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Khalid Hasan sets aside pen

February 07, 2009

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WASHINGTON, Feb 6: Many got used to reading Khalid Hasan’s witty, thoughtful and honest opinions in his columns, written first in Lahore, and then sent from London, Vienna and Washington. They will read no more.

The man who wrote for almost half a century, no matter where he was, has now set aside his pen. He has embarked upon a voyage from where nobody writes back.

Born in Srinagar 74 years ago, Khalid Hasan breathed his last at Invoa Fairfax Hospital in Northern Virginia on Friday night at 10:15pm.

But as long as he stayed on the stage, he kept his audience spellbound. “You must be happy with your accomplishments?” he was asked.

“Accomplishments?” he laughed and recited one of his favourite verses of Ghalib: “It passes aimlessly, even if you have an eternal life; even Khizar, (who is supposed to live till the end of time) will say tomorrow, what I did with my life!”

Mr Hasan’s funeral takes places on Saturday at 1:30pm at Aden Muslim Funeral Services, 1242 Easy Street, Woodbridge, Virginia 22191.

He was brave and honourable in life and maintained it on his deathbed as well, preparing himself to appear before his Creator with the same grace that marked his life.

Mr Hasan was born in a distinguished Kashmiri family. His father, Dr Noor Hussain, was an accomplished physician. K. H. Khurshid, Quaid-e-Azam’s private secretary and the first president of Azad Kashmir, was his cousin and brother-in-law.

Mr Hasan began his long career in journalism and writing with The Pakistan Times, Lahore as senior reporter and columnist in 1967.

In December, 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto invited Mr Hasan to join him as his first press secretary. He went on to spend five years in the country’s Foreign Service, with postings in Paris, Ottawa and London.

He resigned in protest when the Bhutto government was overthrown by Gen Ziaul Haq and worked in London with the Third World Foundation and the Third World Media before leaving to join the newly-established OPEC News Agency in Vienna, Austria, where he stayed for 10 years.

Mr Hasan returned to Pakistan briefly in 1991 where he worked as a freelance journalist for the next two years.

He moved to Washington DC in 1993 and worked out of there as US correspondent for The Nation, Lahore. From 1997 to 2000 he was in Pakistan as head of the Shalimar Television Network.

He returned to Washington in 2000 as special correspondent of the Associated Press of Pakistan, which he left to join Daily Times and The Friday Times, Lahore in 2002. He continued to work as the correspondent and columnist of these two publications in Washington.

Khalid Hasan was a prolific writer and translator. He had published over 40 books, in Pakistan and abroad. He also published 11 collections of reportage, political, literary and social writings.

Pakistan has lost “a great journalist,” said Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani when told of Mr Hasan’s death.

Information Minister Sherry Rehman, a close friend, observed: “Mr Hasan was one of those rare journalists who earned respect for standing tall in a profession.”

Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, described him as “an accomplished man of letters,” and said, “He was a gentleman journalist who made an impression on everyone he met.”

“An impression he did make on our hearts,” said one of Mr Hasan’s colleagues in Washington when he heard of his death. “But we all perish. We do.” He then recited another couplet by Ghalib, which was also among Mr Hasan’s favourite verses of that great poet. “Don’t trust this existence, no; this entire universe that you see is nothing but illusion.”

This illusion, is so “full of sound and fury” and yet “signifying nothing.”

Or perhaps it is significant when a person’s departure touches so many hearts, the colleague said.