Student Movement in Pakistan

Students Movement Pakistan

“Hum jo Tareek rahoan mein marai gai,” (We, who were ambushed in dark alleys…) — Faiz Ahmad Faiz.1
During their 200-year rule over India, the British colonizers had, among other self-serving measures, introduced an education system which would inhibit innovation and produce clerks for their administration. In spite of that, the movement for liberty and social justice grew among Indians.
In the last five decades of foreign rule, students emerged as a credible force for change. In August 1936 an all India Students Conference was held in Lucknow (UP). Pundit Nehru inaugurated the conference, and M.A. Jinnah presided over it. Delegates chosen by district and provincial student bodies formed the All India Students Federation (ASIF). Three months after the initial conference, another meeting was held in Lahore, (Punjab). Sarat Bose, in his presidential address, dwelt at length on analysis of the political upheaval in the country, and what he thought the role of students was.
AISF held its sixth session in Nagpur, capital of the Indian province named central province CP, (now renamed Madhya Pradesh, MP) on December 25, 1940. The agenda of this conference was to chart a line of action and policy against the colonial rule. A majority of delegates advocated a more militant stance against the British rule than the one favored by the Indian National Congress (INC) under Gandhi. Dr. Ashraf, a revolutionary leader branded Satya Graha, the passive resistance offered by Gandhi, a weak response to the aggressive control of the colonial power. Disagreeing with the prevalent opinion and after failure to evolve a common platform, the section that favored INC seceded from the main body. Led by Dr. Ashraf and M. Mukerjee, AISF emerged as a credible player in the struggle for independence and remained active in the post independence days. In 1947 its membership was 74,000.
1. The leading progressive Urdu poet mentioned in an earlier chapter, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature and was awarded Lenin peace prize.
At the 1937 Muslim League (ML) session in Lucknow, an All India Muslim Students Federation was launched. It held its first conference in December 1938 at Calcutta (Bengal). M.A. Jinnah presided over the session, and Raja Amir Muhammad of Mahmoodabad was elected the President. Students were, as noted in a previous chapter, destined to play a vital and historic role in the Pakistan movement.
In October 1947 Jinnah, inaugurating an educational conference convened in Karachi by the government of Pakistan (GOP), declared that during the century long foreign rule adequate attention was not paid to public education. “If we are to really develop at a fast pace, we will have to give prime importance to education in our national agenda. Our education should not only reflect our history and culture, but also pay due heed to progressive thought and economic and scientific progress. We must not forget that the world is moving ahead very fast.” An educational research center with a mandate to advise and guide the government was established after the conference.
Very soon after Jinnah died, the Muslim League degenerated into internecine conflict over distribution of government ministries. Muslim Students Federation (MSF) also split into factions. All the groups became an appendage of league leaders who used the students unscrupulously.
At the end of 1948, responding to the indifference of powers that be, a few progressive students founded a small group in Lahore called Democratic Students Federation (DSF). DSF participated in Union elections in different colleges. Prominent among its leaders were Abid Manto in Rawalpindi and Akhtar Naqvi in Lahore. 1. In Karachi, DSF was formed first in Dow Medical College in 1950. Islami Jamiat e Talaba, the student wing of Jamaat e Islami formed in 1948, confined itself to proselytization and convened small gatherings in mosques.
Post establishment of Pakistan, feudal lords obtained control of the government, which became total after Liaquat, Jinnah’s designated heir apparent, was assassinated in October 1951.

The Struggle of Bengali Students:
Students in undivided Bengal were, if anything, even more militant in the struggle for freedom than their counterparts in the rest of the country. Poets, Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore and Nazrul Islam, and other progressive writers intellectually influenced them. In contrast to West Pakistan, where non-Muslims formed the bulk of students, a sizable number of Muslim students in the Western side, participated in the campaigns and were to play a large role in the 1971 war of secession. In contrast to the Western side, Hindus did not leave en-masse at the time of partition.
