Imran Aslam: a journalist with unparalleled strides
On a chill afternoon at the auditorium of Karachi University in January 1993, an articulate man was enthralling the audience with his carefully chosen words on anthropology. I wasn’t aware that he was the Editor of the newly-launched The News. As the floor was thrown open for comments, the rebel in me made a couple of haphazard comments which incidentally went on to negate the theory advanced by the learned speaker. He kept his cool as he heard my insurgent thoughts, and surprisingly enough agreed to a few of them in his recapitulation. A couple of minutes later, I experienced a pat on my shoulder and momentarily I was gazing at a tall and charismatic person. He introduced himself as Imran Aslam, and handed me over his visiting card saying, “come and join me”.
Those words made my life, and ushered me into journalism. The next evening I saw him in his glass cubicle office at II Chundrigar Road’s Al-Rehman Building. To my utmost surprise an appointment letter for a remuneration of Rs3,500 was lying on his table. I was even surprised to see ‘Mehkri’ inscribed on the top left of the letter in pencil in his own handwriting. It was an encouragement to my spoken words, and an instant bonanza to my family as I was contemplating to start a career. For an elder brother of five siblings and ageing parents, belonging to a humble middle-class, that instant income was a great contribution to my family life, and since then there is no looking back.
Imran Aslam knew how to net talent, and has been a godfather to innumerable persons who made big in journalism. Getting to know slowly and gradually his personality, traits and professionalism is a science and an art in itself. He was a treasure trove of experiences, but never forced his views on anyone. He used to put himself in a silence after making a point, and the outcome used to be a humble submission. Not many times could one disagree with him, but at the same time he was himself quick to agree on any flimsy idea that had a figment of breakthrough in the long run. Such was his perfection to news, views and social canvassing.
I avidly remember the tense newsroom situation as Murtaza Bhutto was shot down in Karachi. Deep in the dark hours, the news desk waited for him to come and approve the front page. It awaited a supra headline. The genius in him kept mum for a while, and then penned history. He scribbled: “Mir Goes into Permanent Exile.” He left the newsroom instantly, leaving his editorial comrades in a fix. That was the power of his thoughts.
I found Imran Aslam to be very democratic at heart. He zealously guarded his point, and knew the dynamics of floating them at the right time. He was a simple man, and walked very humbly keeping his eyes down, and replied to pleasantries with a nod all the way. It is no secret that he was contested in his own office for his views over a broad strata, but he never believed in retribution. At the zenith of his pride, a libel public advert against him made its way in his own newspaper. But he was unmindful and it was another day in his life. Perhaps, he knew how to share space in a pluralistic society.
Imran Aslam was never lost on humour and fiction, and was a deep thought-out strategist. I served under him for around nine years, with a brief stint as Geo English News Editor, too. He was kind enough to transfer me to Rawalpindi The News, in 1996, to work under the able leadership of Dr Maleeha Lodhi, wherein I learnt reporting for the parliament and diplomatic horizons.
Likewise, he encouraged me to edit and write on his brainchild ‘Political Economy’ pages that used to analyse Pakistan’s geo-economic tangibles fortnightly. As my research synopsis was on Counter Revolution in Iran, he was the one who made me think big and write independently. The thrust learned from him was perfected by legendary Ahmed Ali Khan, Editor Dawn, as I went places.
A chain-smoker, as he was, his inquisitive smile and gazing from the top of his optics was his signature mark. He was a legend, a well-read person in both English and Urdu. Indeed, he was a great script writer, and one who gave a new thrust to literature, art, drama and the wheel of news-screening. He will always be remembered for his unsaid notions that he strongly prophesied. Sir, Imran Aslam, I owe gratitude to you for what I am today in the fourth pillar of the state. May you RIP!
Source: The Express Tribune