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National

March 14, 2018

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Former Olympian-turned-driver passes away

ISLAMABAD: Ashiq, who competed for Pakistan at the 1960 and the 1964 Olympics, became a rickshaw driver in Lahore a few years ago to make ends meet, Geo News reported. He began his sporting career as a boxer, switching to cycling in the 1950s when his wife complained about his injuries. He competed in Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964 and though he won no medals, he was hailed as a national hero for Pakistan. But when his cycling career ended, so did his luck. He took a PR job but left it for health reasons in 1977. He briefly drove a taxi and a van then bounced around several other small business ideas, but then started to drive a rickshaw, ferrying low-income passengers around Lahore’s bustling, choked streets. Ashiq spent his life dismayed by how the Pakistani government ‘forgot’ him. In 2016, in an interview with AFP, he said he prays for his death. “I pray... to meet my beloved wife in heaven. I think it is better to avoid this pathetic situation I have endured,” he had said. The canopy of Ashiq’s rickshaw was inscribed with a twist on the famous quote by former US president Calvin Coolidge: “Nations and states who forget their heroes can never be prosperous”. When passengers asked him about the message, he used to tell them his story — using it as a cautionary tale for the poor in particular, whom he warned never to take part in sports.

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