From journalism to politics

Wajid Shamsul Hasan will be remembered for being an exceptional editor and a Bhutto loyalist

From journalism to politics

About a month before I got married on February 6, 1990, I received a surprise call from Mr Wajid Shamsul Hasan. He was the editor of Karachi based evening newspaper, Daily News, while I was a junior reporter working in a rival evening newspaper, The Star. In his typical forceful voice, he asked me to visit him in his office. “Someone has come inquiring about you,” he made me curious because those were troubling times in Karachi for journalists, and I was the secretary of Karachi Press Club.

After finishing my work, I went to see him as his office was not very far from mine. The cigar was part of his personality, and as I entered his room, he looked at me while lighting a cigar and ordered coffee. Without wasting much time, I asked, “Wajid sb khair to hai.“ He then dropped a bomb. “Mian aap kay barey mey tahqeek ho rahe ha aur wo bhi aap kay kirdar key barey mey.” His remarks made me relax a bit but also curious, and before I could inquire further, Wajid sahib smiled and said,” aap kay rishtay ki baat chal rahi hai. Muj sey maloomat karney hai thay aap kay honay waley father-in-law.” Minutes later, Iqbal Jaffery also entered the room and, in his own style said, “hum nay saaf saaf bata diya hai kay sahafi ha apney risk per shaadi karein.” And then we all laughed.

When the TNS team asked me to write something on Wajid sahib, I was not sure whether I qualified to write on him as I never worked under him, but I was a regular reader of his column in Weekly ‘Mag’ magazine. I also found his headlines in the Daily News quite exciting. I still remember one of his headlines on PPP activist Nasir Baloch hanging at Karachi’s Central Prison. It was something like, “Live like a brave man, die a bravo.”

In the last seven decades, many good editors and journalists switched from journalism to practical politics, including former editor Dawn, Altaf Hussain and Wajid Shamsul Hasan. I once wrote a piece on it in the monthly Newsline and remember Wajid sahib and other seniors and colleagues came out with counter-arguments.

So, I am not sure I could do justice to writing about him. Wajib sahib, the journalist and editor or Wajid sahib, the Bhutto loyalist who later became Pakistan’s High Commission in the UK. But, in both cases, he is a person among the finest persons always there to lend a helping hand.

Daily News, The Star and The Leader, were among the leading evening newspapers along with one Urdu newspaper Aghaz at that time. Later, many other Urdu evening papers came in the market with much larger circulation, like Awan and Qaumi Akbar. Those were the days when tabloid papers were all the rage in Karachi.

Wajid sahib had always been loyal to Bhuttos, but perhaps he went a bit too far.

He was a prolific writer, excellent editor and deeply insightful man who could converse on any range of topics. Wajid sahib helped many young journalists early on in their careers.

Wajid sahib had always been loyal to Bhuttos, but perhaps he went a bit too far. He was a prolific writer, excellent editor and deeply insightful man who could converse on any range of topics. Wajid sahib helped many young journalists early on in their careers.

PML (N) leader, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, who remained the editor of Islamabad-based newspaper, The Muslim, describes Wahid sahib as a fine editor and colleague. “I travelled with him as an editor in 1989 to attend the Commonwealth Conference. It was quite a visit,” he says.

Syed also disclosed that in 1997, when he was the Information Minister, Wajid sahib was unwell and in jail, “ Secretary Information, Anwer Mahmood and I went to see him. I used my good office to get him shifted to PIMS hospital,” tells the senator.

Wajid sahib was among the few journalists who accompanied former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on his historic visit to Shimla, India. He once told me that except for Bhutto, everyone thought the visit would end without an accord. “One last meeting between Bhutto and his counterpart Indira Gandhi proved the breakthrough,” he had said.

He also remained the Chairman of the National Press Trust, NPT. Though Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, PFUJ always remained against NPT and government control over newspapers, Wajid sahib ensured that workers should get their salaries and allowances as per Wage Board as long as he remained the head of NPT.

I have covered Pakistan People’s Party, PPP and always had contacts in the party from the lower cadre up to Benazir Bhutto. Still, when during a meeting at the Karachi Press Club, KPC she asked me to join PPP and offered a good position, I declined without even giving a second thought. Later, Wajid sahib told me that she inquired from him about me prior to this offer, and he had told her that I loved my profession and considered it my passion.

In 1990 when Benazir Bhutto’s first government was dissolved, she accused a top intelligence agency for planting stories and pointed fingers towards one of our colleagues. He challenged her and said the story was not given to him by any MI, Major but by a police officer. After Press Conference was over, she asked me about that journalist, and I informed her that the man in question was an investigative journalist and looking towards Wajid sahib, said, better ask him because the journalist was Wajid sahib’s shagird.” She looked at him and laughed.

Former Secretary Information, Anwar Mahmood recalled his long association with him, mainly in the Press Information Department, PID in Karachi. “He certainly was a classy man - as an editor and individual. We shared good memories. He was quite a company for gup-shup.”

Wajid sahib fought a long battle with cancer, but in 1989, he had already developed heart problems, as confirmed by Mushahid Hussain and Anwar Mahmood.

“I found him to be forward-looking and progressive,” remembers the veteran politician and few of the PPP founders alive today.

They say, “all is fair in love and war,” but the same cannot be said about politics and journalism - “siyasat mey aur sahafat mey sub nahi chalta.” Perhaps, he went too far and was unsure how history would judge whether he would be remembered as a journalist or a loyalist. But I will never forget him for his loving nature and guiding me as a young journalist. Thank you, Wajid sahib. May he rest him in eternal peace.

The writer is a columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang


From journalism to politics