|Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman, founder of the hugely-circulated
Jang Group of newspapers, is a legend in Pakistan. A self-made
newspaper magnate Mir saheb ranks among the most successful
newspaper entrepreneurs in Asia.
He was born in 1927 to a middle class family in the town
of Gujranwala, Punjab and received his school and college
education there. Having finished his basic education,
he graduated in Accountancy from Punjab University. During
the Second World War, his parents shifted to New Delhi,
capital of the British Indian Empire. It was here that
he discovered his love for journalism. The newspaper world
attracted him far more than the dull books of accountancy.
He had a passion for reading and writing and a fondness
for newspapers and magazines. He sat glued to his radio
set, listening to the latest war news.
Mir saheb could have joined the British Indian Army but
his hero and leader was the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali
Jinnah, so he joined the Quaid's Muslim League whose goal
was the creation of a Muslim majority state in the Indian
subcontinent. In his efforts to contribute towards the
fulfillment of this goal Mir saheb despite the shortage
of funds began publishing Jang as a daily evening newspaper
in Urdu, the most popular language among the Muslim masses
in India. To keep the Jang's production cost very low
and to ensure a big circulation for it he sold his newspaper
at a paisa per copy. With time the circulation increased
and he sold 3000 copies of his newspaper per day and made
the Jang self-supporting.
Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman was able to leash the expenses of
publishing the Jang to the barest minimum by doing many
chores of newspaper himself including editing, composing
and reporting. He even cycled scores of miles to deliver
copies of the Jang to the hawkers and advertisers. One
of the merits of the Jang was its copious coverage of
the latest news from all parts of the globe, especially
the war fronts in Europe, Asia and Africa. He listened
to the news broadcasts from many countries and lost no
time in injecting these news stories into the columns
of the Jang. The heavy coverage it gave to the news of
Muslim interest and the fearless manner in which it purveyed
news of injustices done to Muslims increased its popularity
among the Muslim masses.
The Jang began wielding influence in the corridors of
power in New Delhi. But as the graph of its popularity
and readership rose, its enemies in the Hindu-dominated
Congress became more hostile. Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman was
not frightened by their intrigues and countered them fearlessly.
Denial of Government advertisements, slashing the newsprint
quota and instructing the government-dominated banks not
to lend money to the Jang were some of the coercive measures
which Hindu cronies in the Government, especially in the
provincial government of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh
employed to muzzle the Jang, but Mir saheb remained defiant.
Mir saheb appealed to his colleagues in the Muslim-owned
newspapers in India to unite and face the Congress onslaught
bravely. He mobilised them to set up an organisation of
Muslim owned newspapers in India.
In the India-wide General Elections of 1945-46, the Jang
gave all-out support to the Muslim League. In this regard
Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was immensely pleased
with Mir saheb and the efforts of the Jang. Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman
sought no financial help from the Muslim League for the
Jang's fearless support to the Muslim League in the national
polls and because of the Muslim League's victory in the
elections, the British rulers conceded its demand for
When the Muslim-majority State of Pakistan was established
on August 14, 1947, Mir saheb shifted to Karachi, capital
of the new Muslim State, and started publishing the daily
Jang from Karachi. Pakistan's Governor General, Quaid-i-Azam
Mohammad Ali Jinnah was delighted due to this move and
offered government's help in running it. Mir saheb however,
declined the offer saying that freedom of the press was
his motto and goal for the Fourth pillar of State in Pakistan.
Mir saheb galvanised the press in Pakistan and helped
in founding the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors
(CPNE). He opposed tooth and nail any Government measure
or action which curbed the freedom of the press in Pakistan.
Mir saheb paid the salaries of the Jang's staff on the
first of the month and also gave a string of benefits
to his staff such as medical, transport and housing allowances.
Working conditions in the Jang were considered as a model
to emulate by workers in other newspapers. He showered
benefits not only on the Jang's press employees but helped
in diverse ways the Jang's hawkers in Karachi and outside.
He considered the hawkers to be a vital force in the newspaper
industry and therefore believed that their needs should
be given full attention by the newspaper's management.
Mir saheb went to the extent of even bearing the marriage
expenses of a loyal hawker of the Jang once.
Mir saheb's practice of giving substantial prizes to the
winners of Urdu puzzles in the Jang increased its sale
and many other newspapers followed suit. In the Urdu journalistic
world the Jang Group was the first in Pakistan to switch
over to the computerised typesetting with the Noori Nastaliq
style of calligraphy as its base.
To meet the surging demand for the Jang all over Pakistan,
Mir saheb inducted the American-made Goss printing machines
in his newspapers. Today, these high speed rotary printing
machines are in use for mass circulation newspapers in
the West such as the New York Times, the Times, London
and the Times of India. Even though these printing machines
are very expensive but the far-sighted Mir saheb realised
that within a few years the circulation of his Urdu language
skyrocket and Goss rotary machines would be essential
for his popular newspapers.
