‘My Father; Maj Gen Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi (Late)’

In memory of Maj Gen Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi (Late).

By Maj Gen Waqar Ahmad Kingravi (R), 50th PMA

Image of Maj Gen Waqar Ahmad Kingravi (Retired), Aviation, 50th PMAEditor’s Note: Maj Gen Waqar Ahmad Kingravi (Retd) was commissioned in 26 Punjab Regt in Oct 1974 and joined Army Aviation in the early stage of his service. After the retirement, he has settled in DHA Islamabad.

Ex Engineer-in-Chief of Pakistan Army, Maj Gen Iftikhar Ahmad KingraviThirtieth September 2004 was an extremely sad day for me when my father died. I cannot believe that thirteen years have already elapsed since he passed away. But alas, this is the law of nature and this is what God has ordained for us. May Allah Bless his soul in Heaven. My father had been ill for the last many months and I would not leave the station in order to spend maximum time with him. As fate would have it, I had to go to Rahim Yar Khan for one single day, and that was the day that he died. This is how fate unfolds itself.

I think all children idolize their parents and I am no exception. For me, my father was an exceptional man. Tall, well-built and handsome. His fair skin and strange-sounding last name made some people think that perhaps he was a foreigner. It was only once he spoke Punjabi in his Jullundhri accent, that they would realize otherwise. His rugged younger days pictures reminds one of Gregory Peck, the famous actor of yonder years. His sober and polished behaviour while in public, made him stand out as a distinguished personality. His honesty and integrity was well above-board. He scrupulously maintained personal records and never failed to file his tax returns well in time. Although not outwardly very religious, he had unshakable faith in God and completely understood the message of Islam in accordance with the Holy Quran, which he had studied thoroughly. His dealings were so fair that all members of his family as well as my mother’s side of the family would refer to him for important decisions.

My father was born on 1st May 1917, in a small village called ‘Kingra’, on the outskirts of Jullundhar (Part of India now). My grandfather, Chaudhry Shah Ali, was a lawyer and had joined the Punjab Police, which was a prestigious service at that time, as a Prosecuting Inspector. After Partition of the Sub Continent into India and Pakistan on 14 August 1947, he established his own legal practice subsequent to migrating to Lahore. My father decided to add Kingravi to his name, after the name of his village. This was in vogue at that time as we have examples of Ludhianvi, Dehlvi, etc, where people would add the place of their birth to their names. My father always wanted to be an engineer and had an insatiable urge to explore and experiment right from an early age. In fact, many a times he got into trouble for dismantling household things and then trying to assemble them again.

After clearing his Matriculation exam from Government High School, Palwal, near Gurgaon, where my grandfather was posted, he joined Indian Technical Institute, New Delhi, where he obtained a diploma in Electrical Engineering. Thereafter he joined the course for AMIEE (Associated Members of Indian Electrical Engineers) from British Institute of Engineering Technology. In March 1940, he graduated as an Engineer with a degree from the Institute of Electrical Engineers, London. Since the 2nd World War was well under way by that time, there was a huge demand for officers and men to join the Armed Forces. Therefore, my father decided to join the Engineers Corps of Indian Army. At that time regular admission at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun had been stopped and only Emergency Commissions were being granted. After a wait of almost one year for the necessary interviews and other formalities to be completed, he finally got a call to join for a six months training course at the Headquarters of Bombay Sappers and Miners in Kirkee, near Pune, Maharashtra State, South East India, on 1st January 1942.

Photo of 2/Lt Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi, Corps of EngineersHe obtained his commission in June 1942 and was posted to No 1 E&M Group located at Lahore and then to 614 E&M Coy (Electrical & Mechanical Company), which was newly raised in Lahore. Thereafter he served in various locations within India and participated in active operations in Burma (Now Myanmar), Malaya (Now Malaysia) and Indonesia. During the final days of the 2nd World War, his unit was sailing towards the Western Coast of Malaya as part of an invasion force to land near Port Swettenham (Now Port Klang, Malaysia), once the Americans wiped out the Japanese Cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with Atomic Bombs, resulting in an immediate Japanese surrender. The invasion force thus avoided an opposed landing as the Japanese soldiers had disappeared into the jungles.

