KARACHI: Rich tributes were paid to the late I.A. Rehman at the launch of a book titled Remembering I.A. Rehman at the Arts Council of Pakistan here on Sunday.
Published by the Institute of Historical and Social Research (IHSR), the 350-page book is a compilation of articles in I.A. Rehman’s memory written in three languages — English, Urdu, Sindhi — which has been compiled and edited by Zulfiqar Halepoto.
Karamat Ali, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, said that there are so many aspects to I.A. Rehman’s personality that they cannot be summed up in one book or gathering. “I.A. Rehman was against discrimination and had tolerance and respect for different opinions. This is how he developed a culture of human rights,” he said.
Prof Karan Singh also said that I.A. Rehman did not discriminate between Muslims and non-Muslims. “In fact, he did not like referring to people of religions other than Islam as minorities. He noticed how in textbooks, Hindus are shown as cruel and selfish people and he pointed this out. Thanks to him such kind of negativity in schoolbooks is no longer affecting impressionable young minds,” he said.
Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said that one can feel the big gap when people like I.A. Rehman leave. “He was always on the right side of history and during the fall of Dhaka people like him ... were seen as traitors,” he said.
He remembered how when working on the book about the history of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, I.A. Rehman’s recalling of its history became very important. “As a journalist, his writing had the clarity of thought that many lack. His writings will always guide me to also keep on the right side of history,” he said.
Dr Kaiser Bengali said that it is still difficult for him to believe that I.A. Rehman is gone. “He was a champion of human rights. He had strong principles. So much changed but he remained consistent and clear in his principles throughout. He treated everyone as an equal. Losing him is untimely. He left too soon when we were already feeling the absence of Asma Jahangir,” he said.
Retired Justice Majida Rizvi said that she as a young person used to read I.A. Rehman’s articles. “It was through those articles that I got to know what a great man he was. Then later when I used to meet him, I used to discuss with him women’s rights as we would come to human rights. He was easily accessible and I would often turn to him for guidance as he would help clear my view through our discussions. He helped me understand the meaning of human rights. Now that he is gone, I feel lost. I don’t know who to go to,” she said.
Retired Justice Rasheed A. Razvi said that the book is a timely compilation though there would never be enough writings about I.A. Rehman’s struggle, commitment, and his stand. “Be it a journalist, politician or intellectual, he was champion of all. But sadly, our good friends who used to guide us and enlighten us are leaving one after the other, which is also affecting our civil set-up. In politics, we no longer see an extreme left or an extreme right. We only get to see opportunists with no manifestos or programmes. They only want to rule.
“In such times, I.A. Rehman is still our guide. His passing should not stop the guidance so read him, read about him. I am also looking forward to reading the biography of this man of commitment, of this man of conscience,” he said.
Earlier, the book’s publisher Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed of IHSR said that I.A. Rehman was a larger than life personality. “He was a journalist, a writer and an activist. As a journalist he had started his career with Pakistan Times but when it was nationalised, he stopped writing editorials for it. Later, in the 1970s, he was with Viewpoint. His writings were also published by The Frontier Post, The Muslim, Dawn, Herald, Newsline and The News among others.
“When he was in jail with Mazhar Ali Khan, he still wrote for Viewpoint under various pseudonyms. IHSR was allowed to reprint any of his old articles and we are preparing volumes of his work,” he said, adding that these current times with the pandemic and all, the people of Pakistan are already witnessing an autumn when leaves fall but with I.A. Rehman’s passing the entire tree has fallen.
The book’s compiler and editor Zulfiqar Halepoto explained that the book has three sections for each of the three languages it has been written in. “The articles carry that initial feeling of pain felt at I.A. Rehman’s passing as they were all penned very soon after he departed,” he said.
Former chairman of the Higher Education Commission Dr Tariq Banuri also spoke.
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2021