Friday, 12 September 2014

Dr.Khan Sahib remembered

Originally published by the Frontier Post, May 27, 2004

By Syed Afzaal Hussain Zaidi

Forty-six years ago on May 9, 1958, an assassin's dagger pierced through Dr. Khan Sahib's heart and snuffed a life of devotion to the service of down trodden and deprived people. Sir Olaf Caroe author of the famous book "The Pathans" recorded that once when he asked the Doctor who was his role model instantly he replied Sher Shah Suri whose name shines in history for building roads, Sarais and wells for welfare of common people.

President Iskander Mirza, his life long friend, paying homage to Dr. Khan Sahib described him as "the greatest Pathan of his times, a great leader and a gallant gentleman whose life-long fight in the cause of freedom, his sufferings and sacrifices for the sake of his convictions and his passion to do good to the common man were the attributes of a really great man." In my official position as Information Officer, I came into contact with Dr. Khan Sahib on December 2, 1954, the very day he was sworn in as Minister for Communication and Railways in Muhammad Ali Bogra's Cabinet. Thus began a relationship of utmost devotion from me and trust and affection by him as long as he lived. His most endearing quality, which stuck me, was his total commitment to the service of the common people of Pakistan. Addressing the officers of the Ministry of Communications and Railways immediately after assuming charge of the Ministry he said ""I have no desire but the service of the people and this is what I expect from all whom God has placed in positions of power. We should endeavour to translate political freedom into ways and means for social and economic uplift of our people". He said he was a member of an interim government and for a short period with them wants to accomplish one or two things which should really alleviate the sufferings of the people. In the discussion, that followed there was consensus that people of Karachi faced great hardship due to inadequate transport facilities in the fast expanding metropolis. Dr. Khan Sahib commissioned a senior officer of Pakistan Railways to prepare a plan for transport for Karachi. As a result of Dr. Khan Sahib's personal interest in the project, the Karachi Road Transport Corporation came into being.

Dr. Khan Sahib was meticulous in attending his office in the Tughlaq House. He would first examine the chart of the arrivals and departures of the trains at and from Karachi. He believed that the punctuality of the trains was an indicator of the efficiency of the Railways. An incident comes to mind. The Karachi Mirpukhas train was usually running late. Dr. Khan Sahib issued several warnings to the divisional superintendent of Railways but to no avail. Dr. Khan Sahib ordered transfer of the officer, who was brother-in-law of the Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra, to East Pakistan Railways. The Prime Minister interceded on behalf of his brother-in-law but Dr. Khan Sahib refused to withdraw his orders.

Dr. Khan Sahib himself would draw schedule of his engagements. Every month he would travel by train to Peshawar would look into the amenities in the lower class compartments, and state of cleanliness at the Railway Stations. Every week he would visit the Karachi Port to see the progress of construction of new jetties. Every third month he would visit East Pakistan, to inspect progress of expansion of Chittagong Port and Railway, and post and telecommunications projects. He would discuss his observations with the Heads of the Departments. He was averse to file work and rarely wrote notes on the files. He believed in direct approach to the subject.

Dr. Khan Sahib developed close trust in Syed Mufidul Hasan, Director General of Railways, Col. S.A Siddiqui, Director General of Postal Services and Mr. Muhammad Hussain, Chief Engineer of Telecommunications. I heard him saying a number of times that Pakistan should be proud of these officers. One incident comes to memory. The Ministry of Finance had proposed to increase the price of post card by one paisa in order to recover cost of production. Dr. Khan Sahib put his foot down. He said post card was poor man's mode of communication and he should not be burdened. He used to say postman was the most deprived official and deserved substantial increase in salary. He spoke to Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, Finance Minister Chaudhri Sahib regretted that the budget was already stretched to the utmost limit. Dr. Khan Sahib conveying finance minister's response to Col.. Siddiqui said, "What can you expect from a babu."

met Dr. Khan Sahib last time in April 1958. He came from Lahore to stay with President Iskander Mirza. I went to pay my respects. While I was with him, the President walked into the room. They talked for a couple of minutes in Pushto. Suddenly Dr. Khan Sahib addressing the President said "Malik Sahib (Malik Feroze Khan Noon) has told me you have forced him to grant another extension to that man (General Ayub Khan). You take it from me he will stab you as his brother (Sardar Bahadur Khan) has stabbed me." Iskander Mirza laughed. Then he seized Dr. Khan Sahib 's arms saying "come, Khanum is waiting for us at lunch table", led him out of the room.
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