Journalist, poet, trade unionist Ahfazur Rahman passes away at 78

Ahfaz akhbar

After battling cancer over the past decade, during which he lost his voice a few years ago due to throat cancer, Ahfazur Rahman passed away early on Sunday at the age of 78. He was a journalist, a poet and a trade unionist.
After his condition worsened a few days ago, Rahman was admitted in a private hospital, according to his close friends. On Sunday morning, however, his wife and Aurat Foundation Resident Director Mahnaz Rahman broke the sad news.
She posted some lines of poetry online that her husband had translated, and announced his death by saying that Rahman had “left this world for his eternal abode”.
Born on April 4, 1942, in Jabalpur, India, Rahman and his family migrated to Karachi in 1947 when he was just five. According to journalist Shahid Husain, Rahman passed his matriculation examinations from the Delhi Punjab National High School, Bizerta Lines, and graduated from the Urdu College in 1962.
“While still in high school, he won the first prize for his article ‘Gandum kay khait, bachchon kay haath aur shair’ in a competition organised by the then prominent literary magazine Afkar and for another article on Krishan Chander’s writings ‘Paighamber kay naam’ in a competition organised by the Indian literary magazine Shair,” said Husain.
As a leader of the National Students Federation, a left-leaning student group, Rahman participated in the popular student uprisings against the military dictatorship of Gen Ayub Khan between 1962 and 1964.
Husain said Rahman joined the profession of journalism in 1966 as a subeditor for the weekly Akhbar-e-Jehan. Thereafter, he worked for several publications, including the dailies Musawaat, Jang and Amn, and the weekly Al-Fatah, at senior positions such as magazine editor and assistant editor.
He also worked as Urdu section editor at the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing from 1969 to 1972 and from 1985 to 1993. Upon his return from China to Pakistan in 1972, Rahman began his activism.
During the historic journalist movement against Gen Ziaul Haq’s regime in 1977-78, Rahman went underground and organised the movement for freedom of the press, for which he was arrested and sent to Lahore’s Camp Jail, said an Awami Workers Party (AWP) statement issued to pay tributes to his struggle for media freedom and democracy.
“Later, he was taken out of the jail and exiled from the Punjab province for six months. In July 1978, Rahman went underground again to mobilise journalists, workers, peasants and student volunteers for court arrests.”
Under the banner of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, Rahman fought throughout his career for freedom of the press and for the rights of journalists and others working in the media. He also played a key role for press freedom and the restoration of democracy during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime.
Rahman has 18 books and translations to his credit. His book ‘Sab Say Bari Jang’ is considered an honest, accurate and concise account of the days of turmoil and struggle when Gen Zia had enacted a series of draconian laws to suppress freedom of expression and free press.
In 2013, Rahman wrote a book of poems titled ‘Zinda Hai Zindagi’ (Life Goes On), which is a metaphor for life’s struggles, containing within them a deep sense of anguish and highlighting people’s disillusionment when their dreams don’t come true.
Rahman was buried at the Mehmoodabad graveyard. He is survived by his wife, and their son and daughter. Condolences poured in from different quarters to mourn the loss.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah expressed deep grief on Rahman’s death. Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan convenor Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Awami National Party Sindh chief Shahi Syed and Pak Sarzameen Party head Syed Mustafa Kamal also offered their condolences with Rahman’s family.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also mourned Rahman’s death in a tweet, stating that his struggles for press freedom and fundamental rights will always be remembered.
The AWP also expressed profound grief in a joint statement on the passing away of Rahman. They said he was a great human being, a genuine revolutionary, and a man of integrity and conviction.
“He remained committed to the cause of working journalists, media workers and the working class of the country until his last breath,” read the statement. He was one of the pioneers of the student and journalist movements against dictatorial regimes, said the AWP.
The joint statement was issued by AWP President Yousuf Masti Khan, General Secretary Akhtar Hussain, federal committee members Safdar Sindhu and Javed Akhtar, Karachi President Shafi Sheikh and others, who offered their heartfelt condolences to Rahman’s family.
PFUJ mourns
The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) expressed deep sorrow and grief over the death of the veteran journalist and announced three-day mourning across the country.
In a joint statement issued on Sunday, PFUJ President Shahzada Zulfiqar and Secretary General Nasir Zaidi paid rich tributes to the lifelong struggle and sacrifices rendered by Rahman for the freedom of press in the country.
“Ahfazur Rahman was one of the torchbearers for the freedom of press,” the joint statement read. “He was always in the forefront in any movement launched by the PFUJ against military rulers and oppressive regimes.”
The PFUJ president and secretary general said the lifelong struggle of Rahman would continue to be a guiding force for the journalists’ community across Pakistan.
The PFUJ also announced three days of mourning across the country. During this period, black flags will be hoisted at all the press clubs and union offices, the statement read.
Recalling Rahman’s journalistic career, the PFUJ leadership said his struggle for the rights of working journalists would always be remembered.
The PFUJ leaders noted that the late journalists had been fighting for the rights of journalists since 1972. He was arrested and tortured during the oppressive regime of General Ziaul Haq but never surrendered and continued to raise his voice for the freedom of press, they said, adding that even during the tenure of former military dictator Gen Musharraf, Rahman remained in the forefront of the struggle when the military dictator banned some television channels.
“As president of the PFUJ, Ahfazur Rahman constantly raised the issue of non-implementation of wage board award and challenged the owners and management of newspapers and media houses without any fear,” the statement read. “With his death, we have lost a great trade unionist, a bold leader, a committed journalist and above all a man who was of great personal integrity.”
The two PFUJ leaders said Rahman had worked to revitalise the Karachi Press Club and always opposed those elements who were bent upon de-politicising the press club. “We salute to our former colleague and comrade Ahfazur Rahman for his lifelong struggle,” the PFUJ leaders said, adding that the late journalist would continue living in the hearts of the PFUJ members across the country.

Source: THE NEWS

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