PESHAWAR: With 55 years of career, senior journalist Hafiz Sanaullah takes pride in laying down the foundation for the Journalism Department at the University of Peshawar and serving it for over 20 years without drawing any salary.
Hailing from Kohat, Hafiz Sanaullah in his old age is no more a teacher of journalism but is still playing an active role as a working journalist in Peshawar where he owns, edits and brings out an English daily The Frontier Star.
“I am proud of having produced hundreds of journalists from a department that I had launched in the early 80s,” he recalled, saying he had not received the salary for the services he had rendered at the University of Peshawar.
He said he was the first journalist who had worked with foreign media from Peshawar. He worked for Reuters, Voice of America and Time Magazine.
Hafiz Sanaullah started writing short essays, letters and articles for newspapers when he was a college student and then became a local correspondent for some Urdu dailies in the early 60s. “It was very hard to file a report and dispatch it to the newspapers in Rawalpindi and Lahore,” he told this scribe while narrating his early days in journalism. He said he was doing reporting as a mission, not for commission (money) but when an Urdu daily Anjam appointed him a regular correspondent for Kohat, he adopted journalism as a career.
“I still remember when I received Rs5 as a monthly stipend for my service and it was a huge amount for a teenager like me at that time,” he said and added that after graduation he shifted from Kohat to Peshawar where he had joined the only English Daily Khyber Mail as sub-editor. But he did not like the desk job and soon switched over to reporting with an Urdu daily for a short period.
In the meanwhile, Hafiz Sanaullah got admission at the Economics Department of the University of Peshawar in the morning and continued reporting the evening. He did MA in journalism from the Punjab University in Lahore and got a diploma in Advanced Journalism from the UK where he also worked with an English daily Evening Telegraph. It was to his credit that his first-ever bylined story appeared as a banner headline in the Evening Telegraph.
After he returned to Pakistan, Hafiz Sanaullah became the bureau chief of The Pakistan Times in Peshawar. During this period he met the then Governor Gen (Retd) Fazle Haq and requested him to start journalism classes at the University of Peshawar.
“Initially it was diploma classes for which two rooms were taken from the English Department. As many as 1000 candidates appeared for admission and only 40 were picked up. The diploma classes were so successful that the university authorities upgraded it to masters level in the late 80s,” said the founder chairman of the department.
Living in a rented house in Peshawar, Hafiz Sanaullah recalled that he was once arrested for a short time when he did not stand for the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on his arrival at the PPP workers convention in Mardan.
He claimed that he narrowly escaped a bomb blast outside his office of Pakistan Press International (PPI) in Peshawar during the Afghan War.
“Afghan Jihadi commanders Engineer Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, Maulvi Younas Khalis, Maulvi Nabi Mohammadi, Yaqoob Sharafat, Afghan Islamic Press Director, former Afghan Governor Haji Mengal Hussain, Ustad Saeed, Nawab, Hafeezur Rehman Ulfat, Professor Bahauddin and several Afghan leaders used to visit my office during the Afghan war,” he said adding the blast was the reaction to my reporting on the Afghan Jihad. “It was the first explosion in Peshawar followed by non-stop series of explosions here and there in Peshawar”.