Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A conversation with Sir Muhammad Zafarullah Khan

“Why did you go to the funeral of M.A. Jinnah?”

“I was the first foreign minister of the newly created Pakistan. Mr. Jinnah had selected me and appointed me to this post.”

“I loved and respected Mr. Jinnah and it was my sacred duty to pray for his departed soul. That was the least that I could do for the father of our nation. He was the sole spokesman* for the Muslims of India in the fight for our Independence from Britain, there was shock and extreme sorrow. (*This is in deference to Ayesha Jalal’s book The Sole Spokesman.)

Everyone wept that day in September 1948—the whole nation was numb with the shock of the sudden departure of our beloved leader…”

“People have said things against you Sir Zafarullah”

“I am not a great man. The great man was Mr. M. A. Jinnah our Quaid-e-Azam i.e. Great Leader.

“I am just a little humble soul who was lucky to be elevated to lead the first Pakistan delegation to the San Francisco conference where we were, along with many great nations, involved in writing up the Charters of the new U.N.”

“Which year was that?”

The year was 1945 A.D.”

“Did you contribute any ideas to the U.N. Charter?”

“Yes! Indeed—the old League of Nations became defunct and the nations, of the world decided to draw up a new Charter for the new world organization—the U.N.O.”

“Sir Zafarullah, tell us about your work on the constitution of the new U.N.O…”

“It was a Charter and we were able to insert actual words from the noble Quran and these became part of the document.”

“You were the first Pakistani to recite the noble words for the noble Quran.”

“Yes! When I had been appointed President of the U.N. General Assembly in the early 1950s, I began the session with quotes from the noble Quran.”

“But, Sir Zafarullah let us go back to the funeral prayer that you did not offer for Mr. Jinnah.”

“Let me tell you the detail, my son, before offering the prayer I was almost finished with my ritual ablution—one must be physically clean as well as mentally pure when offering any Islamic prayer.”

“What happened, Sir Zafarullah?”

“I was told that the cleric (mullah) who was to lead the prayer was none other than a person named Shabir Usmani who had used vile and abusive language against the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement.”

“So what did you do, Sir Zafarullah?”

“I was paralyzed and in shock.”

“So this knowledge caused you to miss the funeral prayer.”

“My son, the Nebi Karim always taught that actions will be judged by our intentions.”


“So! My intention in being there was to offer the congregational prayers along with everyone else---- if I had not intended and fervently desired to pray for my leader, would it not have been more logical and make sense for me have stayed home--- and not having come to the funeral?”

“Yes! Of course, Sir Zafarullah. The newspapers then reported you as sitting on a rock and missing the prayer… They also report that someone asked you why you missed prayer and you are reported to have said. Perhaps with some bitterness--- ‘I am either a Kafir foreign minister of an Islamic nation or an Muslim foreign minister of a Kafir nation…’ You were angry and caught in a catch 22 situation…”

Sir Muhammad Zafarullah then brought honour to his country when he was appointed a Judge and ultimately the President of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, in the Netherlands.

My wife and I visited him there along with my wife’s brother in Nov. / Dec. 1968.

Prior to that, in 1967, we drove Sir Muhammad Zafarullah in our battered 1960 green Mercury Comet from Chicago Airport to his speech at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. On the way there were huge crowds blocking the roads in Chicago.

Sir. Zafarullah wondered why there were so many people on the streets.

“Sir! Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has just been assassinated in Memphis”

To be continued…

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April Fool 2010 Who is Judging Whom?

Human beings become violent when two things happen. One was an invention i.e. fire. The other was the development of speech… Are we operating our reptilian (primitive) brain? Are we progressing to civilized behaviour? We are certainly deluded and continually thwarting our own progress.

When UWA visited me at Cook County Hospital in 1964 and came up to my room, 1017 I think it was, at Karl Meyer Hall, I said to one of the wisest and sanest men, “Uncle I am my own worst enemy.” He was there to visit Pfaelzers, parents of Rita Hirsch, SWA’s close school friend. On the way to their posh Michigan Ave. apartment (condo? This word was not yet invented) Uncle W.A. and I walked past Hugh Hefner’s club… “Let’s go there, Omar…” “No, Uncle-ji! We will not ever go near that one.” Uncle W.A. didn’t say anything. I suppose I was still a raging bull, only 23-years young.

My marriage was still two years in my future! I read somewhere that the problem with life is that it comes at us far too fast. Then there is the Maya (illusion) of the present moment - and even this is subsumed – alas! so rapidly does it flow – time disappears as it were Hg (quick silver) through one’s fingers.

