ISLAMABAD: Senior journalist Irshad Rao, a vocal voice against Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship, passed away in Islamabad on Monday after a short illness. He was 76.

He was laid to rest in the H-11 graveyard. Mr Rao was a renowned journalist with decades of experience spanning in local and international media.

He was the editor of Al-Fatah, a revolutionary publication that defined the democracy narrative.

According to his daughter Maliha Safiullah, Al-Fatah was banned nine times during Gen Zia’s regime but every time, it was out in the market with a new name, until Mr Rao was arrested and tortured in a military cell.

He was declared a Prisoner of Conscience by Amnesty International and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launched a world-wide campaign for his release, she said.

According to his daughter, it was Mr Rao who took Begum Nusrat Bhutto in a rickshaw to attend a meeting of opposition leaders where the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) was formed.

Later, he became the managing editor of Daily Frontier Post until Benazir Bhutto came into power and made him the official spokesperson and then inducted him in her first cabinet as adviser on information. In 2007, he joined National University of Science and Technology (Nust) as director publications. He leaves behind his wife, two daughters and two sons.

Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) also issued a press release, paying tributes to Mr Rao’s heroic struggle against dictatorship.

PFUJ President Afzal Butt and Secretary General Arshad Ansari, in a joint statement, recalled his struggle on the streets through his work and said the work and struggle of Irshad Rao against dictatorship was an example for the young generation in the field of journalism. They said his struggle would remain a source of guidance for journalists and would never be forgotten.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2022

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