Friday May 20, 2022

A living legend

January 25, 2022

Today, we are paying tribute to late Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman for his extraordinary services rendered in the field of journalism. Senior journalists, writers, scholars, lawyers and human rights activists while remembering Mir Sahib’s services in the field of journalism, said that he left no stone unturned to achieve the goal of free expression and free press in Pakistan. He practically established Jang Group from the scratch and became the founder and pioneer of this great organization that became a leader of freedom of expression. The dream of the Mir Kahlil-ur-Rahman was to see a free press in Pakistan and to uphold this cause, he never cared about the policies and bans imposed by successive governments.

It was Mir Sahib’s principled stance that became a shining example for others to follow. The price of this determination had to be paid later on by his son Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman, Editor-in-Chief of Jang and Geo, who was sent behind bars for months, without any reason.

Prominent writer and critic Dr Meher Zaidi said that Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman was a kind and compassionate person. She said she heard about MKR through her writer mother. Mir Sahib was the best friend of her maternal uncle Mir Zahoor Ahmed who came from Simla to Karachi in 1947 along with MKR. She narrated about the journey of their migration when the two friends saved the people in the train from being massacred on the way as they made the driver to continue driving the train while putting a hockey stick as a rifle at the back of his head. “Lahore station was the temporary respite from where their families migrated to Karachi,” Dr Meher Zaidi recalled.

She pointed out: “the two friends enjoyed each other’s company for a long time as both were passionate about motorcars and motorcycles. Later Mir Khalil Sahib joined journalism and founded Jang.”

Dr Zaidi also shared the details of her meeting with Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman.

“I met Mir sahib for the first time when our names were treacherously removed from the merit list put on the Dow Medical College notice board and the girls from Karachi formed an Action Committee to restore our admissions to medical colleges in Karachi. Mir Sahib vowed to give us support in covering our news,” she said while adding, “My second encounter with him was again when we, the girls of Karachi, were not given due transfer to Karachi colleges as promised by the then Bhutto government.” She further added that interestingly by that time, Zia ul Haq had imposed Martial Law in the country. We were deceived again by the then health secretary and the principal of Sindh Medical College Karachi who did not want us to be repatriated to our merit seats in Karachi.” She said they fought their battle in the Sindh High Court when their documents went missing from the college. “However, one of the parents some how found out the papers from the offices of the college and submitted them to the bench that was formed to hear our case. While all this was happening in the court and we were protesting on the streets of Karachi. In front of the Governor House, we met Gen Zia and finally got our seats back,” she informed. She said throughout our struggle Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman supported us and gave due coverage to our news in his newspaper. “When we finally won the case and I went to his office with my mother to present him sweets (mithai), he stood up from his seat. He had tears in his eyes on our success. Such was his personality. He was a people’s person and felt happy to help them in their problems.” Dr Zaidi recalled that his greatness could be gauged from the fact that he had asked one of his senior correspondents to facilitate us, the students. “Whenever we came to his very simple office, he would take our press release and would make it a newsworthy item. Often he sent a reporter to cover our protests,” she maintained.

Dr Zaidi says that MKR always supported freedom of information and never let anyone to suppress truth. “He was a simple man who believed in work and creative ideas. His Urdu daily became popular as he gave voice to all schools of thought. He knew the meaning of Independent as he took that dangerous train journey from India to Pakistan. He struggled throughout his career and built up the Jang group through sheer determination. He took out a magazine Akhbar-i-Jehan, especially for women. Unique in its style, with politics, civic, science articles, travelogues, home economics, arts and literature, this magazine opened a new frontier in Urdu journalism. Its standard was high and was read in every home in Karachi,” said Dr Meher Zaidi while concluding that such personalities like Mir Sahib, were the heroes of Pakistan whose strength, courage and sincerity will always remain a beacon of light for the youth of Pakistan. “Such great men prove that their life has much higher goals than the materialist gains.”

Former in-charge of the city desk and city editor of Jang, Abid Hussain while sharing his memories about MKR said, “Mir Sahib was a very kindhearted employer who always looked after his employees.” Hussain said he joined Jang news desk at a very young age. When he saw MKR for the first time, Mir Sahib expressed his surprise on a young in-charge of the city desk but he knew that he (Hussain) was appointed on merit. He checked his credentials by assigning him some news coverage and finally declared him competent.

Hussain says that MKR was very caring and cooperative towards his employees. He had no hang-ups and at times resolved small office issues himself for smooth functioning such as fixing office phones or doing proofing of news etc. Hussain further said, “Mir Sahib was a decent man and was indeed kindhearted towards his employees and used to encourage hard-working employees and journalists and never left them alone in their personal problems.”

Abid Hussain said that in his first meeting with MKR at his office, he gave him a marked press release and requested him to publish it. Hussain said, Mir Sahib didn’t pressurize him to print it despite the fact that he was the owner of his newspaper, yet he left the decision on him to decide its worth.” Abid Hussain further told that he discussed the matter of publication of the marked press release with the then news editor Nasir Beg Chughtai who told him that this was the style of Mir Sahib to respect the opinion of working journalists on news stories. “Chughtai in the capacity of the news editor cleared the press release and asked me to publish it in next day’s newspaper.”

Another senior journalist, labour leader, writer and editor of an Urdu quarterly Faheem Islaam Ansari told that, at a young age he used to visit the office of daily Jang and met Mir Sahib during the press coverage of workers of PIA Airways Employees Union. Mir Sahib always extended his fullest cooperation in this regard. Ansari recalled that in the case of workers and their unions, Mir Sahib always adopted a friendly approach and provided due coverage to their issues.

Another senior journalist and prominent poet Masood Qamar observed that he had to face long detention for the cause of freedom of expression and restoration of democracy during the rule of dictator Zia ul Haq. But he noticed that Mir Sahib never cared about the wrong policies of the rulers. Instead, he always supported and published news stories of the victims of political parties and trade union leaders of various organizations. Sharing his experiences, Masood Qamar (now settled in Sweden) said that Mir Sahib supported several helpless families through giving them financial support, and never disclosed their names. Masood Qamar concluded that despite all political pressures, Jang group founded by Mir Sahib, upheld the norms of truth and promoted freedom of expression in its entire history of more than seven decades.