The war in Europe had already ended much earlier and with the Japanese surrender, the British officers started awaiting demobilization and return back home. In September 1945, the Coy 2IC (Second in Command) left for home and my father took over from him. In Jan 1946, the OC (Officer Commanding) also left and my father became the OC of 614 E&M Coy. By now momentous events were taking place back in India as the Independence Movement had gained momentum. Partition Plan of the Sub Continent was taking shape, but unfortunately this also brought about turmoil in the country and Hindu Muslim riots had also started. My father was thus anxious to get back home. Finally, in April 1947, he embarked his unit at Port Swettenham and sailed for Madras with the final destination of Lahore. Upon reaching Lahore in June 1947, he handed over his unit to a Hindu Major in July 1947, since his Company was composed of Hindus. The unit was taken to the Indian part of the Sub Continent to form part of Indian Army and my father was posted to 605 E&M Company, which was part of 474 Group in Lahore.

At the end of 2nd World War, my father realized that since he was an Emergency Commissioned Officer, he would have to leave the Army after his return from Malaya, so he applied to the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) for entry into the Central Service of Railway Engineers. Early in 1947, he received a call up notice to appear before this Commission at Simla and sailed from Singapore to Madras and on to Simla by train for the interview, in which he was successful. He returned to his unit in Malaya in February 1947. Just before the establishment of Pakistan, he received a call from the FPSC to report for medical examination prior to joining the Railways Service. However, upon seeing the events taking shape in the Sub Continent and the ensuing turmoil, my father decided to continue his Army Service by opting to join Pakistan Army.

During this time Emergency Commissioned officers were being asked for award of a Regular Commission, if found fit. My father applied for the same and on 11 July 1947, he was called to appear before the 58th Service Selection Board at Dehradun. Incidentally, the President of the Board was Col Muhammad Ayub Khan (Later Field Marshal and President of Pakistan). After a series of tough interviews and tasks, my father was the only Muslim officer of that batch, who qualified for the grant of a regular commission.

Major Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi at 58th Service Selection Board, Dehradun, 11 July 1947

The Hindu Muslim riots had gathered strength by July 1947 and now my father was worried about the safety of his family in Jullundhar. After obtaining permission from his CO, he took a military truck to Jullundhar, where he found that his village had been devastated and thousands of Muslims of Jullundhar City had been gathered in a Refugee Camp on the outskirts of the City. He found his family in a shell-shocked state, but safe. He brought them back to Lahore along with as many as he could carry, with a promise to the others that he will come back for more. Thereafter, he got hold of several trucks and made a few more trips to Jullundhar and back, taking Hindus to Amritsar on the outward journey and bringing back Muslims. It was heartbreaking for him to see people begging for a lift while he could evacuate only a limited number.

On the other hand my mother’s father who was a senior Sub Judge in Delhi, had just been posted to Gujranwala as a Sessions Judge. He and his family barely managed to reach Lahore by the last train from Delhi on the 14th of August 1947, the day Pakistan got her independence. Those were really tragic times in which hundreds of thousands of people of the Sub Continent lost everything, including their lives. My parents families were among the lucky ones to reach Pakistan safely with only a few belongings which they could carry. In other cases, whole trainloads and other convoys were ambushed and butchered by marauding bands. Muslim officers and men who had opted for Pakistan Army made their best efforts to protect and escort the Muslim convoys, but the sheer magnitude of the task overwhelmed them. One of my father’s colleague, Maj Tufail (Later Col) reached a convoy too late and saw that everyone had been butchered. Suddenly he heard the cry of a baby and after looking around, he found an infant girl whose parents were dead but she was unhurt. He carried her back with him and brought her up as his own daughter.

My father had been engaged to my mother a couple of years before Independence. I believe that it was love at first sight. Due to his service commitments and deployment abroad during 2nd World War, their marriage could not take place. Soon after settling down in Lahore after the creation of Pakistan, my father got married in a simple ceremony in Gujranwala on 9th of November 1947.

Maj Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi with his bride on 9 Nov 1947 in Gujranwala

There was no time to idle around since things had heated up due to the fraudulent accession of the Muslim majority State of Jammu and Kashmir with India by the Hindu Maharaja. Early in 1948, my father had been posted to 43 Field Park Coy in Nowshera, which was soon inducted in Kashmir to support operations against the Indian aggression to forcibly occupy Jammu and Kashmir. Their task was to build roads and improve tracks, some of which were not even jeep-able.

