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Civil service career
Gauhar entered the Civil Service of Pakistan in 1948. Starting his career as Secretary, State Bank of Pakistan, he rose to be Information Secretary Government of Pakistan at the age of 39, During his tenure, draconian laws governing the press were passed, something for which Gauhar later publicly apologised.
He was, however, a gifted writer and became very close to President Ayub Khan, so much so that he was known as the de facto vice President of Pakistan. He was the main ghost writer for the latter's autobiography entitled Friends Not Masters, published 1967. Subsequently he also wrote the biography, Ayub Khan : Pakistan's First Military Ruler, which gave a different story altogether because it was written after the death of his old mentor prompting people to question 'who is the real Ayub?' The last official act of President Ayub Khan before handing over power was to invite Altaf Gauhar to lunch with his family and bestow on him the high civil award of Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam. Through some palace intrigues, President Yahya Khan assumed power on 25 March 1969. A day or two before that he had had a serious altercation with Altaf Gauhar who wanted Ayub Khan to continue. In 1969, Gauhar was initially marginalized as Director Finance Services Academy Lahore, a position much lower in rank than a Central Secretary. Subsequently he was dismissed from service and all his four civil awards were forfeited.
Post civil service career
On leaving the civil service in 1969, he became editor of the Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn. Later, when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was chief martial law administrator, he was twice imprisoned. It was while in jail, that Gauhar became deeply absorbed by the Quran, from which he was later to make several distinguished translations, the last one shortly before he died, when he was in great pain and undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
On release from prison, he left Dawn for London and launched the journals Third World Review and Third World Quarterly (in association with The Guardian newspaper), South magazine, and established the Third World Foundation. After BCCI went into liquidation, he returned to Pakistan, and continued into journalism. He poured all his energies into the role of editor-in-chief of the Muslim.
Latterly, Gauhar restricted himself to an occasional column in the newspaper The Muslim, but left the newspaper when its editor, ABS Jaffery, was sacked by the owner. In Pakistan, on his death, he was commemorated as "a very eminent Pakistani", a man who knew power and how it could be used or abused.
Gauhar died of cancer on 14 November 2000 at the age of 77 years.
- Friends not Masters (ghostwritten for the dictator/general Ayub Khan) 1967
- Ayub Khan: Pakistan's First Military Ruler
- Translations from the Quran
- Thoughts and After Thoughts
- Ayub Khan, Fauji raj ke pahle das sal
- Shared horizon: Interviews with leaders of thought
- Friends not Masters (apparently written by Field Marshal Ayub Khan)
- Gohar Guzasht (Autobiography)
- (poem/ghazal) Ghar Wapis Jab Aao Gey.
- an archive of Altaf Gauhar's articles can be found on: http://gauhar.com/?cat=3
- Simmons, Michael (13 December 2000). "Altaf Gauhar". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2016.
- Who is the real Ayub Khan?, A G Noorani, Frontline, Volume 24 - Issue 11 :: 02-15 Jun. 2007 
- Obituary in The Guardian by Michael Simmons
- Video on YouTube
- Video on YouTube