Mowahid Hussain

It was often said that Pakistan’s most formidable newsman, Majid Nizami, as editor in chief of the Nawa-i-Waqt Group of Papers, wielded more influence than the temporary inhabitants of the Presidency. Insiders called him the ‘Don.’ And like the Don—the European river is also known as the Danube—Majid Nizami flowed quietly and deeply into the polity and ideology of Pakistan.

Born 3 April 1928 at Sangla Hill, near modern-day Faisalabad, Nizami came to Lahore to do his matriculation in 1943. He did his F.A. at Islamia College (Railway Road) Lahore, then the hub of Muslim nationhood during the peak of the Pakistan Movement. Nizami had the distinction of being certified as Mujahid-e-Pakistan, along with other students, by Liaqat Ali Khan in 1945. In the early ’50s, Nizami graduated, with a B.A. and M.A. in political science, from Lahore’s famed Government College, in between joining and then dropping out of Hailey College of Commerce.

In 1954, Majid Nizami went to London as a correspondent for the daily Nawa-i-Waqt, which was founded by his elder brother, Hameed Nizami, in the early ’40s as a vehicle for Muslim nationhood. While in London, Nizami did an international affairs course at the University of London and joined the Bar at Gray’s Inn, but could not finish his legal studies due to the sudden death of his elder brother of a heart attack at Lahore in February 1962. Hameed Nizami was the founder of Nawa-i-Waqt. It could be rightly claimed that Majid Nizami was its builder. When Majid Nizami assumed the helm of Nawa-i-Waqt, the paper from the business point of view was in shambles and, only through enormous effort, was stabilized. Internal wrangling compelled Nizami to leave Nawa-i-Waqt in 1969-70, and he went on to found Nida-e-Millat. After a year, he was asked to come back to Nawa-i-Waqt and, until his death, continued to consolidate and build. Today, the Nawa-i-Waqt Group of Publications includes the parent paper, which comes out from four stations, the independent English daily The Nation, which comes out from three stations, the weekly Family Magazine for women, the monthly Phool for children, and the political weekly Nida-e-Millat. Nawa-i-Waqt is owned and run by a trust.

Majid Nizami was a trailblazer for independent, ideological, and opinionated journalism. His motto was to tell the truth and not to submit to the rulers of the day. Despite his outward appearance—attired in a conservative business suit and a quiet demeanor – Majid Nizami remained a strong-willed radical at heart who was not deterred from voicing his opinions before Presidents, including Ayub, Yahya, Bhutto, Zia, and Pervez Musharraf. Nizami had the unique honour of being elected to head the two top newspaper/ newsmen bodies—the APNS and CPNE—in the same year during the Martial Law of Zia because of his proven capacity not to succumb, bow, or be suborned. Majid Nizami was a critic of military rule and a staunch proponent of progressive Islam. He described himself as a Muslim at heart and not a Maulvi at heart. His paper Nawa-i-Waqt, representing the founding ideology of Iqbal and Jinnah, enjoy loyal readership and influence throughout Pakistan.

His philosophy was that Pakistan was created for common citizens whose needs, to date, remain unmet. He envisioned Pakistan not only as an Islamic state but also as a welfare state, catering to the educational, medical, and socio-economic needs of the nation. Nizami considered himself as the friend of the average person and as a man who did not change his middle-class roots and values. He said that his abiding principle in life was one of self-respect most typified by Iqbal’s Khudi. Despite his affluence, Nizami maintained a simple lifestyle in an unpretentious house. A private person with few needs, Nizami’s self-chosen lifestyle combined plain living with high thinking.

Outspoken, ideological, and unafraid to pay the price, Nizami was devoted to the legacies of Iqbal and the Quaid. He harbored deep distrust over what he saw as Indian hegemony, which he attributed to its incapacity to accept the vivisection of India in 1947, and he predicted perpetual trouble with India.Despite a history of severe cardiovascular problems, Nizami—through his fighting spirit and self-denial—battled the odds for years to keep himself going. Majid Nizami had equal numbers of admirers and detractors, all of whom conceded that he represented the last of a vanishing breed of non-sycophantic activist journalists, whose like may not be seen again.

–The writer is Attorney-at-Law, author of “Will & Skill”, and former Minister/Special Assistant CM Punjab