Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The 'King' Of Urdu Columnists Is Dead. But Is He?

Most of you kids probably don’t know who the recently deceased Irshad Ahmed Haqqani was, but the dude ruled the daily Jang's op-ed pages for more than a quarter of a century. I remember reading a column by Haqqani where he quoted his own earlier column which quoted another column that he had written in another decade.

In his early days he was the editor of Jamaat-e-Islami’s in-house magazine Tasneem. But he had a falling out with its chief Maulana Maududi in the '50s because the Jamaat just wasn’t radical enough for him. So, obviously, on to Jang. And after taking up his Jang slot (in 1981) he soon became the most influential op-ed hack in the country. Zia, Benazir, Nawaz, Musharraf, all at one point or the other took him along for an umrah, sought his opinion on everything, listened to his whines and dined him. And he diligently reported it all in his columns. He turned namedropping into an art form. Almost every Urdu columnist in Pakistan has called him their ustaad at one point or the other. But now that he is dead, this is what they are writing about him.

This is Abdul Qadir Hassan (a former Jamaat-e-Islami comrade) in the daily Express today:

“Whenever a reader wrote him a letter of appreciation, he would add a few more words to it and include it in his columns. He lived with this mental sickness all his life and found fame that he always craved…I couldn’t attend his funeral but I have been told that not many people turned up.”

This is Javed Chaudhry, also in Express:

“When I published my first collection of columns I wrote on the cover ‘One Hundred Columns by Javed Chaudhry That Will Live For Two HundredYears.' Irshad sahib called and admonished me. I had the line removed but, Allah ka karam, the same book has had 192 print runs and is the best selling book in Pakistan’s history.”

(All you angrezi writers, try beating that! But Javed does have a self reflective side though. His email address is javed CH...)

And finally, Ata ul Haq Qasmi in today's Jang:

“He started repeating the compliments given to him in his columns and this became a weakness and turned into chronic narcissism.”

Of course they have all said nice thing in these obits too, but basically the message is, 'We all learnt from you but good riddance, you bastard. We can do it better than you.'

Whatever they might say about him, he did invent the modern Urdu column, which is half analytical drivel, half dinner menus. Only during the last week, for example, Jang columnist Haroon-ur-Rashid (according to his column) demanded and got desi murghi from the Azad Kashmir prime minister, and Hamid Mir (according to his column) discovered new insights into judicial activism over a Kashmiri dish. I forget the name of the dish but according to Jang / Geo’s brightest star, it is made of mooli and shaljam and served with rice. The host was the Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khwaja Sharif.


Magnum said...

Lol! bhai, mazay ki baath yeh hai kay, all these writers bitching about haqqani were, quite like haqqani, one way or the other also associated with either the jamaat Islami or its studentwing, the IJT.
Love it when one jammati bitches about another jammati. :)

Rude Punjabi said...

Shab Deg, is the name of the dish, right?!