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A thorough professional

Opinion

January 25, 2021

Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman, the editor-in-chief of Jang, was not an editor-in-chief because he owned a newspaper as is prevalent nowadays. Mir Sahib was a true journalist. It is a fact that he founded ‘Jang’, and later other sister publications like Akhbar-i-Jahan, Daily News etc, under the umbrella of Jang group. But he did not become Chief Editor by virtue of this ownership only. Actually, in this process of founding these newspapers he undertook all the processes and stages himself that were needed in publishing a newspaper. Thus, he not only sold the newspaper on a bicycle but right from gathering news, reporting events, translating and proofreading the news items and articles, and pasting the composed matter on the copy, as was done manually in those days in the newspapers, he did all by himself. Thus there was no section left, whose working he was not aware of or he had not done that by himself. This was the main reason that none of his staff could hoodwink him on any count. Mir Sahib knew everything as he had learned and undertook all the tasks himself. He did all this not because he had a shortage of staff, but, because he wanted to be a thorough professional and no doubt he was a journalist par excellence. That work later helped him in understanding the difficulties and challenges of his staff working in those sections because he had a thorough knowledge of every section.

Reporters and sub-editors usually do not take interest in photography but Mir Sahib did not spare that field too as he tried his hands on photography as well, thus becoming an excellent photo journalist in later years. On many occasions, Mir Sahib did the photography of the event he was covering and those photos were printed in the newspaper along with his reported news item.

Working journalists usually go home after sending the copy to the press but Mir Sahib would usually meet hawkers before going home and would ask about their work and wellbeing or any problems they were facing. Mir Sahib was perhaps the only owner of a newspaper who was so deeply involved in his work.

His daily routine was also enviable. Mir Sahib would come to office daily at about 11.00am and by that time he had already scanned all other newspapers. The only thing which would deeply annoy him was to find the news items that were printed in other newspapers and were not present in Jang. He would check the arrival of the news item from the news agency and the time when the final copy of Jang was sent to the press. Since Jang had a large circulation as compared to other newspapers, they had the liberty of releasing the copy after deadline, in case there is an important news to be printed. If this missing news item was from a correspondent, he would call him and inquire about the delay. He would always check all original files or copies submitted by reporters or translated by sub-editors. This way, he could see what corrections were made by chief reporters, shift in-charges or news or magazine editors. In this manner, he would get the full picture of the performance of his staff and no senior could give a negative report about his junior.

Jang was his passion. Mir sahib wanted Jang to be an error free and perfect newspaper, and it should not miss any news item. In the days of censorship and Press advice, he would accommodate critical news items in the inside pages, with a careful choice of words. He always said that every news must reach the reader, one way or the other. Though it is humanly impossible to make a newspaper completely error free, but he always strived to do it with ultimate perfection. He engaged highly educated people with good command on Urdu language who would read Jang and point out mistakes pertaining to the use of language, calligraphy, headlines, captions etc. If a foreign dignitary was coming to Pakistan he would make it sure that his name is correctly written in Urdu. Back in those days the President of Turkey was visiting Pakistan. He contacted the head of department of Turkish language department in Karachi University to find out how the Turkish President’s name should be written in Urdu. On the advice of those learned people, Mir Sahib issued a notification in this regard to all the concerned staff mentioning spellings, names of men, cities, monuments etc to be printed in the following days. He attentively checked the proof reading activity so that all mistakes are corrected before the copy is sent for printing. He employed correspondents not only in all major cities of Pakistan but also in capitals of all important countries of the world. He got the subscription of all the news agencies and brought in any other source of information and got its subscription for Jang, no matter how much cost he had to pay for that. Mir Sahib’s vision was to make Jang the number one Urdu newspaper of the world, and no doubt he succeeded in it.

On many important occasions, Mir Sahib did the reporting himself. After the fall of Dacca, it was declared that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto would be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. That night Mr Bhutto led a procession from his Clifton residence to Lyari. Although beat reporter of Jang was on duty but Mir Sahib himself accompanied the procession. It took many hours for the procession to reach Lyari as Bhutto Sahib addressed small gatherings at different points of processions, where PPP workers had gathered and these small processions were joining the main procession. It was 4 O’clock in the morning when the procession reached Lyari ground where Bhutto Sahib had to address the grand gathering. Mir sahib was there all along the procession routes. He took photographs and noted important points on way, as the Jang copy was put on a hold. That day Jang was the only newspaper that carried the full story and the speech of future Prime Minister of Pakistan.

An APP correspondent once narrated to me an incident that once the President of Pakistan held a press conference during his foreign tour. The said correspondent told me that after the press conference when he went to his room and checked his audio recorder to make a news, he was in a state of shock because nothing was recorded in the recorder. He was appalled on the incident. He came out of his room. Mir Sahib saw his pale face and inquired the matter on which he told him everything. Mir Sahib asked him to come in his room where he dictated him word by word from the notes he took in the press conference. This was the generosity of Mir Sahib towards his fellow professionals that without having any rivalry for breaking a news, which we see today, he helped a journalist, that too from a government news agency, in his hour of need, so that he could report the news without a delay.

When the government of Bhutto Sahib was removed through an Army coup, nobody knew it in advance. On that night Jamat-i-Islami’s Information Secretary informed the Rawalpindi office of Jang that Professor Ghafoor, Secretary General of the opposition alliance, has been picked up from his residence and was untraceable. Shorish Malik Sahib, Editor of the Jang Rawalpindi, informed Mir sahib about this. Soon it was revealed that not only opposition leaders but also the leaders of ruling People’s Party government including federal ministers were picked up from various places. Even the Prime Minister was untraceable. It was clear by then that the army coup had taken place. But the main issue for Mir Sahib was that how to break the news, as there was no such news on the state-owned PTV.

Mir Sahib suggested that the first morning news bulletin of radio Pakistan would carry this news and it happened the same way. After radio announced it Mir Sahib carried it in Jang in a delayed copy. Thus this news became the lead story of Jang. Mir sahib remained awake till the copies were sent to the Press.

Similarly, when Bhutto Sahib was hanged no one knew about the time of hanging. Famous correspondent of BBC, Mark Tully, was in the Capital to cover this event. That night, Jang’s correspondent who got himself transferred from Karachi to Rawalpindi informed Shorish Malik Sahib that Bhutto sahib was likely to be hanged tonight. As per jail manual, the hanging time was early morning, but the correspondent of Jang told the editor that his sources in jail had informed him that the hanging will be done in the night. After 2:30 am that night, our correspondent’s sources in the Rawalpindi jail confirmed him that Bhutto Sahib had been hanged.

There was only a two-word initial message from Shorish Malik ‘muk gaya’ to Mir Sahib. During the whole episode, Mir Sahib was in touch with the Rawalpindi and Karachi offices of Jang and Jang was the only newspaper in the world that carried the lead story of Bhutto Sahib’s hanging. Mark Tully of BBC remained asleep in his hotel room and BBC and other radio stations carried this news item while quoting Jang.

—The writer is staff member and serving as Editor, Jang London