They say behind every great person and his achievements, stands a woman. The heights that Mir-Khalil-ur-Rahman attained in journalism would not have been possible without the support of his wife, Begum Mehmooda Khalil-ur-Rahman. Her contribution to his success cannot be understated. This interview gives us a glimpse into Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman’s contribution to journalism, the journey of his life and the struggles he underwent. We are proud to present the memorable interview, which was published in 1990.
Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman was orphaned at a very young age and was deprived of his parents’ love and affection. He was the eldest of a large family and had to take care of three brothers and two sisters from a very early age. He was taken in by his paternal uncle, who got him married at a very young age so that he could take care of his siblings. This was the only reason for his early marriage. God is very kind. He found a wonderful partner who had the qualities of an angel, was extremely kind hearted and displayed tremendous empathy for his predicament and struggle. She looked after her husband’s siblings more than her own children and kept them close to her heart and brought them up with dignity. Nobody knew at the time that this innocent orphan would be so hard working, brilliant and would display multiple talents. Nobody could predict that one day, this young man would, through his struggle and hard work, be known as the emperor of journalism and literature.
Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman launched ‘The Daily Jang’ from Delhi. He had not yet forgotten the pain of being orphaned when he was confronted with the partition of the sub-continent. He left everything behind and migrated to Pakistan and single handedly began the publication of Jang from Karachi. Despite scant resources, he did not let his passion dissipate and made his own world, based on a dream. He wrote most of the newspaper himself, published it, oversaw its printing and distributed it. His passion and struggle was rewarded and Jang was recognised as a leading newspaper of Pakistan. Not one to be satisfied with this success, he worked tirelessly and Jang was subsequently published from Rawalpindi, Quetta, Lahore and London. Jang was now Pakistan’s number one newspaper in terms of circulation and print orders. It was also a newspaper of record and was known for its credibility and the multifarious viewpoints it published on its op-ed pages. Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman never compromised on the quality of his newspaper and despite suffering losses, stuck to his principles and never sold out. He believed in speaking truth to power with great courage and determination. He defines the age in which he lived and his contribution lives on in history. His life is an open book and he never belonged to any party or group. His journalism was always balanced and different points of view were accommodated. Debate and discussion rather than diatribe were the hallmark of Jang. He was responsible for introducing the Urdu Nastaleeq typing system in Pakistan. All the leading journalists of the country have worked in Jang at one time or the other under his editor-ship.
Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman originally belonged to Kashmir and his forefathers left the beautiful valley and settled in Gujranwala for economic reasons. He was born in Gujranwala but spent a lot of time in Delhi till the independence of the sub-continent. He matriculated from Fatehpuri Muslim High School in Delhi and received a B.Com degree from Daryaganj Commercial College, also in Delhi.
Gujranwala had a special place in the world of Indian journalism. Three of the most famous editors ie Maulana Zafar Ali Khan of Zameendar, Maulvi Mehboob Alam of Paisa Akhbar and Deewan Singh Maftoon of Riyasat hailed from this city. Mir Saheb took his newspaper to a greater level and achieved fame and success because of his special talents, hard work and dedication. He made a name for himself as a pioneer in journalism and literature. Mir Saheb is gifted with a charming personality and he uses words with such dexterity that people who listen to his conversations are totally under his spell. He has a tremendous sense of humour and can turn a phrase which makes people burst out in laughter. In company, it is difficult to imagine that this person who is making the company so light has worked so hard and so seriously at his profession. He is extremely affectionate towards children and is very popular amongst them. He is known to be a brilliant writer and an astute journalist. Whenever he picked up the pen, and wrote the editorial himself, it would leave the readers entranced. He set new standards and is always looking to innovate. He is a patriot and has tremendous love and belief in Pakistan. Whenever he talks about the conditions prevailing in the country and especially in Sindh, his eyes turn moist and he is overcome with emotions. When he once spoke as the president of the APNS about the conditions in Sindh, the entire audience was overcome with emotions.
