Businessman, philanthropic and outspoken columnist, Ardeshir Cowasjee was regarded as an ‘old guardian’ of Karachi city.
Cowasjee belonged to a well-known Parsi family of Karachi – his father Rustom Fakirjee Cowasjee was a businessman in merchant shipping. After graduating from the DJ Science College, Karachi, Cowasjee joined his father’s business.
During the Z. A. Bhutto era, Cowasjee was appointed Managing Director of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) in 1973. But in 1976, without apparent provocation he was removed without notice and imprisoned for 72 days. It is believed that Bhutto, becoming increasingly agitated with Cowasjee’s vocal criticism about the former’s authoritarian ways became infuriated and hence his removal and imprisonment.
According to NPR news, “He was a newspaper columnist in Pakistan, though that phrase does not quite capture him. He was old enough to recall his country's independence in 1947. He was the offspring of a wealthy family and the owner of a shipping line which the government nationalized in the 1970s.”
It added: "He'd been in politics once, until he was thrown in jail. Afterwards he wrote letters to the editor of the English-language newspaper Dawn and wrote them well enough that he was offered a column."
He managed for a quarter-century to skewer Islamists and intolerance and corrupt officials and more. In a country obsessed with its constantly convoluted politics - which personality was up or down - the old man kept his eye on the future. He wrote about parks, and preserving open spaces, and land use, and pollution.
In short, he wrote about all those basic things in the developing world that enrich people's lives when done properly and shorten people's lives when they're not.
In late 2011, he declared he was sick of his country's decline and that he was finally done writing. But even after that he wrote a little more.
He had two children with his late wife Nancy Dinshaw.
Sources: The Oxford Companion to Pakistani History
The News, February 21, 2019
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