1. Manto, now a leading attorney and a prominent progressive leader based in Lahore, Pakistan.
East Pakistan had two popular student organizations-East Pakistan Students Federation and East Pakistan Students League. Educationists were mostly from the Western wing and wanted to impose Urdu as the sole medium of instruction.
After partition Pakistani Bengalis, in a spirit of nascent nationalism, had accepted the over lordship of non-Bengalis in the government at the center and domination of their business, commerce and administration in the province. But they were not prepared to accept a subsidiary status for their language. Jinnah, no doubt, from motives of using one language to cement national solidarity, had declared Urdu the only official language of Pakistan. But Urdu was spoken at home by less than five percent of the total population while Bengali was spoken by 55%.
Dhaka University students led the language campaign. The movement had the support of middle and lower economic class activists. On February 22, 1952 the police opened fire on a group of Dhaka Medical College students. Twenty-five students were killed and many more injured. Such a storm of protest, indignation and condemnation followed that the government surrendered and accepted the demand that Bengali be established as the state language. It also marked the first time that a struggle against a repressive regime was spearheaded by a joint front of students and the public.

Overview of the Student Movement
In order to get a clear idea of the student movement in Pakistan, we have to look at the religious makeup of the educational institutions in the regions which became East and West Pakistan. Before partition Hindu and Sikh students dominated the educational institutions in what became West Pakistan. In 1945, Dow Medical College in Karachi had only two Muslims out of a class of fifty. Following partition they left behind a vacuum in the Punjab which was filled by immigrants from India. Sindh, on the other hand, did not experience a whole scale exodus of non-Muslims. Refugees, though, inundated Karachi; its population quickly swelled from about hundred and fifty thousand to twelve hundred thousand.
The Muslim Students Federation was formed at the N.E.D Engineering College Karachi in 1947. Ahmad Khan Barakzai was the first President. I interviewed an activist of the time, the late Mr. Nooruddin Sarki, then a leading attorney of Karachi. After a brief mention of the federation, he went on to enumerate the names of Karachi medical students of the time — M. Haroon, M Sarwar, and Rahman Hashmi — all immigrants, as the pioneers of the student’s movement.
Punjabis on both sides of the divide had borne the brunt of the worst excesses of partition. The traumatic experience they had passed through was unprecedented in the annals of human history. All they wanted was to be left alone, to pick up the pieces and live as normal a life as they could. It, therefore, took a long time for the young immigrants in Punjab and the few among the locals to get together and plan for the future.
Initially the youth wing of Maulana Maududi’s Jamaat e-Islam provided the only semblance of organized student life in the Punjab. The Student wing eschewed electoral politics. In NWFP, the student wing of Khudai Khitmatgars (Servants of God) of Ghaffar Khan had been discredited as they had sided with the Indian National Congress. Balochistan was the most feudal–tribal ridden and the least developed of the provinces in West Pakistan. Its only city Quetta was totally dominated by non-Muslims in pre-independence days.
Sindh already had a vibrant body of student activists; its traditions went back to the early twentieth century. The province was known for the cordial relations between its religious groups. It did not have any communal riots till 1948 and those conflicts were between the immigrants and non-Muslims. A substantial percentage of Hindus actually stayed back in the interior of the province.
Muslim refugees from India heading towards Sindh had arrived relatively unscathed. Given the comparatively intact, though depleted cadre of activists into whom the new arrivals easily merged, the student movement in the Western wing in early years was for all practical purposes confined to Karachi. Mostly left wing in their leanings-because of family connections, indoctrination or chaotic conditions — they launched a movement for better educational facilities such as decent classrooms, libraries, laboratories and a reduction in fees and a provision for textbooks to be free or at subsidized rates and above all the right to organize.
