• By Asim Effendi:

Honourable Fazal Rahim Khan, a senior journalist from Swat, was the very first to break the sad news of the passing away of Rehmat Shah Afridi, the founder of the Frontier Post, the first English Language Independent Newspaper owned and managed by an ethnic Pukhtun from the Afridi tribe hailing from the erstwhile North West Frontier Province, named by the British.

During my visit to meet the office bearers of the Swat Press Club last week, the late Rehmat Shah Afridi’s illness was discussed in the backdrop of his historical picture that I took of him with his mother in Lahore, which my family friend Capt. Saleem Fida desperately sought. This morning, I began the desperate search, sifting through my hard disk for the old photographs but without any luck. I will leave the picture for another day and write his obituary, which he well deserves.

The Soviet invasion in neighboring Afghanistan was like a volcanic eruption that set the stage for many developments, some for the better while some for the worst. One development was the founding of the Frontier Post in 1985 that mostly gave a national voice to the issues confronting the province in general and Pukhtuns in particular.

Rehmat Shah’s political leaning towards PPP, terming the late Benazir Bhutto as his sister during the post-Zia era, irked the then establishment. This resulted in his arrest on drug charges in Lahore and was sentenced to death in June 2001, which was later commuted to a life sentence by Amnesty International, which believed the charges against him were politically motivated; he was then declared a Prisoner of Conscience. Later, the Frontier Post Press was burnt once a blasphemous letter appeared in it. My heartfelt condolences to the family, especially Muzaffar Shah, his younger brother, and the former Editor of the Frontier Post before he relinquished the charge.

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