It has been two years since the founder-Editor of Business Recorder M A Zuberi passed away. The principles he religiously followed and the policy he painstakingly laid down continue to guide his successors as they cope with life’s challenges in his profound absence.
Orphaned at a young age, Mr Zuberi was fortunate to move from not just one or two professions in his life but three. From college, he joined the Royal Indian Army at the Officers Academy in Dehradun as the World War II was still raging. Between 1940 and 1945 – he was a soldier. His intelligence gathering acumen at the fag end of the War led him to the field of journalism on a direct order from none other than his life long idol Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He joined the mouthpiece of the Muslim League, newspaper Dawn, published from Dehli.
Between 1945 and 1947, he covered the All-India Muslim League’s working committee sessions for that newspaper, M A Zuberi was one of the key witnesses to the events that led to the Partition of the Indian Sub-continent. The Plan of June 3, 1947 for the transfer of power to which all concerned had agreed, was authoritatively announced by the British Government in the form of a statement of June 3, by Prime Minister Attlee in the House of Commons and Secretary of State for India the Earl of Listowel in the House of Lords. Soon after that development – one of the most profound political developments in the history of undivided India – M A Zuberi was transferred on the 10th August 1947 to the capital of nascent state Karachi to ensure publication of Dawn from this port city.
He not only occupied the ringside seat during the intense negotiations between the leadership of the Muslim League with the British government as well as with the Congress. He was also a keen observer of the Herculean role played by the Muslim of Indian Civic Service who – almost all of them – had opted for Pakistan to face the challenges of a state which was fated to face from the day one of belligerent neighbour eight times its size on the East and a hostile neighbour – Afghanistan on the West.
M A Zuberi accompanied Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to Delhi and covered the Liaquat-Nehru negotiations culminating in the Lucknow Pact. He accompanied Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Bogra for the coverage of the summit with India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Quaid’s sister, Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, was angry with him for siding with Liaqut Ali Khan when differences erupted between them after the death of the Quaid; and also for his support to the viewpoint of the Haroons that Dawn of Karachi was not Dawn of Delhi when the ownership issue took on a legal battle. His guide and teacher in all this was Dawn’s legendary editor Altaf Hussain.
In the Bengal-Punjab feud he was highly critical of the dismissal of Khwaja Nazimuddin’s government by Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad – who was a colleague of his father and also later a mentor along with the first Governor of State Bank of Pakistan Zahid Hussain (the late father of Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid).
There was hardly anyone in the field of economic journalism in the new born country and both the economic icons of that time taught M A Zuberi the art of analysing fiscal and monetary policies through statistical inference and parameter estimation. Dawn as a newspaper opposed the 1962 Constitution since it was not based on direct franchise and in essence had converted the parliamentary system into a presidential one. M A Zuberi had regrets about his opposition to Chaudry Muhammad Ali’s proposal to build a new capital in the suburbs of Karachi – Gadap – when in 1962 Ayum announced the shift of capital from Karachi to Islamabad. Upon prodding from Ayub Khan – he retired from Dawn in 1963 at the age of 43.
Within two years of his retirement, in April 1965, he pioneered the Muslim world’s first financial daily newspaper, the Business Recorder – where he remained a guiding light until his death.
When the Seven Sisters of the petroleum world stopped supply of oil to Pakistan during the 1965 war, M A Zuberi pushed for establishment of local companies and National Refinery; Pakistan National Oils and Dawood Petroleum were established.
The Fall of Dacca was a great blow to M A Zuberi’s pride in Pakistan but his keen eyes on the truncated country’s economic potential did not waiver his faith in its viability as a sovereign, independent country. He vehemently opposed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s nationalization on grounds that running businesses is not the government’s job; its job is to create an enabling environment and regulate market for the private sector to complete. He continued to champion the cause of autonomy for the State Bank of Pakistan.
Even when his health began to deteriorate on account of age, his mind was still quite fertile and responsive to new technological challenges that the arrival of satellite television in South Asia had unfolded. He presided over the launch of his television channel, Aaj News. Earlier, he had supervised the establishment of internet edition of Business Recorder. His motto that everyone has relatives, friends, favourites and biases, however, a newspaper has none. Until the very end he held to belief that opposing views need to be respected and tolerated as difference of opinion is the basic essence of democracy. He often said that Pakistan needs a regular cycle of elections and ultimately leadership worthy of this nation will emerge.
As a journalist, he was known for articulating different but informed perspective and asking probing questions on a variety of issues with a measure of finesse and probity. He will always be remembered for his quality of having strong moral principles, honesty and sincerity. M A Zuberi will never be replaces; however, he has left a legacy that will endure.