On January 14, a Professor of Philosophy was found dead in the backseat of a car in Karachi. The deceased was identified as Professor Hassan Zafar Arif. He was a senior faculty member of Karachi University. He was known for his vocal criticism of the capitalist system and his struggle against dictatorships. He strongly believed that a moderate, liberal society could lead the country to a prosperous future. In the pursuit of this future, he not only taught his students academic philosophy, but also honed their minds for ideological intellect.
As a President of Teacher’s association, he solved many pending grievances of fellow teachers and played an active role in securing permanent contracts for temporary teachers. He was a arrested by General Jehandad, who was the Governor of Sindh at the time for raising his voice in favour of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and speaking out against General Ziaul Haq. When he was offered a settlement, he turned it down.
Arif played an instrumental role in Benazir Bhutto’s smooth return. In the 1980’s he carried out rallies in her favour. During his famous protest in Regal Chowk, he made headlines when a policeman dragged him into a police van. Next morning, a leading newspaper had the headline ‘DSP vs PhD’.
As a left wing ideologist he formed ‘Pakistan Forum’ to promote intellectual debates on Tarraqi Pasand Tehreek with Sibt-e-Hassan, Dr Ishrat Hussain and Dr Feroz Ahmed. His magazine created awareness for the struggle of PPP, which severely antagonised the Zia administration. He was also very active during the MRD movement. Along with this, the formation of the PSF student organisation in Karachi University can also be credited to him. He was known for having close ties with various sections of society, including grass roots labour, the middle class and society’s moderate secular circles.
Upon his dismissal from Karachi University, Begum Nusrat Bhutto asked him to organize the PSF. He also translated Marxist literature and produced booklets in Urdu. At one time, he also helped the PML-N during their struggle against dictatorship, but soon got disappointed when the Sharif’s couldn’t perform according to his expectations. Following this, he chose to live as a recluse for many years until he decided to get involved in urban Sindh’s politics.
Hassan Zafar Arif always chose the difficult path. He stayed loyal to his leftist roots and promoted moderate, secular ideology. The man’s life itself is like a history book, a philosophy book and a politics book all rolled into one. It is a book with many chapters, each has a story to tell, a lesson to learn and a tragedy to mourn
Hassan Zafar Arif always chose the difficult path. He stayed loyal to his leftist roots and promoted moderate, secular ideology. The man’s life itself is like a history book, a philosophy book and a politics book all rolled into one. It is a book with many chapters, each has a story to tell, a lesson to learn and a tragedy to mourn.
The life of a teacher of this calibre and qualification needs to be celebrated. Unfortunately, apprehension surrounded his autopsy, funeral prayers and burial. Many red flags were raised and many questions were left unanswered. Nobody was able to offer their respects at his funeral.
His demise can be blamed on many factors, as Karachi is going through complete lawlessness and has become a safe haven for many banned outfits. The city is plagued by gang wars, a corrupt police and a worsening political tug of war for control of its vote bank.
Who is to blame for the Professor’s death? The PSP? One of the many MQMs? The PPP? A random mugger? We can’t jump to any conclusions. Currently, Rangers are conducting an operation in Karachi. The operation falls under the National Action Plan (NAP), but it seems like Sindh still might be getting more chaotic.
What definitely played a role in the death of Hassan Zafar Arif was his life struggle, his passion and his uncompromising nature. There is mysterious silence everywhere making this murder more suspicious and creating scepticism. Did the free press also die on Sunday?
Today, millions of educated youth aimlessly roam the streets of Pakistan, not knowing that just a few days ago, a true Pakistani educationist tragically died in the back seat of a car. For obvious reasons, the Medico Legal system has failed to identify the real cause of his death. Can one blame them for this ‘white lie’? Without sufficient evidence, one cannot point fingers at anyone. Better blame it on his PhD instead.
The writer is a social and civil right activist and very vocal on Human Right violations across the globe. He works as Host/Producer (Current Affairs) at a leading news channel of North America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @anis_farooqui
Published in Daily Times, January 17th 2018.