ISLAMABAD: Veteran Kashmiri Journalist Raja Muhammad Asghar, aged 78, passed away in Islamabad on early morning of Saturday after a protracted illness.Asghar was suffering from pancreatic cancer and was admitted to local hospital. Following his death, his body was taken to his native town Dana Kachelli, near Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir for burial.
He is survived by an adopted son, and leaves behind a large number of friends and colleagues.
Asghar joined the profession when he was a law student in Peshawar in the late 50s. He worked for Khyber Mail and Associated Press of Pakistan. He spent most of his professional career, spanning almost 25 years in Reuters, an international news agency.
He joined Dawn as its senior parliamentary correspondent after retiring from Reuters in 2002.
Although he had no children, he looked after a large number of his family members and needy villagers.
“He was even mistreated some seven years back when he filed nomination papers for president of the PFUJ. He was pressed hard to withdraw his papers, and a far junior person and inferior professional was elected to the prestigious post. This changed the splendid milieu of the organization — the symbol of the dignity of our community,” he commented.
He was perhaps the first journalist who broke the story about Pak-China diplomatic ties in early ‘60s for a Peshawar-based newspaper and was detained during the General Ayub regime. Despite being forced to reveal the name of the source, he refused to do so; setting an example for hundreds of journalists who knew him.
Senior journalist and correspondent of Kyodo, a Japanese TV channel, Shahidur Rehman, also verified this, citing the late Israr Amad of UPI, who reported in his memoirs, “Walls have ears,” that Raja was almost drowned in the freezing Kabul waters during the days of Nawab of Kalabagh, for not disclosing the source of his story.
Raja sahib was a committed trade unionist, an authority on Kashmir and a collector of antiques, flowers and fruit trees.