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Remembering Pitras Bokhari (by SM)

by SM

Essayist, teacher and diplomat Prof. Ahmad Shah Bokhari, who was known as Pitras Bokhari among literati and connoisseurs of literature, was an internationally acclaimed Pakistani who is fondly remembered as a man of all nations.

There have been scores of well-known and highly talented citizens whose presence in a social milieu or a city is felt by many among their compatriots. When they depart for their ethereal abodes, an institution a social ambience and a whole way of life go with them. With the passing away of Prof. Bokhari in the first week of December 1958, not only did Pakistan lose a distinguished citizen, but the world at large became the poorer, for through the aegis of the United States he had served the World Organization so admirably. His advocacy of the Arab cause against American-backed Zionists won him laurels from the entire Muslim world.

His luminous intellect, incisive analysis and highly persuasive arguments while espousing the freedom struggles of Tunisia and Algeria against French colonialism and his vociferous condemnation of apartheid let loose in South Africa by a White minority regime, won him the hearts of million of African people. For his own country he stood as rock with the United Nations against anti-Pakistan propaganda.

Besides serving a complete tenure as Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations, he also completed a two-year term (1953-54) as President of UN Security Council, where he was described as “diplomats’ diplomat” and the most effective spokesman of the Asian-Arab Block of countries.

Prof. Bokhari streaked across Pakistan’s firmament like a brilliant meteor whose glow still retains its original dazzle. A man of many graces, he was much more then a humorous essayist. His many-faceted genius took in its sweep a great deal of achievements and landmarks.

His essays are still read with much attention and respect. He was as competent a satirist as he was an able teacher, educational administrator and diplomat. He was a marvel, which could best be described as a one-man institution.

Prof. A.S. Bokhari studied at Government College Lahore, where he also taught English literature and also served as the Principal of this great institution. He returned to Lahore in March 1947 after completing his work on the Committee constituted by the British government to partition the assets of the then All-India Radio. Government College, which wore a deserted look after the mass exodus of its non-Muslim teaching staff re-opened in the first week of October that year, when the strength of its teaching staff had been reduced to 14. He first undertook the onerous responsibility of providing the College a modicum of faculty strength, in which he succeeded after putting in a lot of efforts

Besides managing the affairs of Government College Lahore as its Principal,
Prof. Bokhari also served as principal adviser to Radio Pakistan during its formative stage. He was also nominated by Government of Pakistan in early 1948 a member of a two-man delegation to go to the United Kingdom to work on the draft of an agreement for the division of assets of India Office Library, London.

In 1950, Prof. Bokhari was a member of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan’s entourage during his visit to the United States. All the speeches and public pronouncement of the late Prime Minister were drafted by him. These have since been published in a volume entitled Heart of Asia. It was close association with Liaquat Ali Khan, which culminated in his posting as Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations.

After completing that assignment, Prof. A.S. Bokhari was appointed as permanent Under Secretary of the United Nations in its department of public information, a job, which he also served with great distinction. He stood the test of time to earn for himself a position of lasting importance and pre-eminence at UN headquarters.

The late Prof. Bokhari was one of those sons of the soil, who shared the burden of managing the affairs of the new state in the face of almost insurmountable obstacles. A great patriot and superb gentleman, not only did he serve his motherland to the best of his abilities, but also promoted the objectives of the world body. His speeches at UN Security Council and General Assembly were admired for their eloquence, expressiveness and topical relevance. He was a voice of reason and sanity, and his views were heard with rapt attention and reverence.

Prof. Bokhari captured the imagination of the young and the old alike and his humorous essays continue to impress the readers with the same intensity as when they were published several decades ago. Although he did not write much in terms of quantity but qualitatively his contributions to Urdu literature matched his luminous contemporaries. Not only that, he seemed head and shoulders above a number of men of letters of this time.