By Tariq Masud
Editor’s Note: Mr.Tariq Masud was born in Jammu, migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and lived in Rawalpindi for many years. He studied in Gordon College, 1952-57. After obtaining a law degree from Lahore, he joined Civil Service in 1960. He held many important positions in AJ&K and Federal Governments, including Additional Chief Secretary Planning, Financial Commissioner and Joint Secretary Economic Affairs Division. After retirement in 1997, he was elevated to be the Mohtasib AJ&K for four years. He has also served as Chairman Pakistan Red Crescent Society, AJ&K Branch and a member of National Oversight Council for Disaster & Crises Management. He lives in Islamabad.
He was a revolutionary as well as a pacifist, a flag carrier of traditional value system but seldom hesitant to accept new ideas and compulsions of the fast changing world. Very unconventional and impulsive, he was, but prepared to accept the treaded paths when it became necessary. It is seldom that one individual combines in himself, so many opposing attributes as did Sardar Muhammad Abdul Qayyum Khan.
Sardar Qayyum was born in April 1924, in village Joli Cheer (later renamed Ghazi Abad) Tehsil Bagh, District Poonch of Jammu & Kashmir State. He left High School to join Indian Army in 1945 and served as a non-combatant in Palestine, Sudan and Egypt. Released from Army, he came home in 1947 seeking a clerical position in Soldiers Board Bagh. But destiny had something different in store for him. He made himself prominent in rising against the Maharaja’s rule and is reputed to have fired the first shot starting the war of liberation hence called the Mujahid-e-Awal.
He was in the forefront during armed struggle against Dogra rule, joined Muslim Conference to become one of the trusted assistants of Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas. After Chaudhary Sahib, he became the unanimous leader of Muslim Conference.
He remained President of AJK for 12 years (1956-57, 1970-75 and 1985-91) and Prime Minister for 5 years (July 1991 – July1996)
His inner strength came from an unflinching devotion and submission to a higher cause and from a burning desire to change the thinking and attitudes of the people. He was a commoner first and a commoner last and no worldly position he held ever distanced him from his people.
Sardar Sahib had charisma, the like of which has rarely been seen in this country but he moderated his actions with logic, consultation and consensus. With a deep-rooted commitment to the cause of liberation of Kashmir and the desire to reform and change attitudes of his people, he promoted the establishment of an egalitarian culture in AJK. Harmony and interaction between various tiers of society, uprooting red-tapism to simplify the decision-making process in the Government were the tools he tried to use, however, it took him a long time to make a dent in the hardened attitude of officials. Himself an extremely hard-working person, he expected others to follow suit and lost patience while dealing with instances of belatedness, inefficiency and callousness.
Sardar Sahib possessed remarkable self-control and ability to accept change. He had to constantly fight his inherent rigidity to accept new concepts, goals and rules. His decision-making, gradually ceased to be dictatorial and impulsive and evolved to base on consultation and consensus. He avoided confrontation unless driven to the wall. Forgiveness & affection for friends and workers, simple living and a down to earth life style providing accessibility to common man were the other hallmarks of Sardar Qayyum Sahib’s personality.
He was a devout disciple of Kaka Jee shrine and, remained ardently faithful to Pir Sahib’s family all his life. His two sons Sardar Khalique and Sardar Attique were married in Pir Sahib’s family. For several years he lived in a small bare room in Kaka Jee’s house in Rawalpindi, sleeping on the floor and eating what he could find from the langer.
During the ‘50s, he would walk daily from Kaka Jee’s house in Satellite Town to Mayo Road near Pindi Katchehry, to meet Chaudhary Ghulam Abbas who wanted him there to discuss party affairs. Most of the time Sardar Sahib did not have even bus fare but walked unflinchingly in compliance with the wishes of his leader. Sardar Sahib was always reverential to Chaudhary Sahib and never referred to him without prefixing the title of Quaid-e-Millat. I found him particularly attached to Captain Nasim of Chamyati (former Secretary Tehsil Soldier Board) with whom he had stayed in Bagh during the fateful days of 1947 when he was itching to start a rebellion against the Maharaja. Even as President, Sardar Sahib while travelling to his home in Ghazi Abad would invariably break journey at Chamyati to have a cup of tea with Captain Nasim. Sardar Sahib’s sister whom he loved more than any other family member was later married to Capt Nasim’s son.
