A tribute to Laeeq Ahmed

March 10, 2014

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LAHORE: Some people are like beacons of light and patently make our lives better with their presence. They play a role so pivotal that when they are gone, life is never the same. I lost such a person just recently. He was my grandfather, lovingly called Abbai, short for ‘Abba Jee,’ but people know him as Laeeq Ahmed.

He had been a permanent fixture in my life: solid, dependable, larger than life but a short illness took him away from me on Jan 27.

Laeeq Ahmed Khan was the second of five children born to Siddique Ahmed Khan and Ameena Begum on Oct 29, 1933, in Lahore where he spent a considerable part of his early life. He did his BSc Statistics from the Government College, Lahore, and master’s degrees in Physics and Public Administration from the Punjab University.

In 1968, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission sent him to England for postgraduate training in Nuclear Engineering from the Queen Mary University of London.

Laeeq Ahmed was 24 when he married Nasira, my grandmother. They had seven children -- five daughters and two sons.

Today, as I sit down to write and reflect back on all those years, I find it almost impossible to write about him in such a short piece as there were so many aspects of his personality.

I knew Abbai as the most wonderful grandfather who was so full of life that his presence encompassed everything and everyone around him. Just to hear him speak was a treat for he always had scores of interesting stories to tell from his life at school, work and all his travels.

For me his most admirable trait was his exceptional memory coupled with a vast knowledge of almost every subject under the sun which made an awe-inspiring combination.

I remember how my cousins, siblings and I could spend the entire day sitting by his side pestering him with all sorts of questions and he would explain everything in a unique manner, making even the toughest topics easy to understand.

It was this style and his magnificent modulating voice that made him a popular television personality throughout the country.

His television career took off in 1964 with the all-time favourite ‘Science Magazine’ and from then on, he presented successful TV programmes on PTV, which included live coverage of the ‘Elections 1970’, a 36-hour long transmission telecast from Lahore.

As a commentator, Pakistan first heard Laeeq Ahmed’s voice in 1972 when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto arrived at the airport after signing the Simla Agreement. In 1974, during the 2nd Islamic Summit Conference, Abbai gave a voice to the feelings of the whole Muslim world through his commentary.

The ‘landing’ of the Apollo 17 astronauts in Karachi was also shown with his typical aplomb to the people of Pakistan in 1973 and so was the live coverage of March 23 and August 14 national events each year.

He soon became the ‘voice of the nation’ and was admired by millions of Pakistanis. He was a prominent educationist as well.

Laeeq Ahmed was awarded Pride of Performance in 1994 and the PTV Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Despite all the fame and success, he remained humble and met everyone with respect, as he often used to say: ‘three things are out of the control of human beings: livelihood, respect and death’.

My Abbai is no longer with me but his legacy is there: a legacy to work with passion and commitment, to make each day count and to cherish all that is still good in the world. I am grateful for the memories I have of Abbai and for his beautiful presence that still resides in me.