KARACHI: A week after the death of Dr Hasan Zafar Arif, the Karachi University Teachers’ Society (KUTS) arranged a condolence meeting to honour the late professor.
Attended by students and teachers who were once taught by Dr Arif, the auditorium exuded frustration and sadness of losing a brave soul. However, the chief guest chair remained empty as the Karachi University Vice-Chancellor failed to turn up for the meeting.
A political philosopher, Dr Arif is remembered as a fatherly figure by all his students. He was generally found sitting among his students on the floor, engaging in debates on politics, life and philosophy, recalled a former student. “The level of his intellect was second to none.”
Speakers at the event reminisced how the professor would spend his salary helping other students. His love for daal chawal and cigarettes was a constant in his life.
Dr Arif, one of the founding members and president of KUTS, would create a trance when delivering a lecture and demanded the immediate attention of all listening. His niece recalled how, during his student days, the lifelong socialist would come prepared for class by having read so extensively on the topic that he would explain it better than the professors.
The human rights activist was a prominent figure in the struggle during General Ziaul Haq’s regime – he was suspended and even jailed. Despite being a vocal leftist, Dr Arif did not shy away from helping his staunch opponents from right-wing political organisations when needed. One of the speakers at the event described him as someone who loved even his enemies.
One thing all speakers agreed on was the simplicity of the man. His niece narrated how sometimes his work would be published by people claiming it as theirs. He would always reply with “It’s okay, I will write more.”
Once the Pakistan Peoples Party came into power in the late 1980s, Dr Arif was in a position to ‘ask’ for his reinstatement at Karachi University but he waited for the Benazir Bhutto-led government to take the initiative – which it never did.
Staying away from the political sphere for years by drowning himself in philosophy and literature, Dr Arif reemerged on the political scene in 2016 when he announced to join a mainstream political party.
Thirty years after his first arrest, the human rights activist was picked up again. This time he remained in custody for over five months.
Last week, his body was found under mysterious circumstances, giving rise to all manner of speculations. As defined by a speaker mourning his death, the professor was a whirlpool when he was alive and left chaos in his death. While his death has been officially declared of ‘natural causes’, many do not believe this is true.
As his former students, friends and family promised to keep his legacy alive by demanding a chair or a department to be named after him, one of the organisers was adamant that KUTS will not let his voice be silenced.
One speaker at the condolence quoted Dr Arif’s most frequent line that the “Truth should not be taken for granted, truth has to be pursued”. The legacy of Dr Arif will continue with people seeking truth instead of relying on what they are told.
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