R.I.P. Agha Abdul Qadir Ahmadzai
I was deeply saddened to learn about the death of former Balochistan minister for local government Agha Abdul Qadir Ahmadzai. He was a truly educated figure of Balochistan who also served as a member of the Balochistan Public Service Commission. He remained a minister in the small cabinet of former Chief Justice-turned-governor Amir-ul-Mulk Mengal soon after General Pervez Musharraf’s bloodless coup of 1999.
Unlike many Ahmadzais, Agha was not born in Kalat. He was actually born in Mastung. In 1948, he completed his high school education from Mastung and moved to Islamia College in Peshawar for higher eduction. After graduating from Peshawar in 1953 he went to Karachi to obtain a degree in law.
Instead of practicing law, Agha joined the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) and served there for at least forty years. He served as the political secretary to the chief minister of Balochistan but did not even complete a year on this job when he was appointed as the Vice Chancellor of the the Engineering College in Khuzdar. After three-year service as the top boss of the Khuzdar University, he was appointed as the member of the Balochistan Public Service Commission.
“One day I was taking interviews from PCS [Provincial Civil Service] candidates when I received a call from the governor [Amir-ul-Mulk-Mengal] asking me to wear a Sherwani and come to the Governor’s House for oath as a provincial minister,” he told me in an interview (Read the full interview from the image given below).
In fact Musharraf was popular at the beginning of his takeover in Pakistan as well as in Balochistan. Agha sahib was very instrumental in promoting Musharraf’s new devolution plan for local government in the province as he served as the local government minister.
Even Musharraf was not fully sure how the new local government model would work. So, it was decided that elections would be held in three phases. In Balochistan, three districts of Mekran Division (Kech, Gwadar and Panjgur) were chosen for the first round of the polls.
Agha sahib made several visits to the Mekran region to check the preparations for the elections and educate the masses about the importance of devolving powers at grossroots level. It was then I met him so many times that he would say, while meeting me, “tho har koja ey” (You are everywhere!).
I met Agh Sahib for the first time at my college, Government Degree College Panjgur, in the year 2000. He was the chief guest of the prize distribution ceremony of the annul sporting event called the Golden Week.
Did you ever know that I was a cricket commentator during my college days? Yes, I was, seriously. I commented on the match in English and Agha sahib appreciated my English. I was introduced with him by the second last deputy commissioner of Panjgur, Dr. Badaruddin Ujan. Dr. Ujan is a renowned Sindhi literary figure whose PhD thesis was based on the work of T. S Eliot. He often used to give books to me as a reward for my Urdu articles published in Daily Intekhab. He played a remarkable role in encouraging me to pursue my career and did whatever it took to facilitate coverage of important official events. I was a teenage boy but he never underestimated my ambitions.
Co-incidentally, I,17, was also working as the Panjgur correspondent of the Quetta-based Urdu language newspaper Daily Kohistan. Edited by Munawar Jan Mandokhel, Kohistan was then a very influential newspaper in Balochistan. It was considered as a competitor of top newspapers like Jang and Mashriq.
These were the peak days of my desire to become a journalist. My biggest wish was to move out of Panjgur and go to Quetta to become a journalist. Journalists were my heroes. In Panjgur, Agha Andul Qadir came with a full entourage of my heroes i.e journalists. While I did not know any of these journalists I met during Agha Sahib’s visit but after a few years in the future I would find myself working with most of these people as a colleague in Quetta. I look at most of them as my mentors who eventually helped me a lot in accomplishing my professional goals.
The journalists’ delegation included Saleem Shahid (Dawn), Jawad Haider (Associated Press of Pakistan), Irfan Saeed Aka Chanda ( Online News Network), Noor Khan Mohammad Hasani Hassani (Directorate of Public Relations), Ghulam Tahir ( Pakistan Observer) and Abdul Qayyum Baidar (Pakistan Television).
Noor Khan Mohammad Hassani, an excellent travelogue writer who would eventually become the Director of Public Relations at the Government of Balochistan, was the friendliest of all the journalists. He was the only journalist, besides with Qayum Baidar, in the media team who spoke fluent Balochi.
He appreciated my cricket commentary. Taking advantage of the situation, I requested him to introduce me with some of the bureau chiefs of newspapers and mews agencies so that I could work for them as a stringer in Panjgur. Hence, he introduced me with Jawad Haider and Irfan Saeed who became my first journalistic mentors in English and Urdu journalism respectively.
At the prize distribution ceremony on the same day, my friend Dr. Abid Shah, who was subsequently brutally murdered by the Pakistani security forces, and I offered Agha sahib to visit the Oasis Academy. It was the best private academy in Panjgur which was very popular in the region because of its good quality of education. Agha sahib delightedly accepted our request and said he would visit the academy in the evening.
As Agha sahib spoke to the students at the Academy in the afternoon, he said, “why the hell hadn’t I been informed about this wonderful place? It’s so good to be here!”
Actually, I was an English language teacher at the same Academy and my responsibility on that day was to moderate the event.
I asked Agha sahib if I could interview him for Daily Kohistan. He happily accepted my request and asked me to visit him at the Rest House administered by the Building and Road (B&R) Department where he was staying. It was the first time in my life that I was going to interview a ‘minister’. I was super thrilled.
Agha sahib had a graceful personality. He was a well-built tall man with crafted white beard. There was nothing more prominent in his personality than his thunderous voice. He spoke cogently although with pauses, punctuated with sharp sense of humor.
“So what are your impressions like?” I asked.
“Well, I had come educate the people about the local government elections but now I will go back to educate Governor Mengal,” he said.
“Educate him about what?” I asked.
“Trust me,” he added, “no place in Balochistan deserves a university more than Mekran.”
Agha sahib had been remarkably impressed with the quality of education in Mekran.
“The first thing I will propose is a university for Mekran. I will also make governor Mengal visit the Oasis School.”
Agha sahib stood by his words and sent back Governor Amir-ul-Mulk Mengal to Panjgur to visit the Oasis School in Panjgur.
It has bee more than a decade since Agha sahib dreamed of a full-fledged university in Mekran. It is tragic that Governor Mengal, federal education minister Zubeda Jalal never seriously worked on that agenda.
Agha sahib was the best man among the Ahmadzais that I had ever met. He was humble, compassionate. There was one thing his own people disliked about him: He was too strict. In a country where recommendations and nepotism are the basis of moving forward, Agha sahib was known as someone who would never favored people of his ethnic group. He was a man who staunchly believed in meritocracy. Those who temporarily hated him his commitment to professional integrity would also admit that the he was an incorruptible man. He hated corruption so much that he jokingly said, what we then also put as the headline of my interview with him for Daily Kohistan.
“I wish I could kill the corrupt politicians!”