End of an era

EDITORIAL  (December 14, 2010) : Bringing to an end a life-long inning of a journalistic career, greatly inspired and shaped by the ideals of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, founder of the Business Recorder Group and Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Business Recorder, M A Zuberi passed away peacefully at his Old Clifton residence in Karachi yesterday.

His journalistic career began when the Quaid asked him to join Dawn, the official newspaper of the Muslim League at the time. On August 9, 1947, M A Zuberi arrived in Karachi carrying the Pakistan Independence supplement of Dawn, to ensure its delivery to Pakistanis on their first Independence Day. Aptly, the Daily Business Recorder’s motto is a quote from the Quaid’s speech made at Ziarat, Balochistan, in 1948: “We Musalmans in general and young men in particular do not know the value of money. A paisa saved today is two paisa tomorrow, four paisa after that and so on and so forth. Because of our addiction to living beyond means and borrowing money, we lost our sovereignty over this Sub-continent”. M A Zuberi was a multi-faceted individual: a serious-minded journalist, an independent thinker and a patriot to the core. Veteran editor Majid Nazami said, “Mr M A Zuberi will always remain a part of the country’s cherished history of journalism”. Confronted with challenges, he would never waver, nor compromise his principles. When the Recorder House was attacked and burnt down by vandals, Zuberi Saheb told his colleagues ‘the show must go on’ and publication continued.

He was an ardent champion of private enterprise, the democratic system of government with maximum provincial autonomy, agrarian reforms and a progressive and rational approach to the interpretation of Islamic economic principles. At times his independent views often opposed those of the government. Z.A. Bhutto was angry when Editor M A Zuberi argued that “enormous harm is being done to the economy and instead of progress, chaos is being created and kept alive… Without the performance, which only private sector is capable of, and it has not been given the opportunity … there is little hope of a real improvement in the people’s standard of life”. And it didn’t sit well with General Zia-ul-Haq when Zuberi Saheb criticised the so-called Islamic banking system by highlighting the fact that ‘the concept of Islamic banking was just changing its nomenclature from interest to profit, while both are the same thing’. As to General Zia’s much-touted ‘Islamisation’ of Pakistani society, Zuberi Saheb argued that “Islam is not confined to the imposition of Hudood (punitive injunctions)” reminding General Zia that the Quaid had opposed theocracy. His take on the complexities of government policies to allow public comprehension was unprecedented. In 1983, the economic wizard (and later the Head of State) Ghulam Ishaq Khan, told the members of Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry that “Business Recorder and its Chief Editor M A Zuberi has done more for them than what the private sector has done for itself”.

The business community has deeply mourned his death. According to all, the Daily Business Recorder remains to be ‘the single and complete source of information about the economy and financial issues’. M A Zuberi was a legendry journalist, says Saeed Shafiq, President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, adding “I can’t remember any other like Mr Zuberi, who devoted his whole life for the development of economic journalism and made it a reputable profession”.

Founded in 1965, the Daily Business Recorder was the first economic and financial daily newspaper of the Muslim World. M A Zuberi was not only the founder-editor, but also the sole proprietor. As an active editor, he held daily morning meetings for the staff, and was actively involved with reporters even as the paper was going to press. He would often engage in animated discussions with his staff on issues of national interest, invariably revealing his incisive insight into the economic and political challenges confronting the nation. But his interest in the welfare of his staff was no less dear to his heart. Former staff members have recalled an incident during the early days of the newspaper a bank branch was forced shut due to a strike, resulting in the holdup of salaries. Zuberi Saheb called the president of the bank, forcing him to open a counter so that his staff could collect their salaries.

M A Zuberi was also the founding member of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) and a firm believer in the viability of electronic media. This belief naturally led to the launching of Aaj News. Most of all, Zuberi Saheb was a family man. In his death, the country has lost an icon of fair and independent journalism, a follower and friend of the Quaid-e-Azam, a father, grandfather and great grandfather – Brecorder