students who set the tone – by Zubeida Mustafa

Thanks to Zubeida Mustafa for her well-researched and timely article in Dawn today (text below). Just a small clarification re the comment that “Most of the founders gave up their activism — as daughter Beena confirms for Dr Sarwar”. This is only partly true. These students did not become “professional student activists” or go into active politics. As she notes, many of them did carry on their work in other ways. Speaking of Dr Sarwar – besides supporting progressive causes in whatever way he could, he was involved with the professional body of doctors, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), was a member of the PMA delegation to then East Pakistan, wrote regularly for the Pakistan Medical Gazette (that he and other colleagues founded, at a meeting in Quetta), was twice elected PMA Secretary General and worked for a health policy along with his colleagues during the Zia years – a time when PMA was a significant platform for dissent against military rule (see Dr Badar Siddiqi’s citation) at the May 31st meeting at PMA House.

Details of the Jan 9, 2010 event that Zubeida Mustafa mentions are available on this blog as well as at the Facebook Event. We particularly invite young people and students to attend the event in order learn about this little-known part of our history, at a time when student unions have been restored in principle. Continue reading

Karachi communists in the early 1950s: a contribution to the ‘Sarwar Reference’ by Eric Rahim

Eric Rahim: A journalist and activist remembers

Eric Rahim:A journalist and activist remembers

In celebrating the life of Dr Mohammad Sarwar, many of his friends and student and political activists have recorded their memories and experiences from the period of the early 1950s. As far as I can tell this is the first time that so many people from the Left have come together (physically or in their thoughts) to pool together their memories from that period – a period of hope and optimism – about the future of democratic politics in Pakistan. What could be a better tribute to Sarwar’s outstanding contribution to the student movement and democratic politics?

The random and disconnected notes that follow, drawn from a hazy and failing memory of events that took place almost sixty years ago, are a contribution to the Sarwar Reference. Very broadly speaking, they deal with two related issues that have received only marginal attention in the contributions made so far – the presence of the Communist Party in Karachi, and the causes of the inability of the student movement to sustain itself beyond the early 50s.

Continue reading

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)


NOTE: MR MINHAJ BARNA AND DR ENVER SAJJAD ARE ALSO EXPECTED TO ARRIVE IN LAHORE FOR THE REFERENCE

Dr Sarwar – student activism photos and as a PMA office bearer

Dr Sarwar – Dow, PMA & other pix

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

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

‘This wonderful Doc’ (2) – by Beena Sarwar

Published in ‘The News on Sunday’, Pakistan, July 5 2009. An abridged version, first published in HardNews. The title is borrowed from Ali Jafari’s tribute posted earlier at this blog.

Newly weds at Karachi beach circa 1960s - Zakia & Sarwar

Newly weds at Karachi beach circa 1960s – Zakia & Sarwar. Photo by Dr Haroon Ahmed

by Beena Sarwar

She is not the grave-visiting sort. A white-haired dynamo with luminous eyes, she pioneered teacher training and teaching English in Pakistan (as a second language in large classrooms with limited resources). The activism inculcated in her native Pratapgarh in UP, India, remained with her after the migration to Pakistan in the late 1950s, later nurtured and encouraged by the life partner she found.

Zakia met Sarwar after moving from Lahore to Karachi in 1961. The unconventional, long-limbed Allahabad-born doctor was known as the ‘hero of the January movement’. Visiting Karachi for a holiday after Partition he had stayed on after being admitted to Dow Medical College. There, he started Pakistan’s first student union in 1949 (corrected from 1951), catalysing the first nationwide inter-collegiate students’ body. When the government ignored the students’ demands (including lower fees, better lab and hostel facilities and a full-fledged university campus) the students held a ‘Demands Day’ procession on January 7, 1953. Police brutally baton-charged and tear-gassed them, and arrested their leaders. They were set free hours later under pressure from students staging a sit-down in front of the education minister’s house, refusing to budge until their release.

Sarwar addressing a students' meeting

Sarwar addressing a students’ meeting, Karachi early 1950s

The momentum continued with another procession on Jan 8. This time, they were confronted by armed police. Trying to negotiate with the police to let them pass Sarwar realised that their threat of opening fire was deadly earnest, he tried to stop the students from going forward. Charged up, many surged ahead anyway. The police opened fire. Seven students and a child were killed on that ‘Black Day’. Over 150, including Sarwar, were injured.

The college principal Col. Malik visited the family to get them to persuade Sarwar to give up his activism. The support of Akhtar, his even taller older brother, a well known journalist, gave him the courage to resist. Both were jailed during the crackdown on progressive forces coinciding with America’s McCarthy years, after Pakistan and America signed a military pact (Sarwar received his final MBBS results in 1954 while in prison for a year).

