Professor Waris Mir: A Pillar Of Pakistani Journalism

Professor Waris Mir: A Pillar Of Pakistani Journalism
From the world of Pakistani journalism, very few people have left as indelible a mark on the fabric of society as Professor Waris Mir. A renowned journalist, academic, and advocate for fair journalism, is one such luminary.

Even for those who never had the privilege of meeting him or studying his published work, the name of Prof Waris Mir resonates as a symbol of unwavering commitment to equal rights and the pursuit of truth.

We owe whatever truth and sanctity is left in Pakistani journalism to the bravery and integrity of truthful journalists like Professor Waris Mir. Today's fast-paced electronically-equipped society exhibits a lack of appreciation for true journalism and honest journalists. Many are fixated with their own parochial interests or their agenda and ideology. Instead of opposing the truth, as has become fashionable, a conscious society ought to pay homage to those who strive to bring truth to light.

My interest in the life and works of Waris Mir piqued when PTI's provincial minister, Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, labeled him a traitor.

I realized that Waris Mir must be a remarkable person for two reasons: first, a PTI minister openly voiced his opposition to him, and second, someone dubbing a traitor in Pakistan implies that he surpasses the average "patriots" in character and conviction.

Who was Prof Waris Mir?

Born November 22, 1938 in Sialkot, Waris Mir completed his early education from Murray College in his hometown. He pursued journalism for his master's degree which he secured in 1964 from the University of the Punjab, joining the same department as a lecturer the next year.

Mir completed his M.Phil. in journalism from City University in London in 1976, at a time when few Pakistanis even considered journalism a serious profession, much less an academic discipline to pursue. He was then appointed chairman of the Mass Communication Department at the University of the Punjab, where he taught for over 20 years.

Waris Mir also penned articles and columns in Urdu newspapers of the country, dilating on national and international issues of the time. He was known to be popular amongst his readers, especially during General Zia-ul-Haq's martial law era, when his editorials represented hope for his democratic-minded audience.
"He tops the list of those dedicated scholars who had the courage to put their lives at stake to preserve the sanctity of their pen by challenging military dictators".

Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan, on Prof Waris Mir

Prof Waris Mir died of a sudden cardiac arrest in 1987. He was aged 48 at the time, and his passing is reported to have occurred under mysterious circumstances. He was laid to rest in the Punjab University graveyard, and an underpass was renamed as the Waris Mir Underpass in his honour in 2013.
"If one begins to read through his writing from a critical appreciative point of view, it becomes evident that he was a fiery and blunt writer who knew not how to mince his words while expressing his opinion".

— Asma Jahangir, on Prof Waris Mir

The late Prof Waris Mir was a man of many strengths: undeterred by threats, restrictions, and even severe mental and physical torture, Prof Waris Mir remained resolute in his commitment to the truth in the face of powerful oppressive forces. His principled stance on human rights and freedom of expression was the foundation for his relentless fight for democracy and for freedom of the press in Pakistan.
"Freedom of thought and expression are luxuries even the most influential are denied in a dictatorial rule. Mir, the dissident, refused to surrender his freedom while he lived".

Suhail Warraich, on Prof Waris Mir

Among his notable literary contributions are books such as 'Mujahid e Hurriyet Fikar,' 'Kia Aurat Aadhi Hai?' 'Khosamadi Journalism and Politics,' and 'Fauj ki Siyasat'. His magnum opus is a three-volume book aptly titled 'Waris Mir Ka Fikri Asasa'.

Waris Mir holds a remarkable distinction in the recognition of his valuable services to the country and its people. On Pakistan Day 2012, the government of Pakistan posthumously bestowed upon him the highest civilian award, the Hilal-e-Imtiaz. And due to his unwavering support for Bangladesh during its struggle for independence, Prof Waris Mir was also honored with the 'Friends of Liberation War Honour' award in 2013, alongside renowned figures like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Habib Jalib.

It is important to clarify that their opposition was not against Pakistan itself, but instead focused on saving Pakistan from the repercussions of the unqualified use of military force against its own civilians.

Prof Waris Mir's relevance today

At the time of his death in 1987, Prof Waris Mir was said to be at the pinnacle of his professional writing career. His articles on Pakistan, the army's meddling in politics, feminist issues, cultural reforms, religious beliefs, philosophical questions, literary references, and history are considered works of immense significance and relevance to this day.

In an era dominated by social media, it is crucial for our young generation to venture beyond its confines and explore the world of books. Within those pages lie the real history of Pakistan, untainted by the distortions and selective presentations often found on social platforms.

Unfortunately, those who harbour animosity towards Hamid Mir's bold journalism resort to propaganda not only to defame him but also to tarnish the legacy of his late father, simply because he, too, was a journalist.

As we reflect upon the life and contributions of Professor Waris Mir, let us embrace his unwavering commitment to truth and freedom. His struggle for fair journalism, equal rights, and his protest against oppressive actions serve as a guiding light for aspiring journalists and advocates of truth. By emulating his principles, Pakistan can nurture a society that cherishes and upholds the virtues he so bravely fought for.

In honoring Professor Waris Mir's legacy, we pay tribute to a man who dedicated his life to the noble cause of seeking truth, defending democracy, and safeguarding the freedom of the press. Let us remember his name and the principles he embodied as we continue to strive for a just and enlightened society.

May his soul rest in peace!

The writer is a senior correspondent at The Friday Times with a focus on politics, economy and militancy.