DSF leaders in Karachi gave the overall lead to the national students movement. Curiously enough, the core of the leadership came from Dow Medical College, Karachi that produced such leaders as Sarwar, Haroon and Hashmi. The college was also to produce arguably the most prominent of student leaders — Sher Afzal who figured prominently in student politics in the late 1950s to mid-1960s. Sarwar was the first president of DSF. Its headquarters were in room 29, Mitha Ram Hostel, in the middle of a commercial area.
By late 1952 the movement had gathered sufficient strength to take on the government. Students took out processions, and led marches in Karachi on January 6, 7, and 8 in 1953. National and International press gave them sympathetic coverage. Prime Minister Nazimuddin called the leaders to his official residence for a meeting on January 7, 1953 to discuss their demands. The education Minister Fazlur Rahman and senior officials of the ministry attended the conference. Students left the meeting with the impression that their demands had been accepted. In the official press release, however, agreement was denied.
Enraged, students went on a rampage and finding a car with an official flag on it parked in Saddar, the most fashionable commercial area at the time, surrounded it. Its occupant turned out to be none other than the police minister, Mushtaq Gurmani. The police panicked and attacked the students with tear gas. The minister succumbed to gas fumes and had to be carried away. By this time a mob had gathered. It put the car to torch and also looted some liquor shops and ammunition stores, brandishing captured guns to frighten the police.
The police retaliated by opening fire on a group of students in front of Paradise Cinema in Saddar. Twenty-six students were killed. Nainsuk Lal, a boy scout helping an injured striker, was the first fatal casualty. Several flags got soaked in blood. The public joined in the protest. The city was paralyzed and life came to a halt. All leaders of the opposition, trade unions and student groups condemned the police brutality.
The government appealed to the students to help regain peace and calm. Kazim, the overall leader of the movement, generously and in a national spirit announced that the government had accepted their demands. The GOP, instead of responding gratefully to Kazim’s gesture of goodwill and considering the students’ demand sympathetically, banned DSF and put student leaders in jail.
The repressive measures of the GOP could not quite suppress the movement. Student leaders from East and West Pakistan got together and gave a call for the All Pakistan Students convention in December 1953. Sarwar was elected the Chairman of the convening committee. Delegates from colleges all over the country participated. M. Mateen and Khaliquzzaman came from East Pakistan. The Punjab delegation was led by Abid Manto, then of Rawalpindi. Alia Imam represented the Indian students as an observer. She ended up being deported from the country. Sindh had the largest representation, reflective not just of contiguity, but also of its politically conscious cadres. It was led by Syed Mazhar Jameel, now a leading literary critic, art historian and attorney of Karachi. There was even a delegation from Government College, Quetta, a veritable backwaters, led by Kamil Qadri, a leftist student leader who had ended up in the College and had been able to concoct a delegation.
To coincide with Martyr’s day, convention dates were fixed in January 1954. The venue was Katrak Hall in Saddar. Messages of solidarity came from student bodies all over the world. Law minister A.K. Brohi agreed to be the Chief Guest. He was an intellectual, and a bright star of the cabinet. Sarwar, at the minister’s request, escorted him from his official residence to the meeting. The pair arrived at the hall only to find the place in pandemonium. Gurmani, the police minister, was still smarting at the public humiliation of his car being burnt to cinders and himself being carried away, unconscious. His cabinet colleague Brohi, notwithstanding, he had orchestrated disruption of the convention. The City administration had sent gangsters to subvert the proceedings. Police followed to quell the disorder. Both beat up the students, the latter in a more brutal fashion.
School students were special targets, probably because they were smaller in size and could be punched and kicked with impurity.
Student leaders, wise in the ways of the police, had taken the precaution of organizing a defense squad led by none other than Adeeb Rizvi, later to distinguish himself for his work in Kidney diseases and founder of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplant (SIUT). Sher Afzal Malik was a sort of Red Guard Lieutenant Commander of the security detail. He blocked a gangster, who was later to become a respectable small trader’s union leader, from throwing a girl from an upper floor balcony, in the nick of time.
