Altaf Gauhar passes away
ISLAMABAD- Prominent intellectual and former editor of Dawn, Altaf Gauhar died of cardiac arrest, his son Humayun Gauhar said. He was 77.
Mr Gauhar leaves behind his wife, a son and two daughters. His funeral prayers will he held outside his residence, House 16, Street 1, F/7-3 in Islamabad on Wednesday at 3pm.
He had developed prostrate cancer in 1996 and was operated upon in London. He recovered from the disease but the chemotherapy treatment, which was given after the removal of the prostrate, had damaged his kidneys.
Born in a Janjua family on March 17, 1923 in Gujranwala, he did his post-graduation from Government College, Lahore, in English Literature.
Mr Gauhar, who started his career as a broadcaster in All India Radio in 1946, held various important posts in his multifaceted career as a civil servant, journalist and writer.
After the creation of Pakistan in 1941, Mr Gauhar was selected in the first batch of the civil service. He also achieved the distinction of becoming the first secretary of State Bank with Governor Dr Zahid Hussain. During his earlier years in the civil service, he served as district magistrate in many areas of the former East Pakistan. His posting in Dhakka helped him to closely understand the point of view of Bengalis. He remained firm supporter of Bengalis till his death.
In Dhaka he served as deputy home secretary as well as private secretary to Chaudhry Fazle Haq and Khawaja Nazimuddin.
After his transfer to West Pakistan he served as collector customs, district magistrate, Karachi, chief controller of imports and exports and finance secretary.
He came in public light when he was appointed information secretary by the late president, Ayub Khan, in 1963. Gen Ayub gave him unprecedented powers to manage the Press. In his own words, he was the “diarist, speech writer, advisor and one of the principle associates” of Ayub Khan. It was also during his tenure as information secretary that the most draconian law, the Press and Publications Ordinance was passed.
On many occasions Mr Gauhar admitted and even apologised for getting the black law passed. Once regarded as symbol of bureaucratic power, Mr Gauhar was considered by his journalist colleagues as the most pleasant person to work with. He quit the civil service as information secretary in 1969.
His several years exposure to the Press encouraged him to adopt journalism as a profession. He immediately joined Dawn as its editor in 1970. He was twice arrested during his tenure as the newspaper’s editor. His first arrest under martial law regulation was challenged by his wife and Asma Jillani in the Supreme Court, which culminated in a historic decision by the court, declaring Yahya Khan as “usurper”. He was arrested again in 1973 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was civilian chief martial law administrator. He remained in jail for six months. After his release he left Dawn and went to London.
In London he worked with the Third World Foundation, The Guardian The Third World Review, The Third World Quarterly and Cricket Life. He brought out a prestigious magazine, South, a project funded by the defunct Bank of Commerce and Credit International. Mr Gauhar returned to Pakistan in 1992 and became the editor-in-chief of the Muslim, which was in turmoil.
In few months time, he restored the credibility of the paper and it was lifted once again. He held the post for about two years before he resigned when the owner of the newspaper removed editor A.B.S. Jaffery, for writing an editorial about which the management had some reservations.
Altaf Gauhar was also a writer and poet. His columns appeared in many national dailies. He also translated the Holy Quran, wrote many literary books. His last book was Ayub Khan: Pakistan’s militant ruler.
President Rafiq Tarar expressed his deep sorrow and grief over the sad demise of Altaf Gauhar. In a condolence message to his son the president eulogized Mr. Gauhar’s services for the country, the agency added. “His outstanding contribution in the fields of education, literature and journalism will always be remembered,” Mr Tarar said.
Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf condoled the death of Mr. Gauhar, the news agency said. In his message to the family of the late Altaf Gauhar, the agency quoted the Chief Executive as saying in his death the country has lost a civil servant of exceptional merit, an editorial of great courage and a media manager with great initiative and enterprise.