IN 1942, my father Hamid Zubairi left daily National Call, Delhi, and before joining Dawn, Delhi, he had a stint as a reporter with the first and only Muslim news agency of the era, The Orient Press of India (OPI). This news agency was founded in 1940 by one Syed Mohammad of Bihar. During his association with the OPI, managing director Syed Mohammad, who was a friend of the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, used to assign him coverage of events where he suspected the Hindu reporters might file a biased or skewed report.

One such instance was the failure of the proposals carried by Cripps mission, led by Sir Stafford Cripps, in the spring of 1942. Jawaharlal Nehru then addressed a press conference in Delhi to explain the stand taken by the Indian National Congress (INC). To appreciate and understand the point of view of the All-India Muslim League (AIML), the pressmen requested the Quaid for a press conference to which he readily agreed.

Sometime in June 1942, this press conference was arranged at the residence of the Quaid — 10 Aurangzeb Road, New Delhi. Hamid Zubairi was deputed for the coverage of this press conference by Syed Mohammad as he wanted to avoid sending a Hindu reporter to this particular press conference.

When he got the invitation to the press conference, he remembered an old school friend named Iqrar Zaidi who was a stenographer in government service. This friend had earlier requested my father if it would be possible for him to take him along whenever there was an occasion to see the Quaid from close quarters. Considering this an ideal opportunity, he asked Zaidi to join him. His main intention, as a great admirer, was to see the Quaid from close and hear him speak. Zubairi imposed a condition that Zaidi would take down the Quaid’s discourse verbatim in shorthand, to which the latter agreed enthusiastically.

Senior journalists from all prominent Indian dailies were there at the residence of Mr Jinnah, and the room was jam-packed. Soon after taking his seat, Jinnah asked: “Is there anyone from the Hindustan Times?” The then chief reporter of the paper stood up only to hear a rebuke from his host: “Please go out, I don’t want a representative from the Hindustan Times in my press conference.”

“I have been invited,” replied the reporter. Mr Jinnah retorted: “I have not sent invitation to anyone.” This created uproar as everyone insisted that he should be allowed to attend the press conference. The Quaid was adamant.

Finally, he informed that the AIML working committee had passed a resolution restraining entry of Hindustan Times representative to any event of the League. This decision came in the backdrop of a series of concocted, baseless and malicious articles published by the said paper against the AIML and its leaders. The entire Hindu press walked out, but came back a few minutes later and requested Mr Jinnah to review his decision.

But his decision was final, and he clearly explained to them that he was helpless and could not violate party discipline. So, everyone, except five persons, left the press conference. Besides Zubairi and Zaidi, a Christian lady stayed back as she was representing a paper in Ceylon, which subsequently became Sri Lanka.

Another person who stayed back was Sharma, editor of United Press of India (UPI). He, however, remained there on behalf of a British daily of which he was a correspondent. It was quite natural that the Quaid was a bit depressed, but he was a strict disciplinarian.

After introduction with Zaidi and the remaining correspondents, my father requested him for his statement as they did not want to put any questions, but the Quaid simply said, “leave it”, and called it a day.

The next day there was no news of the Quaid’s press conference in the Hindu-dominated Indian press. It was completely blacked out. They did not even mention the incident concerning the Hindustan Times representative at the press conference.

Quaid-i-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan issued a statement the next day, condemning the attitude of the Hindu press. Again, it did not find a place in that section of the press. Only the weekly Dawn published the statement in full.

After these incidents, the AIML and its leadership accelerated their efforts to transform Dawn from a weekly to a daily. Dawn started publication as a weekly on Oct 26, 1941, under the editorship of Hasan Ahmad, and on Oct 12, 1942, it became a daily, with Pothan Joseph as editor.

Jaleel Bin Hamid Zubairi
Karachi

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2022

Editorial

More leaks
29 Sep, 2022

More leaks

THE PM Office needs pest control, as well as a good plumber or two. The place appears to have had a bug problem for...
A depressing winter
29 Sep, 2022

A depressing winter

WINTER is on its way, with a massive gas crunch looming as elevated global LNG prices have eroded the cash-strapped...
Great expectations
29 Sep, 2022

Great expectations

CONSIDERING that the Afghan Taliban have been in the saddle for over a year now, the UN has expressed frustration...
The whole truth
28 Sep, 2022

The whole truth

THE war on truth has never been more relentless than it is today. Authoritarianism is on the rise and purveyors of...
Real-world trolls
Updated 28 Sep, 2022

Real-world trolls

It's reprehensible how PTI supporters now seem convinced that politicians from opposing camps aren't entitled to basic dignity.
Islamabad wildlife
28 Sep, 2022

Islamabad wildlife

PRESERVING biodiversity is low on the list of priorities of both state and society. However, successful attempts at...