Volunteers somehow managed to control the situation for long enough to enable Brohi to conclude his address, but the rest of the proceedings had to be moved to Model school premises in Pakistan Chowk, another commercial area in the town. The convention passed a resolution to form All Pakistan Students Organization (APSO), elected Sarwar as the General Secretary General and Iqbal, a right-winger, as the President. Numerous student organizations in small and large towns of all the provinces of West Pakistan decided to merge with it. Bengali delegates pledged that they would seek the approval of their groups to do the same.
Reacting to police and gangster brutality, enraged students spread all over the city. The press and public again supported them. Police dared not take overt action, so bloodshed was avoided. But many students were arrested and spent months in jail. Pakistan joined the Western Security organizations in 1954 and by a queer coincidence (or design), APSO was also banned about the same time.
The National student’s Federation (NSF) had been a parallel moderate-right wing student body. It had been totally eclipsed by DSF. Second-generation student leaders Wadood, Sibghat and others negotiated with NSF and a merger meeting was convened in early 1955 in an apartment in a building in Moulvi Musafar Khana off Bunder Road, Karachi. Some 50–60 students, almost equally divided between left-wingers and moderates, attended. A coalition was worked out.
Life as a day scholar in those long-gone days was very chaotic. Some of us attended classes. Others spent time in the cafeteria or in jobs. Teachers fully cognizant of the parlous state of our finances, and worse living conditions at home, gave us wide latitude. But we had a vibrant social, intellectual and political life. Karachi debaters were known for their oratorical prowess and won trophies from Lahore, the only other city of note in West Pakistan, as a matter of course. The one activity of particular note I recall from those days was the procession we took out to protest the attack of Britain, France and Israel on the Suez Canal. We went around to various colleges and schools and appealed to the students to come with us.
One of the notable student leaders during this period was Fatehyab Ali Khan. He later joined the Mazdoor Kisan Party and rose to be its president. Another student leader to make his mark at the time was Mairaj Muhammad Khan, an emotional orator, and younger brother of a leftist luminary who was a well-known journalist. Mairaj was befriended by Z.A Bhutto, and was once introduced by him to the public as one of his successors. Bhutto appointed Mairaj to his cabinet. Mairaj maintained his links with trade unions and once Bhutto had crushed the unions, sacked Mairaj and put him in jail.
Among other pioneers, M. Shafi, a brilliant debater, was a spent force by the time I met him in 1955-56. Barkaat Alam, a party ideologue par excellence, had also been sidelined. He migrated to Britain and settled in Glasgow. Another prominent activist, Saghir Ahmad, joined Pakistan International Airlines and was the main force behind the airline officers’ union.
All these undoubtedly talented young men had to play second fiddle to and resented Sher Afzal, who was molded by Hasan Nasir, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP). Hasan Nasir indoctrinated him in communist theology and imposed him on leaders senior to him in hierarchy. A man of great innate qualities, Sher Afzal could converse at all levels with intellectuals, students and industrial workers. Punjabi was his mother tongue, but he had gone to a school in Peshawar, and spoke Pushto like a native. In Karachi he had learnt Gujerati and Sindhi as well. He was fluent in Urdu though it was hardly chaste and managed English well enough. He had great organizational skills and had a devoted circle of admirers from all linguistic groups.
He was elected president of Dow Medical students union in 1956. The union made some radical demands. The administration would not agree. A dozen or so activists, Sher Afzal among them and including a few girls, went on a hunger strike. It lasted many days and gathered sufficient public support to make no less a person than H.S. Suharwardy, the Prime Minister at the time, to visit the college and gave Sher Afzal a drink to break his fast. A natural populist, Suharwardy accepted all students’ demands. BBC, Tass and other international agencies flashed the news.
Sher Afzal grew from strength to strength. He had a say in the upper counsels of left wing political parties led by Bhashani and Wali Khan and was welcomed by the likes of Suharwardy in their private homes. He had a devoted band of admirers. He also earned the barely concealed hostility of the entrenched leaders of the left in Karachi. This was to have a far-reaching impact on his political fortunes. After completing his tenure of office in the students union, he became the president of NSF.
