Khalid Chaudhry will be remembered for his struggle for democracy and the freedom of the press
Journalist Khalid Rasheed Chaudhry, 79, breathed his last on January 15 in Lahore. Chaudhry will be remembered for raising his voice for democracy, human rights and freedom of the press. He is survived by two daughters and a son. His funeral was attended by close friends, family, human rights activists and people from various walks of life. He was laid to rest at the Miani Sahib graveyard.
Chaudhry was a symbol of struggle against dictatorship. He suffered imprisonment for his positions. Despite facing difficulties during Gen
Zia-ul Haq’s regime, he remained associated with journalism and voiced his protest against the military rule.
One of his close friends, journalist Saqlain Imam tells TNS, “Khalid was imprisoned by Gen Zia after being implicated in the Libya conspiracy case.”
“He was pro-poor and always raised his voice for the weak. He represented the soul of journalism in Lahore,” Imam says.
Saqlain Imam says Chaudhry emerged as an active participant leader in the struggle of the Left in the 1960s. “Khalid was active against military dictators Ayub and Yahya Khan. Later, he had personal ties with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and joined Pakistan Peoples Party.”
Saqlain Imam says that when Gen Zia-ul Haq imposed the martial law, Khalid Chaudhry joined the struggle for the restoration of democracy. “For this reason, a case was registered against him, alleging a conspiracy to overthrow the martial law government,” he notes. This was called the Libya Conspiracy Case because it was alleged that the Libyan government was involved in the conspiracy. Chaudhry was sentenced to imprisonment in this case. The main accused in this case were Brig Usman (a former military secretary to ZA Bhutto), His sister Dr Fatima, Dr Kaneez Fatima Yusuf, Tariq Khurshid and Ali Jafar Zaidi.
“A pro-PPP lecturer mentioned Khalid’s name… and he was arrested. She had been opposed to martial law but later became a sworn witness in the case,” Saqlain Imam recalls.
After 1988, when Benazir Bhutto came into power, this case was dropped. All the so-called rebellion cases were terminated later and the accused/ convicts pardoned.
Khalid Chaudhry was a consistent political agitator. His journalistic career started at daily Musawat in 1971. He rejoined Musawat in Benazir Bhutto’s tenure. Later, he worked for daily Khabrain and daily Sahafat and Aaj Kal.
Journalist Adnan Adil says he was introduced to Khalid in 2003 at South Asian Free Media Association. “We stayed together on many trips in the country and abroad. He used to narrate the incidents from his time in jail with great pleasure and sing songs to relieve his loneliness.“
Adnan Adil says Khalid Chaudhry belonged to a class of journalists who took their journalistic duties for a religion.
Saeed Ahmed says, “He was willing to lay down his life for the love of [ZA] Bhutto. He did not mind the torture he suffered during captivity.”
When Salman Taseer started daily Aaj Kal in 2008, he made Chaudhry its editor. “My friendship with Khalid started there. Many memorable gatherings were held there in the presence of Wajahat Masood,“ Saeed Ahmed recalls.
“Many progressive and enlightened writers had come together at daily Aaj Kal. I had a foreboding that this would not last long…”
“After the brutal murder of Salman Taseer, the candle of enlightenment that was Aaj Kal went out within a few years.“
Adnan Adil concludes: “Khalid was a good man, always willing to help a friend in need.”
The writer is a journalist based in Lahore who reports on politics, economy and militancy. He can be reached on Twitter at @Hassannaqvi5