Memories of an unassuming Marxist

Published in The News on Sunday, Feb 19, 2012

Memories of an unassuming Marxist 

The progressive movement of Pakistan has lost one of its best sons in the death of Dr. Manzoor Ahmed

By Shahid Husain

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‘Look back to look forward’: curtain raisers and news reports

Dr Haroon Ahmed making a point; Iqbal Alavi, Shahid Husain and Anis Haroon also visible.

  • Report on seminar organised by Irtiqa and Friends of Dr Sarwar, in The News:‘Majoritarian’ state a tyranny: IA Rehman”, by Shahid Husain, Jan 11: It was high time the people of Pakistan made a break from a “majoritarian state” since it had become a tyranny, veteran journalist and Human Rights activist I.A Rehman said on Sunday. He was speaking at a closed-door meeting organised at the PMA House by “Friends of Dr Sarwar” and the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences. (Complete report here)
  • PPI report in Daily Times on the Jan 9 event: “Revival of student activism ‘vital for reshaping society’”, Jan 10:  *Speakers at Karachi moot recall students’ struggle for rights, martyrs of 1953 students’ movement launched by Dr Sarwar 
*Say movement changed fate of students through demands for basic rights *HRCP Secretary General IA Rehman says 1953 movement represented all segments of society (Complete report here)
  • Dawn report on the Jan 9 event at Arts Council: “Students’ movement of 1953 celebrated” by Peerzada Salman,  Jan 10: Tinged with nostalgic moments, moving speeches and poetic renditions, the programme to commemorate a nationwide student movement of the 1950s entitled ‘Celebrating the 1953 student movement, looking back to look forward’ held at the Arts Council Karachi on Saturday evening turned out to be a memorable event. (Complete report here)
  • Curtain raiser in The News on the Jan 9 event at Arts Council:  “Remembering a leader; inspiring the future” by Shahid Husain,  Jan 08: Amidst an environment wherein malignant aggression has taken deep root in Pakistani society and suicide bombing and terrorism have become the order of the day, students and youth of Karachi will assemble on January 9 at the Arts Council of Pakistan to pay homage to Dr Mohammad Sarwar, leader of the January 1953, students’ movement. The gathering, it is hoped, will act as a catalyst for the revival of a genuine democratic movement in Pakistan. (Complete report here)

‘Youth to celebrate student movement of 1953’

The News, Saturday, January 09, 2010

By Shahid Husain

Karachi

In the death of Dr Mohammad Sarwar on May 26, 2009 the progressive and democratic movement in Pakistan lost one of its best sons. He was equally loved by veterans such as Sobho Gianchandani, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Syed Sibte Hasan and youngsters who frequented his residence in Clifton.

Born in Allahabad, UP, India, in 1930 Dr Sarwar was studying for a BSc in his hometown when he, along with a group of fellow students, came to Pakistan in 1948 “to see what the new country was like,” and decided to stay for good.

Dr Sarwar graduated in 1954, a year later than he was initially supposed to graduate, because fellow students asked him to stay for one more year so that the All-Pakistan Students Organisation (APSO), which was established in 1953, could be set up properly.

I remember we would visit his clinic in Firdous Colony in Nazimabad in late 1960s to collect funds when National Students Federation (NSF) launched a protest movement against military dictator Gen. Ayub Khan and he was always generous. In fact he handed over his entire day’s earnings to us and we made it a point to visit his clinic late so that we may get more fund.
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Jan 8, 2010 – ‘Students’ Day’; Nov 13, Hasan Nasir Day

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A rare photo of Hassan Nasir

Note: Photo of Hasan Nasir courtesy People’s Democratic Front (PDF) and National Students’ Federation (NSF)

Oct 12, 2009: Email sent to several old friends and family members of Dr Sarwar, as well as some younger activists and others.

Over the past month, following the references at Karachi and Lahore, a small informal group has come together in order to take forward the legacy of Dr M. Sarwar. Updates following our last discussion followed by notes from the meeting:

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‘Dr Sarwar and the 1950s student movement’ – 2004 posting

I just found this on my group email list posted Feb 26, 2004 reproduced below.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/beena-issues/message/434

‘Dr Sarwar and the 1950s student movement’

A good background to the fledgling 1950s student movement in Pakistan and how it was crushed. On Black Day – Jan 8, 1953 – police opened fire on a peaceful student demonstration in Saddar, Karachi. Seven students were killed and several more were arrested, including my father, Dr Mohammad Sarwar. Personal circumstances including the death of his elder brother, the journalist Mohammad Akhtar, led to his giving up the activism, but I still come across people who still remember his dynamic leadership. Personally, he’s my most exacting critic, best analytical source, and most reliable babysitter for my daughter.
beena

—–
Daily Times, Pakistan, Jan 8, 2004

Students for whom the bell tolls

By Shahid Husain

KARACHI: January 8, 1953 is a milestone in the students’ movement of Pakistan when peaceful students of the then capital city of Karachi were fired upon by police. Seven people were killed and 59 were injured. But the student movement led by Democratic Students Federation (DSF) succeeded in getting most of their demands accepted including the establishment of the University of Karachi at its new campus. The movement influenced the people across the country and its echo was also heard in the relatively more politically conscious elements in the then East Bengal.

