Dr Majid Nizami: a Legend of journalism

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Waheed Hussain

Dr Majed Nizami a a living legend of Pakistani journalism, who, for half a century struggled and fought for the journalistic ethics and principles, but never compromised. The only media icon, which, by demonstrating his strong character always stood against both military and civil dictators in the country. Come what may, he never compromised on the basic policy of Nawa-i-Waqt that is to uphold the concept of Two Nation Theory, Allama Iqbal and Quaid-i-Azam’s Islamic democratic Pakistan and Kashmir. Majid Nizami elaborates in an exclusive interview with the Centreline and DNA that what cost he had to pay for following an “Independent Policy” as an owner of one of Pakistan’s oldest and largest Media Houses.
Q, How you feel When you look back on half a century journalistic career?
A. Well journalism is my passion and throughout my life I did not do anything else except trying to excel in it. I did everything from writing to editing, copy pasting to printing, and distribution up the readers. And that’s only because I loved my work. During my graduation at Government College Lahore, I regularly wrote column under the title “Sar-e-rah,” which meant “On the Way.” Did Masters in Political Science and left for London to get a degree in Bar at Law. One fine morning in 1962, Agha Shorish called me on phone informing that my elder brother Hameed Nizami is seriously sick and I should reach Lahore immediately. My brother was suffering from the fatal heart disease and could not survive, so I took over the charge of Nawa-i-Waqt. The country was passing through the dictatorial rule of late General Ayub Khan and it was really difficult for the newspaper like Nawa-i-Waqt to survive with its independent policy. However, I decided to follow the foot steps of my late brother and struggled for the independence of journalism.
Q. How you turned a weekly newspaper into one of the largest Media House in the country?
A. The paper used to the published on the litho format without a picture. The format was changed with the new technology, the paper turned from weekly to daily. The time when I took over the paper was facing severe financial crises; even the funds were not available to pay salaries to the staff. However, in few months time the paper got back on the track. Later years Nawa-i-Waqt started its publications from Rawapindi/Islamabad, Multan and Karachi as well. Today the group has English newspaper daily “The Nation” magazines Nida-i-Millet, Family, Phool, and Television News Channels “Waqt News.”
Q. For sometime during late 1960s or early 1970s you left Nawa-i-Waqt why?
A. There was certain family issues; in fact, my sister-in-law wanted to run the paper herself, so I decided to quit, despite the fact that I was the Technical Director of the registered company and owned the shares. It was really a testing time; I was thinking what do to, should I complete the law degree but was not interested in the law practice. So, I decided to go for my passion and launch my own newspaper. I arranged the finances from my friends and started Nida-i-Millet form the old Anarkali Bazar, Lahore. The name was different but the policy was that of my late brother Hameed Nizami and Nawa-i-Waqt, therefore, the paper got excellent response from readers. In contrast the Nawa-i-Waqt lost its circulation and importance. After sometime, I was forced by my sister-in-law to rejoin, so, went back with the different deal of ownership of the company. My late wife asked me to involve my nephew Arif Nizami who was still studying. After completing of his education I trained him as a journalist and promoted him editor of daily “The Nation.” When the Television project was launched he was nominated the head to run the channel. When my daughter Ramiza Nizami came back from London after completing her graduation she started looking after various assignments of the group including the TV project. Later on when I appointed her as Deputy Managing Director of the group my nephew didn’t like my decision and left without informing me. I told Arif that now I am in 80s, so, you and your sister should run the group together for which he was not ready.
Q. How you compare today’s media with that of 1960s?
A. Today entrepreneurs from other businesses especially from the education sector have started their newspapers and TV channels, so, the trends have changed vis-à-vis journalistic ethics and principles are concerned. I under the principles of journalistic independence stood against all military dictators from Ayub Khan to General Pervez Musharraf. I always stood for the truth and spoke in the same language in front of all dictators. For this I had to pay unprecedented cost both in health and money but never compromised on the basic principles of journalism. Once late General Ayub Khan was holding a meeting with editors of the various newspapers and said I know newspaper is a good business. I replied to him your son Gohar Ayub resigned from the Army and entered into Gandhara Motors business; let him enter into the newspaper business as well, so that you could know how good the newspaper business was? He immediately said “ Nizami Sb, I was not referring to you.” Similarly, General Musharraf in a meeting with editors once said “Nawa-i-Waqt is giving full coverage to Mian Nawaz Sharif and his family who are in exile in Jeddah, is there anybody else to do the same,” there was complete silence in the presidential palace’s hall. But for this one has to pay the cost, I went through three heart surgeries and Allahhamdullah, every time Allah gave me new life.
Q. What’s your view about Pervez Musharraf?
A. The case is in the court so let the court decide whether he had violated the constitution or not?
Q. What about the government?
A. I told the Prime Minister that no relations with India could be possible until Kashmir issue is being resolved. Indians were constructing dams on Pakistani water to turn our country barren. Thanks God we are an atomic power and that’s why India cannot establish its hegemony. The time when Indian’s detonated their nuclear bomb I told Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif that if you did not respond to Indians the public will not forgive you.
Q. What you think of Imran Khan’s politics?
A. Sometimes he speaks well, but the manner in which he has blocked the NATO supply it’s not in our national interest. He must be careful in his words and actions.
Q. What about Dr, Tahir-ul-Qadri who’s planning to launch another movement against the government?
A. He is an excellent religious scholar as well as an actor to stage a drama. He should not be launching any new public stage show, because, he is already exposed to the masses. Many times I advised him that he should be guiding the people on religion and play a positive role for creating religious harmony in the country.
Q. How do you view the new Army Chief General Raheel Sharif?
A. I expect that he would follow the footsteps of his predecessor former Army Chief General retired Ishfaq Pervez Kiyani, who played a positive role in strengthening democracy in the country. Once I met former COAS Gen. Kiyani and stated that the political situation in the country was conducive for you to come on the media and say “my dear country men.” He immediately replied that it was not his ‘cup of tea’. The new chief should focus on making the army professional and strong, because country is facing internal and external security threats.
Q. What is your message to the young generation?
A. The youth must get best education, work hard with honesty and sincerity, and be resolute, that was the only secrete of success.