I.A. Rehman Sahib was a loveable elder, awe-inspiring, considerate, and accommodating; always willing to teach and advise young and upcoming journalists like us how to face the vicissitudes of life and challenges that confront us daily. He was a multifaceted colossus with an existence larger than life. It’s why we saw him as an ongoing phenomenon, never expecting him to go. He had a plethora of qualities that made him so; a treasure trove of wisdom and knowledge flowing out of him all the time for the benefit of the needy.
He was one of humankind who possessed all the good qualities of God’s sublime creations. He was a man of conviction, considerate and a genuine soul who had the vision to see far beyond and a nerve to empathise and hurt for others. He was without a practising Marxist, one of those who had become one of the greatest human beings of all time.
According to his friends who had the honour of seeing him in close quarters, Maulana Hasrat Mohani seems to have been a very saintly figure to him, travelling with a carry home bed and baggage – that was Maulana’s permanent asset – hung from his shoulder in his life.
Like Hasrat Mohani, I.A. Rehman too was a journalist. So was he, an adorable human being.Indeed like those not born in every century. Rehman Sahib, the humble and unassuming soul that he was, had a great heart of gold with space and concern for all those who needed alleviation from their suffering and afflictions. He was the kind to go half way across the globe to provide solace, words of kindness and all the help he could afford to give for those in need.
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had once assigned a challenging task to Rehman Sahib as Chief Editor of Pakistan Times, alongside Wajid Shamsul Hasan Sahib as Chairman National Press Trust (NPT), to restore real freedom of press to the government owned NPT papers and also to free NPT from the stranglehold of the government; as per the PPP’s long standing commitment in its electoral manifesto to do away with NPT and let newspapers run independently.
It was no doubt a hydra-headed challenge – to run NPT papers with huge financial losses, over employment, so much so that ten or more people were working on a job which only required four. They had a whole army of messengers, few virtually on duty with the rest largely running their own businesses/shops/vendors. Only I.A. Rehman with his cool nerves could handle the strong headed trade union leaders, who crossed all boundaries of decency whilst negotiating with thim and PFUJ leader Minhaj Barna.
They also had to deal with a highly incompetent minister of information, some Awan chap whose qualification for his post was his skin that was inflicted lashes on under the orders of General Zia ul Haq, that had rendered him impotent. Only a man of I.A. Rehman Sahib’s calm temperament and understanding could handle such an unpleasant job. He alongside Wajid Sahib managed to carry more than half the gigantic responsibility for successfully liquidating the National Press Trust.
Known as Progressive Papers Limited, the Pakistan Times group established itself as an oasis of free thinking, and provided a platform in a country that had come to have the draconian law of
safety act and even had anti-communists arrested as commies.
The most outstanding characteristic of I.A. Rehman was his comprehensive knowledge of nearly all the subjects a journalist is supposed to know of. While he had a reasonable gift of the gab, his
command over both English and Urdu had no parallel. Whenever I had an opportunity to exchange views on the socio-economic ills of society with him, I.A. Rehman would come up with astounding solutions. He never complicated his expression with complicated Marxist jargon, something usually employed by Marxists to carry home their arguments.
According to media stalwarts, there are believed to be two giants in the profession who could bypass censorship; one of course was Jang’s Mir Khalil-ur-Rehman Sahib, and the other beingI.A. Rehman who would always be remembered as one of the masters of the art of saying things between the lines, within the grasp of ordinary readers. Alas, he is no more but he shall have a permanent niche in the hall of great intellectuals of all times. May God bless his soul.