Friday, November 2, 2012

Altaf Gauhar

Altaf Gauhar (17 March 1923 – 14 November 2000) was a civil servant, journalist, poet, and writer from Pakistan. He was born in Gujranwala.

Civil service career

Gauhar entered the Civil Service of Pakistan in 1948 by some tinkering with the rules.[citation needed] He always knew which side of the bread was buttered . Starting his career as Secretary, State Bank of Pakistan, he rose to be Information Secretary Government of Pakistan at the age of 39, in which capacity he drafted some Draconian laws to muzzle whatever little freedom the press enjoyed at that time in Pakistan.
He also created the National Press Trust in order to propagate only the point of view of the ruling government of the day. In the process he superseded several officers senior to him including those belonging to the Indian Civil Service who opted for Pakistan.
He was, however, a gifted writer and became very close to President Ayub Khan, so much so that he was known as the de facto vice President of Pakistan. He was the main ghost writer for the latter's autobiography entitled Friends Not Masters, and his intellectual dishonesty is proven on this score.
The book is supposed to be full with half-truths based on the recording of this crafty and cynical courtier. Subsequently he wrote his biography, Ayub Khan : Pakistan's First Military Ruler, which gave a different story altogether because it was written after the death of his old mentor prompting people to question 'who is the real Ayub?' The last official act of President Ayub Khan before handing over power was to invite Altaf Gauhar to lunch with his family and bestow on him the high civil award of Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam. Through some palace intrigues, President Yahya Khan assumed power on 25 March 1969. A day or two before that he had had a serious altercation with Altaf Gauhar who wanted Ayub Khan to continue. In 1969, Gauhar was initially marginalized as Director Finance Services Academy Lahore, a position much lower in rank than a Central Secretary. Subsequently he was dismissed from service and all his four civil awards were forfeited.

Post civil service career

On leaving the civil service in 1969, he became editor of the quality Pakistani news-paper, Dawn, where he was twice imprisoned, latterly when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was chief martial law administrator. It was while in jail, with no other reading matter, that Gauhar became deeply absorbed by the Koran, from which he was later to make several distinguished translations, the last one shortly before he died, when he was in great pain and undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
On release from prison, he left Dawn for London and launched the journals Third World Review and Third World Quarterly (in association with The Guardian newspaper), South magazine, and established the Third World Foundation. After BCCI went into liquidation, he returned to Pakistan, and more journalism. He poured his energies, his thinking and his skills into the role of editor-in-chief of the Muslim.


Latterly, Gauhar restricted himself to an occasional column in the newspaper The Muslim, but left the newspaper when its editor, ABS Jaffery, was sacked by the owner. In Pakistan, on his death, he was commemorated as "a very eminent Pakistani", a man who knew power and how it could be used or abused
Gauhar died of cancer on 14 November 2000 at the age of 77 years.

Major works

  • Ayub Khan: Pakistan's First Military Ruler
  • Translations from the Quran
  • Thoughts and After Thoughts
  • Ayub Khan, Fauji raj ke pahle das sal
  • Shared horizon: Interviews with leaders of though.
  • Friends not Masters (apparently written by Field Marshal Ayub Khan)
  • Gohar Gushat
  • (poem/ghazal) Ghar Wapis Jab Aao Gey. It can be heard on
  • an archive of Altaf Gauhar's articles can be found on:
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