A careful editor and kind and generous friend, an intense but subtle presence in the Karachi art scene, an imaginative and creative business leader deeply invested in promoting history, culture, art and music , building his life around a network of valuable relationships – Saquib Hanif was all of this and more.
His sudden disappearance last Friday at just 57 years of age devastated not his family and friends, but also a large community of friends, journalists and lovers of history, art and culture whom he had impacted. in multiple ways.
Among them is travel writer and photographer Salman Rashid, whom he befriended in the 1990s shortly after returning from Cornell University in the United States with “distinction in all the subjects”. Saquib has lived most of his life in Karachi. He first taught art appreciation at the Lyceum and the Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture, then joined the World Conservation Union, IUCN.
Salman Rashid, who started out as a travel writer with an evening, The starthen wrote for The border post Lahore and the new Sunday news (then Friday).
As head of ICUN’s Department of Education, Communications and Knowledge Management, Saquib began to assign him projects. Aware of the precarious life of a freelancer, he ensured adequate compensation for Salman Rashid’s travels as well as writing and photography.
It was the start of a lifelong friendship fueled by a deep respect and sense of kinship for each other’s hard work, individuality and integrity, in addition to a shared passion for cultural values and fairness. play; and an irreverent sense of humor.
When Saquib joined the Herald as deputy editor, Salman Rashid initially refused to contribute.
“A sub-editor had missed one of my articles and I no longer wanted to write for them. But Saquib didn’t take a no, he promised he would edit my work himself,” Salman explains. “And he did. He would go back on every word. He was a meticulous perfectionist.
He also had the humility and courage to ask if anything was unclear or if a writer’s work needed to be changed, and to run a copy edited by them. Saquib was at the herald for eight years, including two as editor.
“If I ever missed a deadline – not that I often did – Saquib would call, using the best choice galalis (swear words). I would respond in kind,” Salman Rashid laughs at the memory. Hearing the conversation, his wife Shabnam “would know it was Saquib on the other end of the line.”
That Saquib Hanif insulted Salman Rashid is news to artist and writer Amra Ali in Karachi. She remembers Saquib as immensely “cultured, polite, Mohazzab (refined)”, a sophisticated and vital yet unimposing presence in the city’s artistic spaces.
She would see it in art galleries in a karak (bright) white shalwar kamis, generally avoiding launches where meaningful conversations are difficult to hold. He made an exception for the eminent Mehr Afroze.
He was also fond of the late eminent Indian artist Zarina Hashmi; she too “adored him”, says Amra, and the late sculptor Shahid Sajjad.
Visiting her sister in Karachi, Zarina Hashmi would exhibit at Zohra Hussain’s Chowkandi Art Gallery, the first such space after Ali Imam’s pioneering Indus Gallery.
“Saquib would engage in conversations with Ali Imam or Zohra Apa because those conversations had meaning – there was no ulterior motive or commercial interest. He was a free person. , he wouldn’t,” Amra says.
When Saquib joined the Herald as associate editor, Salman Rashid initially refused to contribute. “A sub-editor messed up one of my articles, and I didn’t want to write for them anymore. But Saquib wouldn’t take a no; he promised he would edit my work himself,” says Salman. “And he did. He would go back on every word. He was a meticulous perfectionist.”
When Zohra Hussain worried about Saquib’s recurrence of pneumonia – a fungal infection had ripped her son Murtaza away a few years ago, followed by another son Abbas last year – “he told her not to worry, he would be there for her anytime, even if she called in the middle of the night. And now he too is gone,” Amra says.
After Herald, Saquib joined Pakistan Petroleum (PPL) as Public Relations Manager in 2008. He brought his journalistic philosophy to his new job, steadily rising through the ranks. At the time of his disappearance, he was managing director of corporate services, overseeing a wide range of operations.
He revamped PPL’s public relations department and the company’s newsletter, in addition to developing a new website. He also started a first-hand research project, now in its 14th year. He began by relying on Salman Rashid’s 10-part series to the herald, Tales Less Told, about obscure legends. “He asked me to write two more,” says Salman.
Their office diary with the compiled photo essays “won first prize as a business publication”.
Then came the less traveled roads, about 12 mountain passes. “It also won the first prize.”
The third was Sights Less Seen, on landmarks across the country. He did not win the first prize. “Saquib said it was politics, the *@#* (expletive) said we can’t keep giving top prize to the same company.”
Saquib later compiled the series as a set titled Less is More. He then sent Salman Rashid to research Pakistani Railways, published as Wheels of Empire, 2012. In 2013 came Stones of Empire, about buildings across the country, then Discoveries of Empire, about sites archaeological discoveries by the British. Waters of Empire is about the irrigation system put in place during colonial times. The last journal was Chorus for Crafts, 2016, about the disappearance of folk art across the country.
“Desktop diaries completely revolved around the concept of a table diary, people were writing to Saquib and saying they kept the diaries like coffee table books,” says Salman Rashid.
The company discontinued diaries due to the expense involved and switched to desk calendars. These too were collectibles.
“All of these ideas were Saquib’s. He went over every bit, every word. And he was a yaaron ka yaar (a friend to his friends),” says Salman Rashid.
Saquib Hanif’s passionate and unconditional support of those whose work he believed touched many lives.
These people who “defend and support our culture and our arts are the assets of our country”, says the qawwal, Subhan Ahmed Nizami, who considered him an older brother. Despite Saquib’s busy schedule, he always made time to meet Nizami, and they would talk occasionally if they couldn’t meet. “I met Saquib Bhai in his office just three weeks ago. He has always been immensely loving and kind not only to me personally, but also to me as an artist and to our art and culture in his together.
A life well lived ended with a quick passage to the afterlife. Saquib developed a fever on Wednesday evening and was rushed to Aga Khan Hospital. Her son Hamza, a final year student at the University of Warwick, arrived on Friday morning. In the afternoon, Saquib Hanif was gone.
“There is much to be grateful for,” says his wife, Nadia Chundrigar Hanif. “He would have hated being unfit.
Wherever he is, may Saquib Hanif continue to share his blessings, finally reunited with his dear friend the historian Nasser Hussain, having intense intellectual conversations with fellow artists and swearing at Salman Rashid, urging him to continue .
The writer is the founding editor of The News on Sunday, currently teaches journalism at Emerson College in Boston. www.beenasarwar.com, on twitter @beenasarwar