The Creator of the Universe, in his infinite wisdom uses individuals to give instructions and directions to mankind. Mir Saheb has been serving Islam as a true believer in the faith. He embarked on the journey of translating verses from the Quran and printing these on the front page of his newspaper. It is not commonly known that he wrote these verses down himself and therefore displayed his knowledge and ability in calligraphy. Thousands of readers have benefited from these verses.
Mir Saheb has made a mark in the field of both journalism and literature. His style is unique and striking. His style is marked with understatement, clarity and a certain humility. He displays love and big heartedness and a softness in his approach towards big issues. He respects everybody’s opinion and is not known to discriminate between the views of the rich or the poor, big or small.
In 1990, by the grace of God, Jang celebrated 50 years of publication. Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman has been the editor of Jang for this period as well. This is a huge achievement by the grace of Allah. We now begin our interview with Begum Mehmooda Khalil-ur-Rahman.
Ques: When and how did you get married to Mir Saheb?
Ans: Ours was an arranged marriage which took place with the blessings of our families on the 20th of February 1944.
Ques: How was he as a husband and a father to your children?
Ans: Mir Saheb is a very fine, upright, honest and pious person. He is very loving as a husband and as a father. Since he is so busy he is unable to devote as much time as he would have liked to his children. I think the children have missed this involvement. Very often, when he would come home from work the children would be fast asleep and when he woke up, they would be in school. However, his days and nights were spent working and for the benefit of his family.
Ques: What were the most important elements that Mir Saheb tried to inculcate in his children?
Ans: He emphasised Islamic principles and made sure that his children understood basic Islamic thought. He ensured that all his children loved Pakistan and tried to teach them Urdu. Mir Saheb wanted his children to speak the truth and be honest in their dealings. I am confident that these elements were imbibed by the children and they will go on to serve the country and contribute to its prosperity.
We spoke to each other in Punjabi and switched to Urdu when conversing with the children. Mir Saheb believed that Urdu was the national language of Pakistan and that the future belonged to this language. Therefore, our children had to be well-versed in this language. Fortunately, our grandchildren also speak Urdu and are very amused when they hear their grandparents chatting in Punjabi. I feel, and I’ve often said it to my husband, that the children who learn Urdu in school, but we have deprived them of their mother tongue, because now none of them speak or understand Punjabi.
We have two sons and thank God that both of them are extremely honest and pious. Both my sons have inherited their father’s capacity for hard work and have the ability to take his legacy to greater heights.
Ques: You have seen the ups and downs of Mir Saheb’s life. What do you think was the defining moment in his life?
Ans: Ever since we got married I have seen turmoil in his life. There are many events that come to mind but one which took place during Bhutto Saheb’s time is very important and is etched in my mind. Jam Sadiq Ali was minister of local bodies. He telephoned us and told Mir Saheb that Bhutto Saheb had ordered our water supply to be stopped. He also told Mir Saheb that he had orders to dump all the rubbish and refuse of the locality in front of our house. We were shocked and shattered. However, Jam Saheb called again and told Mir Saheb not to worry. He said , we have persuaded Mr Bhutto to take the orders back.
During the Bhutto period, Mir Saheb was under a lot of pressure. A number of income tax cases were filed against him. He was subjected to a number of inquiries and was targeted for what was appearing in the newspapers. He faced these cases and inquiries with fortitude and by the grace of God, the courts ruled in our favour. We spent that time in great pain and anguish. But thank God we emerged with our integrity intact. I must say, that in every government, Mir Saheb has faced great adversity. In the beginning of each government things seem to be going well, but then the rulers suddenly begin to take umbrage with the reportage and begin to show their anger by applying pressure. It’s a game of hide and seek. Sometimes, they are happy, at other times, they are very, very unhappy.
Ques: When Mir Saheb launched the newspaper from Delhi how many hours did he work and on an average how many hours did he devote to office matters?
