IT was a 16-page issue with a kind of front page that subeditors even in the classical mould would refuse to countenance. It carried just one story with the headline spread across seven columns. There was no other story, no double columns or single column “tops”, nor a “bottom” or an “anchor”, as we journalists call it, to balance the page. The only other piece on the page was not even news; it was an article – a message by Beverley Nichols, the author of Verdict on India (with the celebrated chapter on Jinnah, “Dialogue with a Giant”). But a look at the lead story would convince the reader why it was and had to be the only story, for it announced the birth of the Islamic world’s biggest state – Pakistan.
This was Dawn’s issue of Aug 15, 1947, a maiden one as far as its Pakistani readers were concerned. Its price was two annas. That was 60 years ago. Today those who read that issue of Dawn belong to various categories. Boys like me have become old, while the old ones have met their Lord. But Dawn, like Pakistan, goes on and shall, inshallah, go on. Pakistan Zindabad! Dawn Zindabad!
Dawn then had only one edition in Pakistan: now it has three, including one from Islamabad – a name then not in existence. Lahore, where the Pakistan Resolution was passed in 1940, was the second one to have it.
As its second editorial of the day, entitled “About Ourselves”, said on that “historic and sacred day”, Dawn was “proud to be able to present its readers in Pakistan with an edition of their own”.
“From today,” said the Dawn editorial, which no doubt must have been written by its legendary Editor, Mr Altaf Hussain, “this newspaper is being published simultaneously from the capitals of Pakistan and Hindustan”. Then it declared, and quite justly, “Since it was brought into being through the efforts of the Quaid-i-Azam six years ago, Dawn has served the cause of the nation in its own humble way. Its difficulties have been many, its handicaps great and often it has had to be produced under almost impossible conditions. Those responsible for its conduct have throughout been sustained by the ungrudging support which they have received from its readers and from the Muslim public generally.”
Dawn was then a hot-metal affair. Copy was composed on lino machines, the page was made “on stone”, the flong was pressed, the “plate” — though it was round in shape and was made of zinc — was “chipped” and then the rotary worked. In the newsroom teleprinters made noise, unlike today’s newsrooms the world over which operate in clinical quiet, thanks to the computer.