Manzoor Malik’s scoop in a way created history. The issue of Daily Kohistan the next day carried no other story on the front page except the six points of Sheikh Majeebur Rahman. Each of these points made a separate headline and a separate story.
The impact was sensational. The most remarkable consequence of this major newsbreak was that Sheikh did not muster enough courage to present his formula before the COP delegates. His six-points were quite hard to digest for the purists of the ideology of Pakistan. The COP-mix was composed of regionalists and ‘nationalists’ as well as diehard flag-bearers of the two-nation theory. I found out later that Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rahman had been reprimanded by Maulana Maudoodi and Maulana Bhashani as well. But he had the assured support of Khan Wali Khan.
I have quite clear memories of the day when the candidacy of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah was announced.
I went to Aali Rizvi’s room to ask him to write a befitting leader welcoming the advent into politics of the venerated sister of the Founder of the Country.
But his response was far from fervent. In a sullen and sedate voice he replied:
“This is Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and there is no room for a woman to vy for the top slot in the country.”
“What the hell you mean?” I asked perplexedly.
“I received a call from Nasim Sahib early morning in this respect. He practically has ordered me to write a firm rebuttal to the COP, condemning its move to drag Madar-i-Millat into politics.”
“Oh no!” I gasped in despair. “How can we afford not to support the Mother of the Nation against a despotic regime? I am sure Nawai Waqt will crucify us — and we will fall further behind Mashriq.”
“Nasim Sahib is flying to Lahore in the afternoon,” Aali Rizvi informed me. “If you can persuade him to change his policy, I’ll gladly write what you want me to write.”
“That is a great news,” I said in a semi-excited tone of voice. “I am going to use all my persuasive powers Aali Sahib—And you need not wait. Write as great a piece in her support as she is worthy of.”
Some hours later I was at the airport— receiving Mamoon Jaan. As we drove out of the airport area, he himself began the conversation.
“Has she gone out of her mind? Allowing herself to be used by these vagabonds!”
“Aren’t you aware that Jamaat-i-Islami too has endorsed her candidacy?” I said calmly.
“Well,” Mamoon Jaan’s tone was now cautious. “I will discuss this with Jamaat leaders.”
“I believe Mamoon Jaan, the heroines of your novels have been more inspirational, inspiring and inspired than your heroes. For example Rabeea in Shaheen. Infact all your heroines.”
“What has this to do with the candidacy of Mohtarma?”
“Everything Mamoon Jaan Pakistan today needs an alternative leadership. Field Marshal has now been ruling for six years. And he is yet to address the fundamental issue of Pakistan’s ideology. It is important today that he faces a real challenge in the Presidential election. I wish there were a better alternative than Madar-i-Millat. Have you any in your mind?”
There was uncertainty in his eyes as Mamoon Jaan looked at me.
“I think there is a genuine drought of leaders in the country,” he said atlast. I was quick to reply.
“Hence Madar-i-Millat Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah. She is not hungry for limelight or power. She has been persuaded into accepting this proposal on the grounds that she alone can arrest Pakistan’s continuous slide into the abyss of despotism.”
“But the COP crowd doesn’t inspire my confidence. There is Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rahman. There is Khan Wali Khan. And there are other rogue elements of our political landscape,” Mamoon Jaan argued.
“I think the towering figure of the Quaid’s sister is fully equipped to handle these rogue elements,” I replied. “I don’t think we have any alternative or option except to come out whole-heartedly in the support of her candidacy. Your readers will be expecting you to do this. If Kohistan lags behind Nawai Waqt on this issue, our claim of being the true flag-bearers of the Quaid’s dream will be seriously jeopardized. Nawai Waqt will take full advantage of our lack of vision.”
“What do you mean by our lack of vision?” There was anger in Mamoon Jaan’s voice. “I am not against Madar-i-Millat.”
” I know you are not,” I said. “But we have to be for her. And now…. Right from the day one of her campaign to unseat the dictator.”
“If you think, that is the right course, you have my permission,” said Mamoon Jaan
It was a momentous day for me. I had persuaded Mamoon Jaan to stand solidly behind the candidacy of Madar-i-Millat. In the hindsight I think his reservations were not baseless. The COP camp had elements whose only goal was to destabilize the country politically and to bring Pakistan’s rapid economic-cum-industrial progress to a grinding halt.
One unavoidable consequence of Kohistan’s open and enthusiastic support to Mohtarma’s candidacy was the beginning of a process on the part of the government to put sanctions on the flow of government advertisement revenue to the newspaper. In the other words, Kohistan’s journey on the path of increased financial crisis had begun.
I want to narrate here how Kohistan contributed selflessly to Madar-i-Millat’s election campaign.
As countdown to the election campaign began, I found one day a fully page advertisement of Madar Millat and her Lantern in Nawai Waqt. I immediately decided to contact the Council Muslim League which was handling Madari Millat’s campaign. The man incharge of advertising was Abu Saeed Anwar. And he was using Nawai Waqt premises as his headquarters. For me it was difficult to go to Nawai Waqt office personally. Thus I utilised the services of Rana Jahangir, one of my trusted lieutenants, for negotiations. Abu Saeed Anwar contended that there was very limited budget at his disposal for advertising. Hence he could not accommodate Kohistan. I conveyed to him that Daily Kohistan would not charge a single paisa for Mohtarma’s campaign, and all that was required was a proper order from the Council Muslim League so that if there was any inquiry we should be able to prove we were not publishing the advertisements on complimentary basis.
The deal was struck, and the next advertisement appeared in both Nawai Waqt and Kohistan. This had a very healthy impact on the image of Kohistan, as it was in competition, not with Nawai Waqt but with Mashriq which being a newspaper of the National Press Trust was the mouthpiece of the Convention Muslim League.
I remember attending Madar-i-Millat’s mammoth public meeting in Nasser Bagh Lahore close to the National College of Arts.
It was a windy and chilly day of December 1964. Madar-i-Millat arrived exactly at the fixed time, and spoke in a highly charged and moving tone of voice.
“I am not here for the office of the Field Murshal,” said she impassionedly in her broken Urdu. “I am here to restore the supremacy of the ideals for which my beloved brother and your venerated Quaid fought for.”
Her voice and her words sent the crowd into ecstatic cheers. I could feel chills running down my spine.
That day lives in my memory even now.
I had been hoping against hope that despite all the heavy odds against her, the great sister of the Father of the Nation would be able to throw the Field Marshal out of his office. The front page of Daily Kohistan on the 2nd of January 1965 had the image of Latern (Madar-i-Millat’s election symbol) on one side and of Rose (FM’s election symbol) on the other side. The headline was shriekingly blunt.
“The nation has to choose between Right and Wrong today.”
But the choice was not to be made by the Nation.
The choice was to be made by eighty thousand Basic Democrats controlled by a highly efficient bureaucratic machinery.
I had gone to watch “Hamlog” in the matinee show that day. I wanted to kill time till the crucial stage of counting of votes. I somehow was yearning to come out of the Cinema hall to be greeted with the news that Madar-i-Millat had triumphed. It was not to be.
In the interval when I came out the results were already pouring in.
Pain shot through my soul as the reality downed upon me that the time was not up for Field Marshal Ayub Khan.
That truly was going to be for me the night of sadness. And I knew my sadness was shared by millions of my countrymen.
In the hindsight however, my thoughts are not the same as had been at that point of time.
I wish there had been some way of keeping Madar-i-Millat out of the race. I wish she hadn’t bid farewell to Pakistan’s politics vanquished and dejected.
But the continuity of Ayub Khan was what Pakistan needed to frustrate the enemy designs.