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Altaf Husain (1900-1968)

One of the pioneers of journalism in Pakistan, Altaf first came to notice with his forceful advocacy of Indian Muslims’ case in colonial India through articles in the press (as a government servant he wrote under an assumed name).

He came into prominence when Mohammad Ali Jinnah appointed him editor of Dawn in 1945 in Delhi. He was admitted into Jinnah’s close circle of advisors.

After the partition, Altaf assumed the editorship of Dawn in Karachi and remained so from 1947-65. As a long-serving editor of the newspaper he was counted among the most influential voices outside the government. While defending East Pakistan’s rights, he strongly assailed the idea of its separation from Pakistan.

Regarded as a model by young writers he loved the crusader’s part. Dawn remarked eight years after his death:  “He was resented and loved, feared and respected, praised and derided.”

Proud of his status as editor, Altaf Hussain surprised many by joining the military ruler Ayub Khan’s cabinet in 1965. He resigned 10 days before his death.

He was born on January 26, 1900 in Bangladesh. He received his early education in Calcutta and then attended Dhaka University where he graduated with a degree in MA English.

The street in Karachi where Dawn was first published is today known as Altaf Husain Road. He died on May 25, 1968 in Karachi.

Sources: The Oxford Companion to Pakistani History & urduyouthforum.org; http://urduyouthforum.org


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Ahmed Ali Khan, former editor-in-chief of Dawn, died in Karachi on 13 March 2007. Born in 1924 in Bhopal, his association with Dawn began in Delhi in 1946 and ended in Karachi in 2004. He also served as editor of the Pakistan Times, Lahore. He was with Dawn for nearly 42 years — 28 of them as editor/chief editor.