Decorated war hero, educationist and rights activist Cecil Chaudhry was put on life support on Wednesday morning at the Civil Military Hospital in Lahore.
A veteran fighter pilot, Chaudhry is around 70 years old and has been battling lung cancer since 2011.
He is said to be in terminal stage of the disease at present.
“He was in relatively good shape,” said his daughter Michelle Chaudhry while talking to The Express Tribune.
“He is fighting like a true fighter, the way he did twice on the battlefield; but cancer is quite ruthless.”
Cecil was schooled at St Anthony’s High School and is an alumnus of the Forman’s Christian College. He joined the Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1958, where he studied aeronautics and mechanical engineering. It was as a pilot that Chaudhry developed his legacy as national hero for several flight missions including the 1965 and 1971 wars for which he received a Sitara-e-Jurat and Tamgha-e-Jurat.
Following his decorated career in the air force, Chaudhry developed a reputation for his work as an educationist and an outspoken activist.
He served as the principal of St Anthony’s High School in Lahore and St Mary’s Academy Lalazar, Rawalpindi.
“He struggled for the rights of minorities and women,” said retired Brigadier-General Samson Simon Sharaf, who was close to Chaudhry and present at the hospital. “He was a great fan of Quaid-e-Azam’s ideals and was critical of the Objectives Resolution [of 1949].”
Executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), Peter Jacob, worked closely with Chaudhry and said he actively worked in various capacities to promote a better Pakistan.
He was seen as a mentor of the late minorities’ affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti and was part of the All-Pakistan Minorities Alliance.
“He would tell us that he had fought two wars for the country, but was willing to fight 100 wars against extremism,” Jacob said.
“For the Christian youth, he was a hero,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2012.