Saturday, January 15, 2011

Version Minhaj Barna is dead M. Aslam Nasser

Minhaj Barna is dead M. Aslam Nasser
ISLAMABAD: Veteran journalist, founder of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and All Pakistan Newspapers Employees Confederation (APNEC) Minhaj Mohammad Khan Barna, who passed away Friday morning after a protracted illness, was laid to rest at the graveyard near Race Course ground, Rawalpindi. Mr. Barna had worked with many newspapers and waged a long struggle for freedom of press and in this respect, faced imprisonment for several times. He was born in 1925 at Qaimganj, Farrukhabad, went to Bombay where he started as a teacher, then joined an Urdu newspaper as a translator, moving to Delhi where he worked at the Jamia Millia, got his graduation from there and joined the Communist Party. He moved to Quetta in 1949 and then to Lahore working at Imroze and later as a correspondent for The Pakistan Times. He had several stints abroad as correspondent and even as a press counsellor in New York when Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister. Throughout in his life, he possessed the years of a rich life and had lived according to his ideals. Since Barna had been associated with the Communist Party, his efforts were to wean the journalists struggle towards the larger frame of the labour movement. This progressive leaning kept the PFUJ in constant conflict with the establishment, in particular when he was its general secretary and later became its president. It was around that period when he went on the longest hunger strike that any leader of any party or group had ever observed. It caused his health grievous and irreparable harm. One of the most worst periods in which the media suffered is Zia era which is remembered for its oppressive measures, including long spell of censorship, banning of independent and dissenting newspapers, arrest of editors and journalists, sentencing them to rigorous imprisonment under Martial Law regulations and even whipping them, it was also marked by memorable resistance put by the journalists and press workers, led by the PFUJ and Apnec under the leadership of late Minhaj Barna. This great struggle, unprecedented in the annals of the Fourth Estate the world over, began towards the end of November 1977 in Karachi only about five months following the advent of Gen. Zia's Martial Law. The PFUJ's struggle launched by deceased Barna was triggered by the government's ban on publication of Daily " Musawaat", Karachi. After the failure of efforts to convince the Martial Law authorities to lift the ban, the PFUJ and Apnec launched a campaign of hunger strike in Karachi from first of December 1977 and within eight days of the struggle in which journalists and press workers from all over the country participated the government surrendered and lifted the ban. Egged on by its oppressive nature, the government again took recourse to coercive methods against the dissenting press and banned the daily 'Musawat', Lahore, and weeklies like 'Al-Fatah' and 'Meyar' and others, critical of the Martial Law regime. After the failure of protracted negotiations with the Government the national executives of PFUJ and APNEC again launched countrywide hunger strike movement from Lahore commencing from 30th April, 1978, under the direct supervision of Minhaj Barna. This historic movement was spread over two stages: one beginning in Lahore from April 30 and ending on May 30 and, the second beginning in Karachi from July 18 and ending on October 10, 1978. The two had their own distinct and memorable features marked by common inspiring spirit and enthusiasm. In the first phase' in Lahore, the journalists and press workers who joined the hunger strike were arrested and sentenced under Martial Law Regulations from six months to one year rigorous imprisonment, including four who were ordered to be flogged, Nasir Zaidi, Khawar Naeem Hashmi and Iqbal Jaferi were in fact flogged. The fourth, Masoodullah Khan was spared on the intervention of the doctor in view of Mr Masood's disability. The resumed struggle which started in Karachi with the arrest of PFUJ and APNEC President Barna continued until 10th of October (almost two months and 25 days) had its own memorable features. For besides the journalists and press workers who came from all over the country to court arrest, scores of trade union workers, students and militant haris from interior of Sindh joined the movement and filled almost all the jails of Sindh. (During the Lahore struggle, the arrested journalists and press workers were shifted to almost all the jails of the province of Punjab). The Sindh phase of movement would also be remembered for the mass hunger strike unto death inside the jails. The hunger strike culminated in the acceptance of most of the APNEC-PFUJ demands by the Government. As a result "Musawaat" Karachi resumed its publication, arrested persons were released, and most of the 30 dismissed journalists of the NPT papers (Pakistan Times and Imroze) were reinstated (only four including the President of the PFUJ and APNEC were not taken back). A large number of people belonging to different walks of life, especially journalist community attended his funeral prayers. President of National Press Club Afzal Butt, President of Rawalpindi Union of Journalists Ashfaq Sajid, President of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists Pervez Shaukat, Managing Director Associated Press of Pakistan, Muhammad Riaz, Chairman of National Language Authority Iftikhar Arif, famous poet Kishwar Naheed and veteran politician Mairaj Mohammad Khan also attended the funeral. Soyem and Quran Khawani for the departed soul will be held today Saturday at Masjid-e-Quba, Peshawar Road, Rawalpindi Cantt at 1 p.m., while Dua will be offered at 3:30 pm.

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