Rahimullah Yusufzai: The most honored journalist, Muslim world has ever produced
Rahimullah Yusufzai is the most revered journalist and an undaunted war correspondent. He has fearlessly reported all the wars and conflicts inside Afghanistan since the Soviet Union invasion in 1979. He interviewed the most wanted man Usama bin laden twice. Also he was the one to interview the Taliban leader Mullah Umar for the first time.
Rahimullah Yusufzai is currently, resident Editor “The News” Peshawar. He also works as a news analyst for Geo News TV channel. He served as a correspondent of BBC’s Pashto and Urdu services in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and remained Time’s Pakistan correspondent. Rahimullah wrote for many national and international newspapers and magazines like The News International, Gulf News, Asian affairs, Time, Arab News, NEWSLINE, India Today, outlook, and Al Jazeera, etc.
“I am proud that I have worked with Rahimullah Yusufzai for ten years. He has been my mentor. He has been such a hardworking journalist that he would often go to sleep in his chair while working for long hours. The authenticity of his work is backed by his long travels, credible sources, and his concern about facts and figures.,” says Ismail khan Resident editor of the DAWN KP, Pakistan who also accompanied him during the press conference of Usama bin laden.
What makes Rahimullah Yusufzai stand apart?
His honest witty analysis portrayed with fair objectivity in a style of his own makes him look a conqueror in the world of journalism. Journalism has been a sacred profession to Rahimullah Yusufzai for which he even didn’t afraid of risking his life. Many times, he escaped being bombed, shelled and trapped in the land-mines during the Afghanistan war, and the Taliban era.
“While reporting on the conflict in Afghanistan since 1978 and in northwestern Pakistan from 2001 onwards, I was warned and threatened by different parties in the conflicts and even fired at,” reveals Rahimullah Yusufzai.
Due to his irresistible fairness and detachment, the soft-spoken, and empathetic Rahimullah Yusufzai is trusted by his informants to disclose their stories to him.
“His professionalism has no limits. He has always been thoughtful about his credibility, objectivity, which earned him lasting trust. He kept himself away from all scandals, and temptations. From Rahimullah Yusufzai, I have learnt how to develop a story from a piece of information while staying unbiased at the same time,” Ismail khan added.
According to Dr. Murad Ali, a columnist for The News, “Rahimullah Yusufzai’s faithfulness to his profession is evident from the fact that he has turned down all the offers of diplomatic and ministerial positions proposed to him by different governments so far,”.
Rahimullah Yusufzai has left a deep impact on journalism and journalists in Pakistan. He has been the inspiration for many to try their luck in this field.
“He has been a thorough professional who never compromised on merit and news. While working with him, first he would take away all the fears from your heart which is essential for being a true journalist. He trains encourages, and promotes everyone who has a passion to excel in his career. You should know, he would read every story and would tell his staff how to improve it further. He would say, give a chance to all those whom you write about and never report one side of the story,” informs Mushtaq Yusufzai, a journalist associated with The NEWS for the last 21 years and recipient of the inaugural Kate Webb Award and Dag Hammarskjold fellow of 2009.
Not a smooth sail for Rahimullah Yusufzai
Born to a lower-middle-class family of Katlang, KP, Pakistan in 1954, self-made Rahimullah Yusufzai worked untiringly before rising to prominence on the world-stage in journalism.
Rahimullah Yusufzai has to discontinue his education after his bachelor’s due to his father’s imprisonment in an Indian PoW camp while fighting in Bangladesh from the Pakistan army. Following the financial impact on the family after his father was taken prisoner for two years he has to join a part-time job with an English newspaper “The Sun” as a proofreader in Karachi.
He rose to the position of a sub-editor while working with “The Sun” but unfortunately the newspaper was closed during the martial-law times of General Zia ul-Haq. It was a time in Pakistan in which under a dictator’s rule the journalists were lashed, whipped, and punished after tried in the military courts.
But till that time Rahimullah Yusufzai had got addicted to journalism. He wrote about South Asia and regularly visited Afghanistan meeting almost all the leadership there. He became the editor of the news international of the Peshawar edition when it was launched in 1991.
Arshad Yusufzai his elder son while talking about the busy schedule of his father said, “Whenever we sit with our father to discuss even a serious issue the phone rings and he gets busy, so we never found an opportunity to ask questions and get complete answers. It has been a routine, since our childhood,”.
Arshad vividly recalls the loving treatment of his father while he was a child,” During my childhood, only I shifted with him to Peshawar in 1986, and the rest of the family was back in the village. He used to prepare breakfast for me, polish my shoes, and comb my hair before getting me ready for school. Although he had servants, still he had taken this responsibility to take care of me,”.
But Rahimullah Yusufzai had devoted himself to journalism and he would often travel in the field. “For me, journalism is a way of life” Rahimullah Yusufzai would often say.
“During those days he was too busy, covering the afghan War. We would have breakfast together then I would see him after three days. He would go to Quetta, then we would come to know that he had gone to Hosst, Kandahar, through Paktia Waziristan to Afghanistan,” relates Arshad.
His Social work, and Recognition.
He used to help his communities through his social and humanitarian activities. There have been instances where he would take poor patients to the city to show them to the well-known doctors for checkups. He has been instrumental in helping the communities of his areas in communication, energy, and rural development sectors.
In the recognition of his achievements, in 2005 Rahimullah Yusufzai was awarded Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Medal of Excellence) by the government of Pakistan. He was again awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz (Star of Excellence) by the president of Pakistan in 2010.
Today, Rahimullah Yusufzai is respected as an authority on Afghan affairs. Rahimullah Yusufzai is an international institution where everyone can learn from his personal, social, and professional life. His people love him due to his easily accessible down-to-earth personality, and the world respects him because of his high ethical and analytical standards in journalism.
(Written by Ijaz Ali, a freelance journalist. He holds a Master Degree in European Studies from Germany and can be reached at [email protected])