Naureen Aqueel

Destiny, not choice

Posted on: October 8, 2009

Published in Media Post (University magazine), October 2009.

For Aamir Latif who graduated with a Masters degree from the Department of Mass Communication in the year 1996, his journalism career has been one of numerous achievements. As a student who ‘accidentally’ landed in the Department of Mass Communication, Latif describes himself as “not a journalist by choice”, but one who realised that journalism was his “true calling” once he started studying it. “Actually, I intended to become a Civil Engineer,” recounts Latif. “I had applied at NED University, but did not get in by just a few points. Then, I applied at the University of Karachi (KU) for Applied Chemistry. At that time, all those who did not get into NED had applied at the Department of Applied Chemistry at KU. I had put in Mass Communication as my second choice in the admission form, so I ended up getting into the Department of Mass Communication. When I started studying journalism however, I really enjoyed it and I continued my education and work in this field.”

Today, Latif holds positions in the field that any journalist would aspire for. Not only is he the Bureau Chief for Sindh of Online News Agency, he is also the Pakistan correspondent of US News and World Report, CBS radio and Islamonline.net. He shares that he has worked for the Washington Times as well.

So, how did he start such an impressive journalism career? Latif was not one of those students who work while completing their degree. He says the only prior experience he had was what his teachers had taught him. “I did write letters to the editors but I did not take up any part time paying job then,” he says. “I started my journalism career from Pakistan Press International (PPI) after completing my degree. At first, I was hired as a reporter there. I was a reporter for health, education, local bodies, political affairs etc. After that, I was promoted to the position of the Bureau Chief.”

When I asked how he got the job at PPI, Latif wittily remarked, “I just barged into the PPI office and met up with Fazal Qureshi who was the Chief Editor at that time. He interviewed me and asked me to translate a report and after that he hired me.” Latif is quick to give credit to Farooq Moin, then Bureau Chief, for having trained him and made him what he is today.

“In 2000, I got a scholarship from George Washington University for a one year diploma in Media and Public Affairs. When I returned to Pakistan in 2001, I joined Online News Agency as Bureau Chief. I was also appointed as Pakistan correspondent of US News and World Report, the third largest magazine in the US, and for CBS radio as well.”

Latif speaks with pride and an overwhelming sense of nostalgia about his alma mater, the University of Karachi. He very fondly recounts his experience at the Department of Mass Communication, remembering teachers like Shahida Kazi, Inam Bari, Sarwar Naseem, Mahmood Ghaznavi, Zakariya Sajid, Tahir Masood and Saleha Bilal for their love and care and for their contribution in making him what he is today.

He advises students to give full respect to their teachers. “They can take you from the earth to the sky,” he says.

Offering further advice to the students, he says, “Never underestimate theory education. Practical education is incomplete without theory in any discipline. Whatever you have been inculcated by your teachers is your strong footing and that will be your asset when you enter the practical field.” Latif also advises students to participate in extra-curricular activities. “Journalists who participate in extra-curricular activities, irrespective of whether it is debates or political activities, have better command over current affairs.” Agreeing that most students are afraid of joining political organisations, Latif says, “Most student organisations do not qualify for the basic criteria of student politics. The criminal element has penetrated our student organisations. Student unions are an inseparable part of education—they make you cognizant, more confident and visionary than other students.”

Asked what qualities he thinks are required to reach the top, Latif promptly replies, “Hard work and vision. The man who is more involved in extra-curricular activities and more in touch with the happenings around him and current affairs will rise.”

Being a journalist involves a lot of hard work and dedication. For Latif, the everyday change element is the most appealing feature of his work. “Every day there is a changed atmosphere and changed ideas,” he shares. “I really enjoy my work. I feel privileged—I have access to the corridors of power and the normal people. I am the bridge between the ordinary people and those in power. Through me, the problems of the ordinary people are communicated to those at the helm, therefore I feel privileged.”

With alumni like Latif out there in the field, the Department of Mass Communication can sure hold its head up high among all the other institutions in the country.

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