At the Pfaelzer’s we were welcomed as if we were long-lost family. Rita and her friend took UWA and I out for lunch. I was them earning only $100 per month – having chosen to work at the charity hospital CCH, which you might remember if you saw “The Fugitive” movie with Harrison Ford as the physician who is hounded all over the U.S.A. – as Jean Valjean was in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Dr. Richard Speck’s son so many decades later declared that his father was indeed innocent.

After supper, when we retired to the guest bedroom at the Pfaelzer’s, I asked UWA, “Khaloo, which direction shall we offer our night prayers (Isha)”? UWA, erudite, as well as suave, quoted the original Quran in pure Arabic, “Where so ever you turn, you can behold the face of your sustainer…” So I asked UWA as my learned elder, to lead me in congregational prayer. “No two are gathered together in praise of life than I myself am their third companion.

You cannot have a friend greater than I. I love you more your mother ever could.

So, I fast forward – 45 years:

Asad Ali, another dear friend had these words written at his desk, “Time is a river…” The two good persons above named have departed this earthly life. I do miss them.

Today I am still an April fool. This morning I was rushing to the workshop to get my son’s Acura 1.6 EL 1997 serviced. Acura had failed to start up the day prior on March 30, 2010. My neighbour, Ken, had charged the battery last night but still the car refused to start. The automatic windows refused to scroll down. “Qaisra, please help push the car down the slope,” I said to my wife, who will be 63 years old in June.

Driving east on Gorham, late because I had a nice haircut by Qaisra after the lovely breakfast. Omar, seeing a bus stopped, blocking my path, I ignore, once again, the subliminal words of the blessed Nebi Karim. “Haste comes from Satan.”

I step on the gas pedal and the Acura leaps forward. I exult in the powerful surge of the V-tech engine carefully selected by my car-wise son, Tips. I’m crossing a solid line. Whey do they not place a dotted line here I think. The insistent present. I try to look for the large bus in my rearview mirror and see only empty road.

A blue-uniformed police officer with his radar gun is standing in my line of vision, pointing right, to the church of J.C. of Latter Day Saints. I slow down, knowing deep in my soul, that I have sinned, and this retribution, unlike the real promised one – is immediate and unavoidable.

“You were speeding and overtaking in a child safety zone.”

I exhale.

“No, don’t open your door. Just hand me your driver’s licence.”

I fumble in my arctic grey fox coat. “Here it is.”

“Stay in your car.”

I think about driving away. After an eternity of listening to Godwin George’s gift (another disappeared friend) of Sony transistor radio at 99.1 FM for awhile – I open the door, sidle down the Mormon Church driveway and approach the burly policeman’s car.

“Here is your fine. I’ve been lenient. You won’t lose any points but the penalty of $130 is the maximum possible short of losing points.”

I raise my right hand to thank him – he shrinks away – recoiling in practiced disdain – he is not bad at hiding his real feelings – perhaps he forgets that it doesn’t take an experienced old physician to read body language. “I don’t shake hands. My hand would get sore.”

He doesn’t convince me. Reminds me vividly of Donald Rumsfeld, the Bush era official, Secretary of Defence, who used to be cordial with Ayatollah Khomeini and even delivered a birthday cake to the Ayatollah during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s. “I cannot understand why the Guantanamo prisoners complain about having to stand. I myself stand happily all day at my upright desk. I never feel tired or fatigued at all.”

The York Region police officer aka traffic cop hands me my $130 ticket and goes back to his radar gun facing west on Gorham St.

I try to restart my Acura. Nothing. I walk over to him, yet another unwanted walk.

“Now what?”

“My car won’t start. Could you give me a jump…Sir?”

“We can’t do that.”

“Could you phone my wife?”

“Nope, but I can phone a garage.” I hand him a CAA card and he calls them.

I sit in the car and then open the door and stand in the bright sun warming my bald spot and hoping to make some Vitamin D. I soon get tired of the CBC radio station and walk restlessly to nearby Gorham St. awaiting the tow truck.

A green car approaches and I flag my saviour, my vintage 1966 beauty queen, my wife.

“Why are you stopped here?” she asks and I explain.

“Why did you turn the engine off?”

“I’m stupid.”

“Do you have jumper cables?” She opens her trunk. I find new, unused cables. Triumphantly I carry them toward the black 1997 Acura.

The police officer approaches. “Who is she and how did she know to come here? And why did you send for the garage?”

“She’s my wife and she was supposed to pick me up from the auto shop after I’d dropped it off for a tune-up.”

