ISLAMABAD, June 29: The services and works of eminent journalist, Zamir Niazi, were remembered by intellectuals, journalists and academmicians here on Tuesday.

They had gathered at the Pakistan Academy of Letters to pay tributes to the late journalist who has often been called as Zameer (the conscience) of Pakistani Press.

Zamir Niazi, who passed away on June 11 in Karachi after a protracted illness. But even during the ailment his commitment to win freedom of expression in the country never diminished.

Dr Tariq Rahman who presided over the reference meeting called him a man with a mission and archives of the press. Paying eloquent tributes to Zamir Niazi for his profound scholarship.

He said the journalist made a moving appeal to the civil society to uphold the virtues of democracy because in a democratic system people can learn to stand up against state restrictions and street barbarism.

In the words of Iftikhar Arif, PAL chairman, Zamir Niazi stood out in the country among the few courageous persons who could wage a struggle for freedom of expression and unfettered press and the books he has authored The Press in Chains and The Press Under Siege testimony to speak out fearlessly in the face of inhibitions.

Till the last moment of his life Zamir Niazi continued to respect the tradition of the inviolability of the written word, and in so doing he became role model for his fellow journalists.

A senior editor who was privileged to work with Zamir Niazi and had occasion to visit him at his home described that there were only two rooms with sparse furniture in that house and both were stacked with books and reference materials.

He said Mr Niazi was in the habit of calling him on telephone. Notwithstanding his frail body and his long time ailment he spoke with a booming voice. He would receive requests for documents related to the working of the press.

Zamir Niazi's last request concerned a list of information ministers and information secretaries who have held office in Pakistan from 1947 until to-date. He called him as one of the truly great men that Pakistan has produced yet at the same time he was a most humble man, who did not seek monetary gains.

He said he would often turn to the three books that Zamir Niazi had written so as to evaluate his own standing in the profession and to find out as to whether he had strayed from the high standard set for journalists.

He suggested that the three books written by Zamir Niazi should be made compulsory reading for new entrants to journalism to remind them of the enormous responsibility of writing events truthfully and without bias.

Ashfaque Saleem Mirza described Zamir Niazi as frail man who was weighted down with the problems of others, and fought for their interests single handedly. In this struggle he was fortified with indomitable will but he was a very civilized person.

He chose a rather steep path for himself that became evident after the publication of his book The Press in Chains in 1986 and The Press Under Siege (1992) and the Web of Censorship (1994).

In 1948 the Quaid-i-Azam had asked the press to write fearlessly and to criticize him whenever he was in the wrong. On the other hand President Gen Ziaul Haq in March 1982 had castigated the press by saying that he would wish to close down the entire press for five years and in case of protests he would throw every one in jail. This motivated the late Niazi to write his three monumental books, Mr Mirza said.

Senior journalist Mufti Jamiluddin Ahmad said Zamir Niazi would always be present among us to remind the need for a conscience keeper of the society which he undoubtedly was. He was a chronicler of events and historian in the real sense, and carried on the struggle for freedom of the press single handedly.

Speaking on a personal note, Poet Haris Khaleeque said Zamir Niazi was a friend of his father's ever since 1946 when his father went to Bombay. Zamir Niazi had written his three books in extremely difficult physical condition since he could not even sit upright because of his disease.

Zamir Niazi sat down to reconstruct all the massive details anew. Mr Khaleeque said Zamir Niazi had profound interest in poetry and had written copiously on Amir Khusrau, and suggested the PAL to assist in the publication of his poetical manuscript. It would be fitting to end with a stanza read by Ashfaq Saleem Mirza the obituary meeting. This brings out the sterling character of Zamir Niazi:

Yon bhi hota hai
Aandhi ke muqabil chirriya
Apne par tolti hai
Ik bhrakte huye sholey par
Tapak jaye agar
Boondbhi bolti hai.



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