A hero’s final fall

Published: April 15, 2012

Cecil Chaudhry set an example showing that patriotism and belief are not linked. PHOTO: FILE

Group captain (retd) Cecil Chaudhry, 70,  who died in Lahore on April 13 after battling lung cancer for over a year, was a man of many dimensions: war hero, educationist, human rights activist and social worker. He stood out as a man who cared deeply for his country and its people. The treatment he received in return for this from the military exposes a great deal about our country, and the distortions that exist within it.

Many of those who served with Chaudhry in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) or knew him in other capacities, believed he could have risen to the very top of the Force; this was not to be. Despite the fact that Chaudhry — as a dashing young fighter pilot — had won the Tamgha-e-Jurat and the Tamgha-e-Basalat for his heroics in the 1965 and 1971 wars, he was informed in 1983 that he could be promoted no further, given his religion. In 1985, he sought a release from the service he loved.

During interviews given after this, he spoke bitterly of the discrimination against minority religious groups in the country, and of how this had first taken root under General Ayub Khan in the 1950s and then grown under General Zia in the armed forces. The manner in which he was treated by the PAF — after serving it with such extraordinary valour whilst almost losing his life in the process in 1971 — was an invisible scar he carried with him for the remainder of his life. But this unhealed wound did not prevent Chaudhry from serving his nation in other capacities. As a highly respected principal of St Anthony’s School in Lahore where he had himself been educated, as a council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, as an articulate spokesperson for minorities and as an advocate for the rights of disabled children, Cecil Chaudhry proved himself a hero in more ways than one. He showed through the example he set that patriotism and belief are not linked despite a widespread notion to the contrary held by many in the country as a result of warped thinking and distorted policies that over the years served to indoctrinate ordinary people.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Apr 15, 2012 - 11:07PM

    I salute this Hero. He will be remembered for his acts of bravery and patriotism for long time.

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  • kaalchakra
    Apr 16, 2012 - 4:09AM

    Cecil Chaudhry was a great hero. One of the lesser known facts about him is that he had converted to Islam just before his death. My salute to the man.

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  • Apr 16, 2012 - 11:31AM

    I am sure his religion has nothing to dowith his promotion as stated in the Editorial above.

    We do have Christian and Parsi Generals in Pak Army. Same policy is there in all 3 Services including PAF.

    All living in Pakistan are Pakistanis and they are free to choose, practice and preach their religions.

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  • Waqas
    Apr 17, 2012 - 1:08AM

    @Khalid even if they marry a muslim boy/girl without converting to Islam?

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  • Brajanarayan
    Apr 18, 2012 - 12:29AM

    The strong expressions from this greatman biography should awaken the conscience of people who use religion as an weapon for discrimination in every sphere of human activities.Ideally religion should be used an a personal tool for spiritual upliftment but in reality it is used for everything other than self-purification and spiritual upgradation.Religion has been totally hijacked from its proper place, that is ones heart and soul to politics and international relationship.Let Late Mr Cecil Chaudhury soul live in peace in Heaven, which he could not get in his earthly abode.

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  • rashid khan
    Apr 22, 2012 - 4:37PM

    @Khalid Masood
    It took sixty years for the Pakistan army to promote two Christians and one Parsi to the rank of Maj Gen. A look at the timelines would reveal they were promoted after Zia ul Haq had departed from the scene.
    The first of these promotions came about at the time of Gen Kakar.
    Today you have an outstanding Christian officer commanding a division, lets see what fate has in the store for him.
    During Zia’s long years, only two made it to the rank of Brig, one from the Ord corp and other from the Armoured but the later never commanded a brigade.
    Do you honestly think, there was no one else deserving a rise in rank in all those 11 years of Zia’s rule?
    In the PAF, the two Christian AVMs had already attained their ranks before Zia came to power.
    The only general rank of in the Navy also predated Zia’s assumption of rule.
    So kind sir please check your fact before putting down opinions,

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