KARACHI: Senior journalist Syed Sayeed Akhtar Payami passed away on Monday evening. He leaves behind five children, including four sons. He died while recovering from a hip fracture he had suffered two weeks ago. The burial is expected on Wednesday as two of Payami’s sons have to fly back home from USA.
Born in February 1931 in the northern Indian state of Bihar, Payami completed his graduation in economics from Patna University. He first migrated to East Pakistan before moving to Karachi in 1972. Payami started his journalistic career with the Morning News in East Pakistan and continued with it even in Karachi. Later, he joined Dawn newspaper.
Payami was associated with progressive student movements in his early days and later became a member of the Communist Party. He was also popular as a progressive poet and a book of his poetry was also published.
Senior journalist Muhammad Ziauddin, who worked with him in both newspapers said: “I worked with him in Morning News and Dawn. In both newspapers, he was my boss and we developed the best of understanding.” Ziauddin said that Payami never shied away from improving the capacities of his subeditors and reporters.
“He knew most political leaders and senior office-bearers of political parties. He was on a first name basis with Sheikh Mujeeb Rehman. I used to sit with him for hours, asking him questions about the ideologies of various political parties and how they were trying to promote them”.
“From one angle he was a loveable character, a conversationalist, good teacher, a good mentor, and a guide,” Ziauddin added.
Another former colleague of Payami, Abul Hasanat, said: “When I joined Morning News as a subeditor in 1974, Akhtar Payami was the city editor there. The paper had a team of some outstanding journalists but since Akhtar Payami was very close to the paper’s editor, Sultan Ahmed, he enjoyed real behind-the-scenes power in editorial matters”.
“These were the days of strict censorship under the Bhutto regime which was quite frustrating for young journalists like me. However, Akhtar Payami having worked for quite some time with the National Press Trust-controlled Morning News of Dhaka, knew well how to tone down newspaper stories to avert the government’s anger,” Hasanat added.
“He was always there early in the morning, taking care of day’s assignments for the reporters. In the evening he would, however, go through reporters’ copies – subbing, re-writing and fine-tuning them before they went in print. In between he used to find time to take care of internees who were there for their trainings in journalism,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2013.
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