By Syed M. Aslam
Jan 26 - Feb 01, 2003



OROOJ AHMED ALI is a publisher, a literary agent and a hot-blooded saltwater angler all rolled up in one. During the early 1970s he was one of the most outstanding English debaters of Karachi winning gold medals for his PECHS Foundation Science College twice. He has also been a textiles manufacturer and exporter, a business which lasted for 11 years till 1985 when he decided to go fulltime into publishing and to work as a literary agent for his father Professor Ahmed Ali, the international renowned English novelist and scholar, whose first book "Twilight in Delhi" published from London in 1940 was critically acclaimed in the English speaking world. He is the exclusive publisher of all of his late father's books, including "Al-Quran: A Contemporary Translation" which was first published in 1984 and "Twilight in Delhi" the copyright of which he now has. The Urdu translation of his father's first novel was first published in 1963, the French in 1988 while the Spanish translation was published in 1990. The Italian translation would be published soon for which Orooj has already signed a contract with an Italian publisher. Orooj is also Pakistan's saltwater angling champion reeling in the heaviest fish, a giant 396 pound Black Marlin in the All Pakistan Billfish Tournament held in December 1999, an event organised by Agha's Sportfishing regularly. Last month he reeled in a 150 pound Black Marlin to win the Tournament once again.

PAGE: What's your impression of reading habits in Pakistan?

OROOJ AHMED ALI: We are certainly not a reading public and whatever little reading we used to do is on a constant decline. Unfortunately, publishing is not considered even an industry in Pakistan and that explains why there are few publishers, and even less publishing houses and our failure to produce internationally recognized writers and internationally acclaimed books.

PAGE: You have visited a number of international book fairs. Tell us about it?

OROOJ AHMED ALI: I have visited the Frankfurt World Book Fair, the biggest exhibition of its kind held in October each year, a number of times. I first visited it in 1986 on my own and twice again in 1987 and 1990 as a guest of the organisers to represent Pakistan. I have also visited the New Delhi World Book Fair, the biggest such fair in South Asia, held in the month of February every other year. I visited it in 1986, 1988, 1990 and 1996 and it was there that I was able to make contacts with the heads of the big publishing houses in Europe that helped me publish the French, Spanish and upcoming Italian translations of my father's novel.

PAGE: You are pretty vocal about official indifference to sportfishing. Why?

OROOJ AHMED ALI: Angling the worldover, is recognised as a sport a poor man's sport. We, however, have failed to exploit the potential not only for the benefit of our recreation-starved masses despite being gifted with a long coastline of about 560 miles. Perhaps nowhere else in the world so many species of fish are found in one place like the ones we have in our coastal waters and yet we have failed to build piers, jetties, infrastructure and facilities required to attract not only our own people but also foreign sportfishing enthusiast. Many countries in the world earn substantial foreign exchange by attracting big game anglers who don't mind travelling to far off places to enjoy the piece of the action. The sunbaked shores of Sindh and Balochistan and the surrounding water are home to some of the most sought after species the tail-walking sailfish, the high-speed runner Wahoo, the acrobatic Mahi Mahi, the magnificent Marlin, Cobia Yellowfin, Tuna, Reef Shark, Mackerel, Barracuda, etc., etc. And yet we have failed to exploit the potential to attract foreign saltwater anglers.

PAGE: You say that sportfishing being the recreation of the poor is systematically discouraged. How?



UROOJ AHMED ALI: There is no duty on the import of golf clubs, balls and related items because golf is the game of the rich and the ruling classes. However, the fishing rods, reels, equipments and the gears are subjected to a high duty of 20 per cent. The President has announced a hefty cash award of Rs 10 million to the winner of British Open Squash. What stops the government to promote angling in a similar fashion particularly when globally it is a multi billion dollar industry that attracts more people than any other game. Even the media, print as well as electronic, with few exceptions, refuses to recognize angling as a sport despite it being accorded top priority for reporting in the developed as well as many developing world.

PAGE: What's the potential?

OROOJ AHMED ALI: Nature has gifted Pakistan with a long coastline the major parts of which remains inaccessible to the people because of lack of infrastructure and facilities. The saltwater angling remains confined to shores off Karachi and surroundings. The failure to develop a reliable infrastructure is costing us in more ways than one. For instance, the high-priced Yellow-Fin Tuna caught in abundance in the province of Balochistan is being exported in slated-dried form at throw away prices because of the absence of reliable transport infrastructure necessary to timely ship the catch to Karachi-based seafood processors and exporters before it rots.