IA Rehman’s name is synonymous for many to strong democratic values, politics of integrity, and an ethics of justice. A beacon of moral courage in Pakistan’s journalistic sphere, the writer was known for his conviction for just causes.
Born Ibn Abdur Rehman in 1930 in Haryana, British India, Rehman went on to establish himself as an upholder of democratic values in the Indian subcontinent. A protege of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Rehman was an advocate of human rights and communist principles. He worked tirelessly to amplify the voices of oppressed groups, and always stood by the powerless in the face of power.
His values were a core tenet of his vast professional experience. After years of lending support to disadvantaged groups through his words, he took on the helm of the Pakistani newspaper Daily Times as chief editor in 1989. Soon after, he became the director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, one of the oldest non-profit human rights bodies advocating for justice in the country.
Peace was a central principle of Rehman’s politics. Throughout his life, he contributed greatly to discourse advocating peaceful relations between India and Pakistan, and advocated for an end to the Kashmir conflict. He was the founding chair of the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy and frequented the neighbouring country to partake in cultural exchange and dialogue.
“I’ve been working to defend people’s human rights all my life,” he told Indian publication The Hindu in 2007. “And I will continue to do so.”
The last years of his life were spent contributing to Pakistan’s rich political milieau by producing insightful commentaries on current affairs. He was a regular columnist at daily Dawn and participated in activist circles.
Rehman passed away on April 12, 2021, after battling the coronavirus, his family confirmed. Throughout his life, he had also struggled with sugar and blood pressure complications.
His untimely passing caused a ripple of grief across Pakistan, with many recounting the many ways he had lived his life for the betterment of others’.
Condolences for Rehman poured in from journalists, activists, politicians, and human rights bodies, all of whom had nothing but praise for the life he lived.
“He stood for principles, not slogans; stands, not shows. He was our moral compass, our collective conscience,” wrote academic Adil Najam.
Activist Gulalai Ismail called the loss of IA Rehman “unbearable.”
Senator Sherry Rehman called him “an icon of integrity” who struggled for “every single fundamental right, every single democratic value in the worse of times.”
“He was in the vanguard of Pakistan’s democratic struggle, always in the forefront of human rights struggle for Pakistan’s weak and excluded,” wrote journalist Nasim Zehra.
“A teacher, mentor and inspiration to many who always stood to defend human rights through during the darkest times and under the most oppressive regimes in our country’s history,” lawyer Jibran Nasir wrote for Rehman
Journalist Raza Rumi said IA Rehman was “a mentor to countless rights activists, journalists and civil society leaders.”
As he rightly put: “It would be difficult to fill this void.”
Humans as giving as IA Rehman are hard to come by, and Pakistan will always mourn the loss of the man who spent his life fighting for its people. May he be in peace.