Sunday, 24 April 2016

'Hamare Abba Jan Kehte Thay,' Mumtaz A. Piracha

    Luckily, I was the youngest of my parents' four sons. Brought up by the parents with complete attention from the day I was born. Wherever my parents moved, I moved with them, though terribly affecting my school education. 

    My father late Faiz Mohammed Piracha was a renowned lambskin businessman in Delhi. He shifted to Karachi in 1945, two years before the partition of India, leaving behind a thriving lambskin business. We belonged to West Punjab and the family (excluding my father) used to stay in Delhi/Kashmir in summer and Delhi/Makhad Sharif in winter. Makhad Sharif was part of District Campbellpore (now Attock) on the border of Punjab and the N.W.F.P. The famous Attock bridge divided the two provinces. Makhad Sharif was on the Punjab side.

    My sole maternal uncle H.M. Habibullah also moved from Amritsar to Karachi and set up the Paracha Textile Mills in Shershah, probably the biggest textile mills in Karachi at that time. Other family or 'khandan' members also moved from different parts of India to Karachi before the partition.

      As most of the members of the Piracha community had businesses in India, it was natural for them to move to Karachi being the only trading hub in post-partition Pakistan. 

      My father was a highly social person having friends like Malik Amir Mohammed Khan of Kalabagh, Khan Sher Ahmed Khan of Makhad, Sardar Hayat Mohammed Khan of Tamman, Sheikh Fazal-e-Haq of Bhera, Nawabzada Dur Mohammad Khan of Multan, Hazrat Nizamuddin of Taunsa Sharif, Syed Faqir Hussain Shah of Mishori Shareef, Hazrat Syed Ismail Shah of Hazrat Karmawala, Okara and so on. 

      Two of his closest friends happened to be Dr Qasim Piracha who had close links with the House of Saud and Brig(r) Fazlur Rehman Kallue whose son Lt Gen Shamsurrehman Kallue retired as Corps Commander, Mangla and later became the DG, ISI--the first retired general to head the agency. He had friends and associates in almost all the segments of the society.

       Lt Gen (r) Shamsurrehman Kallue and me remained friends for 27 years till his death.

       I used to act as my father's part-time secretary as I had learned typing at an early age. I used to make calls and fix appointments on his behalf. I used to go with him to meet his friends and associates. Although the age difference was huge between his friends and me, I had the opportunity of listening to what they talked about without uttering a word and learning the lifestyle of the elite and their philosophies.

       Over the 30 years that my father and me spent together, I learned a few ever-lasting lessons from him.

1. You can either be a friend or a foe; nothing in between. Dosti bhi khob nibhao aur dushmani bhi. But if your enemy comes to you for ending the enmity, embrace him and forget that he was ever your enemy.

2. Never be afraid of dying. Nobody can kill you before time. My father had many assassination attempts but none succeeded. He died a natural death on bed in his sleep.

3. Be bold to speak out the truth and stand by what you say, no matter what the cost.

4. Be responsible for what you are supposed to do. If he had to go somewhere, he will go. He won't wait for his Corona Mark II car or driver. He will ride a rickshaw, taxi or even bus wearing achkan and karakuli cap. He was full of enviable confidence. He was handsome. Tall, well-built, well dressed and fascinatingly healthy. 

He suffered a heart attack while travelling by air from Multan to Karachi. He couldn't figure it out. On reaching home, he just said his tabiyat was kharab. Next day, his ECG revealed he had a massive heart attack. He refused to believe it and refused to be hospitalized. He died in sleep on his second heart attack after a few months.

5. Do whatever you can for your family, relatives, mohallahwala, city and country without expecting anything in return.Even don't recall what you did for whom. He lived by his philosophy. He was one of the most influential persons of his time in Pakistan. His phone call and a handwritten note really meant something to the government officials. Anybody could come to our house any time, day or night, and get a call or note from my father especially when Malik Amir Mohammed Khan of Kalabagh was the Governor of West Pakistan.

      My father loved me so much that he used to call me 'Taj' (Crown), not Mumtaz. I was the only person in the family who could stand up and say 'NO' to what he said. He always respected my advice. May Allah bless him profoundly. He was a truly great man who lived by what he believed and didn't care whether others were pleased with him or not for what he said.

'Hamare Abba Jan Kehte Thay' is extracted from the manuscript of autobiography 'Living Beyond Self' by Mumtaz A. Piracha due to be published in the UK and the US in Oct 2016, In sha Allah.

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