The absence of Haji Mohammad Adeel’s name in the newspapers for even a short duration would make one think that he is either ill or abroad.
There was no way he would keep quiet and not comment on issues of the day. Not one to shy away from controversy, he had to take a stand and defend it come what may.
This time though his absence from the media was long and worrisome. A diabetic for the last 30 years, his disease had become complicated and affected his kidneys. He was put on dialysis about 15 months ago, but he contracted Hepatitis C during the process and started having breathing problems. All this forced him to change his hectic lifestyle and curtail his activities.
Finally on November 18, kidney failure caused his death at the age of 72.
Haji Adeel’s largely attended funeral at the Jinnah Park, Peshawar, still referred to as Cunnigham Park by some of the old-timers from the Khudai Khidmatgar Movement, or the Red Shirts as they were commonly known, was evidence of his popularity. People of all walks of life were present and one heard many extolling his virtues as a good human being, a committed political worker and a steadfast campaigner for democracy, provincial autonomy and human rights.
Awami National Party (ANP) workers clad in red uniform and wearing smart red caps carried his coffin along with his relatives. This was their final tribute to a man who held aloft all his life the red party flag and the Khudai Khidmatgar philosophy of service to humanity that he had inherited from his late father Hakeem Abdul Jaleel Nadvi, who in turn was a follower of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, or Bacha Khan as he was called reverentially.
This was no bearded Haji, but a clean-shaven man who was both religious and secular. He was a humanist and Pakhtun nationalist with progressive views and democratic credentials. After performing Haj, his name looked incomplete without the prefix of Haji. He now became widely known as Haji Adeel.
Haji Adeel’s politics was transparent and there was no scandal to his name despite having held public offices as finance minister and deputy speaker of the provincial assembly in his native province. He had thrice been elected member of the provincial assembly in 1990, 1993 and 1997 and as senator from March 2009 to March 2015.
For years Haji Adeel wasn’t known much at the national level because his politics was confined to Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. His arrival in the Senate provided him a platform at the federal level and soon he became known nationally. The tv talk shows introduced him to all provinces and to households. Well read and knowledgeable, he used to come prepared for discussion on all kinds of issues. The fact that he was vocal and witty supplemented his oratory skills and forced all and sundry to listen to him.
The end of his six-year term in the Senate deprived him of a place where he could voice his opinion and highlight issues close to his heart. As the bastion of the representatives from the smaller provinces, the Senate was an ideal platform for someone like Haji Adeel who lost no opportunity to raise voice for the rights of his province and its people.
Haji Adeel had a restless and conscientious soul and it was depressing for him to stay at home now that he was no longer a senator. His illness had also curtailed his movement. As his son Adnan Jaleel recalled, he advised him to attend an event at the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar where popular Pashto ghazal singer Khyal Mohammad was awarded Afghanistan’s highest civil award so that he could meet acquaintances and overcome feelings of depression. It proved the last public event of his life as he died the same night.
There had been heart-breaks in his eventful life, but he had weathered many a storm. One was the tragic death of his second son, Mohammad Jibran Jaleel, who died young after suffering from asthma. He could have been his political heir because his elder son, Adnan Jaleel, was looking after the family business as a dealer of motorcycles. Adnan has been active in the politics of the business community and has held offices in the provincial and federal chambers. However, he hasn’t participated actively in the mainstream politics and is unsure if the ANP leadership would ask him to get involved in it in future.
Haji Adeel also suffered imprisonment and financial losses on account of his political beliefs. He set up a vegetable ghee factory in Mardan, but it went into losses and had to be sold. At the time he complained of political victimisation as a factor in ruining his business venture.
Haji Adeel had a complex relationship with the ANP, or its predecessor parties such as the National Awami Party (NAP) and National Democratic Party (NDP). He belonged to a Hindko-speaking family and wasn’t fluent in Pashto, but he tirelessly campaigned for the rights of the Pakhtuns. He was a believer in merit, but he remained loyal all his life to the family of Bacha Khan, his son Khan Abdul Wali Khan and grandson Asfandyar Wali Khan even if it meant strengthening dynastic politics. In principle he was a firm believer in humanity but his ANP-centred politics revolved around the rights of the Pakhtuns. As those who knew him from close quarters, Haji Adeel was sometimes content with what he got being part of the ANP and at times was unhappy. However, he never complained publicly and placed loyalty to the party leadership above everything else.
The way Haji Adeel spent his funds as a member of the Senate and before that as provincial lawmaker reflected his priorities. His focus of attention was always education and health. He funded the establishment of Jibran Jaleel Hospital and the Hakeem Abdul Jaleel Nadvi Sports Complex at the University of Peshawar in memory of his late son and father, respectively. He gave funds to set up herbal institute at the Khyber Medical University and got it named after his father who was a qualified ‘hakeem’ (practitioner of Tibb).
He also got the Cantonment General Hospital Peshawar renovated and proposed to name it the Anwar Begum Hospital after his late mother. He gave funds for a sports complex at the Defence Park in Peshawar. Besides, he contributed towards the building of an arts and culture centre close to the Nishtar Hall Peshawar and wished that it should be named after his beloved son Jibran Jaleel.
Not many people know that this is a family of artists. Haji Adeel and his wife Farzana Adeel were painters and they met and fell in love while taking painting classes from their teacher Sultan Haider at the Abasin Arts Council Peshawar. Their younger son Jibran Jaleel also was a painter. Their elder son Adnan Jaleel is an interior decorator and designer and his two daughters are now following in his footsteps.