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The man of principles
By Muhammad Humayun Aziz

Seventeen years have elapsed since Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman, the founder of Jang Group left us for his heavenly abode. Despite this, even today I feel his presence and his various directives.

In certain circumstances I can still recall the night when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the elected Prime Minister was hanged in Rawalpindi jail. It was after midnight that one of our reporters from Pindi, late Sarwer Ali Kanwal indicated that Z A Bhutto might be hanged that night. Ever since this news started taking rounds Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman himself remained constantly alert and personally kept in touch with the Resident Editor and the News Editor in Pindi.

Mir saheb had great knack for exclusive news but at the same time he also gave top priority to the authenticity of a story. Therefore, he made sure that the authenticity of a story was never compromised. It is because of this reason that when the news about Bhutto's execution spread Mir saheb showed great concern for the fact that before publication the story was checked either officially or at least confirmed by an unimpeachable source so that the authenticity of the news wasn't compromised. Thus it was only when late Shorish Malik confirmed the news, Mir saheb allowed it to be published.

A similar dilemma also arose earlier when Zia ul Haq overthrew Bhutto's government. The initial report was that Prof Ghafoor Ahmad, the Secretary General of PNA which was the main opposition alliance had been picked up by the army. This news was conveyed by Safdar, the Information Secretary of Jamat-e-Islami and in the process was passed on to Shorish Malik who then conveyed it to Mir saheb. As sensational as the news was, Mir saheb did not hurry its publication. On the contrary, he maintained his policy and directed his news staff at Pindi, Karachi and other stations to remain alert along with Shorish Malik who was told to use the help of all reporters he could get hold of to ascertain what actually was going on.

Soon, as it was being predicted it became known that Mufti Mehmood, Abdul Hafiz Pirzada, other important leaders and ministers and even Prime Minister Bhutto could not be contacted even by phone. After that it was only a matter of time until it became evident that the army had overthrown the elected government. This however, was not it, infact the dilemma for Mir saheb had just begun. The news was an out an out exclusive story but being a man of principles Mir saheb did not authorise its publication until official confirmation.

Waiting anxiously for confirmation Mir saheb used all possible resources and also told this scribe to make and prepare headlines for all stations in advance and wait for the early morning radio bulletin. Once the much awaited radio bulletin confirmed the news, I prepared the final draft of the story. Since Mir saheb wanted to ensure that the story was reported at the earliest, albeit with confirmation, therefore the newspaper wasn't sent for printing until the report was confirmed. It is because of this that on that day the newspaper was sent to the press in the morning.

Mir saheb's effort and involvement throughout the process is commendable as he made sure that he was updated on each and every happening and even remained awake until the newspaper was printed and out.

Such hard work was not new to him since from the very beginning he was in the habit of working daily from 11.00 in the morning to 2.00 in the night. But his working hours and dedication did not end after he left the office building, infact he was always available on the phone at anytime of the night, happy to give instructions and administer the work even from home.

Such was his devotion that hardly any instance could be recalled when he answered the phone late. At most the second bell was enough to jolt the man into action.

Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman was the owner and founder of Jang Group and was also its Editor in Chief but contrary to what one would expect from a man of such position, Mir saheb often adopted a different style of issuing directives. I can still recall one such instance, when I was the City Editor. He wrote comments/directives on certain a press release reading, humayun saheb meharbani farmakar ise shaya kardain. Who can imagine such a style of writing from someone who is not only the Editor in Chief but also the owner of Jang Group.

Out of the four decades of my journalistic career I have been in the Jang Group for more than three decades and I must say that in these years I have not only learnt journalistic traits from Mir saheb but also important life lessons that till date help me in my day to day life.

--The author is Resident Editor, Jang London