Former Dawn editor and veteran journalist Saleem Asmi passes away in Karachi

Updated 01 Nov 2020

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Former Dawn editor Saleem Asmi. — Photo provided by author
Former Dawn editor Saleem Asmi. — Photo provided by author

Veteran journalist and former editor of Dawn Saleem Asmi passed away in Karachi on Saturday, according to family and friends.

Asmi was the first Dawn editor from the news side, having served as a news editor for the paper and Khaleej Times. He was also responsible for launching Dawn's Islamabad edition.

Read: Editors and their policies

During his time at Dawn, he paid special attention to covering art. Of the two magazines he left behind, The Gallery, as the name suggests, concerned art; the other was Books and Authors.

During his stint as editor, he decided to publish Osama bin Laden’s interview by Hamid Mir, even though he was a non-staffer, because the interview contained hard news about nuclear technology.

His colleague during his time at Dawn, Nizamuddin Siddiqi, said Asmi brought significant changes to the paper by introducing magazines and focused more on national news.

Asmi had also served as the president of the Karachi Press Club (KPC). According to KPC Secretary Arman Sabir, the senior journalist's funeral prayers will be decided after the arrival of his two sons who live abroad.

Condolences pour in

Condolences poured in as colleagues and friends reacted to the death of the senior journalist.

Information Minister Shibli Faraz said journalism had lost a "shining star".

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said Asmi carried "exceptional courage around him like a casual accessory, never talking about it, just using it when needed".

Hasan Zaidi, editor magazines Dawn, called the senior journalist a "wonderful human being".

Talat Aslam, senior editor at The News, said that Asmi was like a father figure to many younger journalists.

"He was my editor when I worked for Dawn in the late 90s and he was always there to offer advice and help. He will be missed by the profession and all those whose lives he touched," he said.

Bilal Farooqui, a journalist working for The Express Tribune, said Asmi was "a guiding light for so many seeking to understand journalistic standards and practices".

Dawn correspondent Nasir Jamal said there were "no words to express his feelings" at Asmi's demise. "A wonderful journalist and one of the finest editors, and more than that a great human being. I am proud to have worked under him," he said.

Shazia Hasan, another Dawn correspondent, recalled Asmi taking a chance and hiring her as a 19-year-old student. "He often called me after reading my reports and would tell me to write shorter intros," she said.

"Recently, we had met at KPC and I was telling someone in front of him that editors come and go but Asmi Sahab is 'my' editor because he hired me," she said. He replied that if he was still editor he would have fired me because of my long intros for news reports drawing laughter from the people around us, she remembered.

Journalist Owais Tohid said the senior journalist was "a rock solid editor [and] a beautiful painter [who] believed in liberal values [and] stood for human rights".