An embodiment of fair play - Rehanullah Siddiqi

(L to R) Salimullah, Gul Hameed Bhatti, Taher Memon, Rehanullah Siddiqi, Ejaz Mirza and Afaq Ahmed.
(L to R) Salimullah, Gul Hameed Bhatti, Taher Memon, Rehanullah Siddiqi, Ejaz Mirza and Afaq Ahmed.
 
Rehanullah Siddiqi
Rehanullah Siddiqi
©Uzma Rehan
 
Rehanullah Siddiqi
Rehanullah Siddiqi
©Uzma Rehan
 
Rehanullah Siddiqi
Rehanullah Siddiqi
©Uzma Rehan
 

The year 2019 continues to be an unpleasant journey for Pakistan sports fraternity, worsened now with the passing away of Rehanullah Siddiqi, a noted sports editor, renowned for both flair of writing and jovial nature.

Rehan’s death on November 23, after being on a ventilator for a good week in St Thomas Hospital in London, was inevitable, given his declining condition. A few days after arriving in the UK, he had collapsed on the platform of Victoria station, with acute cardiac arrest. By the time he reached hospital, he had also suffered with excessive brain damage, sadly never to wake up again.

Born in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh in British India in 1943, Rehan belonged to one of thousands of families, who after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, opted to migrate to its capital, Karachi. The middle-class family lived in Muslim League Quarters, near Chowrangi in Nazimabad and soon showed how determined and motivated they were to succeed in their chosen fields. Rehan’s early education was at Government High School, Nazimabad before taking his bachelor’s degree from Islamia College. As a student, he played cricket for Nazimabad Sports Club.

 He left Karachi in the early 1960s and would join Kentish Times to become one of the pioneers from the sub-continent to pick journalism as a career in the U.K. From the late 1980s, he was in Dubai, UAE, for 14 years and would serve as sports editor of Khaleej Times and Gulf News, before accepting a similar role with Dawn in Karachi for five years. In the early 1990s, for just over a year, he also assisted Riaz Mansuri, as one of the editors of The Cricketer, Pakistan. In the 1994-95 winter, he covered Pakistan team’s tour of South Africa and Zimbabwe.

To his close circle of friends that included three Pakistani internationals, Nasim-ul-Ghani, Afaq Hussain and Salahuddin Sallu and Latafat Ali Siddique of Canadian Asian News, Rehan was simply ‘Ullah’, a soft-spoken gentleman with a happy-go-lucky persona. Amongst the cricketing fraternity, both in Pakistan and UAE where he spent the best part of his journalistic career, the word ‘shot’ became Rehan’s trademark, for he used it frequently to praise and acclaim anything positive, both in the media box and outside it. An individual and a man of simple taste in food and clothing, his close friends, could not recall seeing him in anything but a pair of jeans.

 Having served his apprenticeship in U.K, Rehan with an articulate mind to go with his passion for cricket was well suited to sports editorship, a role which he enjoyed with three prominent publications in UAE and Karachi. It is a fact that cricket players, administrators and fellow sports journalists, always got a fair deal with Rehan for he upheld high standards of integrity. An easy going and jovial soul indeed but not prepared to compromise on professionalism. Come what may, Rehan remained utterly impartial in his relationship with people of varied ethnicity and background. His vision of strong Pakistan was to embrace all and he successfully practiced it in both his professional and personal life.

 At the peak of his journalist pursuits, Rehan’s match reports and columns enjoyed great following, coinciding with Sharjah in UAE, being the hub of limited-overs India-Pakistan cricket clashes. His confident flowing style, in-depth analysis and outspoken approach, enabling him to challenge the best Pakistan cricket writers of English language.

After returning from the U.K., in the early 1980s he was appointed public relations manager for Civil Aviation, in Karachi. After giving up writing, he once again served in the public relations as an officer for Airbus in Dubai. His older brother, Naseemullah Siddiqi, was Assistant Collector in Customs and a close friend to Shahabuddin, brother of Salahuddin Sallu.

Rehan showed considerable resistance in the wake of stomach ulcer from which he had suffered since in his youth. The death of his wife Shagufta Nasreen in March 2012, briefly plunged Rehan into depression before his positive outlook and love for travelling, got the better of him. In his latest overseas venture, after catching up with his friends in London, Bromley, Birmingham and Manchester, Rehan was bound to leave for Cuba, which sadly was not meant to be.

 He is buried at Eternal Gardens – a Muslim Cemetery – in Chislehurst, Kent, leaving behind daughters - Uzma and Hina – who were both present at the time of his death in London.