Remembering Anwar Saleem Ahmad

April 18, 2021

The past year and a half has been full of loss and heartbreak for so many, across the world. Every life lost, especially the ones taken far before their time, deserves to be remembered and...

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The past year and a half has been full of loss and heartbreak for so many, across the world. Every life lost, especially the ones taken far before their time, deserves to be remembered and celebrated. As we enter the sixteenth year without our beloved father, Anwar Saleem Ahmad, we once again turn to the pages of the newspaper in which he wrote a long-running article to remember his life and honor his memory.

Our father lived an unconventional and challenging life. After losing his mother at the age of two, he was raised by his elder sisters, two invincible women who undoubtedly prepared him for the many trials life would throw at him. He graduated at the top of his class in the first batch of students to receive a Masters in International Relations from Quaid-e-Azam University, and went on to top the CSS examination and join the DMG. In 1982, he was awarded the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship, under which he studied policy and governance at the University of Minnesota. In 1992, while serving as Deputy Commissioner, Sargodha, a car accident left him permanently paralyzed from the waist down and restricted to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

In the months after his accident, he had the strong support of friends, family, and colleagues as he attempted to adjust to a completely new way of life. That he rejoined the civil service as Additional Commissioner Revenue in Rawalpindi is due in large part to the care and encouragement of those around him, who knew his abilities well, and pushed him to come back to work. Though he needed a specially modified vehicle to travel in, and finger splints to be able to type, he continued his work in the service with a level of integrity and dedication that outstripped many of his able-bodied peers. Too many offices in our country do not have something as basic as wheelchair ramps; too many educational institutes have no facilities for students with sight or hearing impairments; and too many of us do not see people with disabilities as equal members of society. The fact that our father continued to rise through the ranks and build an exemplary career in the civil service even while confined to a wheelchair is a testament to what people with disabilities can achieve if only society affords them space to flourish.

In September 1993, he started writing for ‘The News’, becoming a weekly contributor in 1994. He picked up a following of keen readers and remained a regular columnist for the next ten years, continuing to write up to a year before his untimely death.

In 2000, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgins’s Lymphoma - a cancer of the lymph nodes. His incredible courage and dignity during his 5-year battle gained respect and affection from nurses, doctors, and even security guards at the hospital. On 18 April 2005, after a painful and bravely fought battle, we lost our father to this dreaded disease at the far-too-young age of 52.

Grief is not linear, nor does it dissipate over time. For those who suffer a debilitating loss, it exists as a constantly evolving burden to be carried through the rest of their lives. Sixteen years after losing our father, we often feel the grief of not just having lost him back then, but also of never having known him as adults. There is a special bond that exists between parents and their adult children. It is a haunting and heartbreaking feeling to know that we - our father and us - will never experience that bond. Whenever the loss of not having known him as an adult gets too much, we turn - as we invariably do - to his own words. Written many years ago in an unpublished article to describe the qualities of a good officer, our father gives us a hint of the person we would have gotten to know, had we met him now: “A good officer is neither a preacher nor a grumbler - never a cynic. To be able to survive in an alien world, he must have an inner source of moral renewal. And, an irrepressible sense of humor! His best memories are of people, their sad and smiling faces, not of grand projects or lofty proposals.”

We love you Aba, and we will miss you always.

Suraya, Saman, Maheen, and Mariam Saleem Farooqi

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