“Well why didn’t you cancel the tow truck? Oh, I see, you wanted to be sure the car started up…” He is speaking his thoughts, not bothering to censor them. It seems that I am, to him, just another (dumb) Asian, after all, not a Fulbright scholar.

The tow truck arrives, the driver has no idea that the original owner of the t0w truck company, Joe, was my patient and friend, for more than a decade. How he went through so many health crises. I can’t tell you his health history… We used to frequent the pool at the fitness club, which has been open for more than 30 years.

The truck driver backs up toward the Acura and I walk up to his window. I tell him I don’t need a tow after all. I just need a jump start. He looks at me, though not unkindly.

He is tall, a young muscular man with too many tattoos on his bare arms and cigarette breath. “I’ll check if your alternator is OK.”

He cleans the battery bolts but only after the car is jump started. It makes no logic or sense but I say nothing. Besides basic education in electricity (part of my physics training at G.C. Lahore in 1957) I’ve had least a dozen or more autos and tons of battery experience.

This tow truck driver is younger than our youngest son, Sultan, born in 1975. When I arrive at the workshop, the Acura conks out yet again. Sultan had been starting it regularly during the five weeks we were away in Pakistan… We returned on Sunday March 28, 2010 after a direct 14-hour Karachi to Toronto flight.

“I’ve told John everything. I’m still in my night clothes, so hurry,” Qaisra says to me.

John is the mechanic who tends to our Acura.

I go inside. “Is your name John?”

“It’s Kevin.”

“Thank you, Kevin.”

Qaisra smiles, she did come into the auto repair shop.

“I’ll avoid Gorham now,” my better half concludes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NASIR NAWAZ JANUA - A Physician Remembering My Friend, a Military Officer



____________________________6 September, 1965

The Indian army has crossed the international border – their tanks have crushed our border police – it was a cake walk for them. My school friend, Nasir Nawaz, son of Brigadier Nawaz of Jhelum, picked up a washcloth and in one rapid motion he wiped off soap from his half unshaven face.

“I threw away the facecloth and dressed myself quickly for the coming battle….”

As I leapt out of my tent I heard my own loud words, ‘Where are our battle tanks?’”

Then, “Get the tank commander out into the field –NOW!!...”

“Sir, he is nowhere to be seen…”

“I strode to his tent, pulled aside the flap, looked in and beheld an empty cot. I hesitated, walked right in and bent down to look beneath his cot. Imagine my surprise when I saw the young captain cowering beneath his bed – a lot of abject terror on his pale as a sheet face. I was incredulous. My usual full of bluster colleague was trembling – he was shaking like a leaf. ’Get out of the tent now!’ I heard myself barking out orders. As he crawled out I gave him a sharp kick on his BUTT with the steel toe of my heavy black leather marching boot.”

“Do not be a coward. We need your tanks to face the invaders. My men are ready to walk alongside your tanks! Let us go and push the Indians back into their own territory….”

Panjab Cadet College Hasan Abdal

Nasir Nawaz Janjua told me these details in July and August of 1966 when I drove to the P.M.A. (Pakistan Military Academy) at Kakul to visit him for the last time.

We had met in 1954 when both of us were admitted in the first batch entry for P.C.C.H.A. (Panjab Cadet College, Hasan Abdal). He was an outstanding athlete, hockey, swimming, gymnastics, cricket, and an all rounder. In 1956 he joined the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul while I went off to pre-medical studies at the Government College Lahore, the alma mater of my ancestors.

In 1959 while I was on summer vacation from medical school, my mother purchased a Volkswagen. We drove in our new Volkswagen bug to Jacobabad, and surprised Nasir by arriving unannounced. There were three of us, our mother, my brother Jehangir two years younger than I, and myself. Nasir’s room was in the hottest spot in Pakistan and was decorated with pin-ups of attractive American females - hastily he took these off his walls.

The roads of Sind and Baluchistan were empty of traffic – and our VW seemed to be the only vehicle on the highway in that distant day in July 1959.

Brojan Das

Nasir Nawaz was posted to East Pakistan and invited me to visit his mess in 1960 when I lead the Panjab swim team for a month of training under the legendary English Channel marathon swimmer, Brojan Das. Brojan would coach us in yoga and help us develop our breathing techniques, our flexibility, our strength and stamina at Dacca’s Olympic pool. I had to compete against the Pakistan Army champion swimmers, trained by Brigadier Rodham (no relation to Hillary, I presume) at the Risalpur Army Engineers swim facility. The army swimmers were semi-professionals and were all taller than 6 feet. As I was almost a foot shorter, I sensed that my friend, Nasir, was surprised to see me compete against the other ranks of men like Havildar Nazir (medalist at Tokyo Asian Games) and engineer Inayat. My brother Jehangiv later told me that the latter had a foot blown off by an exploding landmine while trying to de-mine I.E.D.’s of the 1960’s.

