Arif Nizami – Always Relevant

When a journalist dies, a whole era ends with him.

By - Javed Ansari | August 2021

Arif Nizami too represented an era. During his journalistic life, he had seen many ups and downs. He represented a time in Pakistani journalism in which the print medium, in the form of newspapers and magazines, had gained immense popularity and perhaps this is the reason why his late uncle Majeed Nizami was encouraged to bring out an English language daily newspaper. Arif Nizami was named its first editor and the job stood him in good stead because, armed with a masters degree in journalism from the Punjab University and a proclivity for writing, particularly in English, Arif Nizami seemed to have a whale of a time.

Having his roots in an established newspaper family (Hameed Nizami, the founder of Nawa-i-Waqt Group, was his father), Arif Nizami entered journalism when the going was not so good. Successive so-called democratic rulers of the country had suppressed journalists to the extent that while performing their duties under strict limitations, the latter also reined-in their own mental frontiers, always cognizant of a sword hanging over their heads.

Come military-man Musharraf and the whole scenario changed. It was at this time that writers like Arif Nizami found open expression of their thoughts, seasoned, of course by valuable knowledge of the subjects they were writing on and tempered by the unique background of insights that only professionals like Arif Nizami could have.

As years went by, Uncle Majeed Nizami and nephew Arif Nizami found they did not hit it out very well and soon parted ways. Arif then brought out his own daily newspaper, Pakistan Today. He stepped off the beaten track and opted for a tabloid-sized daily instead of the regular broadsheet. However, for various reasons, the newspaper did not take off in a very grand manner.

In the tradition of British tabloids, this was not a racy eveninger with flashy pin-up pictures but a regular English-language daily that came out every morning but somehow failed to attract as many readers – and advertisers – as it was expected to have and never succeeded in making the desired waves. The newspaper continues to be published even today but has failed to get a foothold in the top tier.

Despite all these setbacks, Arif Nizami was always a very well-informed professional journalist who never made any compromises and who always stood by what he said. His opinions were of great value and it was a pleasure to be informed of various aspects of a situation through his exclusive contacts and based on his all-encompassing perspectives. No wonder, he was always sought-after by TV channels and publications for his learned views.

He served as a federal minister for Information and Postal Service in the interim government of Prime Minister Khoso and also did a number of stints as President of APNS and CPNE.

In 2015, he launched Channel 24 and also hosted a political show called DNA or Debate News Analysis. Earlier, he had hosted a current affairs show on Samaa TV called Ho Kya Raha Hai.

One can never deny the fact that Arif Nizami was a well-read person – a feature that shone through all his writings. In fact, while one waited for a flight sitting with him at Islamabad airport some years back, one could not help marveling at the way his knowledge of arts, literature and history shone through in our conversation. One was also always struck by his well-dressed persona.

Arif Nizami was 72 years old when he died but such was his relevance that it came as a shock when the news of his demise broke.