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In Quest Of A Dream

Ghulam Akbar

Ghulam Akbar

In the morning of the 11th of April 1962, we moved out of Multan—heading for Karachi. We stopped at Sadiqabad for lunch and at Hyderabad for dinner and night’s stay. It was a wonderful sensation, to be in the city where I had passed the best part of my early youth.
After taking breakfast on the 12th of April we proceeded towards our destination.
We were in Karachi by lunch time. Our first task was to find a shelter.
Kohistan’s previous office in Karachi had been at the corner of New Chali and I.I Chundrigar Road. As the previous Resident Representative RafiqueAkhtar had refused to vacate the office on the grounds that it had been personally rented by him, we had no option except to find a new address.
The first provisional address we managed to find was Bristol Hotel that was situated close to the Railway line. We rented two rooms in it and informed all the advertising agencies and concerned organizations about our new address and telephone number.
It took us two days to find a suitable place to house our office as well as the family of HabiburRahmanChapta.
It was a bungalow in a street that hit Sir Syed Road PECHS, which touched both Khalid Bin Walid Road, and Tariq Road.
The bungalow was owned by Dr Ali Ahmad the younger brother of Chaudhri Mohammad Ali a former Prime Minister of the country.
For my own residence I rented a small apartment near Tariq Road.
By the 16th of April, everything was in place, and we were fully operational.
Our first priority was to let it be known to all concerned that Daily Kohistan had a new office which was run not by RafiqueAkhtar but by a very young man named Ghulam Akbar.
I think Hameedullah Sahib, our Advertisement Director, did a great job of it. He was already well-known in the concerned business circles of Karachi. He introduced me to practically each key figure in the world of advertising at that time. Being NasimHijazi’s nephew was a great advantage. I won instant attention.
The key advertising figures of that era that I remember keenly, fondly and with a touch of nostalgia are C.A Rauf Chief Executive of Lintas, NusratBukhari Chief Executive of Thompson and Thompson, Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor and Sultan Mahmood, both at that time co-owners of United Advertising Pvt Ltd, Mohammad Mushtaq Chief Executive of National Advertising Pvt Limited, NazirSoofi Resident Director Crawfords, WajidMirza CEO D.J. KeymersIqbal Mir CEO Prestige Advertising and S.H. Hashmi CEO Orient Advertisers.
There were many other lovable persons too, I was to develop personal relationships with, in the months following my induction in a marketing role. My job was to sell the space of Daily Kohistan to both the advertising agencies, and the advertisers.
Before I proceed further in this context, I should mention here the concern that the arrival of a new team in Karachi, of Daily Kohistan had caused in the Jang Camp. We got information to the effect that the late Mir KhalilurRahman had got convinced that Enayatullah Sahib had intention to launch Daily Kohistan form Karachi as well.
At that point of time Kohistan was fast catching up with Jang which till today has not lost the distinction of being the largest circulated daily in the country.
As per the ABC (Audit Bureau of Circulation) figures of 1962, Jang had a circulation of 81,700 copies per day and Daily Kohistan stood at 73,300 copies per day. Nawa i Waqt, Imroze and Anjam three other key Urdu newspapers were well behind Jang and Kohistan.
The first time I met Mir Khalil urRahman was in a meeting of All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS). Kohistan was in the Executive Committee, and I was representing it.
I remember him asking me: “How is Nasim Sahib? When is Kohistan appearing from Karachi?”
“Nasim Sahib is fine”, I had replied. “And I don’t know about any plans of Kohistan appearing from your city, Mir Sahib….”
Mir Sahib laughed heartily and said: “Karachi is everyone’s city Akbar. Why just mine? Tell Enayat Sahib, I will welcome Kohistan’s presence here.”
This was weeks after I had begin working in Karachi. In the month of April 1962. I got partially acclimatised with the demands of marketing and the environment in which I was to work.
Let me state here that my marriage had been scheduled for May 2, 1962.
MamoonJaanNasimHijazi was against it as he wanted me to marry after getting settled well in my job. My financial position was pretty bad at that time.
Another argument of Mamoon Jan was that I should wait for Enayat Sahib’s arrival back from U.K where he had flown to, in emergency to settle certain issues regarding Weekly Mashriq London. I told Mamoon Jan that as my parents had decided about the date of my marriage already, I was in no position to fulfill his desire.
Let me state here that I had been betrothed to my maternal aunt’s daughter from my childhood. My mother-in-law to-be was the youngest sister of MamoonJaanNasimHijazi. They are both dead now— as infact are all the offsprings of my maternal grandfather whose memories I still cherish as Tehsildar of Dhariwal (Gurdaspura).
I took leave for ten days on April 28th 1962 and proceeded to Lahore.
On May 1 I as bridegroom, accomparried my family to Haroonabad in a bus. On May 2, 1962, I entered into a lifelong partnership with my cousin Shameem who was to play a pivotal role in keeping my spirits high and morale in top gear during the worst of times in my life. And let me state here that it was not for nothing that my friend FarhadZaidi was to remark in 1992 that “Akbar is the Babylon that has fallen many a time only to reappear in the horizon from nowhere.”
More of it later.
I now had a wife—parents and a young sister to look after. It is not without a sense of amusement that I remember I had barely Rs ten in my pocket on the day of my Valima Ceremony.
On the 9th of May 1962 , I returned to Karachi to resume my duty. My parents and wife joined me ten days later.
A new life had begun for me.
HabiburRahmanChapta meanwhile had started working as Kohistan’s special correspondent. Through him I made some useful political contacts. Some of my readers may be wondering why he was called Chapta. The reason was that Jang had two journalists of the same name in its team. HabiburRahman who had left Jang to join Kohistan, had been nick-named as ‘Chapta’ because of his flat nose. The other one was named HabiburRahmanJangi. This distinction had been made by the late Mir Khalil urRahman himself.
I remember here two events of significant importance. I attended both in the company of HabiburRahmanChapta.
One was the Convention of Pakistan Muslim league which was presided over by ChaudhriKhaliquzaman. It was in this convention that I had the first ‘live’ glimpse of the man who was destined to shape the history of this country both for better and for worse— the man called Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
I remember that moment distinctly. I was sitting with HabiburRahmanChapta in the Press enclosure.
“Who is that dandy with Gary Cooper hat?” I asked Chapta.
“Zulfi— who else?”Chapta replied with a smile. “Ayub’s blue-eyed boy. He is also the brain behind this show. He has plans for the king’s coronation. ChaudhriKhaliquzzam and Yameen Khan will soon step aside, leaving the throne for Ayub Khan. His Majesty will rule this country as President PML (convention), and Zulfi will be his crown prince.”
The other event was that of SardarSwaran Singh’s visit for talks with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on the issue of Kashmir.
The talks were held on the rooftop of the State Bank building, where a natural grass turf had been laid.
It was during the month of Ramadhan.
I remember a cynically amusing remark made by SardarSwaran Singh to the journalists.
“You have created a heaven here on the roof-top of this building. Why should you be yearning for that Kashmir which is far less developed and charming to the eye than this?”
Predictably the Bhutto-Singh talks failed. Bhutto, as I remember, was still Minister of Natural Resources at that time in which capacity he had paved the way for a lasting friendship of Pakistan with China. Soon he took over as Foreign Minister from Mohammad Ali Bogra, and Pakistan’s snail-pace journey away from the United States began.

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