A beloved jurist passes on

Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim (12 February 1928-7 January 2020) gained respect early on in his career for refusing to take oath under the military dictatorship of Gen. Ziaul Haq. Through his life he wore many hats — founder member Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Supreme Court judge, Governor Sindh, Chief Election Commissioner, to name some. But a little-known feather in his cap is his pro bono work for the imprisoned leftist and student activists of the 1950s, that he credited for his politicisation. Those, he would say, were “the best days” of his life. Here’s that story as I heard it from him and from my father Dr. M. Sarwar, published in The News on Sunday and The Wire a few days after Fakhru Uncle passed on.

Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim: A fine legacy (online photo)

By Beena Sarwar

As the debate on the much-delayed restoration of student unions in Pakistan gathers momentum, we celebrate and commemorate a beloved jurist who cut his teeth by taking on cases of detained student activists pro bono in the 1950s.

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Remembering Doc: The importance of civil discourse and the art of listening

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

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‘Blood on the streets’

Part one of a series I am working on.

Student mtg 1951 or 52

M. Sarwar addressing a meeting in Karachi, early 1950s, Khaliqdina Hall. Seated left: Rehman Ali Hashmi.

Looking back to look forward: The DSF-led movement of the 1950s eschewed party politics, was inclusive, and focused on student unity. Besides students from medical, engineering and and law colleges, it involved students from girls’ and boys’ high schools, and women’s colleges. 

Below, an extract from my forthcoming memoir on the struggle for democratic spaces in Pakistan. This is from the chapter about the student movement of 1953 that shook the country and laid the foundations for the University of Karachi, published in The Friday Times, Jan. 8, 2016. Thanks to Raza Rumi for pushing me to share this Continue reading

Commemorating Jan 8, 1953: 2013 events, Jan 6 and 8, by DSF and NSF

2012 Jan 8-NSF Demands Day

Re-blogged from Dr M. Sarwar:

As we remember Jan 8, 1953 Demands Day and those who gave their lives for the cause of students’ rights, it is good to see that progressive young people in Pakistan are organising and work for students’ rights, with the revival of Democratic Students Federation and the National Students Federation. In keeping with the rallying cry of the original movement – ‘Student Unity’ – activists of DSF and NSF must put up a united front, and attend and support each others’ events even if they don’t merge into one organisation. Demands should include lifting the ongoing ban on student unions. Below, information about several events being organised this year, some on Jan 6in different cities of Sindh and Punjab by DSF, and NSF event on Jan 8:

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Aur Nikle.nge Ushhaq ke Qafley – my documentary film on Dr Sarwar and DSF

Ok, I finally uploaded the 30 min film on Democratic Students’ Association to the web Aur Nikle.nge Ushhaq ke Qafley (There Will be More Caravans of Passion…) that I produced, directed by Sharjil Baloch. It’s on Youtube (Part 1 and Part 2) as well as on the Dr Sarwar blog.

Dr Ayub Mirza update

Dr Ayub Mirza (right) at a PMA meeting in Pindi

Dr Ayub Mirza, a figure of the 1950s’ student movement and DSF, a life long friend of Faiz Ahmed Faiz and author of Faiz’s biography ‘Hum Keh Thehray Ajnabi’ Dr Ayub Mirza has been seriously ill in Glasgow where he lives. Good news from Eric Rahim: “Ayub is feeling much better. Initially he was in intensive care; three days back he was transferred to coronary care. Last night’s report is that he was feeling better, had had a meal and was sitting in chair. I am hoping to see him this evening and will write.”

Remembering Doc; Farewell Mansoor Saeed

Here is the message I  tweeted this morning: “We remember departed loved ones every day. So why does the ‘barsi’ assume such significance? Doc, yr guiding spirit & love always with us”. He was never one for observing death anniversaries etc – but somehow, the date marks a landmark it’s hard to ignore. Good time to read again ‘Keep the fire burning’ by Zakia Sarwar on the Dr Sarwar blog

Mansoor Saeed - by Sohail Hashmi, New Delhi, 2009

Here’s another tweet I sent later: “Memorial meeting for Mansoor Saeed of CPP, PMA House, Karachi, May 28, 5 pm. Bereaved: Sania, Abida, Ahmer & Pk’s progressive community”…

I was in Delhi last week for the Aman ki Asha economic conference, which went really well. On my last day there, Sunday, I was invited to a small discussion organised by Prof Chaman Lal at JNU, Delhi (Chairperson, Centre of Indian Languages &s an authority on Bhagat Singh). Among the friends there was Sohail Hashmi Continue reading

Seminar: Why Student Politics? & our documentary film

Title for the documentary film by K.B. Abro

Seminar on “Why student politics?” May 5, 11.30 am-1.00 pm in Islamabad at National Institute of Pakistan Studies (Quaid e Azam University campus). The documentary film ‘Aur NikleiN Ge Ushaq ke Qafley’ (And There Shall be More Caravans of Passion) on Dr M. Sarwar the 1950s student movement that Sharjil Baloch and I made will also be screened. The event is organised by students and faculty. All are welcome, and so is feedback

Upcoming event: Jan 9, 2010

SAVE THE DATE Jan 9, 2010, 4.30 pm,
Arts Council Bokhari Open Air Auditorium, Karachi

LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD

Programme, compered by Rahat Kazmi, includes: Honouring the January 1953 movement activists, a documentary film on Pakistan’s first nation-wide student movement, comments by young activists Alia Amirali (QAU), Varda Nisar (Karachi University), Amar Sindhu (Jamshoro University) and Ali Cheema (LUMS); poetry by Fehmida Riaz, renditions by Tina Sani; concluding remarks by I.A. Rehman and performance by the popular band Laal. More details at the Dr Sarwar blog.

Students welcome. For passes contact (tel.) +92-21-3585 3156;
(cell) +92-300-2413103; or email: info@pmc.com.pk or contact The Second Floor

‘Students who set the tone’


Thanks to Zubeida Mustafa for her well-researched and timely article in Dawn today Students who set the tone. 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 Zubeida Mustafa 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 mentioned in Zubeida Mustafa’s article are available the Dr Sarwar 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.

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