Looking back 52 years into the week when Daily Kohistan was virtually re-launched after a ban of forty days, I can’t help feeling some measure of satisfaction over the way we succeeded in regaining a lot of ground that had been lost to Mashriq. Though we never reached our peak of eighty thousand copies a day after the jolt we had received because of the ban, both Sheikh Hamid Mahmood and Mamoon jan NasimHijazi were jubilant at the results our hard work produced in the wake of Mashriq’s onslaught.Mashriq was decidedly a superior newspaper. It had the advantage of being in ‘ Jahazi size’. This phrase was coined to promote Mashriq through posters and all other available means of advertising. The second advantage Mashriq had, was in the number of pages. Mashriq readers were getting 12 pages of quality reading material in ‘Jahazi size’ for 20 paisas——the same price as that of Kohistan in 8 pages of smaller size.
Still we went ahead of Mashriq in not many days, and stayed ahead for months to come despite the conspiratorial atmosphere that had suddenly been created by the grumbling of some directors close to Mamoon Jaan. Mian Rasheed and Raja ZauqAkhtar were in forefront of sowing the seed of discord in the new setup that had been established after the exit of Enayatullah Sahib under the pressure of these directors, Mamoon jan was reluctant to appoint Sheikh Mahmood formally as Managing Director. For such an appointment it was necessary that he be awarded qualification shares and directorship.
I suspected even at that time, and my suspicious were proved right later, that my cousin Khalid Nasim Hijazi was somehow behind the move to get rid of Sheikh Hamid Mahmood.
I suddenly realized that I was not only witnessing but also was a part of a power tussle in the country’s second largest circulated newspaper.
As Sheikh Hamid Mahmood was relying heavily on my capabilities and support, he was unconsciously annoying those to whom my rapid rise in the newspaper hierarchy was very nearly a nightmare.
In the opinion of Shiekh Hamid Mahmood, the battle lines were drawn. But I knew he stood no chance against the powerful conspirators. I had grown aware of a move to make Mir Murad Khan Jamil the Managing Director of Kohistan (Pvt) Limited. And somehow Sheikh Hamid Mahmood too got ‘wind’ of the proposal.
One afternoon he invited me to his home.
He came to the point straight away.
“You are an honest person Akbar. I am greatly impressed by your talent and integrity. Tell me frankly—-will Nasim sahib appoint me as a Managing Director?”
I was ill-prepared to answer such a direct question.
I was aware that my ‘answer’ could be quoted against me or to my disadvantage.
But I chose not to give a ‘dodging’ reply.
“I shall be honest with you Shiekh Sahib. I have known from the day you transferred me from Karachi to make me your deputy, which all this would not work. Nasim Sahib, my Mamoon is a simple man. An idealist. A man who constructs plots for his novels, and mostly lives in the company of his characters. His ears are not as invulnerable as should have been. If he hadn’t had this weakness of lending his ears to bad advice or misinformation, you probably wouldn’t have been here, and Enayatullah Sahib would still be sitting in that chair.”
As I finished my longish reply, he gave me a stern gaze. Then a smile appeared on his lips—- a smile that was clearly of bitter resignation.
“I must admit I made a huge mistake Akbar. I thought I was coming to the aid and rescue of a man as decent as NasimHijazi. But I have ended up having earned the anger of friends as dear as Rauf Sahib and Mushtaq Sahib— and looking a great fool in my own eyes. I am however grateful to you young man for having supported me selflessly.”
It didn’t take Sheikh Hamid Mahmood long after the above talk to resign from the Managing Editorship of Kohistan and disappear in his own life. It was in the Bhutto era that he re-emerged as Head of the Propaganda Cell of the PPP.
It was in the winter of 1963-64 that I had to go through the agony of witnessing a farce everyday with disbelieving eyes.
It was okay to make Mir Murad Khan Jamali the Company’s Managing Director.
He was a decent and honourable man. But as he was to be an absentee CEO— living mostly in Quetta and Rohjan his ancestral home—- the newspaper needed someone to look after its day to day affairs. I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was, but one fine day we were told that Mian Rashid in his capacity of Deputy Managing Director and Raja Zauq Akhtar as Assist Managing Director would jointly perform the responsibilities of the M.D in his absence, and would have collective authority to run the administration.
Mian Rasheed used to live in Qasoorpura. Raja ZauqAkhtar was from Swat, but he had moved in to occupy the roof-room of the office as his residence.
The very first day this new ‘order’ came into force;MianRasheed arrived in the office at 9 a.m sharp to occupy the seat that had once been occupied by Enayat Sahib, and subsequently by Shiekh Hamid Mahmood.
He was horrified to find Raja ZauqAkhtar already occupying that seat. Mian Sahib had no option but to get a chair for himself and ask Raja Sahib to provide some room for it.
The next day Mian Sahib arrived an hour earlier-but was again disappointed. Raja Sahib was already in the prized chair.
It was on his fourth day that Mian Sahib was able to beat Raja Sahib to the key seat. He had arrived that day at 6:30 a.m —- when even the room attendant wasn’t there. This victory was short-lived for Mian Sahib. All Raja Sahib had to do was to come down the stairs to find his prize.
He started beating Mian quite regularly after that day, till Mian Sahib finally gave up.
All this I used to learn from the guard who used to be the lone receiver of orders from the Joint Managing Committee in the early hours of those winter mornings. This farce had got unbearable for me by the time I received a secret massage from my mentor and former boss Enayatullah Sahib.
“See me tonight in Mashriq’s office at 2:30 a.m after you finish your work in the newsroom.”
It was a totally unexpected development.
My working hours at that period of my life used to be very long. I was in the office maximum by ten in the morning. And used to go home at one after the last copy was handed over to the press. I hardly had an opportunity to realize that I had become a father. My son Inam was about six months at that time. My only time to be with him used to be Sunday mornings.
That night I remember ZAB was in the news— not as Foreign Minister of the country but as Secretary General of the Convention Muslim League.
Bhutto was a trusted political commander of the Field Marshal Ayub Khan. He had worked hard to win the confidence of his boss. In those days I regarded him just as one of the Courtiers of the King.
He surely had planned his rise quite meticulously. The trust of his first boss —Iskandar Mirza — he had won with unconcealed sycophancy. In one of his letters to President Mirza as early as early as 30th April 1958, he had written: “I regard you even higher than Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.” This letter was to become public property in the Zia years.
The trust of the Field Marshal had been won by him exactly the same way. I remember his statement that day:
“A new era of great prosperity and great hopes awaits Pakistan under the President’s leadership.”
It was the headline that night.