Colleagues’ tribute to Murtaza Razvi
Muhammad Ali Siddiqi
THESE nightmares happen to others.
Until I heard the worst possible news, Murtaza was alive to me: an even-tempered person bursting with energy and full of ideas relevant to issues of the day and Pakistani journalism.
At 6.32pm on Wednesday, I sent him an email: “Can Sir Syed be called a reformer? Or was he only an educationist?” Dawn has a battery of seasoned journalists and bookworms but I, like many of his colleagues, thought of Murtaza as a man you could rely on.
I had not received his reply by the time I left on Wednesday evening, so I kept watch on his office on Thursday to see whether the lights came on. They did not.
Murtaza was a human ready-reckoner, whom you could refer to on any subject any time. Politics, literature, religion, philosophy, journalism, showbiz, and much more. He wasn’t jack of all; he had a solid academic background, had been schooled in Switzerland and had obtained degrees from Government College, Lahore, the Punjab University and a second Master’s degree in political science from Villanova University, PA, US. Besides English and Urdu, he was conversant in German, French, Hindi and Persian.
Commissioned by a prestigious American publishing company, Murtaza wrote ‘Pervez Musharraf: the Years in Power’ in a record time of 90 days. A second edition of this is under preparation, and he was writing a couple of books in Urdu when his life was cut short.
He joined Dawn as editorial writer in 2001 and rose quickly to become resident editor in Lahore. Born in that city in 1964, Murtaza chose to adopt Karachi because, he said, the Mughal city haunted him after his parents’ death. Nevertheless, he was steeped in Lahore’s culture, and he tried to expose me to it in 2006 when I stayed with him on my way to Tehran.
In Karachi, he was appointed the head of all of Dawn’s magazines. In 2009, Murtaza presided over the colossal task of merging four magazines — Sunday Magazine, The Review, Images and Gallery — into what Images is today. The shock of his murder has seemed to paralyse his colleagues. To Saadia Raza, he was “an independent thinker on whom you could always depend for new ideas and solutions to problems.”
He was never a “typical boss”, said Sahar Majid, who edits The Young World.
Shugufta Naz remembers him as one of the most well-read people she knew. “In a society going increasingly mad, Murtaza was a voice of reason and sanity,” she said.
To Madiha Syed, he was “a friend with incredible knowledge and as an editor he encouraged us to take risks and explore new ideas and topics”.
He “never lost temper”, said Ambreen Arshad, and that was why “I never had to think twice before going to him. He was a good listener”.
Faisal Quraishi, who was with him in Lahore when Murtaza was resident editor, said the latter helped him get in touch with the right people for a special issue of Images on fashion and entertainment in Lahore.
“He was both understanding and generously accommodating when it came to handling tricky situations. We had an ideal, cordial work relationship and I will miss him”.
According to Shazia Hasan, when Murtaza was first transferred to the Karachi office he used to use a room that had no windows. “He didn’t seem to care, because things material didn’t seem to matter to him,” she observed.
Tributes to him have come from those who are no more in Dawn.
M A Majid, who was the editor of Dawn’s leader-page for decades, said Murtaza was “a talented journalist besides being a nice human being”, and Omar R Qureshi, who once shared an office with Murtaza, said that he was a fearless writer and this reflected itself “in the sharp, incisive editorials he wrote”.
Although his involvement with Images kept him from writing editorials regularly, Ayesha Azfar — the team leader of the writing side — said she could rely on him to write an editorial in emergencies. He “wrote short, crisp sentences”, grasped the issues involved and wrote quickly without compromising policy or language.
Dawn’s Editor Zaffar Abbas said: “Murtaza was a generous friend and a highly talented journalist. In his death the journalist fraternity has lost a fearless writer.”
He leaves behind, besides his wife Shahrezad Samiuddin, three beautiful minor daughters to whom he was devoted: Maya, Priya and Dina.