Ans: When he launched Jang, it was virtually a one man show. He did everything by himself. He edited the paper, displayed it properly, oversaw its printing and then distributed/sold it by himself. I think he worked 24 hours a day, so it’s difficult to assess how many hours he devoted to the business. Even today, he works for ten hours on an average. He is so involved in his work that if left to himself he would take his bed to the office.
Ques: How do you take his devotion to his work?
Ans: In the beginning, I was very disturbed. But when I saw his passion and love for his work, I realised, slowly but surely, that journalism is a demanding profession. I reconciled myself to his absence and would spend a lot of time praying for his success. Allah has heard my prayers and I am extremely grateful that his labour has borne fruit. But I always say, that all our success is due to the many blessings of my father-in-law. Mir Saheb’s grandfather Mir Jan Mohammad and his father Mir Abdul Aziz were both great benefactors of their extended families. Mir Saheb is blessed by his ancestors.
Ques: Who were some very interesting world renowned people you met with Mir Saheb? What was his reaction?
Ans: Mir Sahab travelled to many countries along with the heads of state. We have a strange custom in our part of the world. Somehow wives of journalists are not invited on these trips. I don’t think this is correct. Anyway, I have met many famous Pakistani personalities, amongst them the most memorable was meeting Fatima Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Begum Liaquat and Ayub Khan. When we went to India, I had the privilege of meeting Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru and the Governor of Bengal, Sarojini Naidu. I have also met Turkey’s Ismet Inonu. Mir Saheb would feel very happy whenever he met an important personality and would always thank God for giving him this opportunity.
Ques: Jang has always had an independent policy. Can you recall incidents that took place to put pressure on Mir Saheb?
Ans: Fortunately, he is a man who has great humility. Once, fire broke out in Javed Press. Mir Saheb and all other staffers rushed out of the office and stood on the street. The flames were shooting onto the sky and the fire brigade of Karachi rushed to the scene and tried to put the fire out. Despite their efforts, the fire could not be doused. Mir Saheb never felt more helpless than on that day. He stood there watching the fire destroy all that his work and struggle had created. You can understand the pain he had to endure. When a plant grows and blossoms, the gardener understands how much work has gone into its flowering. He, at that moment, realised that all his colleagues were safe and this gave him great relief. Whenever such an incident occurs, Mir Saheb always thinks of his colleagues and staff. They are the most important people for him. Similarly, when there was firing at our house, rain started pouring down and perhaps saved us. Because of the rain, no one was outside, nor in the rooms where the bullets were fired at. We thank God for saving our lives.
Ques: It is a known fact that behind every great person is a woman. Does Mir Saheb take your advice on issues? Were there any occasions when you had to give him advice and needed to boost his morale?
Ans: If you talk about difficulties, there were so many that they became easy to overcome. Mir Saheb has a great capacity to endure trouble and turmoil. He never loses courage nor has he ever cowed down to adversity. He never shirks from difficult situations. He tries not to create difficulties for other people although his work is such that it causes pain to those who are criticised. He has always been worried about the ups and downs of government. I try my best to keep his spirits high and offer advice from time to time. My prayer has always been with God to protect us from jealousies and from enemies.
Ques: What does Mir Saheb’s preference in terms of clothing and food?
Ans: He hardly has any time to think about what he should wear. Sometimes I feel that if left to himself, he would make do with just one set of clothing. I make it a point to shop for him and have his clothing stitched. He has never said that my choice was wrong. He has simple tastes. He eats whatever is served and has never made demands when it comes to food.
Ques: What does he do on a holiday?
Ans: Let me tell you, we journalists have no concepts of holidays. Newspapers come out virtually every day. When there is a holiday, he spends most of his time in his library. He sits there going through newspapers, magazines, books and files. He is not interested in picnics or entertainment. We have been in Karachi for 43-44 years and maybe we’ve been to Hawkes Bay once.