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Abdul Malik looks at the photo of his legendary brother Abul Khaliq. -Photo by author
Abdul Malik looks at the photo of his legendary brother Abul Khaliq. -Photo by author

CHAKWAL: At a distance of 40km in north-east of Chakwal city, lies Jand Awan village. Life in this sleepy village moves on as it does in any remote hamlet.

The road which leads to the village is in a shambles, particularly when one passes through Kaliyal village.

Jand Awan is known as the village of Lt-Gen (retired) Abdul Majeed Malik, who has remained MNA five times. Today his nephew, Maj (retired) Tahir Iqbal, represents his constituency in the National Assembly.

However very few outside this village know that in the village graveyard rests a man who was known as the ‘Fastest Man of Asia’.

Abdul Khaliq, who died on March 10, 1988 in Rawalpindi, was the sole athlete from Pakistan who raised his country’s flag high on the tracks during Melbourne Olympics (1956) and Rome Olympics (1960).

Khaliq won 100 gold medals in the national games, 26 gold medals and 23 silver medals in international games.

Be it the Asian Games of 1954 in Manila, Asian Games in Tokyo 1958 or the first Indo-Pak Meet 1956 in New Delhi, Abdul Khaliq not only grabbed the gold medal but also set new records.

Khaliq’s tremendous win in Asian Games 1954 (Manila) left a new record in the history of athletics as he finished in 10.6 seconds which forced the chief guest, Jawaharlal Nehru, to declare him ‘The Flying Bird of Asia’.

The recent Indian movie, Bhag Milkha Bhag besides paying tribute to India’s legendry athlete Milkha Singh also brought Khaliq to the limelight.

President Ayub Khan organised Indo-Pak Meet in 1960 in Lahore where Milkha Singh defeated Khaliq but for certain reasons.

Haunted by the memories of partition, Milkha Singh refused to contest in Pakistan. However, he was convinced by Nehru and according to columnist Javed Chaudhry, Milkha Singh did not run but flew in the race.

Several reasons are being given for Milkha’s victory, and one of them was that Khaliq was a sprinter of 100 metres while Milkha was a man of 200 metres. The debacle in Lahore was of 200 metres.

Khaliq was born on March 23, 1933, and became a famous player of Kabaddi in the area.

Once in a match, his performance was witnessed by Brig C.H.B. Rodham who was the head of Pakistan Army Sports Control Board at that time.

Rodham got Khaliq recruited in Army’s Boys Company whose task was to prepare the best athletes, and Khaliq proved his knacks.

He was among the prisoners of 1971 war and was respected by Indian authorities during his imprisonment.

The then Indian prime minister, Indira Gandhi, even decided to release him but Khaliq refused saying he would like to be released with his countrymen,” says Abdul Malik, Khaliq’s brother.

The craze for athletics seems to run in the family. Khaliq’s brother and three sons hold master degrees in physical education.

The younger brother, Abdul Malik, stood with his elder brother Khaliq in every match of athletics as he himself was also a known athlete in the ranks of army while the younger brother Master Altaf, who holds a master degree in physical education, has served as assistant education officer in the education department.

Khaliq has four sons. The eldest, Ghulam Abbas, after serving in the army is now working as a postmaster in the village while Mohammad Ashfaq, who was also a famous athlete in the army, died as the tractor he was driving turned over him near his village. The third son, Mohammad Ejaz, is now serving as a coach of athletics in Pakistan Sports Board while the youngest son, Abdul Razaq, is an instructor of physical education in the village school.

“I respect Milkha Singh a lot as he was a great human being but I felt a pain while watching the movie,” says Abdul Malik.

The sense of this pain is justified as our rulers are still not ready to do anything in honour of our great athlete, Abdul Khaliq.

When asked, Abdul Majeed Malik confessed that he did not do anything for Khaliq. “I realise this but now I would try my best in this regard,” he said while talking to Dawn.

India has immortalised its legend Milkha Singh by making a movie on his life but in Jand Awan village, family members of Khaliq ask, “Has Khaliq run in vain”?

Comments (23) Closed

mdsr Dec 30, 2013 02:58pm

In urdu it is said; Zamen kha gai asman kese kese Abdul Khaliq was a hero, and as the traditon, its others who introduced us with this forgotten hero. i really apreciate Dawn's effort to introduce us (the present generation) with such a wonderful athelete

Husain Qazi Dec 31, 2013 07:38pm

I have the honour of receiving athletics training from him. It was in early 80's when I was in GC Lahore. He was a very strict trainer but very affectionate and encouraging. He aspired to see his students shine and bring good name to Pakistan. He was more than a trainer as I received great lessons not only in athletics but for leading an upright life. My Allah bless his soul.

Anees Jan 01, 2014 07:04pm

"The road which leads to the village is in a shambles, particularly when one passes through Kaliyal village. Jand Awan is known as the village of Lt-Gen (retired) Abdul Majeed Malik, who has remained MNA five times. Today his nephew, Maj (retired) Tahir Iqbal, represents his constituency in the National Assembly." . . . What else can you expect from looters?

Obaid Jan 01, 2014 07:08pm

I hail from Jand Awan. Feel so proud :)

abdul wahid Jan 01, 2014 07:42pm

great work done i always wanted to know about the flying bird where is he now and what happened to our hero. he was a true champion but we are a sorry nation that forgets their heros. thanks a lot for giving us our hero and reminding us that we had a hero among us once.

