“Had he not been a Christian, his promotion to higher rank would never have been denied,” Ishtiaq Ahmed writes in the Pakistan Daily News.
By Ishtiaq Ahmed
4/22/2012 Pakistan (Pakistan Daily Times) – When I opened my facebook account on Sunday morning, April 15, 2012, to check what was going on in cyberspace, the message at the top was, “Rest in peace dear Cecil… what a loss.” For a moment, I held my breath, hoping that the Cecil mentioned was someone else and not Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry (August 27-April 13 2012). Alas, the obituary was about the group captain.
I met Cecil in April 2003. He lamented that had he not been a Christian, his promotion to higher rank would never have been denied. It reminded me of Othello the Moor who famously exclaimed, “I have done the state some service, and they know’t.” He blamed General Ziaul Haq for his narrow-minded policy of discriminating against non-Muslims in the Pakistan armed forces. Previously Christians were found in both the police, especially traffic police, and the military, but not anymore. He also deplored Z A Bhutto’s nationalisation of Christian schools and colleges, which had not only meant plummeting of educational standards, but also closing down those very few avenues where educated Pakistani Christians could find employment.
Cecil became a champion of peace between India and Pakistan and on several occasions, he was part of Pakistani delegations that visited India or in the reception committee welcoming Indians to Pakistan. He told me that the most touching event was when he could visit the Ambala Cantonment Church to apologise for accidently dropping a bomb on it in the 1965 war.
One day, when a dispassionate and true history of Lahore and Pakistan is written, the services of the Christian community would be given its proper recognition. There is hardly any worthwhile leader of Pakistan who did not go to school to one of the schools run by church missions. The Christians made outstanding contributions to the establishment of hospitals. They also uplifted and conferred dignity on people generally despised and degraded by a mainstream class and caste-conscious society.
All the three Christian members of the Punjab Assembly, the Speaker, Diwan S P Singha, Joshua Fazal Din, and C E Gibbon voted in favour of the Muslim League on June 23, 1946, when the future of Punjab was put to the vote. The Christians, as ‘People of the Book’, expected better treatment in Muslim Pakistan than in caste-ridden India. Pakistan proved to be a chimera. Christians have been the main victims of the draconian blasphemy laws, including brutal murders by fanatics.