Muhammad Ziauddin

Modesty, thy name was Ziauddin!

Dr Pervez Tahir December 03, 2021
The writer is a senior political economist

“Print Journalist of 50 years’ standing. Former Executive Editor, The Express Tribune. Now freelance journalist.” That’s how the founding editor of this newspaper, who passed away earlier in the week, profiled himself on Twitter. Modesty, thy name was Ziauddin! He had the rare distinction of being the editor of the major newspapers of the country — Dawn, The News and The Express Tribune. In The Muslim, he worked with Mushahid Hussain Syed and the great AT Chaudhri. He rose to the top from the bottom as a cub reporter, a reminder that his unflinching support for equal opportunity, social justice and equitable distribution was rooted as much in personal experience as in a keen interest in the economy, albeit without any formal study of economics. He was an active member, along with Hafiz Pasha and myself, of the FES initiative on the Economy of Tomorrow. His undergraduate training was in pharmacy and Master in journalism. He was an exception here as well. Editors considered, for a long time, the degree in journalism as good only for entry into the information setups of the government or public relations in the private sector.

My first encounter with him happened as early as the turbulent seventies. Soon after completing the Master’s from GC Lahore, Hussain Naqi, in his typical style, forced me to be the cub editor of the weekly Punjab Punch published by him. He himself was the head of the Punjab Bureau of a mod and slick newspaper that had just come out from Karachi, The Sun. Its editor, the maverick Shamim Ahmad, asked Naqi Sb to dispatch some new economic blood. I was sent to Karachi, my first travel by air, and lodged in Hotel Jabees, again a first time stay in a hotel. Ibn ul Hasan had just brought out the weekly Pakistan Economist and was looking for potential writers. I invited him to Jabees over dinner. He brought with him his two associates, Khalique Zuberi and M Ziauddin. The four of us had an intensive discussion on the limited media coverage of the real issues facing the country, which in the opinion of all of us, were mainly economic. Ziauddin was composed, to the point and willing to appreciate the other view. This was the beginning of the hotline we maintained in our subsequent careers on the issues of bread and butter and systemic reform, even though I spent most of my work life in various economic ministries of the federal government. When Ansar Abbasi did his story on the fudging of poverty data by the government of Shaukat Aziz and my sacking from the position of Chief Economist of the Planning Commission in 2006, Ziauddin wrote a column that I remember word for word to this day. He was now in the league that we used to look up to in the economic beat in the 1970s — Sultan Ahmad (Morning News), Aslam Sheikh and Shibli B Com (Pakistan Times), M Aftab (APP and Financial Times), Syed Najiullah (Pakistan Observer).

On November 18, Dr Athar, his son, advised this writer against a visit: “He is still in hospital in ICU, will take a few days to recover.” This was not to be. So here we are, at a time of grave threats to the freedom of expression as well as our economic existence, losing an elder statesman who warned on the last Independence Day: “the vulnerabilities — political, social, diplomatic and economic — that had confronted the new born on August 14, 1947 have become even more forbidding.” But no second coming of an indefatigable Ziauddin!

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2021.

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