Sher Afzal chose a close friend and political understudy Mahboob Ali, as the party nominee to contest the office of the president of Dow Medical College Students’ Union. Cultured, intelligent, honest and sincere, Mahboob was very knowledgeable in political theory as well, but was not an effective speaker. He spoke very fast; words ran over each other, which at times made him unintelligible. Another student in Mahboob’s class, an Urdu speaker, but brought up in NWFP and therefore fluent in Pashto, wanted the nomination. He was vain, shallow and pompous and did not deserve the honor. Mahboob’s opponent in the election, nominated by a right wing group, was a political nobody.
We all thought that Mahboob would certainly be elected. Out of overconfidence, he made the tactical error of designating the self same rival as his representative at the polling station. This was to cost him and us dearly. As the polling agent, the man’s primary job was to object to any dubious ballots of his principal’s opponent. The man never questioned a single ballot of the other candidate.
Mahboob lost by one vote.
Abdullah Siddiqi, Mahboob’s running mate as General Secretary, however, won the office. Abdullah had been a top ranked student and had a brilliant and incisive political mind. His dedication was total and integrity unquestioned. He became a doctor in 1958. The political bug had bitten him and he wanted to pursue a career in politics. This was the time of high ferment in public affairs in Pakistan. General elections were due in a few months’ time. Time was ripe to introduce new talent to the ranks. But the party bosses ignored him. Disillusioned, he left for the USA and later settled in Canada.
Martial law of 1958 intervened and changed the ground rules. Sher Afzal was soon to lose his patron Hasan Nasir to extra-judicial murder in Lahore fort. Knives were soon out against him. The bosses persuaded him to transfer to the trade union front. But they panicked when he managed to revitalize the industrial workers organizations and continued to influence students through his successor. They had inadvertently handed over two fronts to him and asked him to resume control of the student affairs. His acquiescence turned out to be a serious mistake.
Martial law had proscribed student unions and college elections. After a hiatus of two years, our military administrator, a doctor Naqi, Lt. Col. in rank, enlightened as army men go, allowed elections in 1959. Ali Ahmad, an amiable gentleman, ideologically well grounded though a bit of a practical joker, won the President’s office. His term was comparatively uneventful. We were lying low. About the only agitation we indulged in was the comparatively tame affair of getting the examination date postponed.
As the next election time approached, caucuses were held to choose candidates. Hasan Rizvi was selected to contest for the presidency and I was nominated to be his running mate as General Secretary. Rizvi won; I lost to a friend who was a good debater and a likeable person too. Our nominees for other union offices lost too. Rizvi was isolated but he was an astute political worker and kept union affairs in control.
We were depressed and found ourselves at a loose end. The electoral loss was a serious setback for Sher Afzal. Indians and Pakistanis are only a little less conscious of “face” than the Chinese are.
A fierce struggle was simultaneously going on between Sher Afzal and the higher party bosses in Karachi. The bosses had been firmly entrenched in their power bases, especially in the airline and journalist unions. Enjoying their perks and privileges, hands in glove with the management, they were given to selling out their followers. Rising fortunes of Sher Afzal were a mortal threat to them.
Sher Afzal too was looking for an opportunity to retrieve lost ground. Patrice Lumumba, a firebrand left leaning nationalist Prime Minister of Belgian Congo had been assassinated by imperialist agents. Sher Afzal decided to pin his hopes on a successful show of strength in a student led protest march.
NSF gave a call for a day of protest marches and meetings. The call was heeded in Dhaka, Lahore, Peshawar and many other cities in the country. We went out on the streets in Karachi. But we were a forlorn group of about a hundred, carrying such banners as “Long live Lumumba,” “Death to UN secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld” and “Down with imperialism,” and shouting similar slogans. A few curious onlookers would stare at us, sometimes ask us a few questions, and even go along for a few minutes. Some policemen accompanied us for ten to fifteen minutes, but even they didn’t find us worth the bother and most slipped away. It was a terrible let down.
