The Bokhari Trust

By Khalid Hasan The Nation 18 January 1998.

It is strange how a small thing one may have done many years ago comes to take root and long after, one is surprised to discover that what was intended as a simple throwaway gesture on what may have been no more than the fancy of the moment, has come to acquire a significance and an identity that would not have been thought possible at the time of the original action.

This certainly is what happened to Muzaffar Mahmood Qureshi, my friend of many years and secretary now of a ministry whose purpose may be unexceptionable but whose name is a grammatical error.  Ministry of Women Development it was named by Benazir Bhutto.  Not women’s, but women development.  I was hoping I would one day discover at least one thing she may have done right, but as time passes, that eventuality appears to be more and more remote.  Benazir, it should be added, was also responsible for another grammatical monstrosity:  First Women Bank, not women’s but women bank.  Perhaps she is not to be blamed.  Perhaps it was Asif Zardari who thought up all those names, though why he would do something from which apparently he stood to become no richer, he will have to be asked next time he is out of the clinker.

But let Benazir stay with her Swiss bank accounts, the little nest egg, while I return to Muzaffar Mahmood Qureshi (why can’t people take shorter names?).  I first ran into Muzaffar at Lawrence College, Ghora Gali, where he had come to the senior school to teach.  He lasted just over a year, having got himself selected for The Service, CSP of yore and DMG of today.  But make no mistake, only the initials have changed; it remains lethal in both its manifestations.  In those days, all CSP probationers used to be sent to Oxford for a short stint although what relevance it had to what these men were going to be doing, remains an unresolved mystery.  Qureshi got picked in 1962, which makes him two years senior to the entire “batch of 64”, including Farooq A. Khan Leghari of Unclaimed Acres.  At Oxford, one day he and a couple of his friends decided to form a trust in memory of Prof A.S. Bokhari, although none of them had been the great man’s student.  A bank account was opened in Oxford with 10 pounds or so.  The original five trustees were Shahid Javed Burki (Prime Minister-in-waiting of next caretakers’ government but currently marking time at the World Bank), Sarshar Ahmed Khan, Pervez Masud, Mohammad Azhar, Iqbal Moeen and Saghir Asad Hassan.

On January 14, 1964, Qureshi wrote a letter to the Principal of Government College, Lahore informing him that the Bokhari Trust aimed at “endowing original research at places of learning in the country” and that its main emphasis would be on “problems” of social and economic significance”.  The Trust also announced two awards in the princely sum of Rs. 50 each, one at the college, the other at Punjab University.  The field in which the awards were to be given were the successes and failures of the local government in Lahore, special problems of the industry in the city, middle and lower-level housing, and budgeting for a clerk’s family.  There is no evidence that the Principal answered Qureshi’s letter.

Those who had gathered to form the Trust agreed to contribute Rs.10 every month.  Many of them – and they were the more enthusiastic of the group – were from East Pakistan.  Among those who are listed as having paid up their dues in 1964 are :  Ahmed Maqsood Hameedi – Anwar Maqsood’s older brother, Qazi Mansur Ahmed (one of Pakistan’s most distinguished ambassadors), Khalid Ahmed (later KKK or Khalid Khan Kharal) and Javed Salim.  The trust remained in existence but nothing happened to it.  Ultimately everyone, including Muzaffar Mahmood Qureshi, forgot about it, that is until September 1997 when it was discovered that in 1976, with the kitty at Rs.3,500, Qureshi in whose name the money was held, had invested the entire sum in national savings certificates which had matured in 1985.  The funds were reinvested and by 1997 the Bokhari Trust was worth Rs.46,700.

Qureshi wrote to everyone who had ever contributed to the Trust asking them to give generously so that the money could be put to good use.  Ahmed Maqsood Hameedi alone of the CSPs responded to the call and sent Rs.5,000.  One of the original contributors, Qazi Habibul Haque who came from Bangladesh on a brief visit to Pakistan, contributed $240 on his behalf and that of another former East Pakistani member of the Service, Jalaluddin Ahmad, now serving with the ILO in Nepal.  “I hope this is only a beginning of a great upward surge and that we would be receiving many more surprises,” wrote Qureshi to everyone who had ever contributed to the Bokhari Trust.  Since as a rule, The Service is more in the business of taking than giving, the response from the members has been poor.  Currently, the funds which have been reinvested in defence savings certificates stand at Rs.63,300.

Surely, Shahid Javed Burki who must make more money at the World Bank than a lesser Mafiosi chief does at his trade, can do better by the Trust.  And so can Minoo Bhandara, who though no CSP did contribute Rs.10 to the fund in 1963.  There is no evidence that he has given another penny since, though you wouldn’t call him poor, would you?  It may be of interest to add that the Principal of Government College, Lahore, who can rightfully claim the use of the money so far collected, has not answered any of the letters he has been sent.

No Prof. A.S. Bokhari he.  And that is for certain.