LAHORE - The degree of doctorate honoris causa (Honorary PhD) that the University of the Punjab conferred upon Mr Majid Nizami was for his life-long exemplary contribution to the cause of journalism with a strong focus on freedom of expression even at times when military dictators and elected rulers alike did their best to gag the press. In the process, he willingly suffered the consequences, including the financial loss in the denial of government advertisements, rather than bow before their dictates. Another noteworthy point that factored into the University Syndicate’s decision to grant Mr Nizami the degree was his distinguished 70 years’ long span of journalistic career, 50 years of which have been as the Editor of Nawa-i-Waqt. Since TheNation came on the scene in 1986, he has been its Editor-in-Chief.

The Honorary PhD are awarded not for academic distinction; rather for making some outstanding contribution to the field of arts, music, politics, science, philanthropy, thus serving the cause of humanity.

This is a singular achievement for Mr Majid Nizami since he is the only journalist in Pakistan to have had that honour.

Majid Nizami’s name is one that needs no introduction. One of the most powerful figures in Pakistani media and an eminent and principled journalist, his 46 years in the print (and now electronic) media have been the most influential of any of his peers.

Editor-in-Chief and publisher of Nawa-i-Waqt Group of Publications, Majid Nizami was born on April 3, 1928 into a modest home in Sangla Hill, Sheikhupura. His elementary education was carried out at the Sangla Hill Government High School. A little before the inception of Pakistan, he moved to Lahore where he took his Matriculation examination and passed his FA from the Islamia College, Railway Road. Upon graduation from the Government College Lahore in 1952, he enrolled at University of the Punjab where he read for an MA degree in Political Science. During his stint as a student at the Islamia College, Majid Nizami took an active part in the Pakistan Movement from the platform of the Muslim Students Federation. In recognition of these services, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan awarded him the honour of Mujahid-e-Tehrik-e-Pakistan along with a sword as a symbolic gesture.

Majid Nizami proceeded to England in 1954 after obtaining his M.A. degree. Here he remained a student of International Affairs at the University of London and attended Grey’s Inn for the Bar. During this time he wrote consistently for the Nawa-i-Waqt and even before he left for London wrote the famous editorial column SareRahe for two years in Lahore. At the same time he diligently assisted his brother Hameed Nizami in the day-to-day running of the affairs of the business. While in London, Majid Nizami acted as a political reporter for Nawa-i-Waqt and in doing so met many heads of state and other notable world leaders.

In 1962, owing to the martial law imposed by Ayub Khan and his takeover of the country, the pressures on Majid Nizami’s beloved brother Hameed Nizami, became too intense for him to bear, resulting in his sudden demise.

Majid Nizami’s returned to Pakistan and vowed to follow in his brother’s footsteps. It was early on in Ayub Khan’s dictatorial regime that Majid Nizami took over the reigns of Nawa-i-Waqt. With great courage he opposed the military government and in the presidential elections fearlessly backed the Quaid’s sister, the Madr-e-Millat, Fatima Jinnah as the opposing candidate to the then Foreign Minister.

Just as Ayub’s regime had been, so after him was Yahya Khan’s government staunchly opposed by Nawa-i-Waqt under the guidance of Majid Nizami. Other than military governments, even civilian governments have tried to influence Nawa-i-Waqt’s independent policies through coercion and pressurization. Z. A. Bhutto from his first day in power, not only slashed the paper’s government advertisements but also withheld its quota of newsprint. Nawa-i-Waqt refused to buckle under. General Zia-ul-Haq’s martial law was no different; Majid Nizami held high the flag of unflinching truth and in Nawa-i-Waqt’s editorials and other times in person made his voice heard in support of fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms. During the times of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, still no concessions were made and when those in power were thought to be straying from the right path Majid Nizami rebuked them unflinchingly.

Today, Nawa-i-Waqt stands firm on the same policy. The present dictatorial regime too banned the publications’ advertisements, but was disappointed when no change in policy was forthcoming.

