What can you say about a man who became a legend in his own lifetime? A man who became a symbol of resistance and a beacon of light against the forces of darkness? The only thing that I can say is that Aslam was my friend.
I got to know Aslam before I joined the service. The first time I met him, he came to my house with a handlebar moustache and a ferocious look in his eyes, and plonked a pistol on the table. He had arrested Saulat Mirza, my father’s killer. I wanted to confirm whether he had arrested the right man or not, and he offered to allow me to interrogate him myself. In fact, he became the reason I joined the force, because he represented the ability of the police to do good, to help the helpless.
When I got my first posting as ASP Garden, Aslam was in one of his cyclical periods of being out of favour with the government of the day. He would come over and sit in my office in the evening, having no other office to go to, and would regale me with tales of how things actually worked in the department. For a wet behind the ears ASP, this was manna from heaven. I often made him repeat the story of how he first made his name in Gulbahar, which was at the time the worst thana in the city because of the ethnic violence in the area.
Around this time, Aslam took a liking to two young officers, who were the sons of slain fathers, myself and Irfan Bahadur, and decided to mentor us. We both were perhaps at the time more emotional and acted with our hearts. Aslam taught us how to act with our heads.
We started working together when Aslam was brought back to capture Shoaib Khan. He said he was only willing to work with me because at the time he said he didn’t trust anyone else. And so, for a month and a half, Aslam, Irfan and I spent many a chilly winter night conducting desperate raids on the houses of Memon gamblers in Kharadar, chasing down every single lead on Shoaib.
Aslam, as usual, always got his man and, within a couple of months, arrested Shoaib Khan. On the back of that success, we went to Lyari toget her in 2005. Aslam was already a legend in Lyari, having served as SHO Kalakot in 1996.
Our first day in Lyari, I called the shots and said I wanted to go to Afshani Gali, the home of Rehman Dacait. One of the SHOs suggested that we should call for 15 APCs before going as the area was so dangerous. Aslam took my hand and said “Sahib, let’s go while this guy looks for 15 APCs”. We ended up patrolling Afshani Gali on foot, without a shot being fired. Dacait had evacuated from the area the minute he heard that “Chaudhry” had returned to Lyari.
A few years later, Aslam and I were working together again, this time in CID. At one point, we had the option of choosing to stay either in our CID Civil Lines building, or moving to the anti-extremism cell office in Garden. I was in favour of the Garden office, as it had a great lawn. But Aslam, being a superstitious man, said “but sahib, Civil Lines is a lucky office. I’ve caught many good cases in this building”. I told him, “All offices are lucky for you”, and lured him to the Garden office with the promise that the lawn was an excellent walking track, to indulge his habit of constantly pacing up and down the office driveway while chain smoking. Two months after we shifted office, our old offices were targeted in a massive bombing, in November 2010. Aslam and I told our DSPs, who had all opposed the move, to sacrifice a Kaala bakra.
So many stories to tell. And I cannot believe that we won’t be walking up and down his driveway, swapping tall tales. I also don’t know what to tell his four children, Manahil, Ikrash , Azan,and Jazil.
The only thing that I can say is that Aslam was my friend, and that he changed my life and did me the greatest service by catching my father’s killer. And the only thing I can promise is that I will try my best to do for them what their father did for me.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2014.