He gravitated to eminence

Writer and researcher Zafar Hassan passed away on June 22 in Lahore

Dr Zafar Hassan, who passed away on June 22, was born in Kanpur, India, in 1938. He studied at Aitchison College, Lahore, and later proceeded to USA where he obtained a degree in textile technology from North Carolina State University in 1958.

After returning to Pakistan, he joined the Karachi University and obtained a master’s in English. He also studied at SM Law College and received an LLB degree. His father, Fazle Hassan, who belonged to the Chinioti Sheikh clan, was a great connoisseur of art and literature and loved to hobnob with many a leading writer, poet and painter.

For many years, Fazle Hassan used to host a bevy of writers and artists every Sunday at his home in Karachi. The guests included towering figures like Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi, Niaz Fatehpuri, Muhammad Hasan Askari, Iqbal Mehdi, Salim Ahmad, Dr Muhammad Ali Siddiqui and Zahrah Nigah.

Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi dedicated his memoirs, Zarguzasht, to Fazle Hassan. In his magnum opus, Aab-e-Gum, he fictionalized Fazle Hassan’s character under the name of Mian Fazle Elahi. Zafar Hassan, too, was drawn towards the literary world from a young age.

Throughout his life, he not only kept in touch with many of the friends of his illustrious father, but also made friends with many other towering figures. He was very close to critic Muhammad Hassan Askari. At Askari’s bidding, Zafar Hassan enrolled for a PhD programme at Sindh University, Jamshoro. He wrote a dissertation supervised by Muhammad Hassan Askari. He earned his PhD in Urdu in 1976. Dr Ghulam Mustafa Khan was the external supervisor of his thesis.

His dissertation was published in Lahore under the title: Sir Syed Aur Hali Ka Nazria-e-Fitrat. This book has been into three reprints since its first publication in 1990 and earned approval from writers like Intezar Husain.

A dynamic businessman, Zafar Hassan remained vice president of the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association in the eighties. He was also elected president of the Karachi Cotton Association.

In 1980s, he came into contact with Dr Abdus Salam, the Nobel laureate. Their relationship soon developed into a long-lasting friendship. In 1984, he co-edited Dr Abdus Salam’s essays. These were published as Ideal and Realities: Selected Essays of Abdus Salam from Singapore in 1984. The book was later translated into 25 languages including French, Arabic, Turkish, Urdu and Romanian.

Hassan had been writing a weekly column for an English daily since 1993. He was a huge fan of the Indian poet Gulzar. His adulation for Gulzar prodded him to write a book, The Art and Achievement of Gulzar. It was published in 2009 from Lahore.

Hassan had also wanted to piece together his memoirs. However, that did not happen. He was a very polite, lovable and down to earth man. I would often ask him to write his memories of Muhammad Hassan Askari with whom he had been very close. He said he wanted to write, but didn’t find time due to his other commitments. He also had invaluable memories of the days when literary luminaries used to visit his father.

Zafar Hasan was a close friend of Intezar Hussin, Gulzar, DrAbdus Salam, Zahra Nigah, Ahmad Maqsood Hamidi, Iqbal Mehdi, Dr Muhammad Ali Siddiqui and Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi.

Gulzar dedicated one of his books, Deorhi, to Dr Zafar Hassan.

Dr Zafar Hassan passed away on June 22 in Lahore.

With his passing away Lahore lost a fine human being, an author, a columnist and a businessman. He will be sorely missed by his many friends. One hopes that his family will collect and compile his articles published in many literary magazines and publish them in book form.

The author is a freelance journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]

Remembering writer and researcher Zafar Hassan