The passing away of a police legend
By Farhat Masud Zaman
LAHORE: It was in the early hours of July 23 that the phone rang, its ominous tone conveying the devastating news I had feared the last few days.
As I hurried with unsteady steps along the long, silent corridors towards the Intensive Care Unit, I realised that I had lost a vital pillar of my life. Police officers and well-wishers have dwelt on various aspects of my father’s personality and achievements. I would like to recall personal aspects of a precious relationship that existed between a father and daughter.
Ayub Baksh Awan was born on May 24, 1913, in Dera Ismail Khan. His father, Noor Baksh Awan, a lawyer, had a dynamic view of life and a thirst for knowledge. He collected thousands of books in his lifetime, leaving them to a school in DI Khan when he died. My father had a similar passion.
He developed a deep insight into various subjects, especially the history of the subcontinent, Partition, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Kashmir. He would expound on these subjects in Islamabad, and animated discussions whenever visitors called.
I often saw him peruse several books in a single day. Books, journals, magazines, newspapers and paper lay strewn all over the room in a manner contrary to the clarity of his mind.
My father excelled from a young age. After his matriculation examination, he was one of the two students selected from the NWFP to represent India at the first world Boy Scouts Jamboree at England. On his return to India, he took a train from Bombay to Delhi. Sharing his compartment was a gentleman who inquired what the young man’s future plans were. My father told him he would first go home and then apply for Government College, Lahore, but he was not very hopeful since he admissions had taken place four months ago.
When he got home, a letter addressed to Ayub Awan stating he should immediately join the first year science classes at Government College awaited. It transpired that his travel companion was a professor of mathematics who had put in a recommendation for his admission. The professor was my father’s tutor till he graduated
He joined the Indian Police Service in 1935 and rose to West Pakistan IG, at the tender age of 39, and Intelligence Bureau director. He later became interior secretary. He was dedicated to his job. In the course of his service we had to move from one place to another due to postings and transfers. The one thing he always carried with him was his pride in the Police Service of Pakistan.
My father was not an over-indulgent or sentimental parent. He was a strict disciplinarian; one penetrating look was enough to make us understand that we could not step out of line. He would rebuke only once. Yet we were confident that whenever we needed him, he would be there, supportive and strong.
Amongst the many interest we shared was a love of flowers and gardening. He would advise me to create a garden full of surprises, a shrub tucked away or bulbs imbedded in nooks and crevices, so that as one walked along, there would be an unexpected burst of colour and beauty. He enjoyed accompanying me to the Rose Festivals and Floral Art Shows. He became a familiar and welcome figure at these gatherings, always finding an encouraging word for the malis.
I recall several important moments in my personal life when I sought his advice. One related to the resumption of my studies when my children had grown up, the other two to job offers. I consulted my husband and he gave a typically bureaucratic response, examining the implications of the proposal and reverting to the subject in due course. When I consulted my father, he gave a positive response straight away. I went ahead in each case.
As he grew older, there was a distinct mellowing of his personality. The grandchildren became his pride and joy. They enjoyed liberties and concessions that my sister, my brother, and I never had.
Well into his 80s, he developed an interest in computers and boldly ventured forth into the cyber world. He actually attended a course at Comsats. I suspect this was essentially so he could remain in touch with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He would sometimes forget computer commands, and wait for a grandchild to return and put him back on track. Such slips would take place from time to time, but he never gave up.
Like any human being, he went through hard times. However, even on the worst days he sustained himself and uplifted the spirit of the family with his constant refrain.
No matter how great our personal loss, we are grateful to Allah for the many years we had him in our midst. We feel proud to have been blessed through both parents. My mother, unfortunately, was involved in a car accident which incapacitated her. He looked after her for more than a decade with undiminished devotion. His tenderness towards here never wavered, even for a moment. As the shadows lengthened his overriding regret was that his time had come before hers.