He greatly valued his party workers, freedom fighters and competent aides; ever ready to help them. He made me personally responsible to finalize several cases where justice had long been denied or delayed. These included cases of land compensation due to late Col. Zia of “Infamous Pindi Conspiracy”, provision of approach road to the now famous school at Rawalakot established by Sardar Habib’s family, land case of Mohammad Hussain Dharray (the 1944 hockey Olympian) and reinstatement of illegally removed Pathan engineer Bostan Khan. Bostan was a simpleton Pathan Executive Engineer who was framed by his clever colleagues and was removed from service. He ran from pillar to post but was denied justice. He had become a recluse, his children out of schools and the family almost a pauper. Sardar Sahib emphasized that Bostan Khan was an outsider with no connections in AJK and needed our full support to fight against the powerful PWD mafia. Bostan’s whole life changed when the courier delivered to him, a fat cheque of arrears. He became so emotional while thanking Sardar Sahib that only Sardar Sahib could stop him from uttering blasphemy.
It was fascinating to see that Sardar Sahib, though a high school dropout, was indeed a very educated person. He had worked hard all his life in self-education and never hesitated to learn from anybody at any time. He would ask questions and would consult a dictionary if a new word or phrase was spoken before him, and would then use the newly learnt word in his own conversation. His grasp and memory was remarkable and over the years, he developed an admirable command over the English language, written as well as spoken. He spoke to hundreds of visiting delegations from prestigious institutions all over the world and delivered impressive lectures at ace institutions in Canada, USA, UK and elsewhere. He could effectively deal with incisive and troublesome interviewers like Tim Sebestian of BBC and Sharma\ Thapur of Zee TV
It was a pleasure working with him. It was always a two-way traffic, particularly while drafting important letters, during times of conflict with the Federal Government. He would himself draft acrid letters, I would tone them down, arguments and counter arguments would ensue, he would change my draft beyond recognition, I would resubmit arguing against writing such letters and a heated discussion would commence. My effort was to keep him out of a collision course with ZAB Government. Despite the bouts of writing angry letters, Sardar Sahib expressed great admiration for ZAB and that Mr. Bhutto too, I am sure, watched Sardar Sahib with interest and admiration, also picked up couple of things from Sardar Sahib. Once Sardar Sahib remarked, “Instead of these psychos who are making the task of Mr. Bhutto so difficult, if I was ever to be the Secretary General of PPP, I would put new life in it to make it a real People’s Party and fascilitate Bhutto Sahib’s Natioal level task”.
In 1973, when ZAB abruptly left Mangla for Islamabad, missing a luncheon hosted in his honour by K.H. Khursheed, Sardar Sahib shared with us that the reason ZAB did not want to eat that afternoon was to ensure that he keeps a clear head and remains alert for important discussions with Henry Kissinger in Islamabad that evening. Sardar Sahib was deeply impressed by this action of Mr. Bhutto.
Sardar Sahib repeatedly advised ZAB not to extend PPP or allow other Pakistan based political parties into AJK as that was bound to escalate local conflicts and result in dilution of unanimous support for the Kashmir cause but ZAB did not take that advice because he wanted the monopoly of Muslim Conference broken.
The Federal Government did not allow Sardar Sahib to freely operate in Pakistan and many hurdles were placed in his way. Confrontation with Islamabad for the first time reached its peak during the Islamic Summit in 1974. Federal Government did not want to see Sardar Sahib in Lahore while Sardar Sahib was determined to take full advantage of Islamic leaders’ presence. Literature on Kashmir cause was updated and reprinted. Special folders were prepared with Sardar Sahib’s letter to the Islamic heads. The task of delivering the folders to the heads of states was achieved by sympathetic co-operation of the Foreign Office officials deputed with heads of the state. Sardar Sahib fixed a briefing session on Kashmir with foreign correspondents at Pearl Continental Hotel, Lahore. The hotel was coerced by Lahore Administration to cancel the reservation hours before the event. Sardar Sahib told the hotel adminstration that if the reserved and paid for hotel hall was refused he would hold the briefing in the hotel lawn. Muslim Conference workers started making necessary arrangements and tension rose high. At that point Sahibzada Rauf IGP Punjab who had earlier served as IGP AJK and was well-known asked me to convey to Sardar Sahib that the Government will have no option but to arrest Sardar Sahib if he does not desist from holding the press conference. I told Sahibzada that I will convey his message but he should realize that it would not be the first arrest of Sardar Sahib’s life and in case Government of Punjab does commit this blunder it will be extremely damaging for the Government of Pakistan.
