Remembering late Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar (June 22, 1946-November 25, 2020)
Late Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar was not only a successful politician and businessman, but also the embodiment of generosity, kindness and loyalty.
Born in Lahore, Mukhtar inherited his business and qualities from his father late Chaudhry Muhammad Hussain, the founder of Servis Industries. In his time, Hussain had also been a philanthropist who ran several welfare and educational projects in Lahore and Gujrat.
Mukhtar was one of three brothers. The eldest, Chaudhry Ahmad Saeed, a former managing director and chairman of Pakistan International Airlines, had passed away in 2018. The youngest, Ahmad Javed, now leads the family.
Mukhtar did his matriculation from Abbotabbad High School and bachelor’s from Forman Christian College where his brother Saeed, Gen Pervez Musharraf, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and former National Security Council secretary Tariq Aziz were his peers. Later, he received a master’s in operations management from USA and a diploma in plastic technology from West Germany.
He entered politics in 1990 and emerged as a tough challenge to Chaudhris of Gujrat in his and their home town. In 1993, he won the Gujrat constituency for National Assembly and was sworn in as the trade and commerce minister in Benazir Bhutto’s cabinet.
He earned the confidence of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari when the former was in exile and the latter in jail. Ms Bhutto appointed him the general secretary of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party. Once, this scribe asked late Khalid Ahmad Khan Kharal, a former information minister and secretary general of the PPP Federal Council, about the reason for appointing Mukhtar as the general secretary, he responded: “He is dedicated, disciplined, polite and generous. He will not make money from the party but would spend from his pocket for the party and the cause.”
Later, he left the office for personal reasons in 2007. “When Benazir Bhutto told him to operate the party’s Islamabad secretariat, Chaudhry sahib spent millions of rupees from his own pocket to renovate the office,” says Tahir Khaliq, a former PPP leader and Mukhtar’s media advisor in PIA.
In 2008, he contested the NA-105 and defeated Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. He also served as defence minister in Yousaf Raza Gillani’s cabinet and as PIA chairman. Later, he was given the water and power portfolio.
In 2010, he went to USA for a successful open heart surgery. In 2013, he stepped away from active politics and concentrated on his business and welfare work.
He loved his family, friends, party and supporters. “When Asif Zardari was released from jail and decided to reside in Lahore, Chaudhry Sahib selected a house in Lahore Cantonment and rented it to host the former president for over a year, paying all expenses from his own pocket,” says Khaliq.
About his generosity, Khaliq says, “I am witness to hundreds of incidents when needy commoners and friends would come to him for financial help. He would not refuse anybody.”
Mukhtar had great love and respect for his elder brother, Ahmad Saeed. However, the two stopped talking and meeting each other in 2003-4 after Saeed was appointed MD and Chairman of PIA. “We don’t know the reason behind it. However, I know that both were hurt. In the end, their cousins intervened and managed to bring about a reconciliation between them,” says his son Faisal Mukhtar.
Khaliq says: “I saw Chaudhry Sahib, always a composed person, crying for his elder brother as he would long to see him. Still, I too, don’t know the reason.”
Mukhtar withdrew from Servis Industries and invested in textile industry and fisheries.
Faisal Mukhtar told TNS: “He was a disciplined person who would be ready for work at 9.00am sharp. He taught us the same discipline. I knew that my father was a giving person but his death revealed to me how generous he had been as hundreds of people came to me and told me about his generosity.”
This scribe interviewed Mukhtar twice and met him dozens of times and always found him composed. He was not a media savvy politician. “I prefer to work instead of wasting my time for self projection. Time is precious and we must spend it productively,” Mukhtar had said during an interview.
Mukhtar and Kharal were arrested in 1998 on charges of corruption brought by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government against persons close to Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. Both were acquitted in the end. Mukhtar spent 18 months in jail and refused an offer for a plea-bargain saying: “It will stain my personality. I am innocent and will prove it.”
The Mukhtar-Kharal duo was very effective in the PPP as the former was a leading businessman while the latter was a former bureaucrat and a close aide to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Ms Bhutto. They mentored Federal Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain when he started his political career in late 1990s and served as deputy secretary information in PPP Lahore.
Mukhtar is survived by a wife, a son and two daughters. When asked about a future in politics, Faisal Mukhtar says: “In political matters, we follow the decisions taken by of our uncle Ahmad Javed and our eldest cousin Arif Saeed. Let’s see what they decide. If they decide that we should continue the political legacy of my father and uncle, we will do that.”
About his father’s ailment, Faisal says, “He was fit and fine. Suddenly, he felt pain in the cervical region while having dinner with us. We took him to Shalimar Hospital where he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He got better for a while but a second bout of pneumonia proved fatal.”
Reacting to his death, Fawad tweeted: “Extremely sorry to hear about the sad demise of Ch Ahmad Mukhtar. He was not well for quite some time. We used to have debates on coffee with late Khalid Kharral, both were centre forwards of PPP and important players of Pak politics both are no more .... will be missed ... RIP sir.”
President Asif Zardari and PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto also described Mukhtar as a loyal, brave and committed leader. “He was an asset to the party,” tweeted Bilawal.
The writer is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and researcher. He tweets at @BukhariMubasher