My friend, class fellow and neighbour at International Islamic University hostel, DSP Shaukat Ali Shah’s martyrdom in Attock along with Punjab’s home minister Shuja Khanzada is a rare example of selflessness, devotion and bravery. Policing was his passion, a choice he deliberately made and I found him always dedicated to his duty. No wonder he died in uniform.
Back in 2007, in the middle of Taliban insurgency, while sitting in Shaukat’s office in Attock city on main Peshawar road, I said: “What if a car loaded with explosives comes and rams your office, I will also die with you.”
“Well, these risks are our day to day reality. Policing is not a career; it is a way of life,” he responded back in a matter-of-fact manner.
There was this restlessness and sharpness coupled with a sort of recklessness in him right from campus days. He was one of those people who are driven by passion and personal conviction, something reflected earlier on in his very impressionistic poetry, a regular feature of our post-dinner gatherings in the hostel between 1995-98. There, after initial reluctance, he would agree to read from his collection.
Na Baz Rakh Sakay mujhay urnay kay shoaq say
Meray shikista par bhi, mukhalif hawain bhi
His poetic talent was soon recognised by the university’s Al-Qalam Literary Society, responsible for publishing the university’s literary magazine where he was among one of editors of Urdu section. The society arranged memorable Musharias featuring among others Iftikhar Arif and Ahmed Faraz.
His first book Baghair Teray was published right after we were out of university and was a huge hit among friends who were most fond of his poem ‘Shimla Pahari’. It was about the difference of being at the same place with and without one’s love.
For two long years, we lived in rooms adjacent to each other in Islamabad of mid-1990s, marred by dismissals of one political government after another. Still there was this strange carefree self-indulgence and terror-free environment which allowed us to explore the campus politics rather fearlessly. We hardly cared about how much money we had, what we were eating and where we were staying. All we knew was that we were able to live in the spur of the moment and to its fullest.
Shaukat was often found at the centre of such events through his mind-blowing out-of-box ideas, often in the hostel. I do not know how but he once managed to lock the bathroom of his furious-looking neighbour from inside and then innocently asked him who was using his bathroom for hours?
On another occasion, a foreign student knocked at my door asking me for the keys to his room which was locked from outside with a note that said “keys are kept in Room # 50”, which was my room. I knew it was Shaukat’s doing before he was there inquiring innocently and then showing his willingness to help in something he had himself created.
Often he would comment on my rather barren romantic life. One day, he became excited and started making frantic calls to every possible number to find me a girlfriend in the city and hearing plain abuses in return.
This happy-go-lucky boy was transformed into a dedicated police officer, serving almost round the clock. I spent a weekend with him in Hazro where he was overseeing night security of the area including the main GT Road and remember him picking up his wireless all night, may be over twenty five times in the course of six hours, waking up again and again. “This is routine,” he told me at the breakfast as if it did not matter and started preparing himself again for office.
That is why I was surely concerned but not surprised to know a few years later that he was shot at the chest during a raid and was being operated in CMH Rawalpindi. When I finally reached to see him at the hospital, he was back in his spirits despite several operations he had had to go through.
Despite my little knowledge, I knew that Hazro was not an easy station. But Shaukat developed a way to be always on the offensive in the rather lawless river bank area where he kept chasing hardened criminals as late as last month. In many ways, he was a specialist on the entire Attock area. His father had served in the city and Shaukat went to college in this city. He developed such fondness that he never tried to get himself transferred to cities although he was well-respected and was always heard in his police service.
Our paths drifted in different directions in the post-university days. Calls became less frequent, meetings even lesser but still we would find a way to stay touch and in the next minute of our meeting he was back to his sharp wicked humour. It was his ability to create extraordinary out of the mundane which now makes me think that he had to go like this.
This time, though, he had chosen a path that permanently elevated him to a status enjoyed by the small number of men and women who will be remembered forever for protecting Pakistan in times when it was most needed.
The article was published under the title A way of life — or death in The News on Sunday on August 23, 2015.