KARACHI: The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday evening held an online reference to pay homage to journalist and human rights defender I.A. Rehman, who passed away in Lahore on April 12.
The first speaker was architect Arif Hasan. He divided his talk into three parts: his relationship with Rehman sahib, his personality and legacy. He said he met the late journalist and activist in Lahore in 1967 for the first time where he (Hasan) had gone to work. Although Rehman sahib was 12 or 13 years older than him, they would meet every evening where they’d be joined by the likes of Dr Mehdi Hasan and Nisar Osmani. Rehman sahib used to call the architect ‘kitab’. Even after he returned to Karachi from Lahore, both kept meeting on a regular basis. Their relationship deepened when Bangladesh was trying to gain independence. Their ties further strengthened during Z.A. Bhutto and Gen Ziaul Haq’s tenures.
On the second point, Mr Hasan said Rehman sahib was a good listener. He knew how to lend an ear to people. He would never interrupt anyone while they were talking, even when they would be presenting a point of view opposite to his. He never spoke ill of anyone. At meetings and seminars, he would give an opinion that differed from others’ with a sense of humour. He never spoke about himself. Once, he visited his birthplace in Gurgaon, India. When he came back, nobody could detect an air of nostalgia in his narration about his place of birth. He talked about it like a tourist would. He was an extremely well-informed man who turned his wealth of information into knowledge (ilm).
Mr Hasan, speaking about his legacy, said Rehman sahib has left behind the institutions that he was associated with and founded; his efforts to bring peace between India and Pakistan; his resolve that we should not be afraid of speaking the truth; and the youngsters who in their small but significant ways have established human rights and social welfare groups.
‘He was a good listener, and never spoke ill of anyone’
Executive director of PILER Karamat Ali said he had worked with Rehman sahib as a trade unionist and human rights activist. He had known him since 1971 when he visited Lahore with Sadequain. Rehman sahib at the time was looking after a newspaper, Azad. He (Ali) was deeply impressed with him from day one. After that he got to work with him at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and alongside him on projects that aimed to bring India and Pakistan closer. Whichever country he visited, it seemed as if it was his own because people there would greet him with a great deal of warmth.
Mr Ali said Rehman sahib was like a father to him. On April 12, when he passed away, he (Ali) felt like an orphan. Speaking with him used to put him at peace. The late activist respected everyone’s point of view.
Resident director Sindh, Aurat Foundation, Mahnaz Rahman said on April 12 she was at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) where an event was being held to mark the first death anniversary of journalist Ahfazur Rahman. There, the participants were in shock to receive the news of Rehman sahib’s passing. In September last year, when a condolence reference was held for Ahfazur Rahman at the Arts Council, Rehman sahib came from Lahore and delivered the keynote address.
She said the news of Rehman sahib’s death flooded social media with messages. She mentioned two of them. One was from an admirer of Rehman sahib who wrote that he’s the ‘father of human rights’. The second was from a woman activist who said that women always felt comfortable working alongside Rehman sahib because he understood women’s issues. In that regard, she read out excerpts from an article by Rehman sahib which he wrote in favour of Aurat March.
Earlier, chairperson of PIIA Masuma Hasan introduced the speakers to the online audience. She also briefly talked about Rehman sahib, calling him the leading public intellectual of Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2021