Mir saheb's newspapers were nurseries for training competent
journalists who earned named and fame through their writings
in the Jang newspapers. Mir saheb was a man of the masses
and conducted himself with dignity in the meetings of
renowned editors in the USA and the UK. He secured many
overseas scholarships for his Pakistani staff members
in the USA and the UK and got them internships in many
famous foreign newspapers and media organisations. Likewise,
when foreign media delegations visited Pakistan, Mir saheb
and his newspapers lavished hospitality on them. Keeping
up with technological progress he put many of his newspapers
on the internet and personally directed the making of
websites for each one of his newspapers. To further improve
the quality of his newspaper he allowed some well known
foreign journalists to work in his organisation. Some
of them even wanted to get first hand knowledge about
the working conditions in the Pakistani press.
Mir saheb's Jang in London is very popular and very useful
for projecting the viewpoint of Pakistan. It is in my
knowledge that officers on the Pakistan desk of the British
Foreign office regularly read English translations of
news items and commentaries in the Urdu Jang of London.
I have also had the good fortune of traveling with Mir
Khalil-ur-Rahman in a dozen Pakistani Government delegations
during which I was able to see at close quarters the many
qualities of head and heart which made Mir saheb so unique
in the journalistic fraternity of Pakistan. In the summer
of 1956 we traveled together to the People's Republic
of China as the guests of the Chinese Government. On this
trip our Chinese aircraft had to make an emergency landing
in the Gobi desert. We were informed by our Chinese hosts
that the radiation of heat in the desert was very high
and that after midnight the mercury would drop very rapidly.
Therefore, each one of us was given a heavy duty blanket.
The senior-most member of our group was the aged Maulana
Akhter Ali Khan, Editor of the Urdu daily Zamindar of
Lahore. He was suffering from a nasty cold which raised
his body temperature. Mir saheb took his own blanket and
spread it on Maulana Akhter Ali Khan who was resting at
one side. He then arranged for some hot tea to be given
to Maulana Akhter Ali Khan who had been examined at midnight
by a Chinese Air Force doctor. Mir saheb' s care at this
occasion is commendable as he paid fraternal attention
to the patient so much so that by the next afternoon he
was able to move about normally.
In a meeting of editors with President Ayub Khan in Rawalpindi
late in 1956, Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman boldly asked the President
when he would lift martial law and install an elected
civilian Government as promised earlier. But, as President
Ayub did not like being reminded about the promise he
had made to the nation at the time of seizing power, he
replied ambiguously in an angry tone. On this occasion
some members of the bureaucracy tried to persuade Mir
saheb not to pursue his question and offer an apology
to the President but he refused to do so and pressed for
a reply to this question. He was not afraid of the high
and mighty and forcefully upheld the right of a journalist
to elicit information that would be of interest to the
At another instance in Beijing, we attended a press conference
addressed by Prime Minister Chou en Lai. There, Mir saheb
quickly wrote a detailed story about it and personally
delivered it to the cable and wireless office in Beijing
for immediate transmission to the Jang in Karachi.
Mir saheb was extremely well-mannered in his interviews
with foreign heads of state.
All through our travels in China Mir saheb made it a point
to meet the local Chinese journalists and gather information
about the Chinese newspapers and their relationship with
their Government and the bureaucracy.
During our visit to China, we also saw the historic city
of Urumchi in Muslim-majority Sinkiang. Mir saheb arranged
for the Pakistani press delegation to offer the Friday
prayers in a beautiful 500-year-old mosque in Urumchi.
We also met there the local Muslim notables. Along with
this he ran an excellent pictorial article on the Urumchi
Muslims and added a new bond to the growing Sino-Pakistan
Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman's legacy in Pakistan is the well
established Jang Group of newspapers which are published
from all the major cities of Pakistan. His newspaper empire
is managed by his two sons, Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman and Mir
Javed-ur-Rahman. Mir saheb personally trained them in
the science of newspaper management. As a result, besides
expanding the Jang newspaper group, they have added to
it a powerful GEO television channel which has shaped
into Pakistan's most popular television channel and its
programmes can also be watched in the USA and the UK and
many parts of the Islamic world.
Apart from accomplishing many tasks Mir saheb also served
as a Federal Minister in Ayub Khan's cabinet. He commanded
an unblemished record of service as a Federal Minister.
He used to visit his newspaper offices in Pakistan and
abroad very regularly. I remember his hospitalisation
in 1992 in London where I was then serving as Minister
for Information in the Pakistan Embassy. His attending
doctors told me that even from his hospital bed he used
to make frequent telephone calls to his staff in the Jang
London and Karachi to learn how his newspapers were doing.
He was very prompt in implementing the awards given by
the Government-appointed press Commissions for improvement
in the working conditions of employees in the newspaper
Mir saheb was a pious and devout Muslim. His newspapers
published special supplements on Islamic themes on Fridays
and on the occasion of religious festivals.
Like the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman
was a liberal Muslim who believed in religious tolerance
and sectarian unity. He loved the Urdu language and his
newspapers rendered historic services in promoting Urdu
in Pakistan. Their use and popularisation of computerised
Urdu type-setting and the new print technology revolutionised
Urdu journalism and conferred many benefits on the production
of Urdu literature and Urdu books.