Dr Tariq Siddiqi (1932-2019)

Dr Tariq Siddiqi (1932-2019)
I first met him when we were no more than ten years old. I was accompanying my grandfather from Hamirpur to Lucknow and on the way we stopped for lunch at Tariq’s father’s place, a friend of my grandfather and Income Tax Commissioner at Kanpur. I was most impressed to see someone of my age suited booted in school uniform. Next we ran into each other at the Civil Services Academy at Lahore in 1955 to join the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) for training.

Tariq had an aura of intellectual arrogance, holding his head high to keep us mortals at a distance from him. Not only had he secured a good position in the Central Superior Services (CSS) competitive examination, but he had set a record by securing 150 out of 150 marks in the English Essay paper.

Tariq even wrote a limerick on me and sent it to me. It so happened that the Academy Law Lecturer, while speaking in the class to which I was not paying any attention and thinking of something else, heard the lecturer asking me “On whom does the burden of proof lie” and pat came the answer from me “On the judge”. How could Tariq let this escape? He wrote:

​​Oh what a clever Cat

Who caught all the rats

​Reading all the Sections and the Laws

​But when asked

​On whom lies the burden of proof

​Pat came the reply

​“On the judge”

His sense of humour was in the category of the artless art of repartee.

After a year’s training in Lahore, the then East Pakistan and district and army attachment, half of us went to Cambridge and half to Oxford to pursue a one year postgraduate custom-designed course in public administration. Tariq was in his element at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford - rubbing shoulders with known socialist and communist students. They even smuggled him to Israel for a visit. He fell for the daughter of a Yugoslav general but the marriage didn’t last long. She couldn’t bear the East Pakistan weather.

In the early sixties USAID offered two Ph.D scholarships for our batch. However, Tariq impressed the interview board so much that USAID added a third scholarship, awarding it to Tariq - who after three years became a Doctor.

In 1965 I was posted to the Civil Service Academy Lahore as Deputy Director to train not only CSP probationers but also Foreign Service probationers. Tariq had just returned from abroad and was waiting for a posting. I persuaded the Academy Director Mr. Ghiasuddin to ask for Tariq’s services as one of the Deputy Directors. He stayed on in the Academy till 1970 except for one year in between when he was allowed to accept a UN consultancy to work in Somalia.

Tariq and I were soon joined by Akram Zaki succeeded by Iqbal Riza from the Foreign Service and Dr. Maqsood from East Pakistan as Deputy Directors. All of us lived on the campus. Our families became very close to each other with Tariq’s mother leading them all. Vijayalaxmi and Musarrat became great friends and so did my daughters, Vijay’s daughter and son and Tariq’s sisters and brothers forged a lifelong friendship.

I left the Academy in 1969. Eventually, I was given my choice posting of Director, Pakistan Academy for Rural Development (PARD), Peshawar.

I heard Tariq had joined the Punjab government as he was the blue eyed boy of the Chief Minister Hanif Ramay, who had appointed him Secretary Education. One day I heard Tariq had been dismissed from service on allegedly saying “Sahib ko Goli Maro”, when an officer kept pestering him in a meeting of Directors to do something against the rules, because Prime Minister Bhutto Sahib desired it. One of the Chief Minister’s rivals in the provincial cabinet relayed the news to the PM and when Tariq was asked to explain his conduct, he wrote “My intention was only to make the Director relevant to the subject under discussion and I had no other intention”. The Establishment Secretary, a sworn enemy of CSPs, could not let such an opportunity go and recommended his dismissal, which was ordered.

I felt awful and invited Tariq to spend some time with me at Peshawar Academy and took him on a journey to Gilgit and Hunza via Kaghan and Babusar Pass. It was an amazing and most enjoyable journey. I learnt so much from Tariq making me stop at wayside hut restaurants at nightfall and sleeping on charpoys under the open sky.

On our return Tariq joined Zafar Iqbal who had also been dismissed for some frivolous reason, to run a Roti plant at Karachi.

Soon after, I was also made an OSD and on my asking the reason from the Establishment Secretary, he accused me of conspiring with Tariq and taking him to the Northern Areas to hatch a conspiracy to overthrow the government! In disgust I asked why doesn’t the government hang me and pat came the retort, “We will hang you”. However, the FIA team which came to the Academy to inquire into the allegations did not oblige the Establishment Secretary and cleared me of all charges. My friend Col. Qayyum persuaded DG ISI Gen. Jilani to look into the matter and the ISI also came to the same conclusion.

