End of an era: Beacon of integrity Raja Asghar dies

His professionalism inspired everyone that interacted with him

Farman Ali February 13, 2016
His professionalism inspired everyone that interacted with him .


Pakistani journalism suffered a major loss after Raja Muhammad Asghar, aged 78, passed away in Islamabad in the wee hours of Saturday after a protracted illness.

Asghar was suffering from pancreatic cancer and was admitted to  Shifa International Hospital. Following his death, his body was taken to his native town Dana Kachelli, near Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir for burial, family sources told The Express Tribune.

He is survived by an adopted son, and leaves behind a large number of friends and colleagues.

"Raja sahib was one of the finest and the most credible journalists," veteran journalist and former Executive Editor of The Express Tribune, M. Ziauddin commented. "A professional to the core, he was a person of unimpeachable integrity," he said.

Asghar joined the profession when he was a law student in Peshawar in the late 50s. He worked for Khyber Mail and Associated Press of Pakistan. He spent most of his professional career, spanning almost 25 years in Reuters, an international news agency.

He joined Dawn as its senior parliamentary correspondent after retiring from Reuters in 2002.

“At Dawn, he set a very high standard in parliamentary reporting,” said Ziauddin, who had also served as Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.

“He was a perfectionist and a humanist,” senior journalist Anwar Ali Mansuri said. His perfectionism could be gauged from the fact that he would translate the spoken words of our very ‘learned’ parliamentarians and do background checks for historical facts to correct them,” Mansuri said.

Quoting Asghar’s friend Iftikhar Chaudhry, Mansuri noted how Asghar was a prolific user of the dictionary and of Keesing’s Record for fact-checking.

“He would buy antiquities from weekly bazaars. His house was a mini-museum," he said, adding that he would distribute these things among the village to ensure they were aware of the realities of modern life and the achievements of science.

Although he had no children, he looked after a large number of his family members and needy villagers.

“He was a good journalist, a good friend and a committed trade unionist,” former BBC broadcaster Ali Ahmed Khan said.

Reminiscing his fond memories of the 80s, Khan said, “We were in jail together in Lahore or Karachi during the Zia regime for planning a protest against the closure of the PPP newspaper ‘Musawat’. I always found him relaxed, yet and determined.”

“Raja sahib was a remarkable handsome person with handsome habits. He was a stalwart of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) who served the journalistic community throughout his career,” Ahfaazur Rehman, editor of the Daily Express magazine and a former PFUJ president said.

“He was even mistreated some seven years back when he filed nomination papers for president of the PFUJ. He was pressed hard to withdraw his papers, and a far junior person and inferior professional was elected to the prestigious post. This changed the splendid milieu of the organization --- the symbol of the dignity of our community,” he commented.

“We have lost almost all of our dignified fighters and stalwarts. This is an irreparable loss to our community,” Rehman said.

He was perhaps the first journalist who broke the story about Pak-China diplomatic ties in early ‘60s for a Peshawar-based newspaper and was detained during the General Ayub regime. Despite being forced to reveal the name of the source, he refused to do so; setting an example for hundreds of journalists who knew him.

Senior journalist and correspondent of Kyodo, a Japanese TV channel, Shahidur Rehman, also verified this, citing the late Israr Amad of UPI, who reported in his memoirs, “Walls have ears,” that Raja was almost drowned in the freezing Kabul waters during the days of Nawab of Kalabagh, for not disclosing the source of his story.

Raja sahib was a committed trade unionist, an authority on Kashmir and a collector of antiques, flowers and fruit trees, he said.

He will be remembered by friends and colleagues for excelling in ethical journalism and value that he placed in friendship, Rehman commented.

Nasir Zaidi said he was a man of commitment and action who remained true to his cause to the very end of his life.

"It was a moving experience when l worked with Raja sahib on a draft of code of conduct for journalists," Zaidi said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2016.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, Raja's age was incorrectly written as 79. The error has been corrected and is regretted.


Ikram Hoti | 8 years ago | Reply He was a good friend and colleague. I pray for him an his family. Hoti
Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