LAHORE: Veteran journalist , short story writer and progressive intellectual Masood Ashar passed away in Lahore. He was 90.

The funeral prayers for the deceased will be held at the mosque of B Block DHA, phase I, at 10am on Tuesday (today).

He is survived by two sons and two daughters. His wife passed away last year.

The real name of Masood Ashar was Masood Ahmed Khan. He was born on Feb 10, 1931, in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, in the united India. He got his early education from the Madrasa-i-Aliya of Rampur. He did his matriculation from Allahabad board around 1948 and did his graduation from Agra. He migrated to Pakistan after his graduation in 1951.

Right from his early days he was fond of journalism he worked with various newspapers such as Ehsan, Zamindar and Aasaar till 1954 when he joined Urdu daily Imroz as senior sub-editor. Poet and short story writer Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi was the editor of Imroz then. In 1958, Ashar became the resident editor of Imroz, Multan. During Gen Zia’s dictatorial regime, firing was opened on the workers of the Colony Textile Mills and Masood Ashar printed its news. As a punishment, he was transferred from Multan to Lahore. In 1983, he was sacked from his job when he signed a demand for revival of democracy in the country.

In 1988, during the government of Benazir Bhutto, he was reinstated in his post and he retired from the newspaper when he was its editor. In 1992, he got associated with a publishing house called Mashal.

In introduction to his OUP book, Asif Farrukhi wrote that Masood Ashar had got his pen name (Ashar) from Shad Arifi, a poet friend of his uncle, who mentored him in the art of writing poetry at the early age. His poems were published in Adabi Dunya and Alhamra during his teens. His first short story was published in Fasana, a journal from Allahabad in 1948. After a long gap, he returned to writing short stories in 1964 and his story was published in Savera, edited by Salimur Rehman. A collection of his short stories, Ankhon Par Dono Hath, was published in 1974. His second collection of short stories, Saray Afsanay, was published in 1987. The third collection, Apna Ghar, was published in 2004. His fourth book, Sawal Kahani came out in 2019. Later, the Oxford University Press published a selection of his short stories, edited by Asif Farrukhi.

Ashar was an excellent short story writer and his short stories earned critical acclaim. He would frequent literary gatherings at the Pak Tea House. In recent years, he was a part of the group that would hold weekly meetings at the Nairang Gallery on Jail Road. He was an excellent translator too. He wrote columns for Jang and Dunya after his retirement.

Playwright and poet Asghar Nadeem Syed said when Ashar joined Imroz in Multan as a resident editor, there was a considerable increase in the printed copies of the newspaper and the number exceeded that of what the newspaper’s Lahore office was printing.

Playwright Shahid Nadeem from Ajoka called Ashar a progressive intellectual. He never compromised on his principles and had a great association with the progressive writers.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2021

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