These were the Pakistan swimming championships held in Dacca, the capital of East Pakistan, in 1960. I had 26 swimming records at one time. I doubt that any of them exist today, at least I hope not.

Nasir did visit me once at the King Edward Medical College, Mayo Hospital Campus in Lahore, West Pakistan in 1962/1963. I remember his look of disdain when he beheld the pallid complexion of one of the KE bookworms, my class fellow Shahid …. tall, skinny, emaciated.

I also recall Nasir’s look of interest when a pretty nurse walked by. The nurse was doubtless aware of his interest but she studiously avoided eye contact - even Christian nurses had adopted the guarded behaviour of their Muslim co-workers, when boy meets girl…..

Hand-to-Hand Combat

“So, Nasir, tell me about your battle experience in September 1965…”

“Omar, when we met up with the Indian infantry we pushed them back in hand-to-hand combat. When we reached a deep trench I leapt into this trench and disposed of some of their soldiers, but the place was crawling with enemy soldiers. The trench was full of them, they were swarming like ants. Just as they were about to overpower me I leapt out of the trench in order to escape being captured. I then tried to hightail it back into our own lines. I thought that I had almost made it back across “no man’s land” to my own lines when it hit me.”


“A lot of hot lead hit my bum…perhaps divine vengeance for kicking the tank commander in the morning. Anyhow, I spent many days on my face. The surgeons had dug out most of the bullets from my backside, but it takes a long time to really be fit again.”

“So, was that the end of your September 1965 war?”

“Yes”, he said, a bit sadly, as if dissatisfied with his performance.

He was a real Ghazi, my friend Nasir Nawaz Janjua (NNJ).

Did I see him again?

My Fulbright Scholarship

The last time was when I was in Pakistan to get married. I had spent two years in Chicago from 1964 to 1966 on a Fulbright scholarship. I then telephoned my mom as I was finding it Spartan to starve myself on alternate days for a whole year.

Why did I need to fast the whole year of 1965/1966? Because I had been conducting the greater Jihad against my own self.

What is that?

It is a prescription of the Quran for young men who cannot afford to get married.

When I told my Jewish medical student at Mount Sinai hospital of my wedding plans he simply said, “Omar, why buy a cow when milk is so cheap?”

“Mike, I need fresh, pure, unadulterated milk, so I am willing to fast for the whole year until my mom finds me a bride in Pakistan.”

“You are crazy,” Michael simply said.

Nasir Nawaz said practically the same thing when he saw my full faced black beard at Abbottabad when I went to see him at the military academy.

“Why have you become a maulvi (priest)? I am going to shave off your beard right away and make you back into a human being.”

With that he rushed to get a razor.

“Nasir, you will not be able to shave my beard off.”

“I have this razor with which I shave every day. It is a trusty instrument. I will put a brand new Gillette blade in and then we can proceed.”

With a flourish he rammed the shiny blue Gillette blade into his razor and he twisted the handle with such great force of his mighty hand that the razor came apart before our very eyes.

It was thought to be divine intervention!


I heard that Nasir had got married but he had no children. That was the sadness of his life. During his younger days in Lahore he had enjoyed dressing in a Roman toga and he threw grand parties and games called Tambola, games which remained a mystery to me while I was at medical school. I never had a chance to attend any of those parties.

Alas, I never got to say goodbye to my dear friend of my school days. His last battle apparently was with his own body. He had been extremely fit during his school and college days with an extensive exercise program and a very active lifestyle. As he got older I presume he played less and perhaps became more sedentary, not competing in the swimming championships that had been his specialty, especially the front crawl. I heard that he had died of a heart attack well before his 50th birthday, but, alas, I do not know the year or place of his death.

Before I end this story of Nasir Nawaz I want to add one incident when I saw him angry, only the once in his life I suspect.

He had been attending some military exercises and he was quite agitated when he talked to me about how the Americans were controlling the payout to the officers on their salary days. He appeared quite agitated that Pakistan was giving up its sovereignty by allowing the Americans to interfere with the income given out to its soldiers.

I think it was at this time that he must have realized that Pakistan was not really an independent country anymore. We never really discussed this aspect of Pakistan’s politics. He was, after all, a military officer and I was just a physician.