Obituary: War hero Cecil Chaudhry passes away

Published: April 14, 2012
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Minorities’ alliance announces 10-day mourning.

Minorities’ alliance announces 10-day mourning.

Then Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudhry. PHOTO: PAF ARCHIVES Following his decorated career in the air force, Cecil Chaudhry developed a reputation for his work as an educationist and an outspoken activist. PHOTO: FILE Minorities’ alliance announces 10-day mourning.
LAHORE: 

One of Pakistan most loved war heroes, Cecil Chaudhry, passed away in Lahore on Friday. Chaudhry, 70, was put on life support at Lahore’s Combined Military Hospital on Wednesday. He was suffering from lung cancer.

The son of FE Chaudhry, a former science teacher and Pakistan’s first photo-journalist, Chaudhry was schooled at St Anthony’s High School in Lahore before pursuing his BS in physics at the Forman Christian College. He subsequently joined the Pakistan Air Force Academy in 1958, where he studied aeronautics and mechanical engineering.

In the 1965 war with India, Flight Lieutenant Chaudhry shot down three Indian aircraft in one mission. In the 1971 war with India, he has a close call when his plane was hit over Indian territory but  he managed to glide the plane back into Pakistan.

Four days later, he shot down two Indian fighters in the same area. He was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurrat and the Sitara-e-Basalat for his role in Pakistan’s war with India in 1965 in 1971.

Despite his national status, his career was interrupted in 1983 when, after returning from deputation in Iraq, he was told by the air force high command that he “would not be promoted any further.” Recovering from the shock, Chaudhry asked to be discharged in 1985.

It was apparent that Chaudhry’s faith and prominence had come in the way of his rise in the air force. But Chaudhry was not one to sit back and fade into oblivion. He became a human rights activist as well as taking on the position as the principal of St. Anthony’s College, Lahore and Saint Mary’s Academy, Rawalpindi. He retired from this post in July 2011.

In an interview he gave in 2001, Chaudhry minced no words when he said that discrimination in the armed forces started soon after General Ayub Khan took power in 1958. The discrimination was initially restricted to the army as “many generals felt that it would not do if a Christian general one day stood up and took power in Pakistan.”

The resentment against the non-Muslims then spread to other services by the time General Zia took power in 1977. Chaudhry said that Zia “totally played the religious card with the result that the forces were given a thorough clean up job both vertically and horizontally.” The purges went to the lowest levels where non-Muslims were eased out when they reached a certain rank.

An influential human rights activist, Chaudhry worked for educational reform and for the betterment of children with disabilities in his later years.

He advised and worked closely with former minorities’ affairs minister Shahbaz Bhatti and served as the executive secretary of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA). He was also affiliated with the National Commission for Justice and Peace and was instrumental in leading the fourteen year campaign that led to the restoration of Pakistan’s joint electorate system in 2002.

Talking to The Express Tribune, daughter Michelle Chaudhry said that she has lost not just her father, but a loving friend. He leaves behind three daughters and a son. Chairman APMA Dr Paul Bhatti announced 10 days of mourning over Chaudhry’s demise. His final rites will be performed on Sunday in Lahore.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (16)

  • bangash
    Apr 14, 2012 - 6:44AM

    God bless you Mr Chaudhry and may you now Rest in Peace.

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  • Sharjeel Jawaid, Karachi, Pakistan
    Apr 14, 2012 - 7:56AM

    I mourn the death of Cecil Chaudary.
    Soldier, Citizen & an Icon, who contributed to education in Pakistan.
    May God rest his soul in peace!

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  • Mir Agha
    Apr 14, 2012 - 9:10AM

    He should’ve/would’ve been Air Marshall and Joint Chief of Staff based on merit. Aside from being a war hero, he was a capable leader. More than just a soldier.

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  • Humanity
    Apr 14, 2012 - 9:11AM

    You made the world a better place, Mr. Chaudhry. Rest in peace. God bless your soul.

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  • Litmus
    Apr 14, 2012 - 9:39AM

    Salute to you Sir….. A hero at the battlefield and more than a hero afterwards….. your contribution for this homeland and its people will be remebered and will live on for times to come, InshaAllah.
    May Allah Bless your soul, AMEN.

