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KARACHI: One of the iconic figures in the history of leftist students’ politics in the country, Dr Rasheed Hasan Khan died here on Saturday. He was 78.

“He passed away peacefully during his sleep,” said Dr Tipu Sultan, his friend and consultant. He said Dr Khan was a heart patient.

Born in Hyderabad (India), he migrated to Pakistan as a schoolboy. He completed his secondary education in Karachi and graduated from the Dow Medical College. After graduation, he set up welfare clinics in working-class localities of the city.

He was actively involved in the progressive movement, especially in the National Student Federation. He formed his own splinter group of the NSF after a row with the leadership. The group-backed student unions won elections in dozens of educational institutions in Karachi.

He was among the leftist leaders who opposed Gen Yahya Khan’s proposal to designate Karachi as a federal territory after abolition of One Unit. They argued that Karachi should remain part of Sindh. He said the purpose of separating Karachi from Sindh was to hand over the city to the ‘compradors’ and imperialist powers and the rest of the province to feudal lords.

When Gen Yahya imposed a ban on student unions, he was among those who had been arrested during a students’ movement and were tried in a summary military court, which imprisoned them for six months to a year. He was released when One Unit was abolished only to be rearrested for opposing misappropriation in student union funds. The case was sent to a military court, which ordered him to serve the remainder of the sentence passed in the previous case.

In 2010, he quit medical practice and devoted himself to reading and political writing. He remained an active blogger during his lifetime.

He was unmarried and is survived by his family and friends.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2016