Photo of Major Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi, Corps of Engineers, Pakistan ArmyImage of Lieutenant Colonel Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi, Corps of Engineers, Pakistan ArmyTowards the end of 1948, my father was detailed for a two-year course in the Royal School of Military Engineering, Chatham, UK. This was a pleasant interlude to the hectic activities of the past many years. It was here that my eldest sister, Iffat was born on 17 November 1949. After his return from UK, my father was posted to Wah, where Pakistan’s first major Ordnance factory was under construction. Being the CMES (Materials), he was responsible for providing all the stores required for the construction of the Factory as well as the residential accommodation. He was also responsible for electrification, air conditioning and water supply. For the purpose of water supply, my father established a pumping station at Wah Springs and laid pipelines up to underground tanks in the factory area, which are functioning properly even today.

After his stint in Wah, my father was posted as CI (Chief Instructor) in the School of Military Engineers (SME, now CME, College of Military Engineers) at Risalpur, next to Nowshera. It was during this tenure that my 2nd sister, Nighat and I were born. I was born at the CMH in Nowshera on 13 November 1954. My early years in life were spent in Risalpur, of which I have some vague but pleasant memories. My younger brother, Nisar, was born much later in March 1963 at Rawalpindi.

My father’s professional progression went along smoothly and he held many important appointments till he reached the apex of his career by being promoted to the rank of Major General and being appointed as the E-in-C (Engineer in Chief) of Pakistan Army in 1969. At that time there used to be only one Maj Gen in the entire Corps of Engineers. It was during his time that the link-up of the KKH (Karakoram Highway) took place between the Pakistanis and the Chinese.

Maj Gen Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi as the E-in-C of Pakistan Army

My father had clean-cut habits and led a regulated life. He remained physically fit throughout his life and made sure that we also took care of our health. Even though there was plenty of obesity on my mother’s side of the family, he ensured that my mother did not gain extra weight. My parents would regularly go for walks, whatever the weather and everyone in Westridge area (in Rawalpindi) knew that it was time for their daily walk. He used to tell us that without health, you would not be able to enjoy life, even if you became millionaires. I remember that one time I came home on vacations and upon noticing a slight paunch, he straight away reprimanded me. He was also very particular about personal hygiene and had a strong nose to immediately detect who had not taken a bath. His meal times were fixed and we as children would get a furious stare if we came late to the dining table. He never used to eat in between his meals and would also take very little while visiting friends. He did not like the people who insisted or forced him to take more.

My father was upright, honest and a man of principles. He was a no-nonsense type who would straight away get to the point and not go around in circles to explain his view-point. He expected the same from others. He never indulged in cribbing or loose talk. In fact, I never heard him talk against anybody. He also did not allow others in the family to discuss personalities or to indulge in back biting. He was apparently strict, but had a very kind heart. He was quite reserved and would keep a distance even from his children. Ironically, it was only in the last part of his life that he did open up with us and talked to us about his early life. Nevertheless, he always gave us good advice from time to time. He gave his children very good values to follow in life. In addition to the normal values like not telling lies, stealing or hurting the feelings of others, etc, he taught us to be content with whatever we had. He himself was the most content man who I have ever seen because he had solid faith in Allah. He told us to ask only from Allah and never to expect anything from other people. He told us to always work hard to achieve our goals and then, leave everything to God. This is a very simple statement in itself, but extremely hard to act upon, because normally one tends to please others in order to get rewards.

He never misused government resources, nor let others to do so. In those days families were not allowed to travel in Staff Cars except once they were required to go for accompanied dinners or other official functions. My mother once narrated to me that sometimes, even if he saw my mother walking to some neighbor’s house in the vicinity, he would just go past in his Staff Car without stopping. He was also very patriotic. It was in this spirit that our parents used to talk to us in Urdu while continuing to converse in Punjabi among themselves, because Urdu had been declared as the National Language after Partition.

