A civilised civil servant

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A civilised civil servant
M. Alauddin led his life with laughter and rare dignity.
By Sayeed Hasan Khan & Fazlur Rahman Khan

OCTOBER 1952 to April 2009 — 57 years! Our friendship with a unique man, with disarming simplicity and classic grace, who was brutally honest, a non-conformist, had a lifelong disregard for money, was generally drenched in Gothic silence and one of the most well-read persons in the country, spanned this period of time. That was M. Alauddin, a member of the former Civil Service of Pakistan. And recently, the good earth of hospitable Lahore received the tiny burden of death of this man of illuminating intelligence. One of us was his service colleague. The other met him regularly at the Coffee House as long as Alauddin was in the Civil Service Academy, Lahore. Having completed all training courses, Alauddin went to Pindi-Gheb as sub-divisional magistrate. Completely cut off with no telephone connection, he was left to his own devices, without any interference from his deputy commissioner. He was a real man-on-the spot. He had a very successful tenure. Thereafter, he moved from place to place, job to job, till ultimately he found himself commissioner Dhaka during the turbulent late 1960s and the early months of 1971. The military action started on March 25. Being stubbornly independent, Alauddin demurred on several issues. He was harshly treated. He went to some backwater job. The arrogant cantonment thought, “He will not deliver the goods” — a euphemism for a ‘disloyal’ officer! In far-off Faisalabad (then Lyallpur), Mujibur Rahman was undergoing an army trial. Many government servants including Alauddin were rounded up in then East Pakistan, and packed off to Faisalabad as prosecution witnesses. They were ‘tutored’ as to what to say in the witness box. Alauddin was taken into protective custody, and lodged in a safe house, declared as a sub-jail. He stayed there for days on end. Alauddin appeared before the army court as a witness. The prosecution expected he would without hesitation toe their line and state that it was only Mujibur Rahman, who talked about separation and seces sion. But Alauddin was as silent as the sphinx. When pressed, he said that the whole of what was then East Pakistan was talking in that strain. When further pressed, he said that he, personally, never heard any such thing from Mujibur Rahman; moreover, he never met him. The court remarked that he must have heard Mujib on television. Alauddin re plied that he did not have a television set. They gave him up as a hopeless case. The defence lawyer, A.K. Brohi, thought he had netted in Alauddin a big fish. But disappointment was in store for him. In the witness box, there was all silence. Alauddin maintained his Olympian impartiality. Exasperated, the court remarked that as a citizen of Pakistan, he owed it to himself and the country to tell the court about events when he was commissioner, Dhaka. After a few days, Alauddin expressed his desire to record his evidence. And then he spoke and spoke, for hours and hours. He talked against the ill-conceived policies regarding East Pakistan and had many sharp pointed remarks to make, including that the military action was an unfortunate aberration. When early one morning he was left at Faisalabad airport, he came straight to one of us in Lahore, and stayed on, without bothering the Establishment Division for a posting. He was persona non grata. But things moved differently in Bangladesh. In the very first cabinet meeting, Mujib solicitously enquired about Alauddin and ordered that he should be traced and given a job of his own choice! In Pakistan, this cost Alauddin dearly. He retired in 1987 as agriculture census commissioner — the same level as in 1967! He bore this mental torture with tranquillity. He managed his life with laughter and rare dignity. A bachelor, he lived amidst his books and a sizeable collection of reproductions of paintings. (Unlike other government servants, he could not afford originals.) He shunned the razzmatazz of civil service, and had supreme contempt for temporal rewards. He came out with a sparkling book on the Kalash but could not get time to transform his massive material on nomads into a book. He knew more about literature, art and artists than many literary and art critics. Once he lectured for an hour to a professor on Gustav Klimt, an Austrian, and his painting The Kiss in which all elements were treated in a decorative manner with geometric emphasis. During a visit to Delhi with one of us, Alauddin had two touching encounters. At a dinner, a successful local publisher came over to Alauddin and sat at his feet. With tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat, he swore that Alauddin’s teaching of English literature in a college in Bihar opened up new vistas for him. Alauddin had always been in his thoughts, he added. At another dinner, a guest, who was a senior officer of the International Labour Organisation in New Delhi, came straight to Alauddin. Burying his head in his lap, he wept, and went on weeping. Alauddin was also overcome by emotion. Way back in 1971, Alauddin had stayed on for some time as commissioner Dhaka after the army action of March 25. This gentleman, who was then a deputy commissioner under Alauddin, was whisked away by the agencies to some unknown place, provoking a strong reaction in the otherwise cool and calm Alauddin. His strong protests prompted the chief secretary to curse the deputy commissioner for being the butcher of Biharis in his district. Not cowed, Alauddin emphatically refuted the allegations, and responded that, on the contrary, he was the saviour of Biharis. “I

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” Not ungodly.com/ArticleText. “What will You do God if death takes me?” And he silently slipped into the other world. in his lifetime. The whole family has adored and venerated you since then. reproductions and records have been distributed among his relations. “Here is your guest”. who was with him during his last 40 days.aspx?article=05_05_2009_006_012 visited the Bihari refugee camp where all of them said that he saved their lives. suspected that like his favourite poet Rilke. He left behind some savings. with the remarks of the escorting major. The weeping ILO officer whispered. he had. earmarked for charities. ¦ TOP 2 of 2 5/5/2009 12:54 PM . one of us. But.A civilised civil servant http://epaper. And.” he told a bewildered chief secretary. “You gave me a fresh lease of life. Alauddin was a civilised man. friends and admirers. including present and former servants.dawn. His books. Alauddin read the Quran but kept a German shepherd. Late in the night. who expressed his remorse. the officer was ‘delivered’ to Alauddin. Alauddin was arguing with God. he was born out of his time. which.

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