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M.M. Alam: a man set apart from others

April 02, 2013

M.M. ALAM’s death came as a rude shock. I came to know him when I was a journalist in uniform working in the Inter-Services Public Relations setup at Air Headquarters, Peshawar. The Air Headquarters hadn’t shifted to Islamabad till then. I found M.M. Alam a person with high intellect. I had many discussions with him on different subjects.

I left Air Force to do a course in broadcasting abroad. I took retirement and lost contact with him. Many years later someone said that M.M. Alam was in Karachi staying in Gulshan-i-Iqbal. I found out his address and went to see him.

He was a changed man. He had become slimmer. He was wearing white pajamas, a grey shirt and Chitrali cap. He had grown a beard. His room was full of magazines, newspapers and newspaper clippings. He said he had been in Afghanistan fighting the Soviet army along with the Mujahedeen. He said: “I say my prayers five times a day, and observe fast most of the year.”

He said he could arrange my visit to Afghanistan. Knowing that I was interested in travel, he said: “Afghanistan’s portion of Koh-i-Safaid is more beautiful than ours.”

I said it would be suicidal to go as a war in Afghanistan was on.

He said: “You’ll find it as peaceful as Karachi.”

By that time he had renounced his pension. He had some differences with the Chief of the Air Staff. Giving up one’s pension on grounds of principles was something very courageous.

One had to have the heart of a lion to do that. Not one in a million would do that in our context and environment. He then said: “I married an American woman. She was suffering from cancer. A few months later she passed away. I think I brought some happiness in her life.”

But she in no way influenced or affected his thinking.

I don’t think we will ever see the likes of him again.