In the year since his passing, Rahimullah Yusufzai’s absence has been felt strongly
whole year has passed since Rahimullah Yususfzai passed away on September 9, 2021, leaving behind a major vacuum in the lives of his colleagues, family and the many people who relied on him for advice and support. Throughout the year he was remembered in various capacities, especially by the journalist fraternity. In conferences on current affairs and regional issues his analysis was sorely missed.
In Afghanistan, where he was highly regarded for his professional acumen as well as his impartiality, the new government has missed a credible voice that might have highlighted the suffering of Afghan people on account of their isolation in international publications.
This was highlighted in June in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Afghanistan. The government of Pakistan too felt his absence.
His reporting, rich in context information, was also missed following the deaths of Al Qaeda chief Dr Ayman Al-Zawahiri Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan commander Umer Khalid Khorasani. His reporting and his analysis have also been missed on the situation with regard to the reports of a recent resurgence of Taliban militants in the Malakand division.
Yusufzai sahib was respected for his wealth of knowledge as much as his integrity. He was frequently asked for his reading of the developments in Afghanistan and the border areas.
Journalist Faiz-ur-Rehman says this year was the first occasion in his career when he went to Peshawar Press Club to cast his vote in the election for the club’s executive and was not accompanied by Yusufzai.
In the Abazai area, the neighbours, particularly the poor and the needy felt his absence throughout what appeared to be a very long year. The deceased was better known in the area as a great social worker than a famous journalist. He had been remarkably generous with his time and money when it came to helping the poor and the marginalised and doing everything in his power to mitigate their sufferings.
Besides occasional help he had had a routine of providing rations and cash to several poor families in the area and books, stationary, clothes and shoes for a number of school-going children
Around Eid, his hujra attracted a large number of people.
Yusufzai sahib mentored a whole brigade of journalists, most of them in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Helping people in distress was his passion. This scribe remembers that during the 2010 flood many stranded people were evacuated from Kalam via helicopter through his coordination and efforts. Had he been alive today, he would have a prominent role in rescue and relief efforts.
His close relatives are still to recover from the shock of his departure. Words cannot adequately explain the discomfort and pain the whole family has experienced. He was very caring and thoughtful so that growing up under his guidance was a great privilege.
To the youngest batch of children in the extended family he was Haji Baba and pride of the tribe.
His international stature, fame and influence notwithstanding, Rahimullah Yusufzai was a down to earth and modest person. He used to share moments of joy with children, especially with his grand children. He would frequently kneel down and sit on bended knees to say a few words to each of the children to show his affection.
In March 31, he used to call my children as well as other children in the family, and ask about results of their school examinations. He would then congratulate each of them them on their performance and achievement.
This year Shama Welfare Organisation Shamozai/ Inzargai failed to arrange mass weddings that had been a routine in the area and to which he contributed generously. Making arrangements for the marriage of more than orphan girls was his last wish, expressed during his last illness. He had provided funds for the purpose and made suggestions about how to go about it. However, the organisation has yet to hold the event. Holding mass weddings is a herculean undertaking but such was his commitment and energy that this had been an annual feature during his lifetime.
His absence was also felt by his prayer companions in the local mosque where he had been a regular.
Yusufzai will go down in history as an intelligent and capable journalist who earned great respect and credibility through sheer hard work. Given his reputation for fairness and impartiality he was the first choice caretaker chief minister come election time, but refused to accept the office.
He had the distinction of being awarded Tamgha-i-Imtiaz (2005) as well as Sitara-i-Imtiaz (2010 ) and interviewing both Osama Bin Laden and Mulla Omer.
Yusufzai sahib also mentored a whole brigade of journalists in the country, most of them in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who are part of his legacy to journalism.
His family has resolved to continue his charity work and institutionalise it.
The writer, a working journalist, is a nephew of the late Rahimullah Yusufzai