Although it’s normal in our culture not to recognize intellectuals when they are alive, it’s shocking to know how Shamim’s fellow journalists treated him after he passed away silently!
A friend and former colleague of mine emails me the shocking news from Islamabad that our former colleague of PTV News Shamim ur Rehman passed away this morning in Karachi after suffering from cancer. Still in denial, when I search online, I find this four liner story in the newspaper he worked for:
“Associated with journalism for the past 40 years, Rahman was suffering from cancer and was undergoing treatment. Apart from Dawn, Rahman had also worked with the AFP news agency.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf expressed their condolences on Rahman’s passing. His funeral prayers were held after Zohr prayers outside his residence in Gulistan-i-Jauhar’s Block 17.”
And I am thinking, what a tribute to a senior journalist who devoted his life to the profession! Although it’s normal in our culture not to recognize intellectuals when they are alive, it’s shocking to know how Shamim’s fellow journalists treated him after he passed away silently!
When I joined PTV as a trainee in Karachi, Shamim ur Rehman was working as a News Producer. During my stay at PTV News I learned a lot from him and he was always very kind and willing to mentor and support new comers to the profession. Recalling old days when he worked for PTV News, a former Director of News Syed Javed Ali remembers his willingness and devotion to mentor new trainees:
“We also recall the good old Days in PTV Chaklala when we all worked as a family. Shamim Sahib always encouraged trainee producers. He invited us for lunch at his home many times.”
Shamim ur Rehman was born in Patna, Bihar in British India and lost his father at an early age. His family migrated to Karachi where he did his Masters from the Karachi University in International Relations. He started working as a journalist in late 60s with the Pakistan Press International (PPI) in Karachi. Later he also worked for the Business Recorder, and then joined the Asian Television Service, a subsidiary of Pakistan TV Corporation in 1970 at its Karachi office. Later on he continued his professional career with PTV News having worked in Karachi and then in Rawalpindi-Islamabad, as a reporter.
He was not an ordinary news reporter. As perfectionist and meticulous as he was in his work, sometimes he had to cover routine events assigned to him, but he always looked for exclusive stories that no one could find in news agency wires. His special area of interest was geo-political and strategic developments in the region. He showed his mark when he covered the Afghan war against the then Soviet occupation in the eighties. He developed special rapport with the then UN Secretary General, Perez de Cuellar, and the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, and also went to Geneva to cover the Afghan peace talks which finally culminated in the exit of the Soviets from Afghanistan.
These days when journalism has also become an industry and corruption has widely swept away professional ethics and honesty, Shamim never compromised on his professional integrity. Not only this, he never tolerated unprofessional attitude and never stopped pointing out to his superiors whenever he saw something wrong or substandard. A former PTV News Editor who now works for the Voice of America Urdu Service as Senior Editor, Razi Ahmed Rizvi says:
“His philosophy of life as I did understand was objectivity, truthfulness, being steadfast and to take a stand against any wrongdoings at any level. He will not compromise on anything he thought was wrong or unjust. He was a man of integrity and never compromised on his principles. He was a man of compassion. “
It looks, a fine journalist like him was not made for a state owned medium like TV and he undoubtedly knew it well. Probably that’s why he left PTV at the peak of his profession when he was working as Chief News Reporter at the National News Bureau in Islamabad. He joined APP and then started working for Dawn. Although he worked for a meager salary, he never cared about monetary compensation and never marketed his skills well.
He was also a world class journalist as he always worked for international media even when he was working for PTV News and newspapers. As a freelancer, he used to file stories for international news agencies. Not too many people know, however, that Shamim was also a photo journalist. I remember, he always had an expensive camera with him and intelligently used this skill as a photo journalist. Many of his photos were published international media such as the prestigious U.S. magazine Vogue.
Knowing that he was soft spoken with a friendly outlook, I didn’t believe when I saw him on TV as an elected leader of Karachi Union of Journalist. I watched him protesting and speaking vigorously against media owners and the government on mistreatment of journalists and restrictions on media. During this time he became a fearless spokesperson for journalists and frequently participated in TV talk shows on social and political issues.
As energy was his pet subject, he also edited a book “Thar Coal: Salvation Paradigm” published last year. The book highlighted a significant natural resource broadly available to be exploited but widely ignored by the government.
Unlike other writers who are just critical of contemporary issues, Shamim was a balanced analyst of major issues in his society. Although he was a blunt and honest writer, he never lost hope in people. He adored the newly found freedom of media and believed in the new generation of journalists. In one of his articles “Is it the Point of No Return?” published in Dawn on the Independence Day in 2010, he wrote:
“But there is hope due to emergence of a vibrant media which has exposed many ills, though it also needs to refine its methodology, especially in electronic media. Unlike the past today young journalists are questioning authorities and looking into their eyes directly. The civil society which played crucial role in the movement for the restoration and independence of judiciary is also a major positive development. Together they can act as a catalyst to a more lasting and liberal democratic dispensation rooted in ideals of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. “
Shamim ur Rehman was a brilliant professional and a fine human being who will be remembered as a straightforward, blunt and honest professional of high caliber.