Syed Fasih Iqbal Sahab: A Tribute
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
No one can count the services of Syed Fasih Iqbal, who is known as Balochistan’s father of journalism, for the people of Pakistan’s largest province in the mentioned field. He has remained the pioneering editor and publisher of Balochistan. He founded Balochistan’s oldest Urdu daily, Daily Zamana Quetta, in 1954. He also launched Balochistan’s first English daily, The Balochistan Times, in 1974. These two dailies, Daily Zamana Quetta and The Balochistan Times, have the credit of being Balochistan’s oldest newspapers in their mediums with consecutive publication of 58 and 35 years respectively. Also, he was the erstwhile president of the APNS (All Pakistan Newspapers Society), the CPNE (Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors) and a former senator from Balochistan.
The late Syed Fasih Iqbal launched Balochistan’s first English daily, The Balochistan Times, at a time when no one could imagine commencing English journalism in a backward place like Balochistan, which has the lowest rate of literacy and readership compared to the other provinces of Pakistan. Despite this, he realized very early that the people of Balochistan, like ones from other provinces of Pakistan, can also do English journalism. Due to these sincere efforts, today, many well known journalists and reporters, who are his alumni in journalism, are writing and reporting for Pakistan’s most respected English dailies and magazines.
Unfortunately, he could not prolong his journey and he died after a brief illness on February 20, 2014. But it is incontrovertibly pertinent to say that the vacuum of his death can never be filled, and his demise not only saddened Pakistan’s journalism community but also thousands of readers, including this writer, who had been reading what he wrote with great interest.
Besides being the longest serving editor and publisher of Balochistan, he also authored books on the province, its journalism and other subjects of public interest. He also launched the first ever newspaper in Balochi language called the Zamana Balochi. Additionally, he had friendly relationships with Balochistan’s literary personalities, particularly Azat Khan Jamaldini, the prominent Baloch poet. Azat Khan Jamaldini himself enunciated that no one helped him more than Syed Fasih Iqbal in his life time.
Interestingly, his first ever newspaper in Balochi language played a crucial role in the promotion of Balochi language, and it also provided a platform to the Balochi language writers of Balochistan.
He also launched the first ever weekly English magazine from Balochistan’s Mastung District, the Bolan Express.
He provided part time jobs to students which served the dual purpose of meeting their educational expenses on one hand and adding to their professional training on the other. “I went to late Syed Fasih Iqbal when I was a student at the University of Balochistan to work with him part time as I could not afford my educational expenses. He provided me with the opportunity to work with him, and it helped me afford my educational expenses” said Safiullah Shahwani, who is currently a reporter at a daily national English newspaper.
Interestingly, Syed Fasih Iqbal was the sole journalist from Balochistan who was elected as the president of the South Asia Editors Forum (SAEF) in Hyderabad Deccan, for the term 2005-2006. He also formerly served as the Chairman Regional Press Foundation, member of the Commonwealth Press Union (UK) and International Press Institute (Austria), etc.
It is, indeed, a matter of immense pride not only for the people of Balochistan province but for the entire country that he represented Pakistan at numerous forums in the former USSR, Turkey, Egypt, New Delhi, America, Indonesia, Malaysia, Muscat, Sri Lanka, Australia, Argentina, Canada, Japan, UK, Thailand etc. He also attended the UN General Assembly as a member of a former president’s entourage, and he met George Bush Sr during his visit. Besides this, he also visited the U.S.A. on three different occasions, meeting with presidents at the time , Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
Many awards have been conferred upon him for his meritorious services. He received the ‘Life Time Achievement Award’, ‘Muslim Eminent Journalist Award’ (Which is conferred to only 13 Muslim journalists across the world by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), ‘Pakistan Freedom Movement Gold Medal’ for the dedicated role in Pakistan movement and ‘Human Rights Award’ by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) for his valuable contribution in his newspaper which created awareness among the masses.
Additionally in 2005, he received the prestigious National Civil Award, ‘Sitara-e-Imtiaz’,in three disciplines at the same time : journalism, public service and social service. Beside this, in 2010, he received Pakistan’s highest National Civil Award, ‘Hilal-e-Imtiaz’, for his valuable and meritorious services.
It is also to be noted that Late Syed Fasih Iqbal was also elected as a member of the Senate of Pakistan for two consecutive terms: in 1985-1988 and 1988-1994. He actively participated in legislation and other parliamentary affairs, making history by introducing parliamentary committees system in Pakistan.
The late Syed Fasih was a Human Rights Activist too. He would nonchalantly discuss the crisis in Balochistan at many forums. He also struggled for the rights of Balochistan’s downtrodden people. That is why he will forever be remembered for his meritorious services.
May His Departed Soul Rest in Peace!
The author is a freelance journalist and researcher based in Quetta. He blogs at http://www.akbarnotezai.wordpress.com and tweets as @Akbar_notezai (twitter.com/Akbar_notezai)