About the same time communal riots had broken out in Jabalpur, India. There were persistent demands that we organize a protest march on the issue. Sher Afzal was under tremendous pressure. On the one hand, we were strictly secular and should not have anything to do with communal frenzy. On the other hand, this was the glittering prize of a really successful show of strength. The bosses had agents in place and were fully aware of our most secret discussions. They sent agents provocateurs who accosted Sher Afzal in his hostel room. They taunted him, ridiculed him and called him a lackey of the Soviet Union. As never before, his public credibility was at stake.
The next day, the premier English language daily paper, the Dawn, editorialized that our progressives felt more for the cannibals of Africa than for their brethren in faith in India. Our goose was now properly cooked. We were damned if we did, and damned if we did not. Left with no choice, Sher Afzal characteristically threw himself into planning a big gathering and a march to follow.
On the appointed day and time students in the thousands gathered near Pakistan Chowk, which had several college campuses within walking distance. Speeches were made pledging support to Indian Muslims. Police had taken up positions in the broad avenue flanking the meeting. The district magistrate (DM) announced that the government sympathized with Indian Muslims. We had made an impressive protest, authorities will take note and do all they could to protect our co-religionist in India. We should now dispense peacefully.
Sher Afzal agreed and gave a call to disperse. But he and the rest of us had reckoned without an agent provocateur. He snatched the microphone and screamed that our mothers and sisters were being raped in India and we were being asked to disperse peacefully and demanded that we take out the procession as planned.
It was obviously a signal. Flags and banners hoisted on long bamboo poles were grabbed and scores rushed at the police. They responded with tear gas and Lathi (Baton) charge.
I walked back to the medical college and attended a lecture. Later on, I made rounds of Hospital wards where the injured student leaders had been brought. I returned to my hostel room about midnight and had just gotten into bed when there was a loud knock at the door. Annoyed at the late callers, I opened the door and found a Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Sub Inspector Shah with another two policemen wearing plain clothes. I had been sure that I was not high enough in student leadership to be apprehended; otherwise I would have found a safe house. Shahji told me that the DM had invited students to a meeting. I told him not to be ridiculous, and to tell me plainly that I was being arrested. Shahji told me not to be difficult and come along. I didn’t have a choice.
They took me to a van where I found Anwar Saleem, former General Secretary of Dow Medical College Students’ Union during Ali Ahmed’s tenure. Anwar, who was physically quite impressive, was nattily dressed in a dark blue suit with a maroon tie. I quizzed him on the fancy dress. He told me of the meeting with the DM. I told him not to be a fool; we were being arrested. He shot back that I was the fool.
We arrived at a police station about 2:00 a.m. Anwar Saleem, expecting to be greeted by a magistrate, got out first. A policeman, sighting a handsome well-dressed man, mistook him for a high official and saluted him. Anwar grinning nudged me. A moment later, a police inspector asked the same policeman to lock us up. I couldn’t tell you who was more shocked, the policeman or Anwar.
We were about fifteen detainees in a 10 x 10 cell. Together, our spirits were high. We sang, joked and were quite noisy. Soon after a police superintendent (SP) visited our cell and started hurling abuse at us. He told Sher Afzal that being a Punjabi himself and a former student of his father who was a reputed head master, he felt like a brother to him. He did not expect his brother in spirit to associate with riff raff. Mairaj and Fatehyab protested. They were taken out and slapped right in front of us. They were again taken out of the cell early in the morning and mercilessly beaten.
