‘An Unfinished Tribute’

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Sirajuddin Aziz

EMOTIONS are endless. The more, we express, the more, we like to recount. Since emotions blossom our hearts, there is no room for autumns to exist within us, and no blazing wind can wither that blossom, or the spring of beauteous memories. As Pascal said, ‘the heart has its reasons, which reason, does not know’. An impression made on the heart, is most lovely for the eye to see. I am, filled with grief, to write this memoriam about the person, who I held so close to my heart. To write a tribute, without getting emotional is an angel’s job; no human can expunge, feelings and emotions, while doing so. It is only with emotion, sentiment and with great burden upon the soul, that one can write a tribute, for Mr. Zahid Malik, the erstwhile Editor-in-Chief of the daily Pakistan Observer. (I can never use the prefix of Late or former, to his name and position, respectively – it is just not possible!). Simple. No reason. No logic. Just emotional attachment.
It was either in 2002 or 2003, memory fails me, that I sent a contribution on a religious subject addressed to Zahid Malik Sahib. Prior to publishing it, he called me to compliment the contents. I was over the moon, to receive a seal of acknowledgement from an eminent journalist, like him. That was the beginning of my relationship with him and that will not end with his departure from this temporal world. My faith assures me that we shall meet.
His words of encouragement prompted me to suggest that Pakistan Observer (PO) should publish, on every single day during the Holy month of Ramazan, an article on any aspect of Islam. Zahid Sahib, said, “Let’s do it – but will you contribute for each single day?” He posed me a question! I said, “Will you please give me a space on the OP-ed page? He responded like a true solider of Islam, “My newspaper in its entirety is at the disposal of all those who wish to portray, our noblest religion in its truest form”. He then asked me to name the title and design of the column – which was done as “The Spirit of Islam” and Faisal Mosque became the insignia of articles on religion throughout and it still continues to be used, in Pakistan Observer’s Friday issues. Interestingly, he instructed me, that there is no word-count limitation on your articles. So by Divine Grace, for three consecutive years, PO carried each Ramazan, all articles of mine on some aspects of our religion – Islam. His love for Islam and the Ummah always exceeded commercial considerations.
In later years, Zahid Malik Sahib encouraged me to write upon the positive role of our armed forces in the struggle against extremist thought. I wrote a couple of semi-political articles, which he very prominently carried on the front page.
Mr. Zahid Malik’s powerful pen was never up for sale and consequently his ‘Conscience’ was not, too. He very closely held and guarded the highest traditions of journalistic standards. He never compromised.
Zahid Sahib was both a die-hard believer in the concept of Islamic brotherhood and of the view that it was for Pakistan to play a catalyst role, towards its pursuit. For this purpose, he had set-up the Nazriya Pakistan Council (NPC) which held several meetings, conferences, symposiums and dialogues under its aegis, to promote the cause.
I invited and requested him to be a panelist speaker on the launch of my book, “The Essence of Islam”. He readily agreed. On the occasion, amongst many aspects that he spoke on, he had remarked:
“Today we curse our children and blame them for getting spoiled. We say our children are sporting gelled hair, they are wearing faded jeans, they are glued to their mobiles or laptops they are addicted to Bollywood or Hollywood movies. But the question is, do we, the parents; have some time for our children? Do we interact with them? Do we play with them? Do we make them sit on our laps and recite the Holy Quran? Alas, the answer is big NO. Then why to curse our children? Why to accuse the younger generation? To illustrate my point, may I say, and I am sure those who have interest in gardening will appreciate my point. If you wish to grow good, healthy shining plants and want to see beautiful fresh flowers in your garden, howsoever small or big your garden may be, then you have to do a lot of hard work. You can’t just leave your garden to a mali (gardner) “.
