Introduction to Event Book, Jan 9, 2010

Thanks to S.M. Naseem for writing the introduction to the Event Book produced for the Jan 9, 2010 event at the Arts Council Karachi, ‘Looking Back to Look Forward’ (a phrase borrowed from Eric Rahim’s email of Dec 12, 2009)

INTRODUCTION

The January 1953 student movement was a result of a confluence of social and political factors, including the influx of a large population into Karachi from all parts of the sub-continent, which became imminent after the Partition. A thorough analysis of these factors and their interaction has yet to be undertaken. However, one factor that stands out on looking back is the role of the collective efforts of a large number of student activists – mostly belonging to the Democratic Students’ Federation (DSF) – in the affiliated Colleges of Karachi University, spread across the city. Continue reading

PRESS RELEASE: “LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD”

KARACHI, Jan 6: Students traditionally observed January 8th as ‘Martyrs’ Day’ in memory of the students and passers-by killed by police firing on Jan 7, 1953, during the peaceful ‘Demands Day’ procession organised by Inter Collegiate Body (ICB) and Democratic Students Federation (DSF). The High School Students Federation (HSSF) also actively participated in this movement and some of those killed were high school students.

Their demands were education-related, including: revise the fee structure (make fees payable monthly instead of six-monthly), improve laboratory, library, and hostel facilities, build a proper University in Karachi (where none existed) and provide security of employment to graduates. The High School Students Federation also actively participated.
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Jan 9-10, 2010: Event to honour and take forward the legacy of the 1950s student movement

3-Student mtg 1951 or 52

Sarwar addressing a meeting; M.R.A. Hashmi seated, Karachi, 1950's

Event to honour and take forward the legacy of Dr Sarwar and the 1950’s student movement ie. nationwide student unity based on issues concerning students, independent position (non-alignment to any political party or ideology), and organisation. Re-visiting and claiming this forgotten part of our past may help us find the way forward

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Setting the record straight on DSF (2008 article by Dr Haroon & Saleem Asmi)

A slightly abridged version of this article was published in Dawn as Student movement revisited, April 5, 2008

Scan from front page of Student Herald 'Martyrs Number', Vol. 1, No. 5, Jan 19, 1953

Scan from front page of Student Herald 'Martyrs Number', Vol. 1, No. 5, Jan 19, 1953

Setting the record straight

Democratic Students Federation: The first all-Pakistan student body

By S. Haroon Ahmed and Saleem Asmi

The welcome move by newly elected Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gillani to revive student unions takes us back the first all-Pakistan students’ body, the Democratic Students Federation, which laid the foundations not only for the progressive outlook of the National Students Federation (NSF) but also the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA). The DSF is often either ignored or misrepresented in most accounts of the history of the students’ movement in Pakistan, like the article ‘Students politics: a brief history’ (Dawn Magazine, February 10, 2008) which otherwise included excellent thumb-nail sketches of student unions. At this critical juncture of Pakistan’s history, there is a need to set the record straight regarding the DSF.

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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.

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Taking forward Dr Sarwar’s legacy (meeting note)

1-200701-Sarwar-Banner image1. Please see Facebook group created for Dr Sarwar – http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=167411502891 – we hope this will be useful for interactions and discussions

2. On Sept 16 , a meeting was held at Dr Sarwar’s residence. The agenda included commemorating Jan 8, 2010; a book that SM Naseem has proposed; and the think tank idea floated by F.G Ebrahim at the May 31st meeting at PMA house.

Participants: S. M. Naseem, Iqbal Alavi, Zain Alavi, Mazhar Saeed, Saleem Asmi, Dr Haroon Ahmed, Aisha Gazdar, Asif Saad, Zakia Sarwar, Beena Sarwar

Summary:

– Need to work towards holding an event on Jan 8, 2010 in Karachi (doesn’t have to be limited to Karachi of course) to highlight the importance of the student movement and its impact. Involve like-minded progressive institutions and youth groups

–  A proposed book in English and Urdu on the ‘Life and times of Dr Sarwar’ outlined by SM Naseem.

Strengthen and support Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences, which was inaugurated on Jan 8 1994 and has held  events on Jan 8th for several years. Participants of the meeting agreed that this would make more sense rather than start a new progressive think tank as suggested at the May 31st memorial in Karachi.

