off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Some painful reflections
from the past

I have always wished but it never happens that December 16th should not come every year because it reminds of the loss of East Pakistan which was a great national tragedy and when the sudden news of Pakistan Army’s surrender in Dhaka became known the Nation was stunned. We lost almost 80% of our family members who were either slaughtered on way to Lahore to come to Pakistan from East Punjab or died at the Wagha Border in miserable conditions. The tales which we have learnt from our parents are so frightening that I always tends to forget them but it keeps on haunting. Hence we know the value of independence how it was obtained.

When one recalls the past it brings into limelight some extremely painful episodes and a few happy moments as well. I was an eight class student in High School Burewala in early 60s when one day suddenly we learnt that all the students are being taken for Picnic to Multan and we were all very excited. Soon at about 10-.00 AM Trucks came into the school and all the students were herded on them and the journey started. After a few hours, we were asked to disembark at old Forte Multan where a political meeting was in progress in connection with the election campaign of General Ayub Khan. When we entered the stadium, a religious leader Sahibzada Faizul Hassan Faizi was speaking. In between we also heard slogans of Fatima Jinnah who was being termed as Traitor. To be frank, we did not know its meaning at that time. Later the meeting was addressed by President Ayub Khan and then we were asked to board the buses parked outside for backward journey to Burewala as the picnic had ended.

Few years later when I was studying at Government Commercial Training Institute at Multan, one day the college authorities issued me a notice to clear the dues of hostel as well as the fee otherwise I will be expelled from the college. I had no one to ask for help not even in the extended family. In sheer frustration at night I decided to write a letter to the President asking for financial assistance promising to pay back once I get the scholarship which had been delayed for some reasons. It was no less than a miracle that a letter sent by ordinary post by a student could reach the President of Pakistan, who after making necessary enquiries from Principal of the College through Deputy Commissioner Multan sanctioned a special grant of Rs. three hundred for me and the decision was conveyed to me through a telegram asking me to go to the village to get the payment which was to be delivered through Postmaster. And it all happened within two weeks. I was lucky, got the payment and cleared my hostel as well as college dues which enabled me to continue my studies for which I always thank, remember and pray for President Ayub Khan and I have also mentioned about this in my autobiography “Plight of a Medical Editor”.

After starting my professional career in a medical newspaper office in Karachi it was in 1975 that I was interviewing candidates for the job of Proof Reader that I was surprised to find out that a retired Major from Pakistan Army had also come for the interview. I asked Major Sahib, do you know what the job is and how come he thought of it and came for the interview? His answer was more surprising. He said, “Now I have decided to do Jihad with the Pen and have given up weapons.” During the discussion it became known that Major Sahib had returned from India about few months ago where he was one of the Prisoners of War (POW) after the 1971 debacle wherein we lost half the country. He was very depressed and needed some sympathy and someone to listen to him. Hence I decided to spend some time with him to console him. Speaking about the situation in the then East Paksitan, he said, “We were fed lies and never told the truth. We had gone there to fight the Indian army and the enemies but on reaching there, we found out that the ground realities were different. Most of the local population had turned against Pakistan hence how can one win a war in such circumstances, he asked? It is important that the Nation is told the truth and I wish to join some newspaper and start doing just that,” he remarked. I listened to him patiently and said, don’t worry situation will change and the better days will come. Let us not lose hope and keep our spirits alive. I politely told him with due respect that this was not the job for him, offered him a cup of tea and then escorted him out of the office as a mark of respect. I found him extremely intelligent because before leaving, he stunned me again when he said “Every army has to surrender one day and those who refuse to surrender to their people, then have to surrender to outside forces”. Last month the same sentence was repeated by a former Secretary of Islamabad Club while we were sitting in a social get together.

The next candidate who came for interview was Mr.Rahimullah Yousufzai a young intelligent man who spoke good English. He was among the hundreds of employees who lost job when Daily Sun which was published from Karachi ceased publication. He was working there as proof reader. I decided to acquire his services. Once he did not come for few days and my boss got annoyed and asked me to relieve him and arrange for some new proof reader. Enquiries revealed that he had some family problem hence was under lot of stress, hence could not come. I ask the management, I have to get work out of him, hence let me handle it and allowed him to continue. A few months later he told me that he was interested in reporting as well as rewriting of some reports the job which is done by Sub-editors. I agreed and encouraged him and surprisingly he did a marvelous job. I used to give him some assignment and he will do it promptly. Few months later his father died and he told me he will have to shift to Rawalpindi-Islamabad due to family reasons. I asked him if he was interested, he can continue working for us even there to which he agreed and this arrangements went on quite satisfactorily for quite some time. With the passage of time he became a seasoned journalist, joined Daily Muslim in Islamabad and also continued to contribute stories to our medical newspaper from time to time. He had good command over English language and being a Pushtoon was an added qualification during the Afghan War, hence he also started writing for overseas newspapers besides being regularly invited by the BBC for his comments on the prevailing situation. Later he joined The News and also became its Bureau Chief in Peshawar and we remain friends. I just encouraged him and his hidden talent became evident and he became a well-known professional journalist in his own right. Some years ago he suffered from AMI and I am told he had angioplasty and sincerely hope he is doing well though I have not heard about him since long as visit to Peshawar for many years did not allow free movement due to security reasons, though now the situation has improved a lot.

Once during the ENT conference held at Quetta, about two dozen senior professors of ENT from all over the country were invited for a dinner by Sardar Muhammad Akbar Khan Bugti through the courtesy of our friend Prof. Imdad Baluch who also served as DG Health in Benazir Bhutto’s Government in late 80s, and I was among these guests. When we reached the residence of Bugti Sahib in Quetta city, it was surrounded by armed guards all around and some were even sitting on the roof top and it was very frightening scene. Sumptuous dinner was served on a Farshi Nishist which started at about 9.00 PM followed by general disscussion which went on till early hours of next morning. Finding it a rare opportunity, I asked permission from Sardar Sahib to ask a few questions if my life was safe to which he smiled and gave me the permission. I asked him reasons for his anti -Army and Anti-Punjabi campaign, why he first joined Mr. ZA. Bhutto’s Government as Governor and then resigned, why he was not having good relations with other Sardars in Baluchistan and why the Sardars are against any development of the province particularly promoting education. I must admit he was very kind, replied to all the questions in a very cool and friendly atmosphere with very convincing arguments. Listening to him dawned upon all of us that he was as patriotic Pakistani as anyone else but there have been some misunderstandings at different levels and it suits to some opportunist elements in the country. At the end of his discourse he became a bit angry and remarked, “Once they have dealt with us, they will start producing Traitors in Punjab as well. Don’t worry just wait”? When we came out to go to our hotel Serena, Prof. Shabih H. Zaidi asked me ”Tomorrow you must sacrifice two black goats because even after having asked such questions to Sardar Akbar Bugti Sahib, you are going back alive”.

When I look at the present situation in the country, it is very depressing and frustrating as well. We have never learnt any lesson from our past mistakes and keep on making the same mistakes again and again. If we have to survive as a respectable Nation in the world, what we need is pure democracy, nothing else, free and fair elections, and truly representative government, respect the people’s mandate and work for political stability in the country which is extremely important for economic development. Let all of us make sincere efforts to promote love, harmony, friendship, burry the hatred, forget and forgive the past, start a new journey as still there is some time. Let us refuse to give up hope and keep our spirits alive, wish and pray for a stronger, peaceful, progressive, democratic Pakistan where everyone lives in peace. Ameen.

© Professional Medical Publications. All rights reserved.