Dr Sarwar, the importance of civil discourse, and the art of listening

Ali Jafari-Jaspal

S. Ali Jafari reading his essay; Jaspal Singh in background. Video screen grab.

At a small gathering last year, S. Ali Jafari read his essay in Urdu about Dr M. Sarwar, whom he called “Doc”. His son Salman videotaped the reading, which forms the basis of this 14-minute video edited for 26 May 2019, ten years after Dr M. Sarwar passed away peacefully at home in Karachi, at age 79.

Son of the famous satirical poet S. M. Jafari, Ali Jafari’s essay in chaste Urdu humorously captures the spirit and idealism of progressive politics. It also contains critical observations about the art of listening, and conversing with civility, respect and humour without making personal attacks, regardless of differences in opinion.

Babba-Nathia-1995

The importance of civil discourse and the art of listening: An enduring lesson from Dr M. Sarwar. Photo: 1995, Nathiagali, by Beena Sarwar.

As a student at Dow Medical College, Sarwar led Pakistan’s first nation-wide student movement spearheaded by the Democratic Students Federation. The movement carries enduring lessons about the importance of unity and forging a one-point agenda for larger goals.

For more on Dr Sarwar, DSF and the student movement see the Dr Sarwar website.

There’s also this 30 minute documentary made after Dr Sarwar passed away, Aur Niklen.ge Ushhaq ke Qafle (There will be more caravans of passion), below, with interviews of people like Zehra Nigah, Saleem Asmi and Dr Haroon Ahmed. Here’s the link to a piece about it by Agha Iqrar Haroon: Ushhaq ke Qafley— A Documentary about the Power of Student Unions and Forgotten Chapter of Political Activism in Pakistan.

Aur Nikle.nge Ushhaq ke Qafley – documentary on DSF, 1949-54. 30 min, 2010

The inspiring story of Democratic Students Federation (DSF) 1949-54 (documentary, 30 min), Pakistan’s first nation-wide student movement, led by Dr M Sarwar (1930-2009). A historical documentary based on interviews, extensive research and archival material. Produced by Beena Sarwar, directed by Sharjil Baloch, 2010.

‘Looking back to look forward’: event videos now online

A play list of 16 clips from ‘Looking back to look forward’, the three-hour long event held in Karachi on Jan 9, 2010 to commemorate Dr Sarwar and the 1953 student movement. Click this playlist link to see a list of all the clips. Clickable in chronological order below: Continue reading

Aur Nikle.nge Ushhaq ke Qafle: a documentary film on DSF

The inspiring story of Democratic Students Federation (DSF), Pakistan’s first nation-wide student movement, led by Dr M Sarwar (1930-2009). A historical documentary based on interviews, extensive research and archival material.

Credits: Continue reading

Learning from history in an age of bombs

Title of documentary ‘Aur NikleiN Ge Ushhaq ke Qafley’ (Design by K.B. Abro)

NOTE: Much of the research for this article was done for a documentary on the 1953 student movement directed by Sharjil Baloch, that I produced, for the event we held at the Arts Council Karachi on Jan 9, 2010, ‘Looking back to look forward’. The 30-min documentary title ‘Aur NikleiN Ge Usshaq ke Qafley’ (And there shall be more caravans of passion) derives from a poem by Faiz. This article was published in the website Pkonweb on Jan 8, 2010 (a revised and updated version of an earlier piece in the ‘The News on Sunday’, Dec 27 2009. A shorter version was published by the academic journal iWrite in its Jan-Feb 2010 issue).

Looking back to look forward

Commemorating Pakistan’s first nation-wide student movement that embodied student unity, cutting across political, class and ethnic divisions for a common cause: students’ rights … Continue reading

“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

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.
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

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

Continue reading

Jab Tujhe Yaad Kar Liya – documentary on Faiz, 2008

Jab Tujhe Yaad Kar Liya – a short documentary tribute to Faiz Ahmad Faiz on his death anniversary last year, directed by Sharjil Baloch for the BBC, Nov 20, 2008 – featuring interviews with Dr M. Sarwar, Dr Haroon Ahmed, and Saleem Asmi, memories and music by S.M. Shahid, and recitals by actor Khalid Ahmed. View it here Part I and Part 2

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