Karachi-based senior journalist and media consultant Khurram Baig, 49, passed away on Thursday evening due to Covid-19.
With over two decades of print, TV and web experience under his belt, Baig — fondly called KB — was a multi-talented journalist known for his intelligence, wit and leadership qualities.
Starting his career at the Pakistan Press International news agency, he went on to join the Frontier Post in 1994. A former Karachi city editor at The News, Baig also worked for TV channels including Dawn News and Express News. In the last few years, he went on to run a financial research website — Qineqt — as well as consultancies. Baig was also associated with K-Electric as a content strategist and media consultant for the past three years.
Known for his wit and intelligence, Baig was an avid sports and fitness enthusiast who never drifted from his strict exercise regimen no matter the workload or the tasks at hand.
His untimely death came as a shock to many in the media community.
Journalist and TV anchor Zarrar Khuhro said, “He had the best kind of humour. I can’t believe he is gone.”
A former colleague of Baig at Dawn News English and later at the Express Tribune, Khuhro said: “He had deep interest in business and sports. At Dawn News, he was the sports editor, at Express he was the business editor. Very much into sports, probably the wittiest, most good-humoured person I have ever known.”
Recalling Baig as "a gem of a guy", Khuhro said the "last conversation we had was about how expensive pampers are. He had a baby a few months back."
Express Tribute Editor Naveed Hussain said he was "shocked and heartbroken" by Baig's sudden passing.
"His death reminds me of how fragile life and how cruel death can be. He was a gem of a person with a heart of gold. He had this beautiful way of earning respect: by giving it to others. As a journalist, he was a thorough professional; and as a person, a thorough gentleman," he added.
Former Tribune editor and CEJ-IBA Director Kamal Siddiqi recalled Baig as "a popular member of the Tribune team".
"He contributed greatly to the paper's growth in its infancy and when things settled he went on to be the business editor — a position he served with distinction. We will miss Khurram the journalist as well as Khurram the loving human being that he was."
Journalist Bilal Farooqi recalled Baig as "a brilliant person lost to this horrid disease", referring to Covid-19.
“We lost one of the finest journalists, best human and always a smiling friend. We were together since launching of Financial Post in 1994. Since then we remained friends despite working for different papers. He was an excellent writer but never shared his problems. I know he had to face hard times with no jobs but never found him worried, no complaints. [He was] a clean and true journalist, no corruption. What a fine journalist he was,” said journalist Shahid Iqbal in a message.
Another former colleague of Baig at Qineqt, a financial data platform, journalist Raza Ali Sayeed, said, “Khurram was a dear colleague with years of experience as a news reporter, editor, and anchor. He was an extremely versatile individual who covered several areas as a journalist including national, international, business, [and] sports news, with a commanding expertise and knowledge in all of these areas. His skill as an editor and journalist was second to none, having worked with most of the major news outlets including Dawn TV and Express Tribune.”
An astute editor, Baig had been successful in training aspiring journalists, many with no journalism degrees, to follow the rules of accuracy and objectivity in their writings and work.
“He had natural leadership qualities with a confidence in abilities and inspiring others. He was always helpful and supportive of aspiring journalists and editors who sought his guidance and skill,” Sayeed added.
Similar sentiments were echoed by sports journalist and anchor Altamash Jiwa. “He was a master of all trades and always willing to offer a helping hand no matter what the task or circumstance. When an anchor was not available for some reason, KB was just a call away as he would jump into a suit and tie right away and take over the anchoring role with ease as he was well-versed in all subjects,” Jiwa recalled.
“He loved playing sports and during work hours always encouraged us to take a table tennis break. He became so good himself while playing in between work that he started taking part in local table tennis championships at the Islamia Club and Karachi Press Club.”
A sentiment echoed again and again by many young journalists was Baig’s ability to set them on the right path, save their backs, and never shy away from giving the credit when anyone of them excelled.
“He was my first-ever boss. I was young and just out of university. [He] took my first-ever interview and hired me. I remember when I left for another job, I gave him a little card as a farewell gift. [He] wished me all the best. Never held me back,” wrote Maria Shamim, a former TV producer.
Sports reporter Emmad Hameed also mourned Baig's death, saying he was "The first Dawn News English sports head, news anchor and a man full of life — a mentor, a friend, a guide."
The deepening crisis in Pakistani media over the last few years meant journalists sought other avenues to sustain their households. Baig, with a career spanning almost three decades, eventually put his skill set to use as a consultant.
"Wise beyond measure, Khurram’s wit, skill and brilliance were admired by all he came in contact with. During his consultancy [at KE] he worked closely with my team and me. We are all deeply saddened to lose him so soon and send deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family,” said Sadia Dada, KE Chief Marketing & Communications Officer.
Bilal Memon, another former colleague of Baig at the Express Tribune, termed the late journalist as "the sort of person who was always available to have a word with — knowledgable and insightful on sports and business".
"He always treated lesser-experienced colleagues with respect and love — a rare thing for an editor, and even rarer in a newsroom," Memon recalled. "His eyes would always light up in conversations about the gym, and he made the hard work on his fitness very well-known."
Bloomberg journalist Faseeh Mangi said he was "quite devastated and shocked to hear" about Baig's passing, whom he described as a friend and former boss.
"We spoke about everything from gaming, football to stories and laughed our way through the work day. Such a nice, easy-going and jolly guy. You will be missed!" he tweeted.
Khurram Baig is survived by his wife and two young sons as well as his mother, sister and brother.