Another very important advice that he gave us was to never be greedy. He said that the world is full of Con men who would do a confidence trick on you by painting rosy pictures, in order to swindle you of your money or property. He also told us to spend wisely and to save for a rainy day. Once I was very young and studying in St. Mary’s High School, I became friends with the son of a very rich family, the Saigols, who owned a lot of industries including the Kohinoor Textile Mills. One day he invited me to his huge house and showed me his collection of Dinky Toys. These were small metallic replicas of different cars, trucks, etc, and were very expensive and rare in those days. He had a playroom full of these Dinkys and other toys displayed on shelves all around the room. When I was about to return to my home, he offered that I could take away one Dinky as a gift. I was overwhelmed with joy and chose my favorite truck and brought it home. When I told my parents about this gift from my generous friend, to my horror they got angry with me for accepting this expensive gift and told me to return it the next morning. With a heavy heart I returned it to my friend who could not understand as to why I was doing so. Anyway, I learnt a very important lesson in life, that is, not to accept gifts from someone who you cannot reciprocate.

In summers every year my father would book the MES Rest House in Upper Topa, near Gharial, Murree, to spend a couple of weeks in the cool and serene environment with his family. I was studying in Lawrence College, Ghora Gali, and my parents would pick me up on weekends so that I could spend some time with them. On one occasion, my father came to collect me and he was alone. While we were silently travelling towards the Rest House in my father’s beautiful Mercedes (He loved good cars), he decided that it was time to dish out some advice. He said that, “Son, you are growing up and entering a phase of life in which young lads can go astray and indulge in wrong habits. Some go to women of bad repute and do other wrong things. You must avoid such things and beware of others who dare you to do so. You must remember that there is nothing better than living a clean life”. At first I was shocked to hear my father saying these unexpected things, but I kept a straight face and firmly registered his advice. ‘Living a clean life’ remained stuck in my mind and later in life I realized the true worth of this invaluable advice. Having a clean conscience enables you to have mental peace and comfort.

Mercedes-Benz car of Major General Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi

My father was well read and liked collecting good books. He had all sorts of classics in his private library. He made a beautiful wood-paneled study in one corner of his house and would retreat into it in the evening to enjoy some classical music and to read. He also subscribed to a large number of periodicals and magazines like Time, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, etc. He loved humour and Punch magazine was his favorite. He used to cut out the cartoons from the daily newspaper and then bind these into small booklets. He had a lot of hobbies and book binding was one of them. He told me how he learnt this skill. After his Matriculation exam, he had some free time before joining college. He used this time by voluntarily sitting with the different tradesmen of the village and learnt their skills. These included the book binder, the cobbler, the tailor, the carpenter, the blacksmith, etc. This is how he was able to do a lot of tasks around the house out of his own free will. In addition to book binding, I saw him repair curtains, cushion covers, chairs, sofas and many other things. When my elder son, Hassan, was about five or six years old, I heard him telling his other cousins, “No problem, go ahead and break it (some toy), Abba will repair it”.

Library of Major General Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi, Wood-paneled Study

My father had his own workshop in the garage, fully equipped with all sorts of tools. He loved working with his own hands to do the various maintenance jobs around the house. He also liked to paint and did water colours as well as oil paintings. My mother also took up painting and later my sister Nighat, took up fine Arts and became an accomplished artist.

Painting by Maj Gen Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi, ex Engineer-in-Chiefof Pakistan Army

Gardening was also one of the hobbies of my father and he loved to have a variety of flowers, plants and fruit trees in the house. He loved having little children playing around the house. He would devise some small projects for his grand children to work on. For example, give them a few pieces of wood to make a ship or truck, etc. My father also loved dogs and I remember that we always had a dog in our house (Not inside). He used to get a pure Alsatian puppy from the Army Dog Center and then raise it.

Puppies & Dogs of Major General Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi, ex E-in-C

Photo of Brigadier Naseeruddin Humayun, EngineersMy father was choosy when it came to making friends. He had a few but sincere friends whose company he enjoyed. There was Col Tufail and Col A.A.Raza from Engineers Corps. Then there were Mr Sharif in POF Wah and Brig Nazir of the Education Corps, whose wives were also my mother’s class fellows and best friends, and then there was my Uncle (Khaloo) Col Dr Nazir and Mr Javed who worked in CDA, Islamabad. We enjoyed going for picnics with Uncle Nazir and Javed. We used to address all of them as ‘Uncle’ and ‘Aunty’, and enjoyed playing with their children, who were in the same age group as us. My father had a boyish grin and a boisterous laugh. We could hear loud guffaws emanating from the ‘Drawing Room’ once they visited each other. I think Uncle and Aunty Tufail had the most infectious and loud laughter. But my father was the happiest to be in the company of his bachelor best friend, Brig Naseeruddin Humayun from the Engineers Corps. His joy knew no bounds once he used to come to know that Brig Humayun is in town and his grin would literally be from chin to chin, in anticipation of meeting him.

