COMMENTARY
 
In Memory of My Father
The Nation
February 24, 1999
I always wanted to writ this, to pay tribute to my father while he was still alive. A tribute to his philanthropic services for the people of Seraiki belt! A tribute to his war against the patients of tuberculosis in that region! But he is no more there to read this. My father died of heart attack on February 8 in Bhakkar, our home-town. He was 86. May God bless his soul!

Fazal Muhammad Chaudhry was the name of this great person, who devoted his life to public cause. First as a politician, then as a philanthropist. Since my childhood, I have seen him as a person who is always active in social life. His public commitment, often at the expense of his family life, had its roots in the days of the Partition. He was one of those pre-partition generations of people who understood all the pains and sufferings the subcontinent Muslims underwent to create Pakistan.

So, at whatever level he could, my father tried to follow the path Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had chosen for our great nation. You sit with him; he would proudly recall his experiences of seeing the Quaid from a close distance, how once the Quaid smiled at him during one Muslim League procession in Faisalabad, when he told the Quaid, “Hindu women are showering flowers upon you.” And he would tell you how the Quaid spoke on that occasion. A speech that my father would make in Quaid’s voice.

Fazal Muhammad Chaudhry was born in an average Punjabi family in 1913 in the Hoshiarpur district of present Indian state of East Punjab, where he also received his education. After their marriage in the early 1940s, he and my mother migrated to Pakistan and settled in Faisalabad, where my father took active part in freedom struggle from the platform of Muslim League.

One of the leading lights in Punjab during those days was cricketer Imran Khan’s grand-father Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan, a physician and family friend. He had four sons: Irman’s father Ikramullah, Amahullah, Zafarullah and Faizullah. The latter two were close friends of my father and they persuaded him back in mid-50s to come to and settle down in Bhakkar, then a thesil of Mianwali. And he did, after buying some farmland.

Together Zafarullah Khan Niazi and my father invested in the petroleum business, which continued until the late 70s when he suffered the first heart attack. Until then, he remained active on the political front. Until the early 70s, he served as Punjab president of the Pakistan Democratic Party (PDP) of Nawabzada Nasrullah. But then he developed some differences with Nawabzada, due to the latter’s unwillingness to share the party’s top slot with other party stalwarts. Afterwards, politicians would hardly impress him. The only present politician who remained in close contact with my father was MNA Hamza. During the 1970 election, I remember my father making a speech in the city’s main park along with other leaders, including Nawabzada and Maulana Abdul Sattar Khan Niazi, in which he presented six-points against Sheikh Mujeeb-ur-Rehman’ s six points. This is one of the childhood memories about his political life that I always cherish. Maulana Niazi was a frequent visitor to our home back in the sixties and seventies.

During the Ayub khan regime, my father stood by Maulana Niazi against the giant of Nawab of Kalabagh—against all odds. He came to the Seraiki region only in 1954, but could win the city’ councillorship from the local feudal Shahani in Ayub’s Basic Democracies’ polls. So quick was he in developing a social and political clout in that area, where you still see one of the worst forms of feudalism!

I still remember my father organizing the city fair, where Suriyya Multaneegar would sing. I still remember how good my father was in playing tennis at the Railway’s club. When he left PDP, my father established his own party, Thal Kissan Party. As its president, my father fought for the rights of the people of Thal desert, especially on irrigation matters. This fight went on, until his ill health in the late 70s. Since then, he had quit politics.

Until mid-80s, he remained chairman of the city’s Zakat and Usher Committee. And, then he became a philanthropist, starting his greatest ambition in life: curing as many tuberculosis patients as possible, in an area full of disease, poverty and suffering. He accomplished this task from the platform of Punjab Anti-Tuberculosis Association (PATA), whose branch he established in Bhakkar in 1985. Particularly in the last eight or nine years, he spent his days and nights in this activity. We in the family would always ask him to rest, now that he was very old and also suffering form heart trouble. But he won’ listen. His office was located in Bhakkar’s old civil hospital. Medicine was free. So was X-Ray. For patients’ relief, a hall was also built. Like medicine and X-Ray, all services for patients were freely available.

From morning till afternoon, he would sit in his office, with the photos of the Quaid and Allama Iqbal hanging on the wall. You visit him, and he would tell you all the details of how many patients were cured, how many of them were receiving medical help, how much funding he was able to secure form PATA head offices in Lahore, form the district administration, and from friends and relations. Since 1985, nearly 3,000 TB patients were completely cured. Until the end of 1998, some 150 patients were still receiving medial help from the organization.

‘Work, work and work’ was my father’s prime motive in life. And he worked till the end. Just 20 minutes before leaving this world, he was busy clearing the files and signing the cheques at his office. Like my father, there are many people in our country who are serving its national causes without being in public limelight. We must honor them, and never forget the great services they render. May God give my father a place in heaven!