Dr Sarwar passes on – memorial meeting May 31st

He passed on peacefully in his sleep with his characteristic calm and dignity,

Sarwar, Jan 2007. Photo: Anwar Sen Roy, BBC

Sarwar, Jan 2007. Photo: Anwar Sen Roy, BBC

shortly after we said goodnight… Here is the note we sent to the press that day (forgot to mention his role in the Medical Gazette, one of the founding members of a publication that provided a platform for progressive political views in dark times):

Dr M. Sarwar passes on

KARACHI, May 26: One of Karachi’s oldest general practitioners, well known physician and former student leader Dr Mohammad Sarwar passed away peacefully in his sleep at home early this morning, May 26 in Karachi, after a prolonged bout with cancer. He was 79.

A memorial meeting is scheduled at PMA House on Sunday, May 31 at 6.30 pm.

Dr Sarwar, Karachi, 2004

Dr Sarwar, Karachi, 2004

Brief bio:

Born in Allahabad, he came to Karachi for ‘sightseeing’ in 1948 and stayed on when he got admission in Dow Medical College. He was instrumental in forming Pakistan’s first student union, the Democratic Students Federation (DSF). He served as DSF’s President and Secretary General before the Mohammad Ali Bogra government banned it in 1954. He was also the driving force behind the Inter-Collegiate Body (ICB) comprising student unions in different colleges and the All Pakistan Students Organisation (APSO), established in 1953.

Sarwar spearheaded the January 8, 1953 ‘Demands Day’ that spelled out the needs of students, including the establishment of a full-fledged university campus (now Karachi University). He tried to prevent the students from surging forward in the face of the police threat when the procession reached Saddar. Sarwar was injured in the police firing that killed seven students that day, commemorated for years as a ‘Black Day’.

APSO brought together college students from all over the country to demand students’ rights regardless of their politics or ideology. The organisation’s influence was visible in the 1954 elections in former East Pakistan when a student leader defeated seasoned politician Noor-ul-Amin.

DSF also published the fortnightly award-winning journal Students’ Herald, edited by the well-known economist S.M. Naseem, then a student activist.

Dr Sarwar received his final medical college results in 1954 while he was in prison for a year — the McCarthy era in the United States impacted Pakistan as well and progressive elements here were rounded up and incarcerated. His elder brother, journalist Mohammad Akhtar (1926-58) was arrested shortly afterwards. Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, then an upcoming lawyer, defended many of these political prisoners, including their friend Hasan Nasir who was tortured to death later.

After graduation, Dr Sarwar worked as a general physician with various health services until setting up his own clinic in Gulbahar (New Golimar) where he practiced for over forty years. He was also one of the pioneers of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) where he was twice elected general secretary. PMA played a vital role in progressive politics during the 1980s. During the Zia years, the PMA was one of the important ‘civil society’ organisations that consistently stood for democratic politics.

Dr Sarwar will be remembered for his inspirational leadership, generosity of spirit, warmth of character and clear-headed political vision.

He is survived by his wife, well known educationist and teacher trainer Zakia Sarwar, and three children, Beena Sarwar, Sehba Sarwar, and Salman Sarwar and three granddaughters, Maha, Myah and Minal.

Some news reports:

In memory of Dr Mohammad Sarwar Wednesday, May 27, 2009
By Shahid Husain

http://tinyurl.com/sarwar-news

By Ahmed Reza, BBC Urdu, 26 may, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/sarwar-bbc

Student politics pioneer Dr M Sarwar passes on, Tuesday, 26 May, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/sarwar-dawn

In memory of Dr Mohammad Sarwar Wednesday, May 27, 2009

By Shahid Husain

http://tinyurl.com/sarwar-news

Ahmed Reza, BBC Urdu, 26 may, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/sarwar-bbc

Thanks for your message. We’re grateful he passed on peacefully in his sleep with his characteristic calm and dignity, shortly after we said goodnight…

Here’s a link to a news report about him

Student politics pioneer Dr M Sarwar passes on, Tuesday, 26 May, 2009

http://tinyurl.com/sarwar-dawn

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