Remembering a “Faqir” – Late Colonel Amjad Hussain Sayed
By C. Naseer Ahmad
Washington, DC: Family and friends of the late Colonel Amjad Hussain Sayed gathered near Washington’s Dulles Airport to honor the memories of a loving man.
His friends and loved ones called him “Shahji” but the same accomplished children took pride in calling him “Faqir.” The memorial event had both simplicity as well as purpose – two hallmarks of a veteran of the Pakistan Movement and a devoted disciple of Allama Iqbal.
More than half a century ago, President John F. Kennedy challenged US citizens to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” This simple question ought to inspire public service and patriotic zeal, regardless of which country one belongs to. Brigadier Chaudhary Sarfraz Ali, Military Attaché Embassy of Pakistan, mentioned Shahji’s contribution to Pakistan in the country’s hour of need by helping facilitate the submarines from Indonesia during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. “I wish I could be half of what he was”, said Brigadier Sarfraz.
The best tributes to the loved one being remembered neither need flowery language nor feigned affection. The virtues of simplicity are immeasurable and full of meaning. In soft spoken manner, Ms Jilani introduced the speakers who shared with friends what they found in Shahji and how he touched them.
Daud Chattha talked about the simplicity of the family home and shared his personal feelings. “He was a saint,” said Chatta whose father-in-law Chaudhary Javed Elahi later explained at length the qualities - such as respect for others and personal responsibility - he found endearing in Shahji. “Even at an advanced age, he would go to pay his own bills,” said Chaudhary Javed Elahi pointing out that many people would pass on the responsibility to others or take advantage of their position in society.
Among the notables attending this elegant function were Professor Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington, and Dr Shezra Mansab Ali, Member National Assembly of Pakistan. Dr Ali represents Nankana Sahib -- the birthplace of Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith.
Representing the family were Mowahid Hussain Shah, his brother Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, his sister Ms Tahseen Sayed – currently the most senior Pakistani serving in the World Bank - and few grandchildren of Shahji.
Mujahid Hussain Shah, the eldest brother could not join the function as he was in Pakistan. However, Javed Elahi noted that throughout his career at Nawa-e-Waqt, Mujahid was “never late for work” and did not take advantage of his father’s friendship with the founders of the paper.
On behalf of his family, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed thanked friends and well-wishers for coming together to remember Shahji. “I am a Washingtonian,” he said reminiscing the years he spent in Washington as a graduate student in the 1970s and acknowledged his friends from days gone by.
“Yaaran naal baharan,” - meaning with friends it is springtime again - said Mian Muhammad Bakhsh, author of the epic “Saif-ul-Muluk.” But, as one looked around the tables in the elegant Sheraton Dulles conference room, there were no fair weather friends.
On a wet evening drenching the Washington area with hours of heavy rain, some friends came all the way from Philadelphia. Among the steadfast friends of decades past was Mohammad Aslam, founder Metro Travel, who did not want to miss the opportunity to be with friends despite some health challenges. Likewise, Haji Afzal, founder of the popular restaurant Ravi Kabob, took pains to ensure that everyone got enough food by going to each table.
These are the types of friends who give meaning to the word friendship. And, there they were - friends of the children of Shahji - gathered to remember what is truly valuable in life – the love of one’s parents and the parents of one’s friends, integrity, decency and humility.
The sun had set on the physical life of Shahji – just as it had set on the day of July 28, 2017 but inside the lights shone bright and mutual respected radiated from corner to corner. And then Mowahid Shah brought the memorial to a close by asking the question: “Is it better to be a wazir or a faqir?” And, lovingly he spoke about his father as a “faqir”.