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  • Mrs. Munim
    Apr 14, 2012 - 10:24AM

    Rest in Peace, Sir. You will be missed.

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  • rhea
    Apr 14, 2012 - 12:52PM

    it’s people like cecil chaudhary who are the true icons of courage and humanity. notwithstanding the maltreatment meted out by pakistani army, he did not declare pakistan a place unfit for minoritites and worked on making it a better place to live instead. for me he is a symbol of hope, struggle n uprightness. i sympathise with his daughter and the whole christian community. i also assure them that it is not their loss only, rather it is the loss of whole pakistani nation. i hope that many more of us follow his example and strive to make our country more tolerant. and if pakistani army keeps refusing enlightened leaders and patriots like mr. chaudhary, then i must say that they deserve pigmy leaders like zia, musharraf and the others following n preceeding them.
    Cecil Chaudhary, RIP

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  • Son of Airforce Officer
    Apr 14, 2012 - 1:00PM

    I met Gp Capt. Cecil Chaudry in Lahore around 10 years ago. What a magnificent son of Pakistan. A true patriot. This man risked his life without hesitation to defend Pakistan and Pakistanis. His generation were not focused on what language you spoke, who you prayed to, as long as you were a Pakistani, that was enough. They faced an enemy force five times bigger than the Pakistan Air Force, and they faced it with great determination and valor. Every time this man went up in his jet, he put his life at risk to defend Pakistanis, be they Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Zorastians, Sikhs, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Punjabis, Kashmiris, Baluchis, or Bengalis.

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  • Qasim
    Apr 14, 2012 - 2:29PM

    @Son of Airforce Officer:
    Shame on us for discriminating everyday based on religion, faith, caste, creed, colour etc. etc. etc. Hazara killing today is a case in point; who are we to question anyone’s fate.

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  • Ahmed Jatt
    Apr 14, 2012 - 6:26PM

    @rhea:
    to put ur record straight…he was in Air force not Army … in Army there are many serving Christian Generals like Major General Julian Peter.. and Army dont control promotions of PAF, now a days it is a fashion to malign army … what a nation …full of ignorant people who just dont think and start criticizing .. there are rules and qualifications for promotion … its not like that u kill some one or shoot down planes so you will be made a General or Air Marshall… you have to full fill some criteria …. what about MM Alam i think he was a better pilot that Cecil Chaudry but he was also not made Air Marshall… so instead of making every thing controversial we should salute the war hero.. May Allah bless his soul.. Ameen.

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  • Umer
    Apr 14, 2012 - 6:34PM

    Typical ET, instead of praising the great man they had to mention how bad minorities are treated in the armed forces, that too in his obituary.typical

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  • Umer
    Apr 14, 2012 - 10:36PM

    @Umer:

    Typical ET, instead of praising the
    great man they had to mention how bad
    minorities are treated in the armed
    forces, that too in his
    obituary.typical

    Someone has to say it somewhere. He was mistreated for his faith it’s a fact why try to hide it?

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  • Usman
    Apr 15, 2012 - 5:07AM

    Cecil Chaudhry’s interview to defence journal Remembering Our Warriors series:-

    http://www.defencejournal.com/2001/june/coverstory.htm

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  • Anjum Hameed
    Apr 15, 2012 - 12:39PM

    Not only do I mourn the death of Group Captain Chaudhry, but I mourn the death of sanity and humanity in Pakistan..

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  • Faisal Rais
    Apr 16, 2012 - 10:23PM

    This is certainly not about being who is a better pilot, this is about a great man, a patriot who was as committed and as eager to make the supreme sacrifice for his motherland. His forefathers like so many others had contributed and sacrificed towards Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan for a free and better tomorrow where all were treated alike regardless of their faith or ethnicity.

    Remember we are born into our respective faiths, but that does not make one better then the other.

    Cecil Chaudhry may he rest in eternal peace, was deprived of his due as a professional solider by a hypocrite, however by giving him a well deserved national hero’s farewell he has been vindicated and divine justice has finally prevailed.

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  • dasmir
    Apr 21, 2012 - 2:15AM

    Cecil Choudhury didn’t die.He couldn’t die.He just faded away as real soldier’s do.

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