Our sojourn in the lock up was not without its lighter side. We had settled down to fitful sleep when we were woken up by a commotion some distance away from our cell door. Hasan Rizvi asked a policeman about it and was told that a man in a suit had been brought in. Surmising correctly that it must be Mahboob, Anwar, the only other suited person, was already with us. Rizvi asked his cellmates to adopt a murga pose. Entering the cell, Mahboob was stunned. Rizvi told him that they had been ordered to adopt the pose. He was clearly nonplussed. Everybody burst out laughing. The policeman panicked at the sight of what he thought was collective obeisance, rushed to his inspector that the new one must be the big boss as everyone was prostrating before him. The inspector, annoyed at the sound of loud laughter, ordered that Mahboob be transferred to another cell with hardened criminals. It took an hour’s pleading to get him back with us.
About one hundred and sixty students were eventually transferred to Karachi central jail, and arrived around noon. The jail superintendent told us that he didn’t care about what we had done outside, but if we didn’t behave inside the jail boundary, retribution would be swift; he was the judge, jury and prosecuting attorney all in one. He further informed us that per jail regulations, a prisoner arriving about midday doesn’t get lunch or the evening meal, so we would get breakfast the next day. We groaned audibly. The superintendent glared at us. An elderly man who had joined us told the superintendent not to be a damned fool. We were students, not ordinary criminals. The superintendent appeared to shrink in his uniform at the rude reprimand, especially after he had made such a pompous speech. The white-haired “angel” ordered a guard to go out and get lunch for us. 1. As an afterthought he also ordered cold drinks and cigarettes of the best brand.
The next day food drinks and cigarettes started arriving for us. 2. It seemed the whole city was bent on bringing succor and comfort to us. About thirty of us were herded in a separate barracks, the other one hundred thirty having been released after a few days of incarceration. We spent time singing, telling stories, teasing each other and in political indoctrination. Many poems were written, some too rich and off color to narrate.
Eid (a major Muslim festival, celebrating the end of the month of fasting) fell during our incarceration. Rules were relaxed for the day. The day started with prayers. The jail Imam (prayer leader) had been commanded to lead the official congregation in the City as Maulana Ehtisham Thanvi, the official Moulvi, had had a dispute with the government and boycotted the main congregation. We were left with the deputy Jail Imam. He was a “lifer” convicted for murder and given a twenty-one year jail sentence. 3. The man could not pronounce Urdu words properly, much less Arabic. We could not help giggling during the prayers. During the Dua (special requests to God) after the prayers, we lost all sense of sanctity of the occasion and implored God to mete out severe punishment to our fellow prisoners.
After the prayers we proceeded to other barracks and were entertained with sweets and drinks, some spiked with Bhang (Marijuana) and raw and refined opium. The prisoners put up a stage show in our honor, with songs, dance and drama. It was pretty high standard; the performers had been actors and entertainers in their pre prison life.
1 He was Abdullah, the head of the then notorious Bhatti clan of big time smugglers.
2 We were under trial, not convicted yet, and friends and relatives were allowed to send us food and drinks.
3 Murderers, if not sentenced to death, were given 21 years jail sentence and were called ‘lifers’. After spending 7 years they were made “supervisors” to spy on other prisoners).
One person, in for murdering his paramour in a fit of jealous rage, sticks to memory. He had a haunting voice and accompanied himself with music produced by tapping an empty earthenware pot (ghara). We also met a group of ex-air force officers convicted of some sort of smuggling. They, instead of idling away the hours, had started a crime school teaching tricks of the trade to fellow inmates. We also met an accountant, formerly a senior official in the State Bank (equivalent to the Federal Reserve Bank of the US). He had been convicted of currency fraud and had, according to his own account, stashed away millions in foreign bank accounts.
There was a young man who, after the imposition of martial law in 1958, had impersonated an army colonel and held up a bank. He had been arrested a few days later in a hotel room, lying on a bed covered with currency notes. He normally would grant an interview only by appointment but relented in our case. In the world of crime, like the world of all other professions, respect is strictly related to performance.
We were eventually hauled up before an army brigadier. He reprimanded me severely; I was a grief to my father who had served honorably in World War II. It was very embarrassing. It was very humiliating as well. The man was obnoxiously patronizing. My father was greatly relieved at getting me out. There was even a hint of pride, evoked no doubt by the regard and admiration rendered us by the public.