Unlike today when students are divided on the basis of ethnicity and sectarianism, the January 1953 Movement encompassed all democratic students and its main demands were reduction in tuition fees, opportunities of scholarships to relatively poor students, improving the condition of hostels and establishment of Karachi University at a new campus to ensure that more students acquire higher education, according to Dr. Mohammad Sarwar, who was the president of DSF, the leading force behind the movement.

In an exclusive interview with Daily Times here at his residence, he recalled that a group of some 25-30 students convened a meeting at Karachi’s Dow Medical College (now university) in early 1950s and later assembled in a small hotel in Arambagh and decided to form a students’ organization, which was named as Democratic Students Federation. Mohammad Sarwar was made the convener of the newly formed organization. Amongst those who made the historic decision to form a democratic and secular students’ organization included some of the very bright students, many of them making a niche in their professional life in later years. These included Dr. Khawaja Moin Ahmed, Dr. Syed Haroon Ahmed, Dr. Adeeb-ul-Hasan Rizvi, Dr. Ghalib, Dr. Mohammad Yousuf, Dr. Safdar Ali, Dr. Ayub Mirza and Dr. Rahman Ali Hashmi.

“We then contacted fellow students in other colleges and started membership in DJ Science College, S. M. College, Urdu Law College, S M Law College, Islamia College, Government Women’s College and other educational institutions and got a very good response,” he said.

The students’ movement was brewing in Karachi in the backdrop of growing population of the city as a result of influx of refuges from India amid poor infrastructure and inadequate facilities in the domain of health, transport and education.

“In 1947, the Karachi became the capital of the new state of Pakistan. Bureaucrats, government employees, semi-government institutions all moved to the city and new organizations were established to meet the needs of the new state. In addition, over 600,000 refugees from India also moved into the city increasing its population by more than 161 percent in a period of 10 years. The refugees occupied all open spaces and the city center, the military cantonment and public buildings. This migration changed Karachi completely,” according to noted town planner and architect Arif Hasan. It was the growing problems of the capital city, which paved the way for a glorious students’ movement.

In 1951 a convention was held at Theosophical Hall and the manifesto of DSF was drafted and demands put forward for the betterment of the student community. It is absolutely wrong to say that the Communist Party of Pakistan had anything to do with the formation of DSF, Dr. Sarwar said. However, there were progressive students in the fold of the newly formed organization, he added. DSF also launched a fortnightly journal Students Herald, which started its publication in 1951 and was edited by S. M. Naseem, he said. He went on to say that the standard of Students Herald could be gauged from the fact that it bagged the best fortnightly award in Poland from the International Union of Students. The government in July 1954 banned Students Herald in the wake of growing relationship with the United States.

Referring to the popularity of DSF, he said it emerged victorious in the elections in almost all the important colleges of Karachi in 1952. Then it opted to form an Inter Collegiate Body (ICB) that along with DSF played a vital role in students’ politics.

After failing to pursue the university authorities to listen to their grievances, the ICB and DSF tried to meet the education minister Fazlur Rahman but that was thwarted by the right-wing vice chancellor of the university A.B.A. Haleem who established a bogus students group and conveyed to the education minister that he had already met the aggrieved students and there was no need for the minister meets them. This made the students angry who gave a call for a “Demands Day” on January 7.

Dr. Sarwar recalled that a big meeting was held at DJ Science College from where the students decided to go to the residence of the education minister Fazlur Rahman at Kutherey Road in the form of a procession but the authorities imposed Section 144 and made it clear that procession would not be allowed. The students, however, were firm to take out a procession and they did succeed. However, when the procession reached Frere Road from police resorted to lathi charge (baton charge). But the students were undaunted by this cowardly act. And continued their procession. They were tear-gassed when the procession reached Elphistone Street (Now Zaibun Nisa Street) and again near the Karachi Club. The police also arrested many student leaders who were ultimately released amid pressure from the agitating students.

On January 8 the students again gathered at DJ Science College and decided to take out a procession against the highhandedness of the police. As if the brutalities of the previous day were not enough, police resorted to firing near Paradise Cinema and a number of students were killed, including a minor. On January 9 Karachiites observed a strike against police brutalities. In fact, the government imposed curfew for a few days, Dr. Sarwar said. But the impact of January Movement was such that the government of Khawaja Nazimuddin had to accept most of the demands of the students.

“We toured the Punjab, NWFP and East Pakistan culminating in the formation of All Pakistan Students Organisation (APSO) on December 25, 1953. The popularity of the new organization was such that one of its student leader defeated seasoned politician Nurul Amin in the elections,” he said.

In May 1954, the government in the wake of growing tilt towards the US banned DSF, APSO and the Communist Party of Pakistan. Many student leaders including Dr. Sarwar Dr Ghalib, Jamauluddin Naqvi, Ayub Mirza, and Students Herald editor, Syed Mohammad Naseem were arrested and sent to jail.

“The January students movement was the first major movement that focused on democratic issues, especially those concerning students and youth. Its impact on the people of Karachi indeed on the people of Pakistan was electrifying and soon the students of other cities and provinces joined the movement. The then Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin accepted all the major demands of the students after about a week. What I remember is that tuition fee was decreased, in some cases by 50 percent and in other cases even more than that,” said Prof. Jamaluddin Naqvi, one of the of leaders of January 1953 Movement

(ends)

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

http://tinyurl.com/pma-news

‘Time to create a left-oriented think tank’

Monday, June 01, 2009
By Shahid Husain

Karachi

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.

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