Monday September 20, 2021

In memoriam

August 25, 2021

Aftab Hassan Usman (1954-2021): on August 6, I received a message from Seher Usman, my friend Aftab Usman’s daughter, simply stating “Papa has passed away.” Aftab had been struck by the coronavirus just a few days earlier and had been hospitalized. I had remained in close touch with the family and was hopeful all would turn out fine. But, in the end that wasn’t to be. I lost one of my closest and dearest friends.

Our friendship went back over 50 years, from the time we had both been teenagers, studying at Gordon College in Rawalpindi.

Over these many decades, our lives took many twists and turns. Aftab moved to Brussels with his parents, and I went to Ankara for studies. Yet we always managed to keep in touch. Aftab built a successful career at a prominent public relations firm in Europe and then moved back to Pakistan in the 1990s.

Aftab had unmatched tenacity and drive. He worked his way through a few business ventures, emerging as a pioneer in setting up electronic media channels in Pakistan and abroad. Many prominent TV news channels in Pakistan owe their establishment and success to the guidance, expertise, and wit of my friend Aftab. Announcing his passing, one of the TV channels said, “Pakistan media industry’s sun has set.” A fitting farewell to a man of much accomplishment.

Throughout the struggles of life, Aftab raised a wonderful family – his daughter Seher and son Umer are both accomplished professionals in their respective fields. And his wonderful wife Seema remains a very close friend.

Over the past few years, Aftab encountered health challenges which he faced in his own unique positive style – not one to give in to an illness or anything else. It felt to me that nothing could take him down. He visited me in Washington DC in 2018 and we spent several memorable days together. Our last meeting was in March 2020.

Our families took vacations together when our children were growing up. Aftab’s humor always kept us all smiling and laughing. He was a friend I could always lean on. I like to think that it is seldom in life that one has friendships as close as ours was.

On July 24, Aftab sent us a message, “Friends: The Delta Forces managed to overcome my defenses. Let’s see how long I remain down”. This was vintage Aftab Usman. Courage and humor in adversity. He was fully vaccinated, so I expected him to recover in due course of time. Little did I know that would be the last time I would hear from him. My heart is in pieces. It will take a long time to repair.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Washington DC. Website: www. sqshareef.com/blogs