‘You could use trams without being jostled’

Updated February 04, 2019


Lt Col Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle speaks at the Adab Festival Pakistan on Saturday.—White Star
Lt Col Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle speaks at the Adab Festival Pakistan on Saturday.—White Star

KARACHI: A talk on ‘Life in Karachi during Ayub Khan’s rule’ by Lt Col Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle on the third and final day of the Adab Festival Pakistan at Sindh Governor House transported the audience to a beautiful period which is extremely difficult to relate to these days.

Mr Arbuckle said preparing for the talk took him to the time of his appointment in the British army after he had finished training. He was selected personal assistant to the military attaché, Karachi. He had little experience of the working world outside the army. He left Liverpool for Karachi on June 28, 1958. On reaching Karachi on July 13 he stayed at 28 PECHS. Having lived with his parents in India for three years in mid-1940s, the new life came as no real surprise. His father had served in Landi Kotal. In those days there were no other English children so his playmates were the children of his parents’ staff.

Mr Arbuckle said in Karachi he lived on extremities of the Drigh Road, but returning to the city in 2014 for the first time in 56 years, he asked the taxi driver where the Drigh Road was, and the driver replied, “We’re on it.” He was amazed to see that the whole of the road was built up on both sides, whereas in his days it was sheer desert running from PECHS to the airport.

Life in Karachi during Ayub Khan’s rule discussed

Mr Arbuckle said in the late 1950s anyone could roam the streets freely. He showed a picture of Elphinstone Street (now Zaibunnisa Street) cars neatly parked on both sides of the road. “You could use the trams without being jostled. The city was heavily policed so

there was very little reported crime. The city was kept clean and tidy. Being the capital and seat of government there was a large and vibrant international community.” The beaches of Karachi were a popular destination at weekends. He remembered Buleji Beach and Paradise Point, where the sea turtles were not uncommon.

Mr Arbuckle said at that time Karachi’s airport was a different sight. It was from here that he took his first flight from Karachi to Delhi. A fledgling PIA had just begun to operate from the city.

He said his main love had always been cricket. It all started in India, where his Indian tutor did not teach him much mathematics and instead taught him cricket. His return to Pakistan later enabled him to indulge his love for the game. This used to happen at the (then) newly-built National Stadium. In those days there were no pavilions, only covered awnings. It was at this stadium that he watched the diminutive Hanif Mohammad score a century and Fazal Mahmood bowl his leg-cutters. He went on to play a handful of first class matches, including against a Pakistan team touring England that included a number of notables such as Majid Khan, Intikhab Alam, Wasim Bari, Sarfaraz Nawaz (who got him out in both innings) and Zaheer Abbas (who took them to the cleaners). He also had the privilege of playing against the ‘great Imran Khan’ when Khan captained Oxford University. He was a great cricketer and leader on the cricket field.

Arbuckle said in the spring of 1959 he made a trip with his girlfriend in her Morris Minor from Karachi into Afghanistan.

On the Ayub Khan rule Arbuckle said parliamentary government in Pakistan ended by a military coup on Oct 7, 1958 (he showed the image of a headline published in Dawn). Maj Gen Iskandar Mirza appointed Gen Ayub Khan chief martial law administrator. Leading to this moment it had become apparent there were rumblings of dissatisfactions with the government, particularly within the army. The coup was executed without the countrywide movement of troops. There was very little preparation. The people had great respect for the army. Ayub had all the forces under his command. After no more than a few days, martial law authorities had detained many political leaders. During the evening of Oct 27, Iskandar Mirza was summarily dismissed by a cabal of generals. Mirza made no attempt to hang on. It all seemed normal.

After the talk, Ghazi Salahuddin and Dr Sher Shah Syed joined Col Arbuckle for a discussion on the subject. Answering a question, Arbuckle recalled the time when he went out with a girl who used to wave to him from her balcony, but the relationship ended because a Pathan watchman threatened him with dire consequences.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2019