Keep the fire burning – by Zakia Sarwar

End note, written for the Jan 9, 2010 booklet commemorating DSF, at Karachi Arts Council – an event that gave hope to many.

By Zakia Sarwar

Forty seven years of sharing pain and laughter together… I find it difficult to say even a few words for this great event in which Sarwar is being celebrated and friends and like-minded companions are joining hands to look back in order to forge a way ahead.

When we got married in September 1962, we had the same social circle and family friends in common, great persons such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sibte Hasan, Hamid Akhtar, Zamiruddin Ahmed, Malik Noorani to name just a few. And we also shared the same kind of dreams. He used to dream of going to settle down in a village where I would teach, and he would do his medical practice and gather young men around him to improve their social set up.

That dream remained unfulfilled, but as if to make up for the promise of our unfulfilled dreams, Sarwar supported me in all my activities — whether it was to set up a centre in Sir Syed College to enable girls to earn their living through doing different kinds of handwork, or to be a part of the teachers movement to stand up for their rights against the Ayub regime, or to nurture the English teachers’ organization SPELT (Society of Pakistan English Language Teachers) to create opportunities and provide training for classroom practitioners with limited resources. He was with me in his own unobtrusive way. Continue reading

Continuing Stories: Social Action and Change – Ruqaiya Hasan

Michael Halliday, Ruqaiya Hasan, Dr M. Sarwar and Zakia Sarwar, Karachi 1970's

By Ruqaiya Hasan

At the heart of every story are individuals – real or fashioned by imagination, crafted by inevitably evaluating memories, and mythologised by history.  At the heart of the story being told here today is also an individual, a Dr Mohammad Sarwar, very real to me, dear as a brother, and always present to my mind though no longer laughing and talking among us. When I first met him in 1964 on a visit to Pakistan, he was to me just a likeable young man, a newly acquired relative – the husband of my sister, Zakia.  He seemed full of fun and easy going, with a gentle sense of humour – so gentle you could miss it if you were not an attentive listener.  It did not take long to find behind this relaxed carefree demeanour, the reflective Sarwar, with a strong social conscience. Continue reading

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

Remembering those who have passed on

Minal and Maha with Dr Sarwar (Zakia in background), Jan 2009

Minal and Maha with Dr Sarwar (Zakia in background), Jan 2009

On special occasions like Eid or Navratri, we especially remember those who have passed on. Here is a note from Sehba in Houston relating a conversation with her daughter Minal who turns five years old on Sept 21 (happy birthday Minal, and thanks for your words of wisdom and love):

Right now, we’re in the car doing errands. Minal had a busy morning playing with one of my friend’s kids. Suddenly, she says: “Every one dies no matter what.”

Reně and I nod.

She adds: “I miss Nana. Sometimes I stay up at night and cry for him.”

“You do?” I ask.

“I wish I’d talked to him before he died.”

This just came out of the blue. We hadn’t talked about Babba for sometime. But maybe she was thinking about him because we skyped with Beena this morning.

Ali Sardar Jafri, Ismat Chughtai and friends, Karachi, 1980 (?) – Photos by S.M. Shahid

Photos by the photographer and musicologist S.M. Shahid, taken at the Arts Council in 1980 or so, when Ali Sardar Jafri and Ismat Chughtai visited Pakistan. Also photographed is the late poet Suroor Barabankvi, the prominent jurist Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim along with Dr M. Sarwar and Zakia Sarwar. The well-known television anchor Mujahid Barelvi is visible in one of the photos.

Left to right: Ali Sardar Jafri, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Dr Sarwar, Ismat Chughtai, Zakia Sarwar. Photo: S.M. Shahid

Left to right: Ali Sardar Jafri, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Dr Sarwar, Ismat Chughtai, Zakia Sarwar. Photo: S.M. Shahid

L-r: Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Dr Sarwar, Ismat Chughtai, Zakia Sarwar, Suroor Barabankvi; standing: Mujahid Barelvi. Photo: S.M. Shahid

L-r: Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Dr Sarwar, Ismat Chughtai, Zakia Sarwar, Suroor Barabankvi; standing: Mujahid Barelvi. Photo: S.M. Shahid

Ismat Chughtai, Zakia and Sarwar - Photo: S.M. Shahid

Ismat Chughtai, Zakia and Sarwar - Photo: S.M. Shahid

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.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009%5C08%5C09%5Cstory_9-8-2009_pg13_6

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

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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