Labour Party Pakistan starts Inkaar Tehreek (No
People of Lahore not to pay the new bus fares
raining, LPP activists gathered in front of a private bus stand
at Railway Station Lahore area to protest the recent raise in
Lahore bus fares. They appealed to the people of Lahore not to
pay the revised bus fares. They demanded an immediate withdrawal
of the increased oil prices. Many travelers joined the very live
demonstration and agreed with the demand....
COMMENT: Mazhar Ali Khan’s legacy: Viewpoint
—Dr Mohammad Taqi
state takeover of the PPL publications, their subsequent nationalisation
and the eventual formation of the National Press Trust, did irreparable
damage to the freedom of expression and the people’s right to be
informed in Pakistan
“Many will probably conclude that
the dictatorship’s gravest crime was its deliberate destruction of press
freedom, because so many other evils flowed from this act of denying to
the people of Pakistan one of their fundamental rights” — ‘Ayub’s Attack
on Progressive Papers’, Mazhar Ali Khan, Pakistan Forum, January 1972.
The takeover, at gunpoint, of Mian Iftikharuddin’s Progressive Papers
Limited (PPL) on April 18, 1959, was a watershed event after which the
Pakistani Left, or for that matter any opposition group, has not been
able to find a viable alternative to the state-controlled propaganda
However, there were sporadic exceptions to this rule and the August 14,
1975, launch of the weekly Viewpoint from Lahore by Mazhar Ali Khan had
ushered in one such era that ended nine months before his death in 1993.
I had an opportunity to meet Mazhar sahib, courtesy my uncle Afzal
Bokhari — a regular columnist for Viewpoint. On a bright but nippy
Lahore morning in December 1987, we arrived at the Viewpoint offices. At
age 17, I was still experimenting with various progressive ideas and
knew of Mazhar sahib as “the father of Tariq Ali”. His younger son,
Mahir, was in Peshawar in those days at The Frontier Post.
My recollection of Mazhar sahib walking in is of a smiling man with a
greying moustache, in white kurta-shalwar suit. His gait was steady and
demeanour calm and rather soothing. I felt comfortable enough to fire a
dumb question — where could one find Tariq Ali’s Trotsky for Beginners,
I asked. His smile broadened and with a hand on my shoulder, he said,
“Yeh to aap Tariq se hi poochein” (that is something you should ask of
Mazhar sahib showed us around the office and I was pleasantly surprised
to see Alys Faiz in the next hallway. During the conversation with her,
I once again lobbed a question about “ideological non-issues”, i.e. her
and Faiz’s early days in Amritsar. With a smile peculiar of Alys’ thin
upper lip, she steered the discussion towards asking about Aziz Siddiqui,
who was editing The Frontier Post from Peshawar in those days.
Faiz, Mazhar sahib and Aziz Siddiqui were all at The Pakistan Times (PT)
at one point. They were matchless journalists and ideologues — traits,
which when combined with the towering personal integrity of each, scared
Ayub Khan’s military regime.
The junta responded by censorship — a policy that later took many names
like the so-called press advice, and was legitimised by the fig-leaf of
notorious laws like the Press and Publication Ordinance (PPO).
However, such tactics were no match for the prowess of Mazhar Ali Khan’s
pen and the power of his convictions. He was the editor of The Pakistan
Times at the time of its takeover by the Ayub regime. The ailing
chairman of the PPL, Mian Iftikharuddin, was put under house arrest and
the offices sealed after confiscating the records and accounting data.
The junta’s goons led by a general and aided by bureaucrats like
Qudratullah Shahab made an offer to Mazhar Ali Khan to continue as the
editor with the assurance that after removing Mian Iftikharuddin as the
chairman, the status quo ante will be restored. In fact, he was promised
that the editorial titled ‘The New Leaf’ — written by Qudratullah Shahab
announcing that the paper was “under new management” — would not even be
published if Mazhar sahib agreed to remain the editor.
Mazhar sahib responded with a resounding no to any and all offers to
serve as a protégé of martial law. The regime had the audacity to tell
him that under the new rules he could not even resign. But not being the
one to be cowed down, Mazhar sahib called it a day.
The state takeover of the PPL publications (the dailies Pakistan Times
and Imroze and the weekly Lail o Nahaar), their subsequent
nationalisation and the eventual formation of the National Press Trust,
did irreparable damage to the freedom of expression and the people’s
right to be informed in Pakistan.
In the years leading up to the creation of Bangladesh, Mazhar sahib
remained one of the key leftist ideologues in Pakistan and an
inspiration for many in the mainstream parties like the National Awami
Party (NAP) and for students becoming increasingly politicised against
the repressive military regimes.
After the independence of Bangladesh, Mazhar sahib went there, in a last
ditch effort to work out some form of a confederation formula with
Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. But the mission, supposed to be a low-key effort
with the backing of ZA Bhutto, fizzled out.
Mazhar sahib also accompanied ZA Bhutto to the Simla talks and according
to Dr Aftab Ahmed, was able to prevail upon Mrs Indira Gandhi to do
business with the first elected leader of Pakistan.
However, the sophisticatedly simple Mazhar sahib is remembered not for
mere ideology or the diplomacy stints but for his sober, independent
publication — Viewpoint.
This rather thin journal, with a non-glossy cover, composed usually in
Times New Roman and printed on newsprint, became the flagship of
dissident journalism from the latter years of ZA Bhutto’s government
through the dark ages of Ziaul Haq’s Islamic martial law.
It was almost miraculous that a journal, which received neither the
newsprint quota nor a lifeline of lavish advertising money from the
government, survived, let alone became a pioneer in serious public
The simple charisma of Mazhar sahib’s editorship rallied together a
group of fearless journalists like Eric Cyprian, IA Rehman, Amin Mughal
and Zafar Iqbal Mirza, who made Viewpoint an exception to the rule of
submissive journalism in Pakistan. However, it was his personal devotion
to the core principles of serious ideological journalism that kept
Identifying the right issue for the editorial, opening timely debate on
relevant matters, focusing on the country and region without missing the
global perspective, and above all keeping the opinion out of the news
while still upholding the highest ideological values, was what Mazhar
sahib was all about.
A group of energetic young individuals, led by Farooq Sulehria, has come
together to re-launch Viewpoint as a web magazine, with its first issue
going online tomorrow (May 21, 2020).
The Viewpoint is the legacy of a fine human being, an impeccable
ideologue and inimitable journalist that Mazhar Ali Khan was. My
submission is that we take utmost care in handling this trust.
Dr Mohammad Taqi teaches and practices medicine at the University of
Florida and contributes to the think-tanks
and Aryana Institute. He can be contacted at