Photo of Major General Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi (Retired) in 2002My father was a good planner and had great foresight. He made good investments in the Shares Market and also used to save in the National Savings Schemes. From time to time he would give monetary gifts to his children. He did not believe in ostentatious living and waste of money, but maintained a decent life style. He was fully settled in his own house once he retired. He made arrangements to ensure that my mother would keep getting a healthy amount to maintain her standard of living after he was gone. One day he told me that I should look after my mother and other family members after he was gone. I was shocked on hearing this and said that he should not talk about dying. He replied, “Even though only God knows whose time is up, I am ten years older than your mother and most probably I will go first. That is why I am telling you this”. A few years before his death, he handed over four type written pages to each of his children. The title of this paper was, ‘Some Notes for the Guidance of My Children’. In addition to general guidelines on how to live an honourable and upright life, it also contained guidelines for our conduct with regard to inheritance after both parents are gone. No one wants to see their parents die, but this is a harsh reality of life. It is amazing as to how my father prepared us to face this reality. May Allah bless his soul in Heaven. We surely miss him dearly.

Remembering Maj Gen Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi, ex Engineer-in-Chief Pakistan Army

Those on Facebook can see the Photo Album of Maj Gen Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi by clicking at the following link:-

Photo Album of Maj Gen Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi, ex E-in-C of Pakistan Army

The original article about Maj Gen Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi can also be read on Facebook by clicking at the following link:-
‘My Father; Major General Iftikhar Ahmad Kingravi (Late)’ (On Facebook)

Related Pages
Remembering Our Comrades
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)
“My Friend Shakeel”, by Waqar Kingravi
“ASPIRING FOR WINGS”, by Waqar Kingravi

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Comments

  1. Farooq Ahmed Hashmi says:

    Indeed, an interesting write up to learn high morals needed badly in our present day setup.

  2. Maj (retd.) Dr. Zia ur Rahman (13th PMA) says:

    What a wonderful tribute to an illustrious father from a loving son!

  3. Gajanand Thakur says:

    Truly inspiring. In this materialistic world, a son remembers his father for honesty and integrity; heart-touching!

  4. Lt Col Zuabir Ahmed, Canada says:

    Commendable!

  5. Maj Mohammad Safdar (2nd SSC), USA says:

    Very inspiring and heart touching. Pray the next generation and the coming up of all of us follow the suit with same spirit.
    May the departed soul rest in eternal peace.

  6. Col Shah Alam, Canada says:

    A disclaimer first. I have had the privilege of knowing the author personally for a long time: my comments may thence be viewed in that context.

    Gen Waqar! Thanks for writing and sharing this captivating memoir about your late father which is an all-in-one biography, tribute, and an obituary. He was certainly a very fortunate man to have lived a long, healthy an successful life and be blessed with children who are carrying forward the baton so ably. I’m glad that the adage — like father, like son — fits and survives.

    I was pleasantly surprised and heartened to read of your father’s DIY skills — bookbinding, repairing curtains, etc — which he learned in his school days. I do not know of many who took the time to learn, leave alone ever put those skills to practice, and continued doing so till late in life. These are saintly habits which speak so highly of his humbleness.

    It’s indeed rare these days to hear or meet people of Gen Iftikhar’s character — that’s his honesty and up-righteousness, and the guidelines he handed over to his children is even rarer. His advice has rewarded his children well in their life and they will reap more if they continue to follow it.

    Stay blessed and don’t take the eye off the ball — especially in so far as your father’s guidelines.

    My best wishes for you and prayers for the departed soul.

  7. Lt Gen Javed Alam Khan (R) says:

    Waqar,
    Very well written and a fitting tribute to a great father from a loving son! I remember seeing your father and your family when they visited Lawrence College, Peake House to visit you. Your father had an amazing personality and I have a vivid memory of a tall and very handsome man. Good to see that his teachings rubbed of on you as you also served with grace and carry an excellent reputation as an officer and a gentleman.

  8. Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (ABD-1) says:

    Dear Gen Waqar Kingravi,
    It is a wonderful tribute by a son to his father,
    May your father’s soul rest in eternal peace at the choicest station in Jannat-ul-Firdous, Aameen.
    Regards.

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