Comments, feedback and suggestions welcome.

thanks
beena

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.

Sarwar, DSF and the ‘Students’ Herald’ – S.M. Naseem

S.M. Naseem

SMNaseemThoughts shared at the Reference ‘Celebrating Sarwar: Student Movement Re-Visited’, Dorab Patel Auditorium, HRCP Lahore, Aug 8, 2009

Students Herald, April 3, 1953

Students Herald, April 3, 1953

Looking back at the events of more than fifty years ago, which brought Sarwar into lime light, from the vantage point of today, is neither easy nor entirely relevant, but it does provide a useful perspective on the life and times of a person who helped transform Pakistan’s political discourse and left a legacy worthy of celebration – a  legacy much more valuable than the millions others bequeath to their families. It is significant that we are gathered here today not to pay a tribute to some one who had held a high public office or achieved a monumental task that has received public attention, but to some one who challenged the status quo and the patronage system in our educational institutions in the formative stage of our politics and forced the ruling coterie of the time to pay attention– if only transiently – to the real problems of the people, especially in education.

At a time when the bogey of lack of  patriotism and anti-communism could easily be invoked at the slightest expression of criticism of government policies, Sarwar was able to galvanize a mass movement of students in Karachi and later extend its reach to other parts of the country – an effort which was unfortunately aborted by the authorities through their joining the crusade against communism and signing a defence treaty with the US in 1954 and carrying out mass arrests of activists and alleged communists between May and July 1954.

S.M. Naseem reading out his paper at the Reference at HRCP Lahore

S.M. Naseem reading out his paper at the Reference at HRCP Lahore

After serving a period of almost a year, on  a habeas corpus petition in Sind High Court, Sarwar, along with other students and activists, was released in 1955 and faced severe restrictions in resuming normal life, including finding employment. While there was some let-up in the wave of repression that followed immediately after the US-Pakistan Military Pact of 1954, life continued to be hard for those released. Sarwar’s elder brother, Akhtar, who was also arrested, lost his job in Dawn and had to move to other lesser-known papers. A more serious calamity fell on Sarwar in the shape of Akhtar’s death soon after Ayub Khan’s coup and martial law. All this ruled out Sarwar’s involvement in active politics or picking up the threads where he left off before going to prison. But neither did it mean his giving up the ideals that he lived for and that were inherent in the student movement he led. Lord Robbins, a famous British economist, used to tell his graduate students at LSE that a person would be a fool if he was not a revolutionary in his twenties but did not become a worldly-wise conservative by the time he was forty. Sarwar, steadfastly defied that received wisdom and remained consistently loyal to the ideals he embraced in his youth.

My association with Sarwar mainly relates to the core period of his activism in the early 1950s, although I kept in touch with him for the rest of his life and was aware of his social and political activities on a regular basis. Others more conversant with his post-1950s life are better placed to bring them out, I will, therefore,  talk more about how I see the Karachi movement developed and the pivotal role Sarwar played in it. Historically, perhaps, it is true, as some have argued, that DSF was born in Lahore and that the nascent Pakistan Communist Party played a leading role in its formation and in  directing its activities. However, its operational dynamics in Karachi in the 1950s student movement was largely spontaneous – as most student movements inevitably are—and a product of the rather unusual circumstances of Karachi in those days which were much more propitious for making it successful than in Lahore. (I do not wish to drive an invidious wedge not only because the event is being hosted in Lahore, but also because many who played a prominent role in the Karachi movement were from Lahore or Punjab, such as Ayub Mirza and Ghalib Lodhi and some of the leading DSF lights of Lahore – such as Raza Kazim and Zuhair Naqvi – were not originally from Lahore).

Karachi was a truly cosmopolitan city in those days and there was hardly a trace of the ethnic tensions that emerged in 1960s and beyond. Karachi, in contrast to Lahore, had hardly an educational infrastructure commensurate to the needs of a rapidly growing urban city which was also the capital of the country. Its colleges were affiliated for a considerable time with Bombay University. The class composition of the capital was far less heterogeneous than Lahore’s, which was the bastion of the feudal elite. The co-mingling of such a diverse population in Karachi’s educational institutions – a high proportion of which were public funded and catered to the middle and lower middle-class population produced a synergy which propelled the demand for democratic reforms in the educational system which was at the core of the DSF’s agenda.