PPP formed the AJK Government in 1975. In a dinner hosted for ZAB by President Sardar Ibrahim Khan, the new AJK PM, Khan Hamid complained that important matters of AJK were not being given due attention. ZAB retorted “You only sit and make complaints. You have to move. How many times have you written to the Federal Government? Sardar Qayyum used to make my life miserable by repeatedly writing letters about important AJK issues. You should learn from Sardar Qayyum”.
Sardar Sahib felt reluctant to agree to the ordinary definition of “merit”. He would remark, “Merit is proportionate to the sacrifices one has made for the liberation of this territory, it is not marks obtained in the university alone.
Sardar Sahib did not let go of an opportunity to help people but at the same time, kept his integrity intact. One time, I put up the case of new ad-hoc entrants who had been selected on the basis of an examination. He wanted the son of a freedom fighter appointed whom he had summoned from Karachi. I argued that the boy in question was way down the merit list and I could not recommend him. Sardar Sahib tried to prevail but finding me adamant, he threw the pen down and stopped working further. I quietly collected my files and went out. I couldn’t sleep that night reflecting, “Of what use is a Prime Minister if he cannot even appoint a temporary grade 16 officer of his choice.” But then I found solace in the fact that my submission was correct and lawful. He showed some displeasure the next two days but reflected on it and without letting his ego come in the way, became his usual self on the third day and approved the relevant file also.
Kashmir cause was dearest to his heart and every action he took while in office was subservient to the considerations of Kashmir cause. He did lobbying for Kashmir on a fairly large-scale – more than any other leader has been able to do. He toured foreign countries, meeting and speaking to large number of opinion makers, invited and hosted influential delegations from a number of countries, invited journalists and writers from abroad, encouraging them to write about Kashmir in other languages, regularly attended OIC and Friends of Kashmir meetings in European Parliaments, maintained regular and good relations with All Parties Hurriyat Conference, often stating that it will be APHC who will represent Kashmiris at any decisive forum and that he would gladly follow the dictates of APHC.
He did his best to bring all shades of opinion in AJK at one platform and held periodic meetings with intellectuals, writers and opinion makers to bring about a national consensus on Kashmir. He carefully selected a competent team of advisors to work with him on Kashmir. Khalid Hassan looked after lobbying on Kashmir in Washington (even though AJK could only provide him nominal funds), Dr. Attiya Inayat Ullah, M. Yusuf, Air Martial Ayaz, Z.U. Khan and Prof. Khattak were also included in his delegations from time to time.
Sardar Sahib was born in a middle class peasant family. He remained a commoner all his life. He was down to earth and simple in habits, never losing contact with the common man. He was easily accessible and fully understood the limitations of the common man. Despite the fact that he remained in office as President or Prime Minister for a long time, he lived a simple life. His ancestral house was a typical rural house in his village and he later built a modest urban house in Rawalpindi. Sardar Sahib did not eat much. He took his main meal of the day in the afternoon and seldom ate a meal in the evening. He did not touch farm chickens and preferred goat meat with black pepper. Sardar Sahib relished eating corn on the cob and seldom missed the opportunity of visiting his village during October to eat corn from his own land. He habitually slept on the floor. He observed many fasts.
It was customary for Sardar Sahib to go into Chillas, especially in times of crises. He would confine himself to a room, eat almost nothing, refrain from speaking and indulge in prolonged Duas. I used to send him handwritten notes if there was anything important.
Sardar Sahib was a humane person and a splendid host. I have seen him serving food to guests visiting his home in Ghaziabad.
Once visiting Saudi Arabia as a state guest, my wife and I also formed part of his entourage. In Madina, his old khadim and relative Abdullah (then settled in Saudi Arabia) brought gifts for Sardar Sahib’s family, bringing a gift for my wife also. Sardar Sahib was extremely pleased with this gesture. Addressing my wife and admonishing himself he said, “Beta, Mujh sey tau Abdullah hi acha hai jisay khayal raha, Itnay dinoon sey tum hamaray sath ho magar mujhay khayal na aaya”. With this utterance, he thrust 300 dollars in my wife’s palm.
When a cardiac procedure was to be performed on him in a Washington hospital, it was the President and Secretary General of APPNA (Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America) in person who pushed Sardar Sahib’s stretcher trolley into the surgery.
Last time I met him was two year ago. He had sent a message wanting to see me. He looked frail and exhausted but had the same glint. He had nothing special to say to me except gleefully recounting some past events.
He left this temporary world and proceeded to his heavenly abode 10 July 2015 after a protracted illness. Rest in peace, Sardar Sahib. It was an honour to serve with him.