On my first day back in college I was expecting an expression of goodwill and solitude, but the hero’s welcome took me by a pleasant surprise. They wanted to shake my hands, ask how I had been treated and even my political opponents gave me admiring looks. My friends soon formed a procession, with me at its head, and protested that I should have forewarned them.
Karachi party bosses had, in the meanwhile, made inroads into the NSF. They sent messages to Sher Afzal that he should retire from student politics.
On May 14, 1965, the day before I was to fly to England, a student leader, a distant connection and an erstwhile member of my personal following, visited me. He asked me to appeal to Sher Afzal not to attend the NSF meeting scheduled for the next day, as he would be expelled. I admonished him rather severely, told him to be decent and honorable in dealing with a man whom he and all of us had put on a pedestal not too long ago. Sher Afzal, sensing the predicament he would be in, had told me to warn off my connection that he would fix the person who would move the resolution to expel him. My admonition did have some effect. Extravagant praise was heaped on Sher Afzal in the meeting. He was humbly requested to retire rather than be expelled.
The inner party struggle continued for quite long. The minions of party bosses stooped to mud-slinging.
1. Sher Afzal finally decided to cut loose his ties to Karachi and returned to Peshawar. (I have collected and saved the NSF magazines printed at the time).

By temperament and inclination unsuited to private practice or a government employment, he rightly felt that obtaining the degree was meaningless to him. He was later persuaded to come back and take the examination. He passed the examination, returned to Peshawar again, and opened a drug store in partnership with his brother-in-law. The latter did all the work. Sher Afzal entertained his political cronies and participated in left wing politics.
With his Punjabi/Pathan credentials, work among Karachi students, abounding enthusiasm, good mind, inexhaustible energy and patent ideological integrity, he should have gone far. He should have been catapulted into national politics, but martial law allowed only sycophants to rise. It was a great national loss.

The above has been written in collaboration with Asim Ali Shah, Secretary General of National Students Federation from mid-1980s to mid-1990s. Asim has maintained his activism and lives in London, UK. Asim would like to acknowledge the assistance of advocate Zainuddin Khan Lodhi, one time Secretary General of NSF.
My contribution is based, in addition to my own experiences, on interviews with Messers Nooruddin Sarki, S. Mazhar Jameel and Fatehyab Ali Khan advocates and Drs Muhammad Sarwar, Syed Haroon Ahmad, Muhammad Khurshid and Rasheed Hasan Khan of Karachi and Dr. Hasan Raza Rizvi and Barrister Abid Hasan Manto of Lahore. Barkaat Alam of Glasgow, UK and S.U. Kadri QC of London, both pioneers of the movement, have been of invaluable help.
All the above named are stalwarts of the students’ movement of Pakistan. The list is by no means complete.
I would like to dedicate this document to the January 8, 1953 martyrs and to all who believe in the power of the working class.


I was born in Dewa Sharif, UP, India in 1939.

I went to school from the fourth to eighth class in Gonda, UP and the 9th grade in Jhansi, UP, India.

We moved to Quetta, Pakistan and went to school for the 10th grade and intermediate college in the same town.

I was in Karachi University 1954-57, then Dow Medical College 1957-62. I Was in the National Students Federation from 1954 to 1962, trained in surgery in the Civil Hospital Karachi 1962-65, proceeded to England 1965 and trained in General surgery and orthopedic surgery till 73, when I left for Canada 1973-74, USA 1974-83, back to Karachi 1983 and built a hospital and went back to the USA in 1991, been in the USA since.

I retired from surgery in 2005.

I have worked in various HR and Socialist groups in the USA.

I have Published two books ,:”A Medical Doctor Examines Life on Three Continents,” and ,”God, Government and Globalization”, and am working on the third one, “An Analysis of the Sources and Derivation of Religions”.




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