Baba, you will always be my hero
He called terrorists the real cowards. He said if he ever got the chance, he’ll take one or two down with him.
I will never forget that first day of Eidul Azha in 2009. My father had taken my brother and I to the race course graveyard to offer Surah-e-Fateha at our grandmother’s grave. After offering prayers, my father stood tall and said:
“Remember boys everyone has to come here one day, so do good and live a pious life.”
Baba wasn't one to not practice what he preached, and a pious life is what he did live.
He endeavoured to do everything the best and the right way. My father was a great man. He is alive and always will be as he is the brave son of this soil, a true martyr, a true hero.
Bilal Omer Khan - my father - embodies the true definition of a brave man.
December 4, 2009 was the saddest day of my life. This is the day the Parade Lane Mosque was attacked. Whilst bowed down in prayer, the gathering of worshippers was suddenly overcome by explosions and gunfire. Some succumbed quickly, and others managed to escape, but my father calmly put his shoes back on.
Rather than escape, which any ordinary man would have done, baba got hold of one of the attackers and grappled with him, trying to disarm him. He managed to distract the coward and several people, thus, escaped with their lives.
Tragically, the same was not to be true for my dear baba. He was shot at close range by another attacker, and succumbed immediately.
When I went back to the mosque to recover his body, I saw that my baba lay with his hand under his head as though he were in a peaceful slumber.
Baba had once stated that if he ever got the chance, he would at least take one or two cowards down with him. He was a man of his words. He refused to run, and gave his life up to save others. He took them down on December 4, 2009, because he stayed and fought.
How many times have all of us dreamed to be valiant in the face of adversity?
How many times have we delivered on this promise?
My father delivered.
It was a moment he probably never thought would ever occur. Yet, he was fearless and held his ground and he did just as he said he would do. Few people can hope to encounter such a character in their life, and I am blessed enough to say that this man was my father.
Maj-Gen Bilal Omer Khan Shaheed was a man of honour and dignity.
His act of valour is rare and continues to inspire people. He was awarded the Sitara-e-Basalat and the Parade Lane now bears his name. Even more amazing was the number of stories we heard about him after his passing. We heard stories of his courage, inspiration and generosity of spirit - stories that baba had kept from us because this was just the kind of man he was. He never mentioned instances where he exhibited great bravery because he never did things for praise. He didn't do good to be in the limelight - he was just a good person.
December 4, 2009 was a day of tremendous sorrow for my family, but this day gave us the chance to see just how extraordinary a man Bilal Omer Khan really was.
As a father, he was superb and still is even after he has left this world. His advice resonates with me all the time. It was as though my father knew he was destined to be a hero. He always used to say:
When I pass away I don’t want you guys to cry. Just remember me the way I am and then you will be happy.
And that is exactly what we did. Why I say that he’s alive and is still around us is because to date, people speak of him in the highest regard. His memories have crowned him immortal.
He was never unfair or unjust, even if a matter involved his own children. He believed in hard work and merit and never favoured anyone; I remember him telling me, he did not care as much about how far I got in life but what did concern him was the means I used to get there.
He was a true soldier and a sportsman; he represented the Army in several competitions and at different sporting events. My father was the President of the Pakistan Polo Association for which he did wonders, being a sportsman at heart.
At times, it is hard to believe that what actually happened that day was real. When it becomes really difficult, I try to remind myself of how baba lived his life to the fullest and achieved everything he wanted to.
Wise people say that life should be measured in moments, not years, and I can say with heartfelt certainty that the memories I have of baba to cherish will last me a lifetime.
On this Father’s Day, I will continue to reflect on my father and everything he stood for and has taught me. I encourage everyone to do the same. Whether they are with you in body or in spirit, we all should be eternally thankful for everything they teach us and do for us.
(Arsalan's interview starts at 7:22 minutes)