Remembering a truly iconic Mirza Hassan Akhtar
ANOTHER of my old colleague and dear friend, Mirza Hassan Akhtar, has passed away in Islamabad. Although I had not met him for quite some time after he moved away from Lahore in the early sixties he belonged to those early batch of journalists who had established a repute and traditions to be followed by others as true icons.
I am saddened to hear of his passing away as both his late elder brother and first cousin, Commander Askari and Tahir Mirza, had been stalwarts in journalism and related fields. Askari, had started his career with “The Statesman” in New Dehli, just prior to partition before his family moved to Pakistan. He spent many years in ISPR and later in diplomacy being assigned to Paris and other countries, before working for leading newspapers and OUP with distinction.
Tahir Mirza, too became a distinguished journalist being associated with Morning News, the Pakistan Times, Khaleej Times and later as a Editor, Dawn. I had known Hassan Akhtar, since my inception into the then elite Associated Press of Pakistan, which was run by Eastern News Trust with Malik Tajuddin as its Managing Trustee in the private sector, after partition. Its trustees, included Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Hameed Nizami, Altaf Hussain and Abdul Majid Salik.
Hassan Akhtar, who had been with APP, became the first and the last APP journalist to be posted to Calcutta. Years later he became my colleague having joined the Pakistan Times, in Lahore in a senior capacity.
When I joined PIA in 1960 in Lahore, It was on his coaxing that I flew to Dacca, for the first time in February 1960, with a letter to his cousin Tahir Mirza, who was the then Chief Reporter Morning News in Dacca. This chance meeting with Tahir Mirza became a lifelong friendship. Tahir Mirza, too came over to Pakistan Times in Lahore and then served Khaleej Times in Dubai, BBC in London, Dawn in Lahore and subsequently as the Editor, Dawn at Karachi.
Hassan Akhtar, moved over to Islamabad and joined Dawn in a senior capacity after a stint with the Morning News and for many years represented Times, London as its Pakistan Correspondent in Islamabad. He became truly a role model for all young and aspiring journalists with his impeccable conduct and professional excellence. It is sad to see that after those early pioneers of journalism like Kh. Asif, H.K Burki, ABS Jafri, Israr Ahmed, Safdar Qureshi, and Hassan Akhtar Mirza have all gone to leave behind a tradition to be emulated and followed by the future generations.
My solemn condolence to the family of Mirza Sahib, including Begum Mirza, son, daughter and others for the great loss. He will be truly missed by his countless friends, admires and those who came in touch with the truly remarkable personality.