Ibn Abdur Rehman, who was popularly known as IA Rehman, was born on September 1, 1930, in Haryana, undivided India.
About his childhood days, he said he grew up in both a “religious and secular” household.
In an interview, he said that his father was both a religious and a secular person. He had no religious prejudice. His father was a lawyer, and he had a large number of Hindu clients and friends from the Communist Party. He used to hear his father and his friends talking of “equality and fraternity.”
His journalistic career spanned over six decades. He was appointed chief editor of The Pakistan Times in 1989 after Benazir Bhutto became prime minister in December 1988.
During the East Pakistan crisis, he was working as the managing editor of Urdu daily Azad. He had served as executive editor of weekly Viewpoint during General Zia-ul-Haq era from 1978 to 1988).
He has also been a director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) since 1990.
IA Rehman said that he started his activities as a human rights activist in 1949 “when I started writing for newspapers and became a member of the Civil Liberties Union. Actually, even as a child, I had been exposed to civil rights because I came from a family that believed in upholding the rights of peasants and working people. In this sense, I think I was a human rights activist all my conscious life. I had particularly developed a strong opposition to feudalism and I very much stood for land reforms. In fact, my first articles called for abolishing feudalism.”
He was one of the founding members of the human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). He recounted how he turned into a human rights activist.
“Even as a journalist I had joined the trade union and started interacting with labour leaders. The atmosphere at The Pakistan Times where I worked, was also very charged. However, as a journalist, I believed in remaining completely independent. I only actively started engaging with human rights work in 1985 when Asma Jahangir organised a convention in Lahore where we took the decision to establish the HRCP.”
He is the founding chair of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy. He has been influential for promoting peace in the Indo-Pakistani wars and conflicts and in Kashmir conflict as well as for other human rights issues in Pakistan.
In November 2007, on a visit to India, he told The Hindu: “I’ve been working to defend people’s human rights all my life. And, I will continue to do so.”
His efforts for human rights were recognised at global level. He was awarded Nuremberg International Human Rights Award in 2003 and Ramon Magsaysay Award for Peace and International Understanding in 2004.
In 2015, many human rights activists including IA Rehman urged the Pakistani government to ‘criminalise child labour in hazardous environments.’
He had been a regular contributor for Dawn.
He had authored three books: Jinnah as a Parliamentarian (co-editor), Arts and Crafts of Pakistan, and Pakistan under Siege, a collection of his own columns.