The January Movement’s impact can be gauged by the Khawaja Nazimuddin government’s eventual acceptance of most of the students’ demands. The students were even asked to approve the blueprints of Karachi University (based on Mexico University). In the 1954 provincial elections it was a student leader defeated the seasoned politician Noor-ul-Amin in former East Pakistan.

After graduating from medical college, Sarwar declined invitations from various politicians to join their parties. “I didn’t have the means,” he said simply. He was the sole breadwinner of the family after Akhtar’s sudden death due to pneumonia in 1958 at the peak of his career – he was chief reporter of the newly launched eveninger The Leader. Their circle of progressive writers, poets, activists and journalists was devastated. The well known poet Ibne Insha compiled a book of essays on Akhtar (including by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hameed Akhtar and others) and his letters from prison. Sarwar, who had been particularly close to Akhtar, insisted that everyone get on with their work and not sit around mourning.

Zakia’s older brother Zawwar Hasan had been one of Akhtar’s closest friends. They had played field hockey for rival college teams in Allahabad, re-connecting as sports journalists in Karachi. After moving to Karachi, Zakia, who began teaching at Sir Syed Girls College there, would take Zawwar’s young children to Sarwar’s clinic nearby for checkups. The romance included outings like seeing off the Faiz sahib when he left for Moscow to receive the Lenin Peace Prize in 1962.

“As a comrade, his relationship with Abba was an unspoken clear bond based on a shared understanding of the universal struggle for a just human order,” says Salima Hashmi, Faiz’s daughter and an old friend of Zakia’s from her Lahore days.

Sarwar and Zakia got married in September 1962, overcoming parental apprehensions about religious differences (Shi’a, Sunni). Neither was religious. Akhtar would have approved, as Zawwar did.

As their eldest child, one of my earliest memories is Zakia and other college teachers on hunger strike, demanding an end to the exploitation of teachers. Sarwar supported her against the muttered disapproval (‘women from good families out on the streets’), as always, giving her the space to develop her potential. No wonder that he has a special place in the hearts of her colleagues at Spelt, the Society of English Language Teachers that she founded, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Sarwar practiced as a general physician for nearly fifty years from his modest clinic in a low-income area, consciously charging low fees and treating struggling workers, journalists, artists and writers for free. He was contemptuous of doctors who charged high fees, prescribing costly tests and medicines where less expensive ones would do. He helped launch the Pakistan Medical Association and its affiliated Medical Gazette – both of which have been vital platforms for progressive politics in Pakistan, particularly during the Zia years.

Diagnosed with cancer in August 2007 (‘stage four’, pancreas, metastasis to the lungs), he took it in stride. “Look,” he reasoned in his remained characteristically calm and good humoured way, “everyone has to die. If this is how I have to go, so be it.”

He refused to give up drinking or smoking, reminding us of friends who died early despite giving up such habits. When a cousin’s mother-in-law was diagnosed with lung cancer, he asked wryly, “And does she also smoke?”

“To look into the eyes of  a killer disease, and yet not roll over is something that the bravest could envy,” wrote Zawwar last October from the Bay Area.

Sarwar defied doctors’ predictions of ‘maybe six months…’, humouring us by trying the nasty herbal concoctions we inflicted on him, and later stoically withstanding six months of chemotherapy at SIUT, the pioneering philanthropic institution set up by his old friend Dr Adibul Hasan Rizvi. Perhaps this bought him some more time. Perhaps it was simply the sheer willpower of a fighting spirit refusing to give up hope even while realistically facing the worst.
Friends flocked to ‘Doc’, as many affectionately called him, hosting parties at his home when he was too weak to go out.

Emerging from anaesthesia after a blocked bile duct was cleared this April, one of his first questions was about the Indian elections. He’d ask for the daily newspapers – even when weakness made difficult to concentrate – and that cigarette which one of us would light. He’d chat hospitably with visitors, cigarette dangling habitually between the fingers of one hand even as a drip punctured the veins of the other arm.

At home later, it was only during the last two days of his life, his breathing dangerously obstructed, that he did not smoke. Doctors suggested suctioning out excess fluid in intensive care – entailing drips (no space for more needle pricks in either arm by now) and the risk of life support if the procedure failed. When I explained this to him, he waved his hand and pronounced, ‘No point, no point’. They sent over technicians with an inhaler and suction pipe, which gave him some relief. But then the rattling in his throat recurred.

Late that night, when he seemed to be more comfortable and settled, I finally said goodnight, kissing him on the forehead. “Sleep well Babba.”

“Goodnight,” he replied, clasping my hand back. “Go to sleep.”

He died quietly in his sleep about half an hour later.

Zakia now takes time out from her work to sit by his last resting place. It gives her peace.

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