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Muhammad Ziauddin, interrogator of historymakers, chronicler of Pakistan’s economy, dies

Career spanned five newspapers over sixty years

SAMAA | - Posted: Nov 29, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Nov 29, 2021 | Last Updated: 2 months ago

Muhammad Ziauddin, a journalist known for his temerity to repeatedly question army generals, ferret out dark statistics on the economy, and stubbornly report on Pakistan’s politics for over half a century, has passed away after a brief illness in Islamabad at the age of 83.

Ziauddin sahib was born in 1938 in Madras (now Chennai). His family moved to Dhaka in 1952 where he studied for a BSc in Pharmacy. They moved to Pakistan in 1960, when he was 21 years old and three years later he enrolled to study journalism at the University of Karachi.

After his MA in Journalism, he launched Pakistan Spotlight. And one of his first jobs in the field was at Pakistan’s only private news wire at the time, Pakistan Press Agency, which was later renamed Pakistan Press International (PPI). His salary was 75 rupees.

Muhammad Ziauddin

By 1974, he went to work at the weekly Pakistan Economist. [Read about his time there]. He then went on to work at Morning News, The Muslim, Dawn, The News and The Express Tribune. After he retired as its executive editor, he wrote mostly freelance for several publications.

Ziauddin sahib spoke to SAMAA Digital at length about the stories from his time in journalism. M. Ziauddin: Stories on Pakistan’s politics, power and press by Kamal Siddiqi is divided into sections on each major phase of his life. The longform piece is supplemented by historic clippings by Ziauddin sahib and his colleagues and never before seen photographs.

Pakistan journalist M Ziauddin's press card 1975-1977
Ziauddin sahib’s press card from his days at the Pakistan Economist, issued by the Karachi Union of Journalists and valid for 1975 to 1977. Image courtesy: M. Ziauddin GALLERY

In ‘Muhammad Ziauddin, a life in journalism‘, he spoke at length of his years covering and observing Pakistan’s most famous politicians and their eras, Benazir Bhutto and the PPP, Nawaz Sharif, the MRD movement, Musharraf, Zardari, and how media barons reacted to that coverage.

Ziauddin sahib interacted with Benazir Bhutto over the years, sometimes over friendly chats and at other times to grill her over the performance of her government. It was surprising to him, and he highlighted this, that no matter how heated the interview or question-answer session, she never sulked afterwards or spoke stiffly to the journalists who had given her a tough time. In fact, he reported extensively on PPP corruption, himself.

Ziauddin sahib’s career as a reporter, editor and analyst sets an example for generations of journalists but it was perhaps his skirmishes with Pervez Musharraf that can be upheld as the kind of inspirational interrogation of power that we should see more of today. [Read Confronting Musharraf]. He spoke at length to Kamal Siddiqi of the times in which he visibly angered the military dictator, and of one occasion when Musharraf even told a group of people that if they ever saw Ziauddin, “do-teen tikka dain” (slug him a few).

As news of Ziauddin sahib’s illness spread Friday, Pakistan’s journalists prayed for him. Many of them spoke fondly of their experiences learning or working with him.

 

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