He further said, “My second recommendation is to please go deep into the study of the life of the Holy Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH).” Inviting the attention of the audience, Zahid Malik Sahib said, “If you take and combine together four documents which are spread over just 10-12 pages in all i.e. Meesaq-i-Madinah, SullahHudabiya, Orders and Directives of the Prophet (PBUH) when the Muslims conquered Makkah and KhutbaHajja-tul-Wida, the last sermon of the Prophet (PBUH) and read carefully, try to understand the wisdom, Hikmat of Nabi’s (PBUH) directives you will be convinced that the Prophet (PBUH) is rightly respected, even by the West, as the greatest man in all respects in the history of mankind. Lastly, it is my recommendation and it is my last and third recommendation, help deepen the faith of the people in the bright future of Pakistan. In this state of Quaid-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, I consider Pakistan as an extension of the State of Madinah. I believe and I have reasons to believe that the establishment of Pakistan was a divine arrangement. It had a divine backing. It is my conviction that to serve Pakistan is to serve Islam. Don’t underestimate Pakistan. Know and have faith in the inner strength of Pakistan. “
Over the past few years, he became intensely involved in the promotion of Islamic Banking. Towards this end, he organized two major round table conferences in Karachi and Islamabad that were presided over by Governor Sindh and the President of Pakistan, respectively. Despite being a novice, he instructed me to be the moderator at both events. The conferences were a tremendous success. Consequent to that, he launched a ‘Friday edition’ on Islamic Banking, which continues, till today. The Sufi Saint, Jalaluddin Rumi in his Mathnawi, “Fear of Yourself” (2357-2358) says, “Everyone’s death is of the same quality as himself; to the enemy of God, an enemy; to the friend of God, a friend…”. Zahid Sahib was a God-fearing, noble and virtuous soul.
Nobody could dare and venture to say in his presence a sigh word of negativism about our beloved, Pakistan. He was a passionate Pakistani. For him, it was always “Phele Pakistan” (Pakistan First) and no value of commercial consideration could take him away from that lofty position, he always stood upon – journalistic integrity and professionalism. A rarity, today! He founded the Nazriya Pakistan Council to promote and forge harmony and togetherness in society and to carry forward the ideals of Mr. Mohammad Ali Jinnah; our great founder and Father of the Nation.
Only a few months back, sitting in my office in Karachi, he explained to me, about how the dreaded disease affliction was discovered. He said, I was fine and on a particular day was attending the burial rites of someone at Zuhr time, when Mr. Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, walked up to him and said “,………… in this scorching sun, why is your face so white? That prompted a visit to the doctor…. then followed medical tests after tests, and finally as he put it, an insensitive and callous doctor broke the news, in the presence of his better-half. The doctor may have been professional, but the empathy was lacking. I recommended that he should try the traditional Chinese medicines for cure. He researched. The Chinese Ambassador responded with his grace and Malik Sahib, stood convinced and headed to Beijing. Even while under treatment he was seen working for Pakistan. He used to meet several dignitaries who visited him, while he was convalescing.
I spoke to him a couple of times and he seemed zestful, energetic and positive. While being overseas, I learnt from his office, that the Angel of Death had sought to befriend him. Death is not feared by those who have lived wisely, said Gautama Buddha.
Mr. Zahid Malik’s persona was very fatherly. He treated me no differently than his offsprings, Faisal, Gauhar, Omer and his daughter have a great responsibility upon their shoulders now, to carry forward with impetus, their illustrious Father’s legacy and they ought to continue and uphold the highest ethical standards of journalism that Zahid Sahib voluntarily imposed upon himself and upon the newspaper’s editorial policy.
Memories are sweet to remember. ‘A man’s real possession is his memory. In nothing else is he rich, in nothing else, is he poor’. And I am rich, for my memories of Zahid Sahib that will last with me. To all, who knew Mr. Zahid Malik, I would like to remind and quote the Persian saying; “The best memory is that which forgets nothing but injuries. Write kindness in marble and write injuries in dust”.
No Himalayan avalanches of words or a Niagara of sentences can do justice to the memory of Mr. Zahid Malik…… hence this is an ‘Unfinished Tribute’. History will continue to write.
— The writer is a banker

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