In the fifth year of Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s rule, the romance of the people with his revolution was already losing its intensity. The constitution he had promulgated and the system of the Basic Democracies he had evolved had not been given the kind of public endorsement required for any change to emerge successfully as a genuine revolution. The public representatives who had emerged as the political face of the envisioned revolution were seen as mere stooges in the hands of the powerful bureaucracy through which the dictatorial regime was being run. The figure of Nawab Amir Mohammad Khan of Kalabagh who was West Pakistan’s governor exuded such an aura of despotism that most of the good work that the Field Marshal had done and was doing in the area of industrial development and commercial progress was largely overlooked by the public.
As I have already conceded, my earlier enthusiasm for revolutionary change under Ayub Khan had dissipated. I was finding it hard to condone or endorse Governor Kalabagh’s strong-arm tactics. I have vivid memories of Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi being manhandled by Nawaz Kalabagh’s hoodlums right infront of Kohistan’s office.
Maulana, a college-time friend of Mamoon Jan Nasim Hijazi, had come to Kohistan’s office for some work. As he was leaving the office in a taanga (horse-driven cart) a few hoodlums appeared from nowhere and dragged Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi down. Luckily some Kohistan staffers were around who rushed to the scene and came to Maulana’s rescue.
The hoodlums ran away. And Maulana told us they were Nawab Kalabagh’s people. I was already aware of the intense rivalry in Mianwali between the Awan and Niazi clans.
This incident had a telling effect on my appraisal of the moral character of the regime. When I took control of the editorial side of Kohistan, I made up my mind to make Kohistan even more critical of the government than Nawai Waqt was. It was not easy, as Aali Rizvi the Editor and leader-writer was a master in the art of ‘balancing’. Mamoon Jan too had a soft corner for the Field Marshal. The magazine section and the newsroom however were in my direct control. Very soon the newspaper started acquiring an anti-regime tone which did not go well with the administration of Nawab Kalabagh. Resultantly some cuts in government advertisements became visible very early.
Then came the crackdown of Nawab Kalabagh on the agitating students. And the fateful news that Kohistan published under my directive, of the death of three students by police firing. As I have written in the starting chapter of these memoirs, the news had been filed by Habibur Rahman Chapta. He had sworn on Quran in my presence that he had himself seen the dead bodies being removed from the scene in police vans.
The News Editor Amin Rahat Chughtai and his deputy Mahboob Ali Khan were not in favour of publishing Chapta’s report and wanted the government version to be preferred. I put my foot down. I also made sure that Aali Rizvi the Editor was not consulted because I knew he would go all out to block the report.
The news appeared prominently in the morning. And I have already narrated its consequences at the start.
Had Chapta acted under a secret deal with Daily Mashriq which required some necessary open space to fill? This was a popular view among the Kohistan people, but my heart wasn’t prepared to accept that Enayatullah Sahib could resort to such a deplorable act.
There was another theory too. Had Chapta been planted in Kohistan by the Jang management for this kind of sabotage?
This view was hypothetical. But there was some circumstantial evidence in its favour. Chapta disappeared after that night and months later when he surfaced, he was associated with the Jang group as he had been before Enayat Sahib had acquired his services for Daily Kohistan.
I had a great load of guilt to carry on my mind in the weeks that followed.
I remember my tears as I witnessed Mamoon Jan, Sheikh Hamid Mahmood and Aali Rizvi being presented in the court the day after their arrest. I distinctly remember Amin Rahat Chughtai crying like a child. He was a real gentlemen, and when I last met him after his Kohistan days, he was Public Relations Officer in the Japanese Embassy.
Some of my tension was reduced when Mamoon Jan hugged are affectionately on coming out from the court. Sheikh Hamid Mahmood also had a brave smile.
“I want you to leave for Karachi immediately,” he instructed me. “You will have three tasks to do. One, persuade the APNS to protest against the government action. Two, damage control in the face of Mashriq’s propaganda in the advertising market. And three, to make hectic efforts for maximum collections to counter any possible, financial crisis”.
I flew to Karachi the very next night. I remember those Folker flights distinctly. The night-coach fare both ways used to be Rs. 280/- The travel time between Lahore and Karachi was three hours I was to become a frequent night-couch traveler in the months to follow.
My first act on my arrival in Karachi was to make an appointment with Mir Khalil ur Rahman who at that time was President of the APNS.
He was quite friendly and sympathetic.
“It is good to see you Akbar. Court upon my active support. I will do my best to persuade the government to lift the ban on Kohistan at the very earliest.”
“Thank you Mir Sahib,” I said gratefully.
“Mention not Akbar,” he said with a smile. “You are Nasim Sahib’s nephew, and I hold him in a very high esteem. By the way did Enayatullah have serious plans to bring out Kohistan from Karachi.”
“How can I know Mir Sahib? It is an irrelevant matter any way. He is running Mashriq now.” I replied.
“Oh yes Mashirq!” Mir Sahib muttered. “Will Enayatullah take advantage of the vacuum created by the ban on Kohistan?”
“It is quite logical Mir Sahib,” I replied. “He will”.
“It was a silly mistake,” Mir Sahib said. “That news.”
“Yes it was,” I replied. “And I am to be blamed.”
“You?” Mir Sahib looked into my eyes. “What had you to do with the news. You are supposed to be running the advertisement department.”
“Fundamentally I am a journalist Mir Sahib, “I said with an apologetic smile. “And I have proved to be a bad one. It was on my directive that the news was published.”
“It is okay Akbar,” Mir Khalil ur Rahman Sahib said with a sympathetic smile.
“It is good to learn the hard way.”
In the days to follow I did a lot of running about—countering the negative propaganda of the competitors of Kohistan. Daily Mashriq was the new rival, and I was aware of the inroads it was already making into newspaper-readership all over Punjab.
My argument against Nawai Waqt had always been that it was too monotonous and divorced from reality to win new readers. And my argument against Mashriq was that it was a mouthpiece of Convention Muslim League, and thus could compete neither Kohistan nor Nawai Waqt.
I was successful in making sufficient ‘recoveries to avert any dangerous financial crisis. I had several personal friends in the advertising world by then. I had no idea at that time that in the years to come I would emerge as a potential threat to every advertising agency of the country.
An APNS meeting had been held and a resolution passed in support of Kohistan, urging the government to lift the ban.
The ban was eventually lifted but not before Mashriq had firmly established itself as the leading newspaper of Punjab.
For Kohistan, it was to be a struggle to win the lost ground.
In Quest Of A Dream