In the last 45 years, Majid Nizami has acquainted his institution with new heights of honour and dignity and made Nawa-i-Waqt a force to be reckoned with. On the intellectual front, the basic ideology by, and for which, Pakistan was formed has been relentlessly promoted and defended; while on the political front Majid Nizami has made Nawa-i-Waqt a mighty political weapon. Under his leadership, it has become the most widely respected and influential paper of the country, which, in the words of Asfandyar Wali, holds vision and commitment to truth as its policy.

Majid Nizami’s purity of thought and courage of conviction is showcased everyday in the pages of the Nawa-i-Waqt. It is Majid Nizami’s policy that has earned the Nawa-i-Waqt the unconditional trust and esteem of readers in Pakistan and around the world. Of this policy, Majid Nizami’s first and foremost concern is the benefit of the Muslim nation. It would be inconceivable for him to tolerate anything, which appeared to be contrary to its good. Be it the plight of the Afghans, Bosnians, Chechens, Iraqis or the Palestinians who were in dire straits; Bangladeshi Behari refugees or the Kashmiris who need his help, in every difficult time he is to be seen standing shoulder to shoulder with his Muslim brethren. Funds were sent to help Bosnians, the Kashmir Fund and Mahsureen-e-Pakistan in Bangladesh Fund provide monetary assistance to these respective groups. The affected persons of the October 2005 earthquake, are to this day being aided by the Nawa-i-Waqt Earthquake Affectees Fund.

Majid Nizami firmly believes that without Kashmir, Pakistan is incomplete. As the Quaid said: “Kashmir is indeed the Jugular Vein of Pakistan” Majid Nizami has fought tirelessly at the front of the struggle to gain Kashmiris their right of self-determination as promised by the proclamations of the UN, and to make the territory a recognized part of Pakistan. The Nawa-i-Waqt’s Kashmiri relief fund provides much needed monetary support to Kashmiri families. Funds are also provided to cover expenses pertaining to the marriage of young ladies in Kashmir. Owing to the illegal occupation of Kashmir, he remains a fierce and open opponent of friendly relations with India, unless and until the issue is resolved according the UN Resolution on Kashmir. Having visited nearly every country on the world map (most of Europe, including Eastern Europe and Russia during his years in London), Majid Nizami refuses to visit India, even when invited by various Pakistani delegations to accompany them. He cites Bangladesh as being a direct creation of India and believes that India never accepted partition and is relentlessly conspiring to undo Pakistan and undermine its strength.

Majid Nizami is a staunch promoter of Pak-China friendship and has visited the People’s Republic of China on numerous occasions. He has had the privilege of meeting the founder of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman Mao-Tse Tung and the Prime Minister, Mr Chou Enlai and also had the honour of sharing the main dinner table with them along with other Pakistani dignitaries.

Majid Nizami’s services to the country have been continually lauded and appreciated through the years. The Pakistan Human Rights Society awarded Mr Majid Nizami the Human Rights Awards with great pride. On January 9, 2005, in a gathering of eminent personalities, Mr Majid Nizami collected the award in person. In light of his dedication to the protection of human rights in Kashmir and his search for a democratic solution to the Kashmir issue, Majid Nizami has very rightly been named a Mujahid-i-Kashmir. He has numerous times been elected the president of the APNS and CPNE, professional bodies of publishers and editors, which are the guardian institutions of the print media of Pakistan. His services to the country have been recognised by various governments. He has received the Sitara-i-Pakistan, Sitara-i-Imtiaz and the single greatest honour that can be awarded, the Nishan-i-Imtiaz. General Zia-ul-Haq recommended him as a nominee to the Shura (Parliament), Prime Minister Junejo suggested the Governorship of the Punjab to him and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with his father offered him the Presidency of the country. All of which he respectfully declined, saying that the title of the editor of Nawa-i-Waqt is what best grants him the opportunity and privilege of serving his country.