In memory of IA Rehman

By: Hassan Naqvi      Published: 02:51 PM, 18 Apr, 2021
In memory of IA Rehman
File photo.

IA Rehman Sahib was a loveable elder, awesome, considerate and accommodative, always willing to teach and advise young and upcoming journalists like us how to face the vicissitudes of life and challenges that confront us daily. He was multifaceted colossus with larger than life existence. That’s the reason that we saw in him an ongoing phenomenon, never expecting him to go. He had a plethora of qualities in him that made him larger than life figure, a treasure trove of wisdom and knowledge all the time flowing out of him for the benefit of the needy.

He was one of humankind who had all the good qualities of God’s sublime creation. He was a man of conviction, considerate and a genuine soul who had a vision to see beyond and a nerve to feel the pain for others. He was no doubt a practicing Marxist one of those who had become one of the greatest human beings of all times. 

According to his close friends who have had the honour reincarnated in him. Having seen him from close quarter Maulana Hasrat Mohani to him seems to be a very saintly figure, travelling with a carry home bed –and- baggage that was Maulana’s permanent asset hung from his shoulder in his life. 

Like Hasrat Mohani, IA Rehman too was a journalist. So was he, an adorable human being. Indeed like those who are not born in every century. Rehman Sahib, indeed, was the unassuming and humble soul that he was, he had a heart of gold with space and concern for all those who needed alleviation of their sufferings and afflictions. He would go half way across to provide solace, his words of kindness and all the help he could afford to for the needy.

Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had once assigned a challenging job to Rehman Sahib as Chief Editor of Pakistan Times along with Wajid Shamsul Hasan Sahib as Chairman National Press Trust (NPT) to restore real freedom of press in the government owned NPT Papers and also to free NPT from the stranglehold of the government as per the PPP’s longstanding commitment in its electoral manifesto to do away with NPT and let newspapers run as independent. 

It was no doubt a hydra-headed challenge—to run NPT papers with huge financial losses, over employment where they needed four persons on a job, they had ten or more. They had a whole army of messengers, few virtually on duty rest either having their own businesses/shops/vendors/. Only IA Rehman with his cool nerves could handle the strong headed trade union leaders who used to cross all borders of decency while negotiating with him and PFUJ leader Minhaj Barna. 

They also had to deal with highly incompetent minister of information—some Awan chap whose qualification for the post was his skin that was inflicted lashes on the orders of General Ziaul Haq that rendered him impotent. Only a man of IA Rehman Sahib’s cool temperament and understanding could do that unpleasant job. He along with Wajid Sahib managed to carry more than half way through the gigantic task of liquidating the National Press Trust.

Known as Progressive Papers Limited, Pakistan Times group as a matter of fact, established itself as an oasis of free thinking platform in a country that had come to have the draconian law of safety act and where as the joke goes, even anti-communists were arrested as commies. 

IA Rehman was one of the front rank leaders of progress elements that included Daily Imroze’s Editor Tufail Ahmed Jamali, Anees Hashmi, Shaukat Siddiqi, Prof Amin Moghul, Manzoorul Haq, Syed Sibte Hasan, Mazhar Ali Khan, Ahmad Ali Khan. These journalists produced the best quality leftist newspapers like Imroze, Weekly Lal-o-Nihar only to become callous victims of dictators like Ayub Khan, his Press & Publication Ordinance, General Ziaul Haq, his ruthless censorship backed by whips and lashes and finally General Musharraf’s period followed by Imran Khan’s where media freedom is becoming more or less an illusion. 

Most outstanding characteristic of IA Rehman was his comprehensive knowledge of probably most of the subjects that a journalist is supposed to know. While he had a reasonable gift of the gab, his command over both English and Urdu had no parallel. Whenever, I had an opportunity to exchange views on socio-economic ills in our society, IA Rehman would come up with astounding solutions. He never complicated his expression by Marxist jargon that communists usually employed to carry home their arguments.

According to media stalwarts, there are believed to be two giants in the profession who could bypass censorship. One of course was Jang’s editor Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman Sahib and the other being IA Rehman who would always be remembered as the past masters in the art of saying things between the lines within the grasp of ordinary readers. Alas, he is no more but he shall have a permanent niche in the hall of great intellectuals of all times. Bless his soul.

The writer is a journalist and political analyst based in Lahore. He writes on politics, economy and militancy and can be reached at shrnaqvi3@gmail.com. He tweets @hassannaqvi5