Rahim Jan 01, 2014 07:44pm

He lost to Milkha Singh of India

Wajhi Jan 01, 2014 08:15pm

Thank you dawn.

deep Jan 01, 2014 09:16pm

Poorly written article.

Mujeeb Ahmed (Jimmy) Jan 01, 2014 09:49pm

I have the honor of being trained by him in Lahore at the Coaching Centre on Ferozepur Road.. He was indeed a strict trainer but had a soft heart. He expected the best out of you & were called out if your effort was any less. I still have an image of him in my head of him in his white shalwar kamiz. May God rest his soul in peace. I hope the Government of Pakistan do something for his name & the history he left our Country.

Asif Jan 01, 2014 10:08pm

I know Mr. Khaliq from my father as he was a sports man too and from Chakwal. He has always praised him and has always talked about him with great respect. As far as Mr. Abdul Majeed Malik (the man who has not only served in the army at a very reasonable position but has served as an MNA for god knows how much time) is concerned, this man has done nothing till now and suddenly he is saying that , "I realise this but now I would try my best in this regard", is this a joke or is he a joker? A person who did nothing for this man and the place where he lives for so many years will do "something" so soon, is that a joke?

Asif Jan 01, 2014 10:47pm

Nations make heroes and Indians even make heroes from nothing we break heroes

s Jan 01, 2014 11:00pm

It's partly govt but mostly it's media's fault, they were all over Mika Singh but really no mention of our own athlete! Media is probably an understatement

Sprinter Jan 02, 2014 01:07am

DAWN needs to do a special feature on Pakistan's great athletes of the past.

Abdul Khaliq, Bravo! Long live the flying bird of Asia!

ahmedj Jan 02, 2014 02:23am

The article remind me of an email, two years ago by my father which I want to share as it has more great names.


Yes I had the pleasure of Khaliq's company. When I was selected in the army hockey team in 1955, army athletes and hockey team used to practice in army stadium Rawalpindi. Since I had come out of PMA having creating 200m record in 23.3sec, as such some time I used to run with Khaliq, ofcourse he used to be far ahead. But he always encouraged me to run with him which I always enjoyed. Other top athlets who used to practice were Sub Raziq. 1956 olympic High Hurdler, Sub Iqbal, Shot putter, Sub Jalal, Javelin thrower. They all participated in 1956 olympics. Army teams under the supervision of Brig Rhodham VCGS praticed"

Agha Ata Jan 02, 2014 02:28am

May God help these athletes and artists, as our government won't!

Lall Singh Jan 02, 2014 06:18am

Both Milkha and Khaliq were heroes of Panjab. If there was no partition they would be both heroes of our mother Hind. We Panjabis recognize all our heroes whether they live in India or Pakistan. Panjabi hamisha Panjabi rehega. Beta you can change your country, you can change your religion also but you cannot change your Punjabi race.

Sumit Jan 02, 2014 11:53am the word which comes to my mind whenever I read for anyone from Indian subcontinent...we are big...with too many people....and dis-heartening to see we have less examples like Sir Khaliq or Sir Milkha....ideally, we should always give them respect and I hope they would have got the same as well, irrespective of a movie or a lesson in our course books....doesn't matters much...they are already immortal...

person Jan 02, 2014 12:14pm

It is sad that we get to know of people who deserve recognition through watching another country's immortalization of their great.

TARIQ M KHATTAK Jan 02, 2014 02:14pm

This is not the first case.Our history is filled with such incidents where we did care to bring our heroes in lime lite and aware the young generation about glory of our past and motivate them. we mostly witness the negative image of our country and it really create disappointment among young generations. I don't expect that our existing politicians would give due respect to our heroes and boost the morale of the nation. But thanks to those who are trying to do this for the sake of country's good image.

Umar Jan 02, 2014 02:55pm

Really feeling sorry for him. But he was a hero !!

shakeel Jan 02, 2014 05:24pm

I don't mean to sound callous but the tone of the article is immature.

  1. He ran to participate in/win races. He did so. He attained personal glory for it, and any pre-agreed fee's or wages he took for doing so. Nobody promised anyone a movie contract.

  2. Any movie made about the Indian athlete was done so using private funding, not state funding.

I agree as a nation we don't do well in highlighting the achievements of our own. We should ask ourselves though whether limited state funding should be used for glamor projects though? In the vast majority of the world any media circus surrounding athletes or any other top professionals, is privately funded and run, usually on the money made through advertising.

Brand Beckham is not funded by the state, neither is Tendulkar, or even Shahid Afridi. Older athletes don't have the same advantage of the media age that the current batch do, however take the case of Milkha Singh, his efforts were highlighted by private individuals and companies for commercial gain, not national interest.

Anurag Priyadarshi Jan 02, 2014 08:02pm

Milkha Singh was a great athlete but the film has presented his larger than life image with backdrop of melodrama and gloomy partition times.There was nothing heroic in him, in fact he was resting in oblivion before this movie.Sadly in the Indian subcontinent a lot of emphasis and media attention is given to cricket which is highly commercialized and a money spinner. What to say of athletics ,we have even forgotten to pay notice to our national game hockey. Once the champions of the game,both Indian and Pakistan presently share the bottom places in world hockey league.Needless to say this callous approach results in cutting a sorry figure in every Olympics.

Former UK 1500m Runner Jan 02, 2014 11:06pm

@Rahim: Milkha Singh trained and ran for 200m as the article states and Khaliq 100m. The race was ran at 200m, this was overwhelming in Milkha Singh's favour.

BOTH are legends!