A sad departure

February 4, 2024

Dr Ajaz Anwar reminisces about the “charismatic and multi-faceted personality” of Mian Tariq Mahmud, who was also “a patron of painters”

— Image: Supplied
— Image: Supplied

During the recent, unexpectedly long spell of cold, we lost many noble souls to seasonal ailments turned fatal. Mian Tariq Mahmud was one of them. He fell sick with pneumonia and developed serious complications, which he never recovered from.

Friends in shock rushed to his place, to pay their last respects to Mian sahib, as Mahmud was fondly known.

Mahmud and I were students at Government College, Lahore. He was junior to me by a year, but we were drawn to each other because of a common interest in fine arts. Abid Hussain Qureshi was his class mate before they parted ways for well over 20 years. While Qureshi left for Japan, Mahmud went on to form the largest cargo company of Pakistan, post his LLB.

Mahmud belonged to an illustrious family; his father, Mian Abdul Khaliq, was a legendary civil engineer who built Minar-i-Pakistan. He deemed it such a huge honour that he refused to accept any monetary reward for it.

Mr Khaliq sponsored and facilitated many writers in his lifetime. Chief among those was Yunus Adeeb, the writer of Mera Shehr Lahore. Mahmud shared his father’s literary taste and artistic pursuits which introduced him to different social circles. Thus, he became a founding member of the Lahore Conservation Society which he gave a lot of his time and money to.

The cargo company Mahmud founded and developed proved to be a very successful venture. It was also a gathering place for his many enterprising friends, old and young. The motley crowd included painters, writers, historians and philosophers. Every month, they would hold a meeting in the company’s huge boardroom, which was air conditioned and equipped with all the computer aided audio/ video recording facilities. They named the gathering History Society.

Irshad Ali, a retired professor of English, had suggested that history should not be viewed through the lens of religion or localised political happenings.


I was supposed to chair the meeting. However, I had little control over the lengthy speeches delivered by some of the participants who were all ardent friends of Mian Tariq Mahmud.

The lure of the microphone and chair have their adhesive qualities. Most dwelt on the charismatic and multi-faceted personality of Mahmud. He was also a favourite student of Prof Aslam Minhas of Fine Arts Department at the Government College. Besides, Mahmud was the table tennis champion and won several trophies for the college which reportedly went missing only to be eventually found by jealous friends in the drawing room of his Samanabad house. (This fun fact was shared with me by Waqar Kitchlew, a neighbour of Mahmud.)

The well attended meeting was a tribute to the departed soul who was our common friend. Those present included Prof Irshad, Ross Masud, Khalid Mahboob, Dr Sarfraz Khawaja, Muhammad Javed, Khalid Kashmiri, Hussain Majrooh, FU Sabir, Daud Ilyas, Bilal Rana, Naeem Amjad, Tariq Yasin, Saeed Ahmad and Zahid Munir.

Mahmud’s son, Asad Tariq, sat close to an over-size portrait of his late father, as the proceedings continued. A big advertisement/ announcement had been published in a leading newspaper of the country in which the family of Mian sahib thanked all those who had attended the funeral and/ or sent condolences.


Mahmud was a patron of painters, as is evident from a number of paintings and art prints displayed in his office. When Abid Hussain Qureshi returned from his long sojourn in France, being very heavy baggage, his large canvasses were left behind. Mehmud used his contacts to bring those to Pakistan, even hoodwinking the customs authorities because the depicted figural depictions could attract censorship.

When Qureshi was waylaid by the National College of Arts, Lahore, he was given financial aid and studio shelter at Taq, where he worked for many months leaving behind countless sketches and some paintings that were worth a fortune.

Qureshi eventually landed a teaching job at the University of Balochistan. Many of his artworks were despatched to Quetta by Mehmud through his company.

Every year, his team of graphic designers from the NCA, headed by Zafeer Ullah, an expert graphic designer, would prepare a calendar for private distribution. Every friend of Taq would receive one. In 1993, Prof Javed Siddique’s photographs, captured through his Hasselblad camera, were used for an artistic calendar. He was duly rewarded monetarily. This pushed more business his way.

A year later, they used six images from my series of watercolour paintings, titled Old Lahore. They paid me a substantial amount for that. That it raised the prices offered for paintings made then on, is another story. (The publicity that the calendar got me must have caught the attention of Fakhar Zaman, the then chairman of the World Punjabi Congress, who recommended my name for a Presidential Award in 1997.)

The calendar was also sent across the border, and I was invited to exhibit in New Delhi and Chandigarh. This is how Mian sahib’s promotion of his artist friends had a windfall effect.

He also visited my studio at the House of NANNAs many times. On one such visit, he proposed a get-together of old friends, but his untimely demise put that off.

Mehmud believed in the saying, “Make new friends, but remember the old; those are gold.” Every year he’d throw a big luncheon for his school, college and university friends. It was open to all, actually. The gathering at the prestigious club in DHA attracted even the newly introduced friends. The invitees always had the chance to meet their long lost friends. One such friend of mine, Iftikhar Malik, was a descendant of the original owners of the four havelis in Qila Gujjar Singh. We’d commute on the Omnibus double-decker; he’d drop off at Central Model School. My stop was Secretariat.

Among other old friends I met at these gatherings were Haroon Rashid and Col Ahmad Hussain. Saeed-uz Zafar had left for greener pastures. All of us would enjoy the lavish menu and help ourselves to it unabashedly.

The parties would cost a fortune, but then such was the generosity of Mian sahib.


In the meeting it was suggested that Mehmud’s mission should be carried on, as a tribute to him. His son, Asad, offered all cooperation. Eventually, all of us signed on an ‘attendance sheet’ and vowed to continue with the meetings. We then raised our hands to say a prayer for Mian sahib and the Palestinians.

(This dispatch is dedicated to Abid Hussain Qureshi)

The writer is a painter, a founding member of Lahore Conservation Society and Punjab Artists Association, and a former director of NCA Art Gallery. He can be reached at ajazart@brain.net.pk

A sad departure