Loss of a Scholar & Visionary
Dr. Mahmood Abbas Bokhari’s sudden demise has created a deep void. Our nation has lost a fine person and a great visionary. Dr. Bokhari was a senior medical doctor, a law graduate, a senior parliamentarian, poet and literary figure as well as author of many books and publications. He was one of the founding members of Pakistan People Party with late Z. A. Bhutto and a Member of National Assembly (MNA) for eight years. As a writer, he was fluent in Urdu, English, Punjabi, Persian and Arabic, and contributed many writings in all of these languages. He was a life-long student and scholar of Islam, history, constitutional law and divine philosophy. His life was as enriched as it was tumultuous.
Born to a humble and honest railway officer, he was prodigious as a child with a photogenic memory, witty personality and an immense aptitude for arts, sciences and sports. He not only excelled at his studies but also read and absorbed many books above his age. His grandfather (Nanna) loved him very much and recognized the talent in him. Young Bokhari spent a great deal of time with his nanna and heard him narrate passages from religious, history and literary books. Later on when his Nanna became blind, he would read various books to him. In this way, Bokhari not only became well read in history and religion but also developed an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Nanna frequently advised Bokhari, “Ahsan ul Ilm e Ilm ul Adian wa Ilm ul Abdan” (The best knowledge is the study of religion and body) and Bokhari took this advice to heart and lived by it. He also fulfilled his Nanna’s ardent desire and became a doctor at the young age of 19.
While at King Edward Medical College, Dr. Bokhari was patronized and mentored by KEMC Principal Colonel Elahi Baksh, a renowned physician and Quaid-e-Azam’s personal doctor. Dr. Bokhari considered him a father figure and idolized him. As president of King Edward Medical College, he excelled in his studies as well as sports. He was greatly admired by Dr. Baksh for his brilliance and integrity and he regarded him like his own son. As president he often had to host visits from various officials and celebrities. He only had one shabby suit to wear to these occasions. On one of these occasions, Dr. Elahi Baksh summoned him to his office and suggested that he use some of the college club (wrestling, rowing, boxing, general sports) funds to purchase a new suit. These funds are sanctioned for use by sports participants for their health maintenance and various needs. Dr. Bokhari, however, being a firm believer in the Categorical Imperative of Emmanuel Kant said to Dr. Baksh, “I am not a thief”. When Dr. Baksh offered to personally provide financial assistance, Dr. Bokhari said, “I am not a beggar”. He then excused himself from Dr. Baksh’s office and returned shortly to hand over his resignation as college union president. Dr. Baksh was so moved by his integrity that he got up and embraced him and promised not to broach the subject again.
In order to support his family, Dr. Bokhari took up the position of Demonstrator in Physiology at King Edward Medical College and also started private practice on Grand Trunk Road. After only six months into his practice he was forcibly posted to Muzaffar Garh District Hospital. At first it was a very difficult transition from Lahore to the remote city of Muzaffar Garh about 400 kilometers from Lahore. He was not only separated from his family but also lost his private practice with which he supported his family. Dr. Bokhari, however, soon established his practice and formed a commendable repute. He also developed friendships with the District Commissioner of Muzaffar Garh, Anayat Maula and other bureaucrats. Soon he became very popular among his patients for his excellent service, vast knowledge and amiable nature. The patients being poor villagers would express and pay their gratitude in the form of loyalty and gifts of livestock, vegetables, fruits and other bounties which were showered upon him despite his refusal. He requested the staff nurses to prepare and cook the food that he would give to the nurses, midwives, dispensers and staff members to take to their families.
When the 1956 Constitution was abrogated by President Field Marshall Ayub Khan, Dr. Bokhari was so incensed that he abandoned his job in Muzaffar Garh in protest to the government and came to Lahore where he was harassed.
Apne bhi hain naaraz paraaey bhi hain naalan
Mein zehray halahal ko kabhi keh nah saka qand
His conviction to fight for civil rights drove him to pursue a degree in law. The law degree not only helped him understand the constitution better but also to defend resistance from the government. He was a close friend of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and a founder member of Pakistan People’s Party. He conceived the idea of Islamic socialism as the precursor philosophy behind the Pakistan People’s Party. President Ayub was celebrating a 10-year leadership milestone as Dr. Bokhari approached Ayub Khan on that occasion and expressed to him the grave concerns he had about the government. Ayub Khan was impressed with Dr. Bokhari’s political knowledge and wisdom. Dr. Bokhari then felt the need of a platform that he could use to voice his concerns and effect change. He contested and won the election from the district of Kasur and became Member of National Assembly on the ticket of PPP in 1970, remaining in that position for 7 years. He was member of several committees and councils, including Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) and Constitutional council. He was well known for speaking his mind without any fear regarding all issues, unlike many other parliamentarians or ministers who were always happy to flatter and be subservient to Bhutto. Whenever he felt that Bhutto was making a mistake or being driven by his over-sized go, Bokhari would state it forcefully. This sometimes earned him the enmity of his own party. On one occasion, after repeated attempts on his life by the police, he spoke for more than nine hours continuously in the session of the National Parliament, and ended his speech by tearing off his shirt and throwing it in the direction of Z. A. Bhutto, challenging him that if he wanted to kill Bokhari, he should do it and wash his shirt in his blood. This episode was reported internationally and finally stopped the attempts on his life.
