Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Man of All Seasons
How quickly time flies. Recalling exact dates of past events is more of a Herculean task for me, but it was a memorable day somewhere in the late 1960s when I first met Wajid Shamsul Hasan in Karachi in his Daily News office. He was the newspaper’s editor at the time. It seems just like yesterday but my first encounter with Shamsul Hasan was destined to turn into a lasting relationship, thanks to his sharp witticism, spontaneous one-liner comments and a refined sense of humour that one can rarely find today.
Wajid Shamsul Hasan earned his Bachelor’s degree in Law and did his Masters in International Relations from Karachi University. In 1968, he was awarded the “Commonwealth Press Union Scholarship” in the U.K and received practical training in journalism at the Bristol Evening Post, London’s ‘Evening Standard’ and the Oxford and Thomson Media Foundation in Cardiff. In early 1989, he left Daily News to become Chairman of the National Press Trust (NPT) and also served as an Advisor to Benazir Bhutto in her first term as Pakistan’s Prime Minister.
In early 1994, Waid Shamsul Hasan was appointed as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. He relinquished the post in November 1999, but in 2008, was again appointed as Pakistan High Commissioner to the U.K. Wajid Bhai, as he was commonly known, then stepped down as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK in April 2014 after serving for six years. He was at the time the longest-serving Pakistan envoy to the UK. He was a prolific writer and a sought-after commentator on world affairs. As a senior journalist with more than 42-years’ experience in the field, he attended several international conferences and seminars. Hasan was the author of ‘Bhutto Khandaan Meri Yaadon Mein: Wajid Shamsul Hasan Ki Nisf Sadi Par Muheet Yaadein’.
It was in the early 90s when, as a public relations practitioner, I was entrusted with the challenging task of perception management of the Pakistan Peoples Party, alongside the party’s leading figures, namely Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. It was none but Wajid Shamsul Hasan, a true supporter, who assisted and relentlessly coordinated with me througout the course of the communication campaign.
A man of all seassons, Wajid Shamsul Hasan was second to none in minting off-the-cuff, but quite meaningful quips just like that. In 1966, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was coming to Karachi by train after resigning as foreign minister during the presidency of General Ayub Khan. Mian Mumtaz Daultana, a veteran politician and former chief minister of West Punjab, was also aboard the same train along with his son. When the train reached Karachi, Bhutto, with all his grace and political charm, disembarked from the train at the main platform of the Karachi’s Cantt Station and was received by a huge crowd of supporters.
In contrast, Mumtaz Daultana chose to cut his journey short at the outer railway signal, a few metres before the main platform and left, as if in a desperate hurry, through a narrow gate, cut in the station’s boundary wall. Escaping alone like a thief with luggage in his hands, Daultana could not avoid the watchful eye of the paparazzi who captured the moment without mercy. Kudos to Shamsul Hasan for his mastery of coining meaningful one-liners. He put two photos side by side, on the front page of Daily News the next day with a short caption, ‘A Tale of Two Leaders,’ saying so much about Bhutto’s triumphant arrival and Daultana’s hasty exit.
The last time I met Wajid Shamsul Hasan was in London in September 2017 at the launching ceremony of ‘Invisible People’ a book of short stories by my old friend Senator Mian Raza Rabbani. Hasan was especially invited to speak on the occasion. Though he was not feeling well in those days, he came with his wife and addressed the event as requested. I had absolutely no idea that the evening in London with Wajid Bhai would be my last meeting with him.
There are so many highlights of Shamul Hasan’s personal and professional life that one could recall: his adventurous journalistic career, his impressive diplomatic acumen, his unflinching loyalty with the PPP until his last breath, his heartfelt friendships and the best coffee he always served at the High Commission.
He was always more than willing to write for SouthAsia and never said no to our article requests. After a prolonged illness, Wajid Shamsul Hasan passed away on September 28 in London. The sun set that day with all its light and glory.
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