KARACHI: When a media icon like Mohammad Ahmed Zuberi bows out, is it important when he was born or where he was born. That’s the first thought that came to me when The Express Tribune asked me to write the obituary of the veteran journalist. An institution unto himself, at 90 he was running a vibrant institution that manages Business Recorder and Aaj.
Zuberi Sahib, as he was respectfully referred to in the media community, had joined Dawn in Delhi before partition of India. He used to proudly tell his juniors that he was asked by the Quaid-i-Azam himself to go and join Dawn which was then the official newspaper of the Muslim League. The year was 1945.
There is an interesting story behind this episode which changed Zuberi Sahib’s career path. Before joining Dawn he was working for the British Army where he came across a confidential document regarding preparation of plans by the extremist parties of majority community to attack the Muslim areas. According to Zuberi Sahib he leaked the letter to Quaid-i-Azam, who then confronted the British authorities and many Muslim lives were saved. But in the process he lost his job because the government found out that he was the one who had leaked the information.
He came to Pakistan and joined Dawn as Assistant Editor. According to his contemporary journalists, Zuberi Sahib was one of the closest to the legendary Altaf Hussain, the then editor of Dawn. But then in mid-sixties the two developed some differences and Zuberi Sahib left Dawn to set up Pakistan’s first financial and business daily – Business Recorder. Many eminent journalists of yesteryear -- Qazi Abrar, Abul Akhyar, Zamir Niazi, Jamil Zuberi joined him in the formative phase of Business Recorder and remained with the newspaper until retirement. All passed away before he did.
Under his stewardship Business Recorder became a highly influential business media vehicle. In fact there was a time when BR used to set the economic and financial news agenda in the country. Later along with the able team of his three sons – Wamiq, Arshad and Asif – he branched out in electronic media with the launch of Aaj channel which still leads the media in economic and financial news coverage. Lately because of age Zuberi Sahib could not give much time to the media house he had created from scratch. However, his sons have been managing things quite well up front.
During my four-year stint with Business Recorder, I found Zuberi Sahib a good teacher of business and economic reporting. He was the only editor, as a matter of fact perhaps the last one, who used to hold meetings of his reporters and assistant editors in the morning. I cannot forget his pet question in the meeting to the reporters: “So what is your bloody means of livelihood today.” Once replying to his question I proudly mentioned my exclusive lead story which was printed on that day. Zuberi Sahib said: “In journalism young man that is history, now I am asking you what you are working on for today?” That was my lesson in reporting and since then I have always felt that the morning meetings I used to hate were in fact keeping us on our toes. He would also guide us where to go for additional information for the story we were working on.
One of the major issues discussed these days is that news reports have too much of reporters’ opinion. Once I did that in a story, Zuberi Sahib corrected me, saying if I want to write my opinion I should write editorials to which I readily agreed and was given additional allowance.
He had a knack for developing close contacts with the finance minister of the day. Many of his detractors used to criticise him for this. But editorially I must say he would take an independent position no matter how close the finance minister was to him. And most of the time the government would take Business Recorder’s views seriously. He was the champion of free market economy since mid sixties when he launched the paper and remained so till his last.
Zuberi Sahib has followed his loving wife who died only a month back. He loved his wife and children – three sons and two daughters. And perhaps more than anybody else, he loved Business Recorder. M. A. Zuberi the editor is dead, but I am sure Business Recorder and Aaj will live long!
His funeral prayers will be held in Masjid Noorul Islam, Zamzama Park, Clifton after Zohar prayers on Monday. He will be buried in the compound at Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mazaar.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2010.