After the fall of Mr. Bhutto’s regime and his execution, he had to face innumerable false martial law cases filed against him. Due to his habit of speaking his mind, he had made enemies within the military establishment, who instructed the formulation of more than one hundred false martial law cases against him. Due to his legal training, he personally fought all cases over the next eight years and was acquitted honorably in each and every one of the cases.
In 1969 he married Dr. Sajida Mahmood Bokhari, a gynecologist. They had six children, three boys and three girls. Both Dr. Bokhari and Dr. Sajida poured their love and attention into the upbringing of their children. They made sure that their children not only pursued distinguished careers but were also enlightened in religious and spiritual knowledge. They imparted their wisdom and vision and made them the torch bearers of their knowledge. The eldest son has distinguished himself as a particle physicist, is a highly successful entrepreneur owning several patents and two companies in the Silicon Valley in US. The middle son was a medical doctor and with also a Masters degree in Public Health, planning to pursue neurosurgery but unfortunately passed away suddenly at the young age of 26. The youngest son, completed MBA, law as well as CSS and is currently a second secretary in the foreign office of Pakistan. The eldest daughter is a Pediatrician in US and the youngest one a Physician with a talent for poetry and literature like her father. The middle daughter is a scientist in Molecular Biology and is also an excellent artist. Dr. Bokhari was also a proud grandfather of three children.
Dr. Bokhari was an overachiever with high moral and qualitative standards but no desire for personal gains. With his wife on his side as his professional and life partner he founded the Bokhari Welfare Hospital on Grand Trunk Road near University of Engineering and Technology. Treatment and medicines were provided free of cost for needy patients. Dr. Bokhari worked day and night at the hospital with his wife and had to balance it with his political activities and family life. After winning his battle with the martial law dictatorship under Zia-ul-Haq, he resigned from his active political career and played a dormant advisory role to the democratic leadership of Pakistan. His letters to all the living and deceased leaders of Pakistan are a rich heritage for the nation. He remained the Advisor to the Chief Minister Punjab and Punjab Police for the eradication of crime in the province and founded the Elite Force of Punjab Police. In the following years he focused most of his attention to medical practice, children’s education and his literary, social and religious writings. He wrote numerous books viz. Roodad-e-Wafa, Badar Aur Ali, Harf-e-Wasiq, Nawa-e-Sirosh, Yaad-e-Farzan and Mashaam-e-Amber. His regular columns, interviews, articles and reviews have been published in all the leading newspapers. He founded and contributed immensely to Idara e Tajdeed e Fikr, Idara Mauraf e Islam and Etihaad Bain ul Muslameen. His work for the peaceful coexistence of all sects of Muslims is highly commendable.
In 1998, upon insistence from his second son, Farzan, a medical doctor, he revived his political career and joined Pakistani Awami Tehreek with Dr. Tahir ul Qadiri as Senior Vice Chairman. He believed he could affect an inherent change in our country. However, fate had other plans. In 2002, his son Farzan was assassinated by a political opponent. Subsequent to this tragedy, Dr. Bokhari lost interest in politics and resorted to dedicating his time to study and writings. He was always inspired by Allama Iqbal, and his writings are incorporated with the modern day advancements of thought. He has therefore touched unexplored horizons in poetry. His vast study combined with his inquisitive mind resulted in novel inferences about history and religion.
Towards the end of 2012, he got his gravesite prepared although he was in good health. He also expressed his last wishes and legacy to his family and relatives to their puzzlement. On Jan 7th 2013, he died peacefully of a sudden heart attack while reciting Surah Yaseen and left world short of a scholar and visionary.
Bichra kuch is ada say keh rut hi badal gae
Ik shakhs saray sheher ko weeran kar gaya
BIRTH 16th Nov 1932
MATRIC Mar 1947
FSc May 1949
MBBS May 1954
LAW May 1962
NIKAH 7th Oct 1968
MARRIAGE 25th Jan 1969
MNA 7th Dec 1970 – 5th Jul 1977
Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), Senior Vice Chairman 1998 – 2002
2- Baddar aur Ali
5- Nawaey Sirosh
8- Author and editor, Muaaraf-e-Islam.
9- Author of several articles and publications in leading newspapers
10- Haft Mukalaat