To be called Olympian is an earnest desire of a sportsperson. Khawaja Mohammad Aslam, who recently passed away in Lahore, remains the only Pakistani to have been chosen to represent the country in two disciplines for a single edition of the Olympics. For the 1952 Olympics, he was named in both the hockey and athletics teams of Pakistan; he opted for hockey.
Pakistan were among the favourites for the hockey competition at Helsinki. They were unlucky to lose the semi-final as well as the bronze medal playoff by the barest of margin.
He had finished second in the 400 metres at the national games in 1950 and was named in the Pakistan’s 4 x 400 metre relay team for the 1952 Olympics.
Born in Amritsar, in the pre-Independence India in 1924, Aslam, after completing his school, joined the Railways as an accounts clerk. His sporting achievements had started before Pakistan’s birth. He finished second in the 400 metre at the All-India Railways Athletics Championships. He also played for Railways hockey team at the nationals.
During the 1947 riots, Aslam played a heroic role in providing security to a large number of women and children in Amritsar.
Moving to Lahore, he made an immediate impact on the sporting scene.
Aslam won the 800 metres contest at Pakistan’s first national games in Karachi in 1948. He finished second in the 400 metres.
A very versatile man at the track, he held Railways record for 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500 and 400 metres hurdles at various times.
In hockey, he played for his department not only at all the midfield positions — right half, left half and centre half — but also as an inside right.
Aslam played for Calcutta’s famous Mohammedan Sporting Club’s hockey team as a foreign guest player in 1951.
A first-class cricketer, he played for Railways, who were a formidable side on the domestic circuit and till 1975, along with PIA, the only departmental side to win the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He also captained Railways in the country’s premier event.
There is a grainy picture of Aslam tossing the coin with legendary Hanif Mohammad, Karachi’s captain.
Football was yet another sport where he represented his department at the national level.
This all sounds incredible. But Aslam’s sporting exploits are not finished yet.
The railways inter-division competitions were highly competitive, and the divisional teams recruited players with permanent jobs.
In addition to the four sports already mentioned, Aslam also appeared for Lahore and Headquarters divisions in kabaddi, basketball, squash, tennis, table tennis and softball in the railways inter-division championships.
Once his competitive days were over, Khawaja sahib remained involved with sports as a coach, organiser, umpire, selector and writer.
Here too, his CV is awesome.
Hockey: National selector from 1966-69 & 1974-78; member of the committee which selected the 1968 Olympic gold medal-winning team of Pakistan; international A grade umpire; chairman hockey umpires committee of PHF; international hockey coach (went to Iran and the USSR for coaching); chairman technical committee of PHF; nine books on hockey coaching and history.
Athletics: advanced athletic coaching course from UK’s Loughborough University in 1970; athletics coach of Pakistan team at 1974 Asian Games in Tehran; founding secretary Pakistan track and field coaches association; vice president of Asian track and field coaches association; chairman national selection committee; member technical committee of Asian Amateur Athletics Association; member jury of appeal Asian Athletic Championships 1985 at Jakarta, Indonesia; life member of Pakistan Amateur Athletic Federation; wrote a book ‘Track Events’ in Urdu.
Cricket: selector Punjab and Punjab University cricket teams; life member of PCB; wrote ‘Cricket Fielding’ in Urdu.
Football: A Class football referee; book ‘This is football’ in Urdu.
Kabaddi: chairman national selection committee; vice president & member Executive Committee Pakistan Kabaddi Federation; A class kabaddi referee; book ‘Kabaddi’ in Urdu.
Basketball: organising secretary, Quaid-e-Azam centenary basketball tournament 1976; book ‘Basketball’ in Urdu.
Wrestling: judge at the highly publicised international bout between Japan’s Antonio Anoki and Pakistan’s Jhara in Lahore in 1977; judge at Tehran friendly contest between Pakistan and Iranian railways; book ‘Art of Wrestling’.
Table Tennis: member executive committee of Pakistan Table Tennis Federation.
Cycling: chairman national selection committee.
Weightlifting: book ‘Weightlifting’.
Volleyball: national selector; book ‘Volleyball’.
Swimming: national selector; author of a book.
His coaching spanned generations. Pakistan’s hockey legend late Munir Dar, Olympic gold medallist 1960, always mentioned Khawaja Sahib as “My Ustad (mentor)”. Munir’s son Tauqeer Dar, Olympic gold medallist 1984, says, “I learnt my early hockey lessons at the annual coaching camps conducted by K M Aslam at the Railways Carson Institute (now Allama Iqbal Institute) in Lahore.
It was no wonder that all the three sons of Aslam distinguished themselves in hockey. Awais and Bilal, who were twins, were members of Pakistan’s bronze medal-winning team of 1982 Junior World Cup. Both were named standbys for Pakistan’s national (senior) sides but petty politics denied them the honour of representing the country at that level. Junaid fulfilled all the family’s dreams. In his international career from 1987-95 the outstanding left half won golds at the World Cup, Asian Games, Asia Cup and the Champions Trophy plus an Olympic bronze. He was named in the world team at the 1994 World Cup and declared player of tournament at the Champions Trophy the same year. Aslam’s daughter Shabnam also played for the national women’s hockey team.
Even a life span of 95 seems small for so many achievements that Aslam had.
Aslam’s meritorious services to railways’ sports should be acknowledged by renaming the railways stadium in Lahore after him.