Home / In Quest Of A Dream / In Quest Of A Dream

In Quest Of A Dream

Ghulam AkbarGhulam Akbar

My eldest son Inam was three weeks old when I was transferred from Karachi back to Lahore where two years earlier I had begun my journalistic career.
My fifteen-month long stay as incharge of Daily Kohistan’s Karachi office had given me a completely new insight into the profession that in my University days I had always associated with such “warriors in the realm of ideology” as Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Maulana Zafar Ali Khan. The names of Nasim Hijazi and Hameed Nizami also had figured prominently in my ‘mental construction’ of the image of journalism. The primary reason behind my leap into the world of words and ideas had been my burning desire to use this medium for the advancement of my nationalistic longings. In my mindset the word NATION had no other connotation except the followers of Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him). The only interpretation of the phrase ‘two-nation theory’ that had appealed to my mind ever since my early boyhood had been that Muslims had constituted one of these nations, and all non-Muslims the other nation.
It may sound to be a sweeping statement to many ‘enlightened ears’ but that was what was meant by the great Quaid when he had used the phrase in the context of Pakistan movement, and that was the definition Allah had reserved for the Umma of Mohmmad (Peace Be Upon Him). This subject will be taken up by me later in the book. Here I only want to state that in my fifteen months as Karachi Chief of Daily Kohstan, I came face to face with the realisation that journalism was not entirely what I had envisioned it to be—it was also—and to a greater extent— an industry. Like in every other industry, in journalism too, capital mattered—regular flow of finance mattered. Salaries had to be paid. Newsprint had to be bought. Printing machine had to be acquired. Offices had to be maintained. Purchases had to be made. Expenses had to be incurred. All that required money. And money had to be earned.
Enayatullah Sahib had told me at the time of my transfer to Karachi that more important in the Newspaper Industry was the Publisher’s role than an Editor’s.
“As a publisher,” he had said, “you have to constantly enhance the newspaper’s revenue so as to meet the costs of production, growth and competition. The area in which it can be done is advertisements not circulation. Circulation infact eats away the resources, because cost of production per copy is always higher than the sale price. It is so because nearly forty percent of the circulation income goes into the pockets of the newspaper agents and hawkers.”
By the time I arrived back in Lahore, the preparations for the launch of Daily Mashriq were in full swing.
Daily Kohistan’s office was situated on the McLeod Road near Sanober Cinema. Enayatullah Sahib had acquired a building on the Nisbet Road to serve as Daily Mashriq’s office.
Some key executives of Daily Kohistan had left for a career in Daily Mashriq— among them Iqbal Zubeiri the Chief News Editor— and C.M Latif the Advertisement Manger. Farhad Zaidi, Ziaul Islam Ansari, Riaz Batalvi and Mussarat Jabeen constituted the Editorial team of Daily Mashriq. Syed Aali Rizvi, Minhajuddin Islahi and Amin Rahat Chughtai had stayed with Kohistan.
In my mind I was very uncomfortable with the situation. A family had been split in two parts— both pitched against each other in a manner that no one had thought possible a year earlier.
My position was the most precarious. I was to be a key member of Mamoon Jan’s team and the man to complete for me was none other than my former mentor and benefactor.
My new boss was to be Sheikh Hamid Mahmood— the man who now occupied Enayatullah Sahib’s chair.
I have very vivid memories of my first meeting with him.
He was on the shorter and fatter side. Had no hair. And his looks didn’t inspire my confidence in his intellect and intelligence.
“It is good to see you Mr Akbar. I have studied your performance in the Karachi market, and I am greatly impressed.”
“Thank you Sheikh Sahib’,” was my polite reply.
“I was told you were quite young”, he said “You are even younger than I thought. The responsibilities I have envisioned for you require a great deal of commitment energy and of course talent. I am sure you will more than match my expectations.”
“May I know Sheikh Sahib what these responsibilities are?” I asked. There was a pause before he replied.
“You are from Nasim Sahib’s family. His nephew. He regards you highly. Rightly so, because his own son I have found, doesn’t seem to possess the ability or the skills to become his worthy successor. You are therefore my logical choice to become second-in-command to me. I need support to succeed in the role Nasim Sahib has chosen for me— and I am counting heavily on you”.
For a while I was not sure what to say. Then I made up my mind to be blunt.
“I am glad you think so highly of me— despite not having really known me personally. But this is not going to be an easy organisation for you to run. By this time you should have known that there are elements here that manipulated or triggered this conflict leading to Enayatullah Sahib’s exit. These elements are not going to make life comfortable here for you Sheikh Sahib. Nor do I foresee any high degree of comfort for myself too.”
He looked intently into my eyes, before allowing a grim smile to appear on his face.
“I understand what you are saying. The directors supporting Nasim Sahib have no idea of what this industry is all about. It will be hard to handle them but we will try. As far as Khalid Nasim is concerned, we will try to convince him that his talent is best suited to manage the affairs of printing. But for all that I want your total support. You are a director of the company too.”
“Thanks to Enayat Sahib,” I said a bit sarcastically,”.
“I appreciate your regard for him,” Sheikh Sahib said. “But now we have to compete him. Kohistan has a challenge to overcome. I have learnt that the National Press Trust owned by the government is fully behind Enayatullah. Chaudhry Zahur Elahi has secured guarantees from the National Press Trust that it will not charge costs of printing and paper for well over a year from Mashriq. That is a huge favour. We are up against a gigantic challenge Mr Akbar.”
“I’ll do my best Sheikh Sahib,” I replied after a while. “But what have I to do?”
“You will be General Promotion Manager, in which role you will have on the one hand the responsibilities of an Executive Editor, and on the other hand the task of coordinating the management of all the departments of the newspaper”.
I was speechless for a while; then I spoke cautiously: “Do you think I can handle all that Sheikh Sahib?”
“My gut feeling is you can,” Sheikh Sahib said with a smile.
The next day I was handed over the charge of virtually all the departments of the newspaper— editorial advertising, circulation, administration and printing.
The launch of Daily Mashriq from Lahore was beginning of new era in the country’s Urdu journalism. Till that point of time the Urdu newspapers used to be published on 20×30 size newsprint. Daily Mashriq was the first Urdu newspaper to appear in what was termed as Jahazi size. The size of the newsprint sheet was 23×33. This allowed the newspaper page to have eight columns instead of seven.
Enayatullah Sahib also increased the number of pages to 12. The additional four pages were used to accommodate featurised articles for each segment of readers— such as women and students.
Riaz Batalvi’s features were to create a real point of difference. The other big plus was Khanam Ki Diary by Mussarat Jabeen. I knew right away that Kohistan was up against a newspaper that couldn’t be stopped without induction of huge financial resources.
There was no capital behind Kohistan whereas Mashriq had the financial backing of the National Press Trust, and was receiving facilities of long credit from the Progressive Papers Ltd— the publishers of Pakistan Times and Imroze. Most importantly Mashriq had the seasoned and dynamic brain of Enayatullah, whereas Kohistan was in the hands of a Board of Directors that was unwilling to part with the authority it had used—to force the exit of Enayatullah Sahib. Sheikh Hamid Mahmood did not have the ideas required to counter Mashriq’s challenge. And I had very little experience of publishing behind me. But I was quick to decide that the area in which Kohistan could have a big lead over Mashirq was Policy.

About Web Desk

Check Also

In Quest Of A Dream

Ghulam Akbar Manzoor Malik’s scoop in a way created history. The issue of Daily Kohistan …