English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Tarek Fatah—a personal tribute to a passionate non-conformist

Photo posted by Tarek Fatah's daughter Natasha Fatah on her Twitter timeline

Tarek Fatah, the Canadian columnist passed away at the young age of 73 in Canada as confirmed by his daughter Natasha Fatah. The wise say life should be big, not long but the big in life comes with high actions. And, Tarek Fatah opted for that. He was born in 1949 in Karachi to a Punjabi Muslim family, which had migrated to Pakistan after Partition.

Socialism-Marxism shaped Fatah’s thought process and during Zia’s military dictatorship, he came out as a leftist student leader. He was incarcerated in the notorious Machh jail of Balochistan in 1970 where he spent time with the late Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, the tallest leader of Balochistan. His natural progression led him to be an investigative journalist for which he paid a heavy price. He was dismissed from his position as a senior producer of news on Pakistan Television and barred from taking up a job in any newspaper, radio or TV.

In 1978, he left Pakistan for good and took up an advertising job in Saudi Arabia and finally settled in Canada in 1987.

Fatah was known for speaking his mind. He scolded Indians and Pakistanis alike for whatever wrong happening in their countries. He also highlighted wrongdoings in Islam, specially fanaticism by the Muslim clergy, and human rights issues in the Muslim world, for which he invited the wrath of the Islamists. Even in India, his views brought forth much criticism from Muslims especially after his first show on Zee News –‘Fatah ka Fatwa’ which discussed Islamic issues among the Muslim community in India. It also led to a failed assassination plot by gangster Chota Shakeel. But it did not deter him.

In India he amassed great popularity – old and young everybody loved him.

Despite Fatah criticising aspects of Hinduism like caste discrimination, knowing very well that he is a Pakistani Muslim visiting India yet people accepted him wholeheartedly because they knew that the man is not a hypocrite!

I along with many Indians learnt a lot from Fatah. He was a guru to many. My interaction with Fatah started almost two years back when I interviewed him for Balochistan’s Independence Day on 11 August. Most people are not aware that Balochistan was an independent country for nine months before Pakistan usurped it through military action. Fatah had a special relationship with the Baloch people and their nation, having lived many years in Balochistan including a jail term with Baloch nationalist leaders when he understood the agony the community was facing. He also helped many Baloch facing persecution to flee Pakistan and settle in Canada.

Once we held a Clubhouse session on Balochistan and hundreds of Baloch and Indians turned up just to hear Fatah – such was his charisma. Many friends requested me to invite him again for new sessions as people could never get enough of him. I believe it was due to his wit and unrestrained charm.

He wholeheartedly believed in the Baloch cause and was a true representative of the suppressed nation. He once stated, “Balochistan may not get independent in his lifetime but Inshallah one day it will be an independent country”.

He described himself in various ways – ‘Indian born in Pakistan’, ‘a Punjabi born in Islam’, ‘an immigrant in Canada with a Muslim consciousness, grounded in a Marxist youth’, ‘Salman’s Rushdie’s Midnight Children’ and many others. His love for India knew no bounds.

Tarek Fatah – a true son of Hindustan has left us but he ignited a whole generation of people with his thought and revolutionary ideas. Let his revolution live on. May he continue to rock the Heavens as he rocked the Earth. Om Shanti!

Also read: Balochistan: Deceived by Jinnah’s Pakistan and let down by Nehru’s India?