KARACHI: People from various walks of life paid homage to senior journalist Idrees Bakhtiar, who recently died here, on Saturday.
“It was on the night of the grand iftar hosted by the Karachi Union of Journalists at the Karachi Press Club [KPC] on May 25 that we noticed him in some discomfort and rushed him to hospital. After he was admitted and his family had also arrived, we decided to see him to bid him farewell as at 1am or 2am it was getting quite late, but he didn’t want us to go. It was our last meeting. It keeps repeating itself in my head,” said KPC Secretary Arman Sabir during a condolence reference for Idrees Bakhtiar at the Arts Council. “My work as secretary of the KPC would keep me quite busy and I found him complaining often that I had no time for friends anymore. I also tried to made time to see him,” he added. “I found him very hurt after the news channel where he worked let him go earlier this year. People would ask him if he had left the organisation and he would correct them by saying ‘No, they let me go.’ He had taken the rejection to heart,” he said.
Speaking about Idrees sahib’s journalism, journalist Mazhar Abbas said that one should read his stories and exposé. “He was a complete reporter, giving the full story without giving angles or taking sides. He was always objective,” said Mr Abbas. “He would always encourage other reporters to do field reporting as he said that one got to learn of more things than what was on the surface if one was there on the spot,” he added.
Television producer Athar Waqar Azeem said that he brought him to TV journalism and working together helped him get to understand Idrees sahib better. “He was a great journalist with sound knowledge of his field and he was also a fine human being,” he said. “I found him very depressed towards his final days after he was fired by his media house. I would tell him to turn his attention back to writing news features but who knew he would leave us so soon,” he added.
Mujahid Barelvi said Idrees sahib started his career back in the 1970s when most journalists were busy criticising the establishment. “But staying away from the riffraff and didn’t change loyalties,” he said.
Dr Qaiser Sajjad said that losing him is an irreparable loss to journalism. “He didn’t take sides and never talked about people behind their backs. He was a very soft-spoken man who never lost his temper,” he said.
Nihal Hashmi said that many may have heard about yellow journalism, but Idrees sahib’s kind of journalism was “golden journalism”.
Peerzada Salman said that even though he had not had the fortune of working with him, they became good friends while touring England some 20 years ago. He fondly remembered how Idrees sahib used to read people’s faces. “He noticed my worried expression on my valima and asked me what was wrong to which I told him I had arranged for pretty much everything but had forgotten to arrange for a car. That was when he lent me his black Corolla and me and the Mrs went home in that car,” he shared.
Nazeer Laghari said that he was a brave journalist. “He never backed down when reporting in the face of threats,” he said.
Afsar Imran spoke about his early life. He said that he helped raise his younger siblings. “He did his master’s in English and wanted to appear for the CSS exams as well but his responsibilities at home prevented him from doing so. He got a job as a proofreader at a newspaper in Hyderabad and never complained. Later, his reports earned him the APNS award and the Pride of Performance too. He was an institution and was always there to guide his juniors,” he said.
Academic Dr Tauseef Ahmed said that he would be concerned about the falling standards of journalism. “He would volunteer to edit our seminar proceedings to make sure it was well written as he didn’t want any student to be going though a badly written booklet,” he said.
Maqsood Yousufi said that people say that Idrees sahib never lost his temper, but he has the honour of being scolded by him. “He was not happy with me for making some careless comments after some law enforcers in plain clothes had entered the KPC last year. But he was the leader of our think tank and we were always grateful for his advice,” he said.
Fahim Iqbal Jafri, a woman who grew up in his neighbourhood in Latifabad, Hyderabad, said she looked up to him like an elder brother, “Most of you here know Idrees bhai after he became a successful journalist but I am the sister of one of his childhood friends. He treated all us children like family and would always inquire about our studies and interests in school,” she said.
Wasi Zaidi, his childhood friend from Hyderabad, looked back at their friendship of 55 years with pride. “I have watched my friend cry as he reported on riots running between hospitals,” he said.
Kashif Grami of the Arts Council said Idrees sahib was his father Saif-ur-Rehman Grami’s friend. “My duty was to serve my father and his friends tea and I got to listen to them and learn quite a bit from them while doing that,” he said.
Young Shahabuddin Bakhtiar, Idrees sahib’s young grandson said he was taught poetry by his grandfather soon after he learned to speak.
Arsalan Bakhtiar, Idrees sahib’s son, said that he has watched his father in the toughest times of his life. “He preferred keeping a Vespa scooter while he was being offered all kinds of bribes. People say that he belonged to the Jamaat-i-Islami, but while reporting truly he even offended the Jamaat. Instead of telling us about his stories, he would tell us to see how well Wusatullah Khan or Hasan Jafri did journalism,” he shared.
Younger brother Abrar Bakhtiar said that there were many aspects to Idrees Bahtiar’s personality. “He taught us about family, about respecting our elders and seniors, about friendships, about journalism and hard work and he taught us about life. He preferred to live in a two-room rented apartment in Al Azam instead of selling his beliefs,” he concluded.
Many more, including academic Anwar Ahmed Zai, journalists Qaiser Mahmood, Rizwan Siddiqui and Ijaz Farooqui, also spoke.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2019