The man with a golden heart — Syed Faseih Iqbal | Dawn

February 2014

In the demise of Senator (r) Syed Faseih Iqbal, we have lost in one person a rare combination of qualities, attributes and achievements. Journalist, publisher, editor of professional integrity, Senator devoted to public service, philanthropist with humility, articulate champion of Balochistan's rights while being the Province’s resident by choice rather than birth, and a true Pakistani. Most of all, an exceptionally warm-hearted, compassionate human being.

As the ambulance began its long drive from Karachi to Quetta a few hours ago today, this writer got out of a car to salute him in silence and wish him Godspeed to the heaven to which he surely belongs. His own car never flew his country's flag because he never held a public office of a Minister or Governor. But the last vehicle in which he travelled, was bearing a gentleman who served his country, his Province, his profession, the needy and distressed, his friends and family with far more sincerity and passion than many flag-bearing office-holders one has known. This was the kind of moment one could have disregarded abhorrence for weapons , and would not have minded a gun-salute to mark the departure of an eminence.

As a pioneering publisher and editor of daily Urdu Zamana and the daily English Balochistan Times of Quetta, as the first to publish a Balochi language newspaper and a Balochi weekly , Syed Faseih Iqbal rendered a formative influence on the evolution of the Province's media. He ensured visible coverage of activities and opinions from all parts of the Province on aspects which would not otherwise receive notice by the national Press or media. Respecting the extraordinary complexity of the Province's ethnic, linguistic streams, he projected respective viewpoints with balance and sensitivity. He went on to gain leadership at the national level in the representative bodies of publishers and editors. So empathetic could he be for the disadvantaged that, as a PFUJ leader recounted at his namaz-i-janaza, he would end up arguing in favour of the working journalists' position during Wage Board Award negotiations, to the annoyance of fellow-owners !

As a Senator ( 1985-88 and 1988-1994 ), he extended and invigorated his advocacy of Balochistan's cause with relentless energy inside and outside Parliament . Despite often being deeply disappointed by the Centre's omissions and several failures of the Province's own leadership, he never completely surrendered to despair. His inherently good nature coupled with his voluble enthusiasm constantly revived him.

As one of the co-founders of the South Asian Editors' Forum(1999) and later its President, with primary focus on indigenous language media he worked with other Editors from the region, and this writer, to initiate path-breaking communication between influential individuals. As a philanthropist, he would frequently contribute sums to persons in dire need and tip and distribute amounts quietly, liberally and generously to those from low-income groups. He would lavish friends with gifts of dry fruit from the Province he loved so much and never expected or hinted at any expected reciprocity. Serving welfare causes such as the SOS Children's Village in Quetta typified his desire to help other human beings, specially orphaned or abandoned children.

He remained a happy bachelor to the very end and liked to say that his journals and his causes comprised his immediate family. With siblings and nephews and nieces who adored him , Syed Faseih Iqbal was an individual who spread cheer and affability wherever he went, in Pakistan , or overseas. Winning a high civil award or other honours in his own country or being acknowledged overseas, this was a man with a golden heart who will , by his presence, we earnestly pray, enrich his next abode up there, somewhere.

As published on 22nd February 2014 in Dawn.