I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. (Robert Frost)
I joined The Nation almost two decades ago; an establishment that boasted one of the best journalism teams in Pakistan. It was 10 am on my second day of work, and I was curious to see the entrance guards scuttling to open the door of a Sedan that had just entered the premises. I was asked to step aside, as the MD of the organisation had just arrived. From the car stepped out an elderly gentleman in a business suit and tie. Majid Nizami; the shining icon of journalism in Pakistan, responded to the enthused greetings of workers with a graceful gesture of his hand. Every morning he would arrive at 10 am, and chair the editorial meeting at 11 am. At 2pm he would go home for his lunch. For more than five decades, this was his dedicated routine.
Nizami Sahib’s passing is a huge loss for the millions who admired him across the globe. We are all so proud of having worked under him. The vacuum he leaves behind him in the field of journalism may never be filled but his legacy will continue for ages to come. His journalism career spanned over 72 years, and he was editor of Nawa-i-Waqt for 52 years, making him the longest working editor in all of Asia. His brother Hameed Nizami had started Nawa-i-Waqt on the instruction of the Quaid-i-Azam as a fortnightly paper to counter the Hindu press during the Independence Movement. Majid Nizami took charge of Nawa-i-Waqt after his brother’s death in 1962. From a fortnightly, he built it into what it is today: one of the most popular and widely circulated dailies in Pakistan. In recognition of his services Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan awarded him the honour of Mujahid-i-Tehrik-i-Pakistan and as a symbolic gesture, presented him with a sword.
Hailing from a humble background, he rose to become one of the most influential people in Pakistan’s history. Born in Sangla Hill, Sheikhupura on April 03, 1928, he was only two and a half years old when his father died. His mother sold his father’s shop and house to meet the education expenses of her four sons and two daughters. He had just passed his Matriculation exam when his brother called him to Lahore, where he enrolled in Islamia College, Railway Road and passed his FA exams.
Majid Nizami did his BA and MA in Political Science from Government College, Lahore. In 1954, he proceeded to England to study law. During his stay in the UK he continued to work as special correspondent for Nawa-i-Waqt, and travelled all over Europe and Russia. In 1962, Hameed Nizami passed away and his younger brother, Majid Nizami became editor of Nawa-i-Waqt, as per the wishes of his brother. He took a courageous stand against the dictatorship of Ayub Khan and fearlessly supported Ms Fatima Jinnah in the presidential election. He fiercely opposed Yahya Khan’s martial law regime, and brushed aside a direct threat from Governor West Pakistan, Ameer Muhammad Khan.
Nizami was considered amongst one of ZA Bhutto’s friends but when Bhutto raised the slogan of Islamic socialism and imposed civil martial law, he came under his relentless criticism. Later, Majid Nizami continued to be critical of General Zia ul Haq’s military regime.
Successive rulers have sought his advice on matters of vital national importance. In May 1998, he was one of the advisors who convinced then PM Nawaz Sharif to conduct the atomic tests in response to India’s nuclear testing, and Pakistan formally joined the club of world nuclear powers. He was fearless and never stopped himself from speaking the truth, and what he thought was best for the service of his country.
After 9/11, General Musharraf decided to join the USA in the war on terrorism as a front line state. He held a meeting with editors for consultation, and asked Nizami what he would have done in his position. Nizami replied that firstly, he would never have been in his position, and that secondly, these problems arose when someone forgot their position and took undue control of power. On hearing this, Musharraf called off the meeting. It is pertinent to mention here that Nizami was offered the posts of Governor of Punjab and President of Pakistan. He refused, saying he was better off serving the people of his country by being Editor of Nawa-i-Waqt.
As an acknowledgement of his great stature and services for Pakistan and the Ummah, Dr Majid Nizami has been honoured with numerous awards from organisations across the world. He is the recipient of some of Pakistan’s highest accolades that include the Nishan-i-Imtiaz, Sitara-i-Pakistan and Sitara-i-Imtiaz.
Throughout his life, this legendary journalist propagated and promoted Pakistan’s ideology, especially amongst the youth. For this purpose, he laid the foundations of Nazaria Pakistan Trust and Aiwan-i-Karkunan Pakistan.
And so, what began with Majid Nizami and his brother Hameed Nizami in 1940, continues today, as a force to be reckoned with. When they chose the road less travelled all those decades ago, they could not have known the countless differences they would make for the democratic progress of the motherland. And for this, our beloved Dr Majid Nizami, may your soul rest in peace. Pakistan is proud to remember you as one of her dearest sons.