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The Pakistan Progressive Movement | SARRC

Conserving the Archives of Progressive Pakistan

Project Abstract

This project will work to conserve the material legacies of Pakistan's progressive movements through inventory and documentation of print, audio, and video items housed at the South Asia Resource and Research Center (SARRC) in Islamabad. The collection includes court cases against democratic activists, journals, pamphlets of collectives opposing military rule, oral history interviews of feminists and agrarian activists, and social justice documentaries on minority Christians. It also includes folk literature in vernaculars like Punjabi and Sindhi by artists challenging the dominance of the national Urdu language.

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Explore the Collection

  • Explore the South Asian Research & Resource Center, an archive of documents and other materials preserving Pakistan’s progressive political history. The website includes a searchable database with item level data about every item in the collection, totalling 45,668 items. The full index is also available for exploration and use as an excel file.
  • Consider SARRC's unique and most endangered sub collections (download). In close consultation with Founder and Custodian, Muhammad Salim Khawaja, the SARRC team has identified 2,345 items in its collection, which we believe constitute SARRC’s most unique and endangered materials. Most of the identified material consists of key magazines and journals published by various pre- and post Partition progressive intellectuals, editors, authors, writers, literary figures and movements in what constitutes Pakistan today. The remaining items consist of miscellaneous, loose documents that have been organized in boxes. These include rare documents which – because they are of social movements, progressive figures, and political opposition – are simply unavailable in public archives and – when government documents – extremely difficult to access in state ones.   Noteable examples include:
    • Viewpoint Founded by Mazhar Ali Khan (1917.’93), socialist intellectual, veteran journalist, and former editor of the Pakistan Times (1947-’96). Also father of the UK-based left intellectual, Tariq Ali.

    • [pakistan forum] Founded by left-wing scholar Feroz Ahmed; included political scientist, anti-war activist Eqbal Ahmad and Marxist philosopher and literary theorist Aijaz Ahmad.

    • [zanjeer] Founded by Hassan Nisar (1951-present), a prominent TV anchor still active today. Magazine published articles in support of Pakistan People’s Party.

    • Pakistan Mazdoor Kisan Party The Maoist Workers and Peasants Party espoused indigenous, anti-caste, Maoist politics in southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. One box contains miscellaneous documents, including the MKP Circular, the party organ of the party.

    • Biography of Masud Khadar Posh (1916-1985) The unpublished biography of Masud Khadar Posh, a progressive member of the movement for Pakistan and later a civil servant who played a key role in agricultural reforms within Pakistan. He was known for always wearing khadar posh, cotton cloth, specifically a simple local cotton cloth.

    • Political Posters, miscellaneous This box includes various political posters, including of anti-war movements within Pakistan against the Vietnam War, and a series of powers protesting the banning of student unions in Pakistan by the second military regime of Zia ul Haq.


Related Resources

  • Revolutionary Papers | Revolutionary Papers is a transnational research collaboration exploring 20th century periodicals of Leftanti-imperial and anti-colonial critical production. "The initiative looks at the way that periodicals—including newspapers, magazines, cultural journals, and newsletters—played a key role in establishing new counter publics, social and cultural movements, institutions, political vocabularies and art practises. Operating as forums for critique and debate under conditions of intense repression, periodicals facilitated processes of decolonization during colonialism and after the formal end of empire, into the neo-colonial era. Revolutionary Papers traces the ways that periodicals supported social, political and cultural reconstruction amidst colonial destruction, building alternative networks that circulated new political ideas and dared to imagine worlds after empire." Explore more >
  • Revolutionary Papers: Teaching Tools | These teaching tools highlight methods of research to bring out relevant insights about periodicals and the politics and pedagogies they were steeped in at the time and since then. Some materials featured in the teaching modules are preserved and cared for at the South Asia Resource and Research Center (SARRC) and have been organized with funds from MEAP.