A legend departs - Yusuf H Shirazi - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yusuf Haroon was a legend. Son of an illustrious father, Sir Abdullah Haroon, who was a comrade of the Quaid-e-Azam and ADC to the Quaid, Yusuf Haroon rose high in politics, entrepreneurship and social work.

I knew Yusuf Haroon as owner of Dawn. Altaf Hussain, then editor of Dawn, asked me to write for the newspaper. I agreed but, added that I would write for Jang too. Altaf Hussain said, “Jang is an Urdu paper and Khalilur Rahman, the owner- editor of Jang, will not mind if you write for Dawn, which is an English paper.” So I wrote the first article in Dawn on May 18, 1962, on tax policies. And, lo and behold! Yusuf Haroon calls me and says: “Thank you and congratulations.” I asked: “For what”? He replied: “Thank you for writing for Dawn and congratulations for the cheque.” He added: “You may take pride in your article as Dawn never publishes an article which does not deserve payment.” I responded, “Thank you, but I also don’t write unless I am paid.

Further, I also ask newspapers to pay the writers and ask writers not to write unless they are paid. This adds to the quality of writing and readability of the newspapers on the whole.” However, I asked Yusuf Haroon, “How is it that you know a humble writer and a humble payment for a humble article?” He said he leaves that all to the management. He only keeps himself informed about the cash flow – how much cash comes in and where it comes from and where it goes.

Altaf Hussain and M A Zuberi then led Dawn as editor and assistant editor, respectively. Dawn followed its policy whatever the case. In the Ayub-Shoaib era, however, the government took exception to the Dawn strategy. After a long period of controversy of do’s and don’ts in Dawn’s strategy, both the editor and the assistant editor were removed under government orders. Yusuf Haroon was sad when they were removed; he was also sad when Altaf Hussain accepted a ministerial position in the government. (Not M A Zuberi who, among others, opted to have his own paper.)

Altaf Gohar, before becoming editor of Dawn, had differences with Bhutto. Altaf Gohar was a former civil servant and was known for his honesty, competence and self-respect. When Altaf Gohar was deputy commissioner of Karachi, Bhutto had appeared before him for some case and a heated exchange ensued between the two. Bhutto never forgot it. When he came to power, he started targeting Dawn – and Altaf Gohar. Altaf Gohar stuck to his guns. One of the editorials that Altaf Gohar wrote, “Mountains don’t cry,” was with reference to Bhutto’s idiosyncrasies. The editorial became famous.

However, Yusuf Haroon was not happy about the editorial. He remarked that the media should avoid bypassing the government, or for that matter any institution. The media are there to help, guide and direct what is right and what is wrong. All this can be done through sorting out differences. “Negative action results in negative reaction: positive action results into positive reaction.

However, at last, the newspaper is equally at stake if not more,” he added. Later, Altaf Gohar was arrested: nobody knew why. He remained in jail for quite sometime. When he came out, he was no more editor.

(Thrown in the deep sea and advised not to get wet)

Having set up business in West Pakistan, I decided to explore East Pakistan. There were views in favour of and against expansion plans in East Pakistan. I decided to consult Yusuf Haroon also, who was then a recognised politician, entrepreneur and social worker of foresight. He said: “No.” He added: “There is nothing common between East and West Pakistanis except religion. Religion is never a binding force in socio-politico-economic matters. The binding force comes from political, economic and social bondages. Socially, East and West Pakistanis are poles apart. Their language is not our language, and vice versa. Language is important for bondage.”

Strangely, he added that we never asked Bengalis to join Pakistan. It was they who asked to join us. It was generally some of their stalwarts, and particularly the Nawab family led by Khawaja Nazimuddin, who did it. Experience has shown that we have nothing in common. They will separate ultimately: otherwise we will, as we are a different people from the Bengalis. Chaudhry Mohammad Ali also used to say this. So think of your investment in these circumstances. Many West Pakistanis are not investing there. Not the Haroons either. I did not follow his advice and instead followed those few who were investing in East Pakistan. Atlas put up a huge investment in East Pakistan.

Soon afterwards, Atlas discovered that Yusuf Haroon was right as the East Pakistanis started showing signs of separation. I was disturbed. During a lunch with Field Marshal Ayub Khan on Dec 27, 1971, I asked him at what point of time did he reach the conclusion that a break with East Pakistan was inevitable.

He replied, “I sent Kalabagh to Dhaka to divide the assets of the PIDC (between East and West Pakistan). Upon his return, he said: ‘They don’t want a division of the PIDC, they really want a division of Pakistan. It will surely happen but you must not be on the scene when this occurs.’ “ I asked him if he had considered a confederative structure for the two wings. He replied that we do not have the temperament of the Swiss, and with India in between, it would not work.

Anyhow Pakistan was dismembered. East Pakistan turned into Bangladesh. Yusuf Haroon rose as mayor of Karachi and governor of West Pakistan. As a politician, he was always active and respected. He was prudent in all respects. No one raised a finger at him. He was a fine politician and businessman and a true gentleman.

Late in his life, Yusuf Haroon was dissociated from Dawn. Dawn went under the exclusive management and control of his younger brother, Mahmood Haroon, and is now under his descendants. He chose to leave Pakistan and settle in America. He became a director of Pan-Am and stayed there till the airline was wound up. He would visit Pakistan periodically and used to be depressed about the political, economic and social degradation of the country. For long, he never visited Pakistan and stayed in the USA as an ordinary citizen. He died there. One would have wished he had lived in Pakistan and died in Pakistan. People like him are national assets. They build the society.

Yusuf Haroon has gone, but he has left a great name, great memories and an immaculate record.

The writer is the founder/chairman of the Atlas group of companies. Email: yhs @atlas.com.pk, Website: www.atlas.com.pk

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=41286&Cat=9

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