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Of days gone by

The life and times of Peroz Bakht Qazi, a man of many incarnations

Of days gone by

Peroz Bakht Qazi wasn’t sure if he would ever write a memoir but there was always an irresistible urge to look back on his early years spent in Batala, District Gurdaspur before 1947 — one of the reasons that made him eventually pick up the pen and start writing. The essay got published in an Urdu magazine and was extremely well-received by readers. Naturally, he felt tempted to go on writing which resulted in his memoirs titled Roodad-e-Hayat and Meri Kahani Meri Zabani.

Born in Batala in 1931 to a well-to-do family, Peroz Bakht initially lived in Koocha Kazian near the residence of Sir Fazal Husain, a stalwart politician from Punjab belonging to the Unionist Party. He begins the book by describing what it was like growing up in Batala. His father, a graduate of Government College Lahore, served the Bahawalpur State at various positions and was quite close to the Nawab of Bahawalpur. His mother was a voracious reader. Under such favourable circumstances, it was but natural for him to study hard, which he did.

His father later took him to Lahore where they lived on Brandreth Road at a relative’s residence near the railway station. It was there that he got acquainted with a European lady who would visit them quite often. The woman was none other than Anna Molka Ahmad who had married an Indian by the name of Sheikh Ahmad. He also recounts visiting Okara with his father where he stayed in the grain market with a friend of his father’s, a big grain trader of that area.Altaf

After retiring from the service of the Nawab, his father bought some agricultural land and started cultivating crops in Khanpur near Rahimyar Khan. Bakht also describes the small town and the market owned mostly by Hindus. He fondly remembers a trader from Bikaner, Sooraj Kumar — a mild and kind-hearted man — who was a partner of his father’s.

Bakht passingly brings up the days leading up to partition and the horrific incidents that followed, describing how he was in Rawalpindi in those days and jobs were hard to come by. Even after all the adversity he still somehow managed to get a job in an electricity company. In the meantime, he earned a degree in history and political science with distinction from Punjab University.

He joined the education department of the university as a lecturer of Political Science in 1960 and served in Khushab, Jehlum, and Islamabad. Later, he sat in competitive examinations and was selected as a magistrate, beginning a new phase of his life serving in the district administration department for many areas. His teaching experience came in handy when, in the last days of Ayub Khan’s tenure, he had to deal with students’ agitation. Pervez Rashid, Sheikh Rasheed and Raja Anwer were some of the students who were spearheading the movement. Bakht also got a chance to work in military courts, where he was made the head of an inquiry involving a serving major who was accused of harassing a civilian.

He served in many cities like Sialkot, Jehlum, Kharian, Chakwal, Rahimyar Khan etc. He interacted with political bigwigs like Ch. Fazal Elahi, who was President of Pakistan during the era of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. He gives detailed accounts of his interaction with Ch. Zahoor Elahi, father of Ch. Shujaat Husain and Ch. Altaf Husain, former governor of Punjab. He also speaks of an incident with Prime Minister Imran Khan in his new book. Bakht mentions that back when he heard about Imran’s plan of establishing a cancer hospital in Lahore, he immediately reached out to him to volunteer for the project, however, Imran Khan did not show any specific interest.

After retirement, Bakht travelled widely along with his family. These travels make up the last portion of the memoirs. Peroz Bakht Qazi has twelve books to his credit so far; he has written short stories, translated world fiction into Urdu and wrote pen sketches and has also written a book on political thoughts.

Author: Peroz Bakht Qari
Publisher: Dastavez publications, Lahore
Pages: 341
Price: Rs700

Altaf Hussain Assad

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