Sunday June 04, 2023

The News Senior Editor Talat Aslam passes away

Talat Aslam remained associated with several leading newspapers and magazines, serving as editor of the monthly Herald and then The News

By Our Correspondent
May 26, 2022
Senior editor of The News Talat Aslam. Photo: Twitter/FehmidaRiaz
Senior editor of The News Talat Aslam. Photo: Twitter/FehmidaRiaz

KARACHI: Veteran journalist and senior editor of The News Talat Aslam passed away early morning on Wednesday. He was 67.

During his rich journalistic career spanning decades, Aslam remained associated with several leading newspapers and magazines, serving as editor of the monthly Herald and then The News.

His funeral rites were held at Karachi's DHA Phase 8 graveyard on Wednesday evening, with a large number of journalists, academics, and civil society activists in attendance. News of his death was followed by an outpouring of condolences -- from politicians and journalists to actors, friends and Twitter followers.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif paid tribute to the late journalist for his services to "press freedom and for raising awareness about the rights of minorities and women", while also extending condolences to the bereaved family. Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Talat Aslam remained a voice of truth and reason throughout his career and that with his passing, a glittering chapter of Pakistani journalism had come to a close. "Journalism in Pakistan will forever be indebted [to] his selfless service."

Reminiscing about her close association with Talat Aslam, as a former colleague at The Herald, Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman tweeted about "the kindest, funniest, wittiest, warmest soul in the whole world” who she said "was not just an old-school journalist, with the highest integrity, he was a seasoned English-language editor. Our journey mingled at the Herald, where he was [an] anchor even [though] I was his boss. But he made us all his family, right to the end, wherever we were in life."

The HRCP recognized the late editor's role as a mentor and in a tweeted statement said that Aslam would be remembered "for mentoring scores of young journalists."

Federal Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Atta Marri said that she was saddened to learn about the passing of the senior editor of The News: "We express our sympathies and condolences with the bereaved family".

Talat Aslam's friends and colleagues continued to tweet out anecdotes and personal stories through the day, some of them remembering the various ways he had touched their lives as well as their careers. Close friend and former colleague Hasan Zaidi, editor of Dawn's magazines, said that for the past 30 years, Talat Aslam had been his "closest friend, mentor and sounding board... After my father, I learnt most about journalism from him....Fare you well, my friend".

Author Fatima Bhutto tweeted that when she began her "life in writing as a 24-year-old, I had the good fortune to have Talat Aslam as my editor...He was funny, kind and let me write whatever moved me".

Veteran journalist at The News Mariana Baabar wrote a heartfelt message for her friend and colleague: "Tito, you have left me friendless. You were an anchor for me in Karachi and just recently on your birthday we exchanged tweets and had asked you not to be hurt by trolls. Know you will be singing [and] dancing in a good place. Will not say bye, you are here in spirit".

Economist Dr Asad Sayeed, who had been one of the many mentored by Talat Aslam, spoke about his craft: "His humour, wit and humility has been mentioned by everyone here whose lives Tito touched, I'd add his incredible skill at writing and editing, which was as good as it can get anywhere in the world."

One of the earliest tweets announcing Talat Aslam's passing away was by former journalist Fareshte Aslam, also sister-in-law to the deceased. Recounting his birthday just a few days back, she wrote that "Life’s just so fleeting -- and cruel.... Less than 10 days ago we were celebrating Tito’s birthday....This morning he’s no more....He bravely managed his dialysis - typically without fuss. RIP Tito."

Actor Nadia Jamil called him "one of the funniest, sanest voices in my life, teaching me how [to] laugh at myself [and] nearly everything else."

News Editor at The News, Karachi, Ali Abbas Rizvi talked about his long association with Talat Aslam and fondly remembered him as a thorough professional, a kind-hearted soul, who will be missed by all. "He kept a low profile and was unostentatious," he added.

Senior politician and former senator Afrasiab Khattak said that anyone who met Aslam even once wouldn't forget his wit, humour, and humanity. “That explains the large circle of his friends from all backgrounds. His death is a huge loss for journalism.”

Academic Adil Najam, who now serves as dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, wrote a short obituary for Talat Aslam: "The good always go first, and Talat was truly a good person. Yes, a superb craftsman, a committed professional journalist, a lover of language and life, and more. But above all else, a good person."

From across the border, Indian journalist Shehkar Gupta, founder of The Print, tweeted: "This is so awful. Tito was among the best of us purana paapis in the subcontinent’s journalistic community. And by far among the warmest & most generous... RIP."