Fasih-ur-Rehman — A Dedicated Journalist Gone Too Soon
The last time I talked to Fasih-ur-Rehman on telephone was almost two weeks back. His voice was calm and composed, but the words of his utterance clearly indicated that he was worried—usually Fasih never lost composure and presented himself in public with a mix of extreme wit and confidence in the bounties of Almighty Allah. “What is the situation with you, Bhai Jan” (he used to call me Bhai Jan and that always sounded affectionate). “Fasih, still no job, I am writing for few publications and websites but no substantially progress on job front.” I responded while faking a laughter. “Allah Malak hae, I am in the same situation” Fasih said in an assertive voice, “Please keep in touch with me, I am on the verge of signing an agreement with a newly launched news channels and I want you to be part of my team”.
Fasih-ur-Rehman was my only solace during the last two years of unemployment as the media crisis in Pakistan gradually unfolded in the country, leaving hundreds of independent journalists jobless. Numerous times during these two years Fasih and I had long sessions in which we discussed the nitty gritty of the artificial media crisis that had left hundreds and thousands of media persons jobless.
Both Fasih and I were in agreement that news outlets were under tremendous pressure and only those journalists could survive this pressure who had a thing for flattering the powers-that-be, or who could become the mouth pieces of political parties or other power centres.
For survival, I started writing for local and some of the foreign publications. Fasih had been writing political pieces for a national newspaper and had recently told me that he was no more interested in carrying on with writing, “I want to try a stint in news channel” he told me some months back. After saying goodbye to the newspaper, Fasih was also unemployed. His wit and trust and confidence in Allah Almighty never allowed him to make much fuss about his unemployment. But he was worried, that I knew from the tid bit of information that he used to throw towards me in our regular meetings during this period.
Today morning, sitting in the coffee shop in Super Market in Islamabad, I looked at my Twitter feed and saw a notification of a tweet from a journalist friend that announced Fasih’s death. I was emotionally devastated. I called on Fasih’s cell number. His son, Abdullah picked the phone. He was crying. The ordeal of one and half year passed through my mind like a flash. The media crisis has taken another life, life of a brilliant journalist, sharp political analyst and skillful social campaigner.
I always used to joke with Fasih that his social skills are unmatched—you could have sent him into a crowd of strangers and he would come out of it surrounded with several friends. These social skills allowed him to make inroads into every political party that exists in the country. He had contacts in the government, in the opposition, in military, parliament, bureaucracy; you name it—in every sector of public life that the journalists normally have to deal with.
His demise at a young age indicates that stress of journalistic life had taken a toll on his health. Covering politics in the crisis prone country like Pakistan has always been stressful. Fasih was deeply involved in observing political developments and power struggle from a very close quarter since he shifted to Islamabad from Lahore in 2002.
He was sitting on a vantage point from where he was not only in touch with all the players in the power struggle that goes on, in Islamabad, but he was keeping a critical eye on every move of theirs’. And this journalistic activity is no child’s play—it is very stressful activity. But Fasih was a Lahoriite out and out—every few weeks he used to travel to Lahore with him family to meet friends and family. Now he will be buried there.
Umer Farooq is an Islamabad-based freelance journalist. He writes on security, foreign policy and domestic political issues.