I took long leave and started to search for new pastures. In the meanwhile there was a change in government. My well-wisher and supporter Mr. Ejaz Naik became Cabinet and Establishment Secretary and put up a summary to Establishment Minister General Chishti for reinstatement of both Zafar Iqbal and Tariq as they were dismissed flouting the Establishment Code. Tariq’s file was returned without accepting Mr. Naik’s recommendation. Mr. Naik had taken me on as Joint Secretary, Establishment Division when I returned from my long leave and asked me to attend Cabinet meetings. When Naik Sahib gave me the news about Tariq’s case, at the end of a Cabinet meeting, I ventured and entreated General Chishti to reconsider Tariq’s case as the government was claiming that they would rectify all the injustices done by the previous government. The Minister called for the file. In the meanwhile a new Establishment Secretary had been appointed and it was separated from the Cabinet Division. He observed that Tariq should apply for reinstatement. When I asked Tariq to do so, he refused bluntly saying, “I had done nothing wrong, why should reapply? I have already given my explanation”. I convinced the Minister that if the government took sou motu action to rectify a wrong, this would be generally greatly appreciated. I was happy that General Chishti reinstated Tariq and his Information Secretary flashed it all over the newspapers, taking credit for the suo motu nature of the action.

In his post dismissal phase, Tariq brought credit and distinction to every assignment that he held, be it Federal Secretary Planning or DG Civil Services Academy or Staff College or after retirement Vice Chancellorship of the Open University or the Quaid-e-Azam University. The other day I ran into an eminent professor of QAU and he spoke in glowing terms about Tariq and said since then the university has had no VC like him.

I was once shocked to see wall chalking all over Islamabad condemning VC QAU as anti-Islam and asking for his immediate replacement. I knew how Tariq offered his prayers five times a day. It transpired that JI Students Union demanded the University bus to take them to the Raiwind Tableeghi Ijtema which Tariq flatly refused, despite them succeeding in getting the bus in previous years by threatening the administration. Tariq did not give in despite all their threats and propaganda.

Nigar Ahmed, a women’s rights activist and academic, sometimes used to visit me in connection with her research work. This is when she met Tariq. I was very happy when they decided to get married but Tariq wanted the Nikah to be solemnized by Professor Durrani, a friend of his father who had retired to a hill abode in Buner, Swat. The marriage party comprised Zafar Iqbal and myself from the groom’s side and Nigar’s sisters and relatives. The journey to the abode was on foot from Pir Baba requiring the crossing of streams and climbing hills. Zafar Iqbal commented “Are we going in search of Gul Bakauli?” It was a memorable journey.

Tariq’s life changed after the terrible road accident suffered by Nigar. For years he fully devoted himself to taking care of Nigar and became a total recluse after she passed away two years ago, refusing to come to meetings of the organisations which I had persuaded him to join or even if he came hardly participating in the discussion or deliberations. Whenever I went to Lahore and called on him, he would cheer up but keep on withdrawing, hardly saying anything unless provoked. However, he did call me off and on and would talk to me whenever I called.

A few months back I was delighted when he called me and with his voice full of joy, gave me the good news that his eldest son Bilal had been betrothed to Jugnu and Najam Sethi’s daughter. I was delighted and felt as if Tariq was going to come out of his isolation.

I was shocked when a couple of weeks ago Ejaz, his faithful driver, told me when I rang up that he was confined to bed and had not been eating since January. I went to see him on Sunday 31st March and found him a skeleton lying in bed so weak that he did not even talk to me. Sometime he would open his eyes and look at me or hold my hand tight in his but nothing persuaded him to talk to me, for the hours that I sat either on his bed or on the chair nearby. His younger son Ahmad and his wife Kate did their best but he would only open eyes. He did not communicate at all. Once when I said there is no point in my sitting with him as he does not want to talk, he grasped my hand and held it for a while. I bid farewell to my friend of over seven decades and took leave of Ahmad and Kate to return to Islamabad.

On Thursday, April 9 I saw a Whatsapp message from Kate: “Dear loved ones, Abba passed away around fajr time this morning. Inna Lillahe Wa Inna Ilaihe Rajioon. The jinaza will be on Thursday at Asr time. We will send details soon”.

I could not stop tears flowing down my eyes.