They don’t make civil servants of Vasim Aon Jafarey’s kind anymore. This was the consensus among his octogenarian colleagues at Jafarey’s soyem. What always impressed one most about Jafarey Sahab was his humility, unlike many CSP officers of his time.
Former Finance Secretary-General, Aftab Ahmed Khan thinks that Jafarey was one of the finest civil servants this country ever had. He said that Jafarey had given his ICS written examination in India before migrating to Pakistan and was called for an interview in 1948. By doing so, Jafarey belonged to the first batch of civil servants of Pakistan. Although unlike many of his colleagues who preferred administrative posts, Jafarey felt more comfortable working at the secretariat and accepting intellectual challenges.
Elder daughter Fareesa Ahsan, partner of the reputed legal firm of Liaquat Merchant & Associates, says that her father used to recall most fondly about his probationary period when he was posted in East Pakistan against any other high posts he held. “He narrated to us how much we have developed from the time when Pakistan was made. In those days he told us a civil servant had to spend three days travelling to get from one place to another in East Pakistan using different modes of transport,” she added.
Like his parents, the late Jafarey believed that the best investment one can make was in the education of his children. That is the reason why he invested in the foreign education of Fareesa and her sister Moneeza, who is an economist and lives in Dubai. It was the third sister whose untimely death at the age of 17 shocked both parents from which neither of them could recover entirely.
Jafarey was a soft-spoken person and would argue in case of difference of opinion without throwing his weight around, even when he was the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan or the all powerful Adviser to Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Finance and Economic Affairs. During the first Benazir led-government he was actually the nominee of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Ishaq Khan wanted to keep his control over the finance and foreign ministries, so he had his men – Jafarey and Sahabzada Yaqoob Ali Khan – implanted in young Benazir Bhutto’s first government but Jafarey was liked by Benazir Bhutto so much that she invited him to join the Cabinet once again in 1993. Former minister Kamal Azfar says that he was asked by Benazir to contact Jafarey and invite him to resume his earlier position.
Despite all his powerful positions, there was never a hint of scandal or impropriety. Jafarey preferred to stay low profile and live a simple life. Former colleague Roedad Khan recalled how Jafarey was impressed by the simple and frugal lifestyle of Manmohan Singh and continued to live in the same style. Friends recall that Jafarey was invited for breakfast by Manmohan Singh when he was the Indian Finance Minister. They developed a bond almost immediately. This was perhaps the only time the former Governor of the SBP visited India after migrating to Pakistan despite the fact that Jafarey’s alma mater was the famous Allahabad University. Fareesa said that “my father used to avoid going to India unless it was official, although my mother’s family lives there. We used to visit India to meet my mother’s family, but our father never accompanied us,” she recalls.
In conclusion, one can say that Jafarey stood by his principles throughout his life. Old age and Parkinson’s may have chipped away at his life in the final five years but the man will remain a giant for many years to come.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2011.