Veteran Dawn ex-staffer dies

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Mr Sami Ahmad in black sherwani; Mr Altaf Husain sitting extreme left.—Picture provided by Mr Jaleel Hamid Zubairi
Mr Sami Ahmad in black sherwani; Mr Altaf Husain sitting extreme left.—Picture provided by Mr Jaleel Hamid Zubairi

KARACHI: Sami Ahmad, who was among the last few surviving journalists who served under Altaf Husain, chosen by the Quaid-i-Azam to be the editor of Dawn, Delhi, died here a day before Eid. He was 93.

Ahmad, who joined Dawn at Karachi in the 1950s, remained associated with the paper for a total of 27 years. He resigned his Dawn job to go to greener pastures but returned to it as Assistant Editor in 1975.

Considered a most competent desk hand, Ahmad had an encyclopaedic memory which came in handy to his colleagues who often pestered him with unceasing questions whenever they wanted to know the year and date of a given event in the Pakistan movement. Those were pre-Google days and finding details of a historic event meant going through the tiring job of leafing through Keesing’s Archives and relevant books. Ahmad’s knowledge about South Asian history and his computer memory helped them.

Ahmad was born in Patna, Bihar, in 1927 and came to Pakistan with his wife and daughter in the aftermath of partition and had to suffer economic difficulties initially. However, he later managed a recovery, joined journalism and worked tirelessly with efficiency and professional ethics to rise in the profession.

Over the decades he became a mentor to many of his colleagues and helped them improve their editing skills and knowledge of language.

When he finally retired in 2002, he was not technically entitled to a pension, but the late Ahmad Ali Khan, Dawn editor from 1973 to 2000, recommended to the management that he be paid a pension and observed that he was “one of the ablest journalists Dawn has ever had. He was a dedicated colleague who brought a high sense of responsibility to his work”.

He is survived by his wife, a daughter and two granddaughters.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2020