Pause. Yes one has to take a pause and reflect in moments of sorrow and happiness. So pause I must not to be silent in memory of my good friend Sabihuddin Ghausi, who is no more. But to reflect on my long association with him, to rewind and replay many long evenings, I had with him over a drink or too many, and to thinks about his multi-faceted personality, which somehow we don’t do when our loved ones are alive and smiling around us. Yes pause I must take time out from the usual terrorism, constitutional booby-traps and economic meltdown, to write about all that Ghausi was. But then Ghausi was all that what I just said I want to put on a pause.
Ghausi was a left-leaning democrat and that is what influenced his writings as a journalist, his trade unionist activities, his struggle for freedom of expression, his love for the people, his strong desire for peace (particularly with India which he lovingly remembered as his ‘Janambhomi’). Once we were together in Mumbai, he took me to show the hospital in which he was born.
He was clear unlike many Pakistani journalists that secularism is an essential part of democracy, which imbibed in him the rejection of political and militant Islam. This does not mean that he was irreligious. Ghausi had performed Hajj with his wife a few years back and was very regular with his Friday prayers. But in discussion on religion he would often lean towards Sufism, which provided space to his pluralistic views.
Given the nature of the multi-ethnic composition of Pakistan, Ghausi strongly believed in true federalism. This was amply reflected in the last few years’ writings of Ghausi, which made him the undisputed champion of provincial autonomy. I told Dr. Jabbar Khattak, Editor of the Sindhi newspaper Awami Awaz at Ghausi’s funeral that today Sindh has lost a crusader for its rights, in the English media. Mukarram Bokhari corrected me that even Sindhi press did not present Sindh’s just rights that effectively as it was done by Ghausi. And he was right, because very few nationalist have presented their case with facts and figures. Some have attempted but at times they were not able to restrain themselves from sentimentalism or exaggeration.
His love for democracy also made him bitter about the military dictators. Sometime I would argue with him that his bitterness encroaches on his journalistic objectivity. But my friend Ghausi loved and hated things with equal vigour.
He was elected many times as President of the Karachi Union of Journalists and was always in the vanguard of the PFUJ. During his younger days he followed PFUJ’s most prominent leader Minhaj Barna blindly. But with age all of us have mellowed. So he had no more boxing bouts with our friend Abdul Hameed Chappra with whom he had a long love-hate relationship.
His trade unionism was not restricted for the economic rights of the newspaper employees; the greater part of his struggle was for the freedom of press. He was always in the forefront and was not shy to go to prison during General Ziaul Haq’s dictatorial regime. He also remained President of the Karachi Press Club many times although I would always advise him that one time is enough. In any case it is quite a thankless job as most journalists are not convinced that KPC should be managed on self-financing basis instead of depending on donations and grants. Early this year he lost the last election of KUJ badly, though apparently he took it in a sporting sprit I feel that he was very upset about this defeat.
One of the many good qualities of Ghausi was that unlike many trade unionists and press club office bearers he never neglected his professional work. He believed that a journalist is known through his writings and not other positions. This is something other activist-cum-journalists should emulate.
As a person he had a soft heart which was easily moved by other people’s miseries. Though he had no children, he loved them immensely. His Rashida, who he loved madly, told me that he showers his fatherly love on the children of his neighbourhood. He would not forget to bring gifts for neighbours’ children, who would pass the examination or on their birthdays.
He died peacefully while sleeping. My regret is that he could not see a Pakistan which we all desire. The desire that is burning out all the sensitive people each day and each night. A wish that is death to hide! (firstname.lastname@example.org)