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In Quest Of A Dream

Ghulam Akbar

Ghulam Akbar

In March 1962 General Ayub Khan announced a proposed new Constitution for the country. It was said to have been largely drafted by Manzur Qadir. Earlier in 1960, General Ayub Khan had appointed a Constitution Committee under the supervision of Justice Shahabuddin. The Commission’s recommendations on the future Constitution were completely opposite to General Ayub Khan’s ideas. Understandably so. The Chief Justice was, by the very nature of his responsibilities, guardian of the status quo, whereas the General had taken power with an agenda of revolutionary change. Justice Shahabuddin had no option except to resign from the Commission.
Under Ayub Khan’s new Constitution, a National Assembly of 156 members was to be created by the holding of non-party elections, and the voting restricted to the 80,000 BD members who were to be elected by the local voters.
Neither the President, nor his chosen ministers were made responsible to the new Assembly. The Assembly’s powers were to be restricted, especially in relation to financial matters. The President’s powers were almost unlimited. His veto could not be overridden even by two-thirds majority, for he could refer any bill in question to a referendum to his chosen electorate —the 80000 BD members of Pakistan. Chaudhry Mohammad Ali, virtual father of the Constitution that General Ayub Khan had abrogated, commented: “It will be a government of the President by the President, and for the President”.
The proposed Constitution did not meet unanimous approval despite support from those quarters who had been dismayed and disgusted with the so-called system of “the Government of the people, by the people and for the people”.
In his Radio broadcast to the Nation, General Ayub Khan said: “I believe in every word… and have complete faith in the whole Constitution”.
That was the period when a paradigm shift was about to take place in my career.
Let me admit here that my earlier University life romance with General Ayub Khan’s Martial law had lost much of its enthusiasm because of the subtle appeal of the Democratic idealism to which my mind was more powerfully exposed. To be honest I was drawn to both ideals— a revolutionary change brought about by a Messiah—and a tyranny-free order in which there was reasonable freedom of thought and action. Was the marriage of the two diagonally opposite ‘states of being’ possible? The question was always in my mind those days. It was a kind of paradox that was to take decades to get resolved in my mind.
A day before my journey by road to Karachi began, Enayatuallah Sahib called me to his office to explain a few more things about the nature of my new responsibilities.
“You should know more about Habib ur Rahman Chapta who is to accompany you to Karachi alongwith Hameedullah Sahib and Khan Wali Khan who as you know is a Director of the Company. Both Hameedullah Sahib and Khan Wali Khan will return after installing you there as incharge of our Karachi office. Habib ur Rahman Chapta will be your assistant in his journalistic capacity. He will be Special Correspondent. He till recently was Jang’s staffer and known as a sharp reporter with wide contacts. You have to guard yourself against his ability to breed mischief where there is none. If he can’t find two humans to get pitched against each other, he will generate a war between a pen and ink. It is upto you to keep close watch on him, and make the most of his abilities as a journalist and PR man”.
I listened to Enayat Sahib quite calmly. Then as he finished his briefing I said: “I will do my best to rise to your expectations Enayat sahib, but if my best is not enough, please don’t hesitate to bring me back to the job I cherish and belong to.”
“A true publisher is one who understands and can handle all the areas of this industry. Don’t ever forget that this is an industry primarily. A newspaper cannot be produced in a vacuum. You need money to bring out a newspaper every day. And money has to be earned. Circulation income can never meet the costs of bringing out a newspaper. It is from its advertisement income that a newspaper draws its life. That is why you are going to Karachi Akbar Sahib. You have to keep three rules in your mind. Advertisement income is your newspaper’s lifeline. Your newspaper has to appear every day. Meaning thereby that a newspaperman is pregnant each day. He has to deliver. Number three: you have to meet deadlines all your life.”
As he finished, he took out three books from his drawer. Handing over to me the first he said: “This is Headlines All My Life by Express’s recently retired editor Christianson. The other two books are recent works of Hugh Cudlipp the Chief Editor of the Mirror Group”.
These books were titled “Publish And Be Damned” and “At Your Peril.” I was to read them with great interest in the subsequent days and to benefit hugely from the wisdom and experience of two of the finest brains in journalism.
Before I proceed I want to throw light on the structure of Kohistan (private) Ltd—- the company that owned the newspaper.
My Uncle Nasim Hijazi was Chairman and shareholder of 30% shares. Enayatullah Sahib was Managing Director. Among other directors were Hameedullah Sahib, Mian Rasheed, Raja Zauq Akhter, Murad Khan Jamali, Aslam Khan Jamali and Khan Wali Khan. I was to be added to the Board of Directors in the subsequent months on Enayat Sahib’s proposal.
The paid-up capital of the company was Rs 250000/- only During the expansion period through which the newspaper was passing, the additional required funds were provided by Mir Murad Khan Jamali, Mian Rasheed and Khan Wali Khan in the form of loans. The company had also acquired a substantial loan from PICIC to import printing machines from Germany. Kohistan in fact was the first newspaper of the country to shift to offset printing process. I think the first colour picture in a Pakistani newspaper too was published by Kohistan.
Let me state here that it was in that period that Hameed Nizami Sahib had passed away, and his younger brother Majeed Nizami had flown from UK to take over as Editor of Daily Nawai Waqt. Rivalry between Kohistan and Nawai Waqt had been intense before Kohistan sprinted away from Nawai Waqt’s reach in 1962.
Kohistan had begun to be regarded as a direct threat now to the supremacy of Mir Khalilur Rahman’s Jang which had knocked out its old rival Daily Anjam from the competition.
It was the 10th of April 1962 when soon after lunch our Consul Cortina left Lahore.
We had a stop for that night in the office of Kohistan Multan. Naseer Awar was our Multan’s Resident Editor, and my cousin Khalid Nasim Hijazi was stationed there as incharge of the newspaper’s newly installed press.
I remember Khalid’s sarcastic remark to me that night.
“You have been bought over by Enayatullah, Akbar….”
I was stunned by his unkind words. It was infact the first time that I came face to face with the under-currents of conspiratorial rivalry underneath a seemingly smooth veneer.
The late Khalid Nasim Hijazi as the eldest of the great man’s sons regarded himself understandably a logical heir. And even though we had been friends from our childhood, he wasn’t happy at my instant rise in the cadres of management.
It was unfortunately he who in the months to follow was to sow the seeds of discord between Mamoon Jan Nasim Jijazi and his old friend Enayatullah.
“Khalid,” I replied to him after a short pause. “Rest assured I will never come in your way. But you are utterly wrong about Enayat Sahib. If Mamoon Jan is the spirit of Kohistan, Enayatullah is the brain. I have known him for only few months, but I can tell you, he is Mamoon Jan’s most loyal friend. He has chosen me for this job not because I have any blood relation with him but because I belong to his best friend’s family, and he rightly or wrongly believes I have the guts to meet the challenge head on.”

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