Memories of Amir Ullah Khan, a colleague, a friend and a mentor
Islamabad silently bore witness to the brutal murder of an entire Australian-Pakistani family, including a seven-year-old boy, last Monday. The police suspect that the family was killed over a familial land dispute. Apparently, a branch of Mr Khan’s extended family stood to inherit several large tracts of land in the event of his and his children’s death, so in a heinous act of greed and cowardice, the whole family was strangled and left in the bushes.
According to the news, the bodies of Amir Ullah Khan, his daughter Romana aged 17, and his sons Adam aged 14 and Haider aged seven, were found dumped in bushes in Bhoray Shah, on Islamabad's leafy middle-class southern outskirts. Their hands and feet had been bound, their mouths taped, and they had been strangled to death with thin wire. The bodies of Nadia, Amir's wife, and a family servant named Asghar, were found similarly dumped in a nearby suburb. While Mrs Amir's body showed signs of being strangled, Asghar's body showed stab wounds.
What do you do when one fine morning you read something like this in the newspaper and that too about someone who has been your friend and colleague? Someone whom you know to be the nicest and most humble person on earth? Amir and his family were the epitome of ‘perfect’; they were people you were proud to be associated with, the sort you always wanted to stay in touch with.
Needles to say, I was completely shattered by the news. How can life possibly return to normal after an incident like this? How can one resume their faith in people, in goodness, in life itself? What wouldn't I give to go back in time just to see those little angels and their loving parents?
The world does not know what it has lost with the murder of Amir Ullah Khan. Although words cannot do justice in describing the qualities of this man, I feel as if I owe him a least this much. The world needs to know about his exuberant personality, his commitment to his work, his endless love towards his family and friends, and his never-ending tales that could send anyone into fits of laughter. People longed to meet Amir and wouldn't stop talking about him long after meeting him – that’s just how remarkable a person he was.
I met Amir way back in 2006, at an orientation session for new entrants into the company. He was the speaker for one of the most complicated and mind-boggling topics - ‘The Telecom Technology’. All of us - especially the non-technical people in the session - thought that we would be subject to the most boring lecture for the next hour or so.
However, the podium was then taken by one of the most impressive individuals that I have ever come across, who just seemed so passionate about his work that we all straightened up in our seats. The energy he brought into that room was actually palpable and I am sure that he left at least a few of us regretting the fact that we had not taken up engineering as our career option.
I knew Amir for almost seven years and in those years I realised that he lived a very content life with his beautiful wife Nadia and three lovely, bright and well-mannered children. I met his family for the first time at a painting competition that I had organised for employees and their families at the company where we worked. I distinctly remember how much he enjoyed participating in the competition and playing musical chairs. He definitely set the tone for all fathers that day and made us realise once again how important family is.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Amir Ullah Khan was a true inspiration, a mentor for many, and that his humility and generosity rubbed off on everyone around him.
Just the thought of that dark night when this tragedy was taking place is enough to send shivers down my spine. I keep thinking about all that must have happened in their house. How Amir must have tried to save his wife and children; how their faces must have contorted in fear; how their helpless screams must have ended in an eerie silence.
I try so hard to think of the last time I met them; how happy and cheerful they seemed then. However, try as I might, all I can think of is how the light must have gone out of their eyes in those last moments. I keep thinking,
“Why was this pain inflicted upon them? What did they do to deserve this?”
My only consolation lies in the fact that none of them lived to suffer the trauma of living without their loved ones. It seems callous, I know, but surviving such a tragedy – reliving it each moment for the rest of their lives, missing those who did not survive – would perhaps, have been more painful.
Nafeesa Inayatullah Khattak, who happens to be Mr Khan’s aunt and a Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) parliamentarian, gave a statement saying that the murders over land were senseless and destructive. Furthermore, she said that she was confident that the killers could be identified, but not that they would be brought to justice. She said,
“This is Pakistan, everything is for sale. The judges are for sale, the investigators. These cases can be delayed, people get away without punishment.”
Although Ms Khattak has urged the Australian government to put pressure on Pakistani authorities in order to ensure a thorough investigation of the case, I remain as hopeless as she does; and my only prayer is,
“May the Khans rest in peace.”
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