13 April 1926|
Karachi, British India
24 November 2012 (aged 86)|
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
|Known for||Chairman of Cowasjee Group|
|Relatives||See Cowasjee family|
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Ardeshir Cowasjee (13 April 1926 – 24 November 2012) (Urdu: اردشير کاوﺳﺠﻰ) was a Pakistani newspaper columnist, social activist, and philanthropist. Belonging from Karachi, his columns regularly appeared in the country's oldest English newspaper, Dawn. He was also the Chairman of the Cowasjee Group and was engaged in philanthropic activities in addition to being regarded as an old "guardian" of the city of Karachi.
Cowasjee was born on 13 April 1926 in Karachi to the well-known Cowasjee Parsi (Zoroastrian) family. His father, Rustom Fakirjee Cowasjee, was a businessman in merchant shipping, and the family spoke Gujarati at home. Ardeshir attended the Bai Virbaiji Soparivala (BVS) Parsi High School and graduated from DJ Science College, Karachi. Later, he joined his father's business, the Cowasjee Group. In 1953, he married Nancy Dinshaw, with whom he had two children – Ava (daughter) and Rustom (son).
Cowasjee owned a family run shipping company, that at the time of the independence of Pakistan was Karachi's largest shipping company. This shipping company was nationalized during Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's premiership. He was appointed by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as Managing Director of Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) in 1973. He was jailed for 72 days in 1976 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for which no explanation has been given to date; it is said that Prime Minister Bhutto did this because Cowasjee was becoming increasingly vocal about Bhutto's authoritarian ways. Cowasjee subsequently started writing letters to the editor of Dawn newspaper, which led to him becoming a permanent columnist. Since then, his hard-hitting and well-researched columns in Dawn have continuously exposed corruption, nepotism, and incompetence in different local, provincial, and national governments. Cowasjee's last article for Dawn was published on 25 December 2011.
Los Angeles Times described him thus: "His is a stubborn non-Muslim voice in this nation created as an Islamic homeland, refusing to be silenced. Attempts have been made. His life has been threatened so often the government has provided him with 24-hour protection.
Via the Cowasjee Foundation, Cowasjee was the financier of many scholarships for students wishing to pursue higher education. These included grants for both local and overseas education. They were termed "loans" and Cowasjee encouraged recipients to repay them so that others could benefit from the funds; however, he expected that the majority of the funds would not be repaid.
Cowasjee died at the age of 86, on 24 November 2012. He was suffering from chest illness and remained in hospital for twelve days.
- Ardeshir Cowasjee passes away, Express Tribune, November 24, 2012
- Ardeshir Cowasjee: The Curmudgeon of Karachi BY JAHANZEB ASLAM, Newsweek, 12/3/12
- IBA names centre after Ardeshir Cowasjee
- "Farewell, Pakistan's Ardeshir Cowasjee". Retrieved 23 January 2015.
Talat Aslam, senior editor of The News, says: "Cowasjee's death represents the death of an old, far more cosmopolitan and tolerant Karachi. He was a Gujrati-speaking Parsi gentleman of the old school - profane, blunt, outspoken, fearless.
- Irfan Husain. "A life lived in full – Ardeshir Cowasjee (1926-2012)". aurora.dawn.com. Archived from the original on 24 January 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2015.
Ardeshir was always a flamboyant, larger than life figure. Impeccably dressed, he enjoyed the good things in life. From his art collection to his sports cars, he spent his wealth with style and taste. There are far richer people than him in Pakistan, but none have his flair. Whenever he came to my place, he would sit and chat with my mother who loved his good humour and Gujrati accent. I doubt he ever began a sentence not prefaced with “Aray, sala!”
- Nirupama Subramanian (16 January 2010). "Old man by the sea". The Hindu. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- Pakistan columnist doesn't mince words, February 11, 2008, LA Times, John M. Glionna
- "Veteran Pakistani columnist Cowasjee passes away at 86". Dawn. 24 November 2012. Retrieved 25 November 2012.