Hasan and the sea of stories
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Khalid Hasan, who died last week in Washington, where he was the special correspondent of Lahore's Daily Times and Friday Times, was a gifted and versatile journalist and author, whose passing leaves both journalism and literature in his country the poorer. He had wide and varied interests — ranging from politics and literature to music and photography — a deep understanding of the subjects he wrote on, a scintillating style and an enviable flair for the right phrase. This makes it all the more ironic that he started life as an officer in Pakistan's income-tax department.
Luckily he realized soon enough that his forte lay elsewhere. He joined the Pakistan Times where his promise and potential became obvious immediately. Among those impressed by his incisive analytical writings, spiced with wit and humour, was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. A week after coming to power in the wake of the Bangladesh War, ZAB asked Khalid to work for him. In Khalid's own words, "until then the press officer of the president — which is what ZAB then was — was called the Public Relations Officer (PRO) which I thought was appropriate to someone selling soap. I said that to Bhutto and suggested that I should be called his press secretary. 'Fine,' he replied, 'but not the kind they have in America'."
Khalid was present at Bhutto's famous meeting with Pakistani scientists under a marquee in Multan on January 20, 1972 at which ZAB demanded a Pakistani Bomb in three years and the nuclear scientists said they would deliver it. Several years later, after Bhutto was overthrown by General Zia, Khalid spoke about the Multan meeting to the makers of the German TV documentary, The Islamic Bomb.
It was an indiscreet remark of Khalid at a press briefing in Lahore that annoyed ZAB who packed him off to Paris as minister (press) in the Pakistan embassy. Later, he served in this capacity in Ottawa first and then in London. He was in Britain's capital when the news of Zia's coup against ZAB hit him, He resigned instantly and sought shelter overseas until it was safe to return home and rejoin the profession he loved.
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