KARACHI: Columnist, author and a global citizen as he used to describe himself, Irfan Husain, passed away early Wednesday in Dorset, England. He was 76.

Husain wrote weekly col­­­umns for Dawn and in one such write-up publish­­ed in August, he shared with readers that he had been diagnosed with a rare type of cancer three years ago, according to Dawn.com.

He wrote for weekly Outlook, The Star and later Dawn under various pseudonyms. His writings were never soft on governments and often evoked strong reactions.

He joined the civil service in 1967 after obtaining a master’s degree in economics, while also pursuing his love for writing.

He served as culture secretary, information minister and also a diplomat in Washington for a short span before his retirement in 1997.

Born into a family in Amritsar, where reading, art, culture and discussions were encouraged, Husain was educated in Paris, Ankara and Karachi. His family migrated to Pakistan at the time of independence.

Besides his taste for literature, art and music, he was also known for his love for culinary. He wrote on food and occasionally shared his culinary expertise through Dawn EOS’ Epicurious column.

In 2012, he authored a book titled Fatal Faultlines: Pakistan, Islam and the West. At its launch, he described the thought of writing a book as ‘frightening’ since he had been mostly writing columns. According to Husain, his book was primarily intended for a Western audience and for them to understand how they were viewed by the Muslim world, but at the same time, it was an attempt to explain to Muslim readers why they were viewed so negatively in the West.

According to the publisher Harper Collins, Husain pursued a parallel and covert career as a freelance journalist for most of his working life, writing under a succession of pseudonyms. He divided his time between the UK, Pak­istan and Sri Lanka since 2002, the publisher said.

In one of his recent columns for Dawn years after being diagnosed with cancer, Husain said: “After nearly three years of this barrage, I must confess there are times I wish it would just end quietly without fuss. But then I look outside the window and see the flowers, trees and birds in our garden, and I am happy to be still alive.”

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2020

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