‘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

The February 12 pledge, terrorism, and the Malala connection

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police lathi charge demonstrators. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

Lahore, Feb 12, 1983: Police lathi charge demonstrators. Photo: Rahat Ali Dar

The News published a slightly toned down version of my article, The Feb 12 pledge. Un-edited text below, followed by a postscript linking this struggle to Malala. More photos at this link.

Renewing the Feb 12 pledge

By Beena Sarwar

Every February 12 we commemorate Pakistan Women’s Day in honour of those who gathered at Lahore’s Regal Chowk on that day in 1983, defying the military order against public gatherings, to protest Gen. Zia’s ‘Law of Evidence’ that upheld the testimony of a male as equal to that of two females in a court of law. The police attacked the demonstrators with batons and arrested several, including the venerated poet Habib Jalib whom Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif is fond of quoting. Continue reading

Celebrating Dr Sarwar

A few days before he passed on, I had a visual image of Dr Sarwar being welcomed by many of his close friends who had passed on earlier – Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Habib Jalib, Suroor Barabankvi, his brother Akhtar… There are of course so many others. One thing is for sure – they’re together and they’re having a party.

Dr Sarwar with his friends Syed Sibte Hasan and Faiz Ahmed Faiz.    Photo by Dr Haroon Ahmed

Dr Sarwar with his friends Syed Sibte Hasan and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Photo by Dr Haroon Ahmed

We had our own party here in Karachi on May 31 – Pakistan Medical Association held a reference at PMA House for Dr Sarwar titled ‘Celebrating Dr Sarwar’. The event was initiated by his old friend Iqbal Alavi of Irtiqa, who had been one of his jailmates in 1953.

Some 200 people attended. Doc would have enjoyed the gathering, and the music (his favourite jugalbandi by Ustad Bismillah Khan and Ustab Vilayat Khan), the photos (we put together a slide show), the videos (including a clip from the last interview he did, the week before being admitted to hospital and a few clips from a discussion with Dr Yusuf Ali & Dr Ghalib in London I’d recorded in 2001), the tributes and the resolve to move ahead and continue the struggle.

Mairaj Mohammed Khan, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, Salima Hashmi, Dr Badar Siddiqui, Dr Tipu Sultan and others spoke very movingly and from the heart. Tina Sani sang a Faiz poem she had composed, and Arshad Mahmud recited a couple of other Faiz poems for Doc. Aisha Gazdar video taped the event and so did Samaa TV. His Zakia Sarwar also spoke towards the end, very bravely, on what he had meant to her.

Links to a couple of reports about the event:

Progressive student leader remembered – http://tinyurl.com/sarwar-pma-dawn

‘Time to create a left-oriented think tank’ – http://tinyurl.com/sarwar-pma-news

And some earlier reports
In memory of Dr Mohammad Sarwar, The News, May 27, 2009
By Shahid Husain – http://tinyurl.com/sarwar-news

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

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