June, 2018

By Ikram Sehgal

Even though we knew each other during our school and college days through common acquaintances, I really became friends with Arif Nizami when he visited us during the army operations in Balochistan against Baloch militants in 1973. Commanding a rifle company of 44 Punjab (now 4 Sindh) tasked for heliborne company operations, I had acquired good knowledge of the Marri-Bugti areas during operations against the Marris. Elements of my company were tasked to accompany the media delegation of which Arif was a member to a number of locations in these areas on helicopters, both as a protective detail and for area/situation familiarization.
Over the next few days he and I had the occasion to converse on many subjects of mutual interest, particularly about the unrest. His deep knowledge and immediate grasp of the situation at hand coupled with his gentlemanly personality easily made him stand out in a rather star-studded print media pack. What was particularly impressive was his constant droll humour even under difficult conditions; when others would be clearly nervous he would be smiling. Generally the media is critical of army operations in counter-insurgency situations, except when they themselves are under threat. His reasoning was objective and though at times critical, the assessments were quite fair. Things have now changed with insurgency morphing into terrorism and making media the target. The media then cries for army intervention. Once the terrorism has been stamped out, only then the media pack turns on you.

Arif Nizami did his Senior Cambridge from St. Anthony’s High School, Lahore and earned his Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of the Punjab, in 1972. The same year, he won the Dag Hammarskjold scholarship of the United Nations. Mr. Arif Nizami’s career in journalism and media spans over almost four decades. Starting his career as a reporter, he later became Executive Editor of the Daily Nawa-e-Waqt, a paper founded by his late father Mr. Hameed Nizami who was its first Editor. In October 1986, Arif Nizami founded the first independent English daily ‘The Nation’ from Lahore with himself as its Editor. Elected President of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE), Arif Nizami has had four terms from 1988-2001 and in 2007-2009. Elected president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) in 2003, he was re-elected in 2004.

During this time my association went back into the 80s when I was supporting the group’s newsprint. My interaction with them intensified, particularly when part of the group’s offices had to be shifted to DHA, Karachi for security reasons. In fact, he persuaded me to agree to Mr Majeed Nizami’s request to give one entire portion of the offices, at the same price that I had paid the DHA for the Hockey Stadium. The going price at that time was many times that. His uncle Majeed Nizami had depended upon his stewardship of the media group for a decade or so as he was seriously ill. Subsequently, because of differences with his uncle, Arif left the Nida-i-Millat Group of Publications in September 2009 and formed a new media company, Nawa Media Corporation (Private) Limited.


He launched the first Berliner-size all-colour English language daily newspaper ‘Pakistan Today’ on 5th October 2010. The newspaper is now being published from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. Presently, Arif is the Chairman of Nawa Media Corporation (Pvt) Limited and editor of Pakistan Today.

Hosting a daily prime time talk show on Channel 92 News, he is also a regular participant on different news channels. He has previously hosted current affairs shows on Samaa TV and Channel 24 and was a part of the federal caretaker cabinet as the Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting in 2013 for conduct of the 2013 elections. Having a weekly column in Pakistan Today, he also writes a bi-weekly Urdu column in Daily 92 newspaper. When he started The Nation in 1986, Arif requested me to write for the new publication. While I had occasionally written essays and articles, I had no professional knowledge of writing on a regular basis. However, he encouraged me to initially write a series on ‘barter’ and ‘countertrade’ which were my special subjects once I had left the army. Writing on the subject on the op-ed page in 12 consecutive weekly columns, I was amazed at the feedback Arif was giving me. He subsequently played on my ego by giving me a weekly column ‘Economic Letter’ on the editorial page. I got hooked and have never looked back since. When he claims publicly that he ‘discovered’ me, he is very correct.

In 1993 it eas for the first time that I went to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting at Davos as part of the government delegation; Arif and I shared a car and then a hotel. Travelling with him is always a delight and a remarkable experience because there is never a dull moment. Recently, unanimously elected as the President of CPNE. Arif Nizami was again competing for the elections.I have the good fortune of being elected to serve under his leadership on the executive committee as vice president (Sindh).

I have had the pleasure of working with Arif Nizami in a number of projects. His grasp of issues is really tremendous. Couple this with his calm and cool personality and you are in the company of a complete individual of some standing. Above all is his sincerity and credibility. One can be sure that once he makes a commitment he will try his best to keep it. This is certainly in stark contrast to others of his stature in comparable positions in the media.

Both as a friend and a professional, Arif Nizami is a tremendous human being.

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