The office of Daily Mashriq on Nisbet Road was hardly a walk of five minutes from Kohistan’s office on Mcleod Road. I have very distinct memories of that winter night. It was early 1964. As I stepped into the door of Daily Mashriq my heart was beating fast. I was a little nervous. Also tense. As well as excited.
I had not met Enayatullah Sahib after my departure to Karachi about two years earlier when he was still Managing Director of Kohistan Private Limited, and my mentor/boss.
Twentyone months didn’t constitute a “long time, but so much had happened in that short period!
The office boy had appropriate instructions to take me straight to Enayatullah Sahib. As the door opened and I entered I saw him getting up from his chair and coming around. There was a broad affectionate smile on his face as we shook hands.
” I am glad you have come Akbar Sahib. I have been wanting to see you for quite some time,” he commenced the conversation after we had got seated opposite to each other.
“How is your health Enayat Sahib? It is wonderful to be with you after such a long time”. I replied warmly— not failing to read the quotation that was hoisted on the wall behind his chair.
“There is no standstill in newspapers. They either progress or die. LORD ARMSTRONG”.
“If you had wanted to see me you could have done so anytime. But you missed the bus.” There was a polite, amused smile on his face as he said it.
“No Enayat Sahib,” I replied, “I didn’t miss the bus. I did what I was honourbound to do. Nasim Hijazi is not just my Mamoon, but also my hero. I couldn’t even think of ditching him.”
“I didn’t ditch him Akbar Sahib. He did. He did it under the influence of a few morons who couldn’t have even dreamt of entering the office of the second biggest newspaper in the country had they not somehow assembled around Nasim Sahib. They are an insult to this industry. And they are now running Kohistan the newspaper, I had envisioned to become one day the country’s undisputed Leader! I know your position too, and I feel sorry for you—”
Enayat Sahib’s face had turned red with mixed feelings of rage and hurt.
I had nothing to say in reply.
After a short pause he spoke again. Now his tone was different. Polite and sad.
“I loved Nasim Sahib. He was my hero too. There was a time when I used to read proofs of his novels. We thought of launching Kohistan to gether. Over a decade ago. There in Rawalpindi. We had meagure resources. Just dreams. But eventually we made it. You joined when Kohistan had started rocketing up. And you know my dreams. I wish Nasim Sahib had not been such a weak listener. I have always believed there are two persons inside his frame — one a genuine visionary— a noble human being. And the other a mortal incapable of separating right from wrong. When I was away from here— in London— he was vulnerable to the misguided notions that those morons plus his son poured into his ears. You know I gave him an option— to appoint you as Deputy Managing Editor with all necessary powers ? I told him I would step aside, if he did that and stopped listening to his advisers. He was surprised at this proposal. He promised me to give it a thought. He had reservations about your age, but I told him that you already knew more about publishing than he or anyone else in the Board of Directors did. I had hoped he would agree to this proposal. It was the only way Kohistan could be saved. But you know what he eventually did. He made a deal with Sheikh Hamid Mahmood. And for me it was the end of Kohistan—”
I sat dumbfounded infront him. I didn’t know what to say.
“It would have been beyond my capacity Enayat Sahib. I am too young. And too inexperienced—” I eventually found words.
“You are wrong Akbar Sahib. I had really gambled— sending you to Karachi—- throwing you raw in that highly competitive market. But I had a gut feeling you would not fail. Yet when I examined your performance of one year, I found it much beyond my best expectations. Your success was phenomenal.”
“Thank you Enayat Sahib, but that didn’t qualify me to run Kohistan,” I said.
“Are Mian Rasheed and Raja Zauq Akhtar qualified to run Kohistan—-?”
His question was sudden.
I was speechless.
“Isn’t there anything that can be done to save Kohistan Akbar Sahib? Now that Mashriq is rapidly overtaking Kohistan my anger is subsiding. It is a hurtful idea to me now that this great newspaper that we— me and Nasim Sahib— built so laboriously will soon pass into history.”
After a short pause I spoke.
“You can still save it Enayat Sahib. Withdraw the company liquidation case that you have filed and try to find some settlement with Mamoon Jaan that would save the newspaper.”
“I can do it Akbar Sahib but on one condition. I have informed him too about this condition—” he spoke looking into my eyes.
“What condition?” I asked.
“He should appoint you Managing Editor immediately—scrap the management system that he has assembled— ask the directors and shareholders to confine themselves only to their company meetings— As soon as he does it, I will withdraw the case and fly to London— leaving behind two capable teams to fight for leadership. I have a gut feeling you will beat Mashriq.”
Let me admit here that I did feel a kind of happy satisfaction in my mind during those moments— for being evaluated so highly by a man who was a great newspaper entrepreneur and trend- setter in the country’s Urdu journalism.
But I said to him— “It is a Utopian idea Enayatullah Sahib— I wish you could have come up with a more practical solution.”
An hour later— at about 5 a.m when I reached home in a rickshaw, I was surprised to find Mamoon Jaan strolling infront of the main gate.
Let me mention here that on my return from Karachi, a Kothi had been rented on Mayo Road to be shared between my family on the one hand— and Mamoon Jan and Khalid Nasim Hijazi on the other.
“Where have you been?” Mamoon Jaan asked me grimly I thought there was no point in lying.
“I was with Enayat Sahib. He had sent me a message,” I replied.
“He is a treacherous person Akbar. Don’t pay any heed to his mischievous ideas,” said Mamoon Jaan in the same grim tone.
“I will not Mamoon Jaan,” said I in an equally grim tone. “Rest assured of that. But I found him very positive— and full of love and respect for you.”
“He is playing a game of deception. He wants my supporters in the Board to desert me,” he said.
“I don’t agree with you Mamoon Jaan, but I want to assure you I will stand with you as long as I am needed here— Did he send you some proposal—?” I said.
“Yes he did but I… I…” Mamoon Jaan was trying to find words.
“Forget that proposal. It is nonsense. Just try to soften your heart towards him.”
“I know him more than you do,” Mamoon Jaan said sternly. “And you shouldn’t worry much about the future of Kohistan. It is my brainchild.”
“Of course it is yours Mamoon Jaan. And I am here because of you. Just tell me who informed you I was meeting Enayat Sahib tonight. I often come home late, but never before have I found you strolling at the gate like this. Was it Khalid?”
He didn’t respond to my question, but asked me to go in and have some sleep.
That night I lost all hope of saving Kohistan. My anger was directed not at my Mamoon who continued to be my hero and my inspiration, but at Khalid who had been poisoning his father’s mind with disinformation.
In the days to follow I transferred my friend Tariq Khan from Karachi to Lahore to strengthen the advertisement department as most trained personnel had drifted away to Mashriq. When I had been transferred to Lahore eight months earlier, I had appointed a young hardworking business executive Abdul Mateen Khan as my successor at Karachi, and asked my friend Tariq Khan to leave Hyderabad and join Abdul Mateen Khan as his deputy.
1964 was a year of many heartbreaks for me. I saw Kohistan’s continuous slide down to second position in Lahore, and Mashriq’s assertive ascendance.
Tariq Khan was quick to get into the good books of Raja Zauq Akhtar— as Raja Sahib wanted desperately to marginalise me in the managerial matters.
I used to be sent to Karachi for “collections” whenever there used to be a financial crisis. Otherwise my role had been confined to the Editorial department.
It was early that year that the move to pitch Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah the venerated sister of the Father of the Nation against Field Marshal Ayub Khan in the forthcoming Presidential elections had started.
For me it was going to become a personal challenge and a personal battle.