The Dow Medical College, which was still struggling to get its degree recognized was seriously deficient in staff and equipment, became the nerve centre of DSF’s activities and with Sarwar’s election as the Vice-President of the College Union (the ex-officio President was the College head, with veto power which Sarwar wanted to be abolished). But Sarwar knew that one swallow does not make a summer and realized the need for similar pro-active role of Students’ Unions in Karachi’s other dozen or so colleges. Most such unions until then were either defunct or  in the pockets of College Principals and the Vice-Chancellor (Prof. A. B. A. Haleem who was busy politicking), and who resisted change.

The DSF fought elections in most colleges and won a majority of them. Sarwar then devised the master-stroke of forming  an Inter-Collegiate Body of all the College Unions and decided to get elected the non-DSF Vice-President of a College Union, instead of himself,  as its Chairman in the interest of the broad-based unity of the student community. The ICB after prolonged deliberations and the failure of negotiations with authorities on its demands  decided to observe a Demands Day on 7 January 1953. The rest, as they say, became history, demonstrating Sarwar’s skills as a consummate strategist.

Students’ Herald

I would also like to talk a little about Students’ Herald of which I became, largely by accident and default, its editor, printer and publisher. The DSF felt the need for having a journal to mobilize students in favour of its objectives. A more immediate need was to counter the propaganda against the DSF by the Government in the national press and through the Jama’at–i-Islami’s student organ, Students’ Voice, edited by Khurshid Ahmad, who is now a Senator.

It was relatively easy to get a declaration for the paper as I applied for it in my individual  capacity and the CID official who cleared my application was unsuspecting about my intentions. But publishing it regularly and uninterruptedly from January 1953 to July 1954, was no easy task. It required a core group of dedicated and competent writers, proof-readers, advertisement seekers and donation collectors. Producing a paper was a much more labour-intensive and cumbersome job than in the electronic world of today. Fortunately, the movement generated enough talent to prove us equal to the task of producing a quality paper, with which I still feel proud to have  been  associated and from which I have derived far greater fulfillment than from the newspaper columns I have penned during the last 15 years.

Our resources were extremely limited – the paper sold for two annas per copy slightly more than the cost of a cup of tea in those days. Our editorial office moved from one Irani tea shop to another between Burns Road and Bunder Road where most of the colleges were clustered and we were constantly shadowed by the CID inspector who was assigned to find out what we were bringing out in the next issue. He would often sit in the printing press and pressurize the owner to give him the proofs. But the owner, who was very helpful and allowed us to print the paper on credit and treated us to tea, refused to oblige. But our most valuable support came from our seniors in the journalistic community, who helped in editing (often ghost writing) some of the manuscripts and in teaching us about the lay-out and presentation of the reports. Among these were M. A. Shakoor, Eric Rahim, Ahmad Hasan and Sarwar’s elder brother, Mohammad Akhtar, all of whom worked for the Dawn and were later arrested and dismissed from that newspaper. Among the members of the teaching community who helped and inspired us were Prof. Samsamul Hai, Dr. A. H. Hamdani and Prof. M. Kareem. Sadly, most of them are no more among us.

In passing, I may mention that Saleem Asmi, who culminated his journalistic career as Editor of the Dawn, began his career as a proof-reader in Students’ Herald. Among my other colleagues and collaborators were Wasi Ahmad Hai, who left for Burma after his release from jail in 1954 and has never been heard from since; he shared most of the editorial burden with me. I must also mention our very talented photographer, the late Sartaj Alam, who took some of the most telling pictures of the demonstrations, firing and other events that appeared in its pages. A leading cartoonist of that time, Aziz, contributed original cartoons to the paper. Among others who helped the publication in its struggle for survival, were Mazhar Saeed, Zain Alavi and Ghalib Lodhi. Sarwar himself often  contributed articles to the paper and provided guidance on major issues.

S. M. Naseem established the DSF Unit in S. M. College and was editor of Student’s Herald launched in 1952, published fortnightly until he was arrested along with others in July 1954 (released in March 1955)

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:

http://picasaweb.google.com/beena.sarwar/CelebratingDrMSarwarStudentMovementReVisited#

— 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)


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

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