Drenched with the love of the
Quaid and Pakistan, Brigadier Noor Husain would inspire everyone who heard him
talk. His demeanour exuded grace and poise. He had a regal air about him. One
could spend hours with him while he recounted his fond memories of the Quaid.
His eloquence could hold an audience spellbound and his articulate delivery
would cause ripples of resonance around him. With eyebrows raised, an earnest
face, feet tapping and a soft yet assertive voice, he would relate more than
half-a-century old events with such vivid and graphic detail that the listener
would think that he was actually witnessing those events.
Alas this silhouette of the Quaid
is no more!
دگر دانائے قائد آید کہ ناید
After spending almost nine decades
on the face of this earth, he left all of us on 9th August 2011 to “the
O hopes fallacious! O thou
spirit of grace!
Where art thou now? Earth holds
in its embrace
When I telephoned him in the
recent past, after the usual salutations, his words were: “I have played my
innings.” And what an innings it was. He had done his duty to the hilt by
faithfully spreading the message of the Quaid wherever he was called upon to do
so. Illness or old age would not stop him from traveling and addressing an
audience that was interested to hear him speak about the Quaid’s personality and
vision. He was a Pakistani all the way.
Brigadier sahib was the younger
brother of Major General Abrar Husain (d. 1992) who was awarded the MBE (Member
of the Order of the British Empire) for his heroics in World War II and years
later the Hilal-e Jurrat for stalling the advance of the Indian army at Chawinda
in Sialkot in the 1965 war. This was hailed as one of the greatest tank battles.
Brigadier sahib had to go through the agony of witnessing the death of his
eldest son Lieutenant (retd.) Tariq Husain three years before his own demise. He
bore this sorrow with stoicism. It was perhaps the most tragic incident of his
life and took its toll on his health. At Lt. Tariq’s funeral, someone remarked
that the age-old good military maxim had been utterly breached: “in war time,
fathers bury their sons while in peace time, the sons bury their fathers.” How
true was this comment and how utterly distressing the son’s death must have been
to the father.
Brigadier sahib was married to
Hushmat Shahabuddin, a niece of Khawajah Nazimudin. Her father Khawajah
Shahabudddin at one time was the governor of NWFP. Herself a very accomplished
lady, she remained a source of great strength and assurance to her husband and
stood behind him in trying circumstances. The couple had three children: Tariq,
Shahid and Shazieh. Shahid is settled in Qatar, while Shazieh in Canada.
Brigadier sahib was a very simple
person at heart. He earned an honest living and had no worldly assets except the
house he lived in. He was particularly fond of the young generation and would
always urge them to fulfill the vision of the Quaid. When some years ago he gave
a talk to the students of LUMS on the life of the Quaid, one could see this
earnestness in every word he spoke.
Brigadier sahib was a man of many
parts. As an articulate speaker, he spoke at numerous seminars and conferences
on political and defence studies and traveled to many countries all over the
globe for this purpose. He was an avid writer with many articles to his name. He
was also an accomplished painter, a gifted caricaturist and a keen golfer. He
was a voracious reader also and his library boasted some unique books on
politics, strategic studies and military history. Besides English, he was fluent
in German as well. Once he drove by car all the way from Germany to Rawalpindi.
Accompanied by his wife, this marathon trip lasted almost three weeks. It speaks
volumes of the adventurous spirit found in Brigadier sahib.
Born in 1923, his early schooling
took place in Lucknow, India. He obtained a Masters degree in English Literature
from Allahbad University and much later another Masters in Defence and Strategic
Studies from National Defence College (now National Defence University),
Islamabad. He was commissioned in the British Indian army in 1946. He remained
an instructor at the Command and Staff College, Quetta from 1966 to 1968 and at
the National Defence College, Islamabad from 1973 to 1977. A veteran of both the
1965 and 1971 wars, he retired from the army in 1977 as a Brigadier. Thereafter
he was appointed the Director General of the Institute of Strategic Studies,
Islamabad and the editor of its quarterly journal “Strategic Studies” for almost
a decade (1978-1986). At the institute, he commanded great respect from both his
juniors and his colleagues. In 1981-82, he initiated the Track II diplomacy with
India. For some time, he also served as the Assistant Military Adviser to the
Pakistan High Commission in London.
He also had the unique distinction
of being appointed Equerry to Queen Elizabeth II in 1960-61. He worked at the
Buckingham Palace during this period. Actually, when Ayub Khan visited the UK in
1959, he had invited the Queen to Pakistan. As a result of this, a liaison
officer in the person of Noor Husain (then Major) was appointed who could
co-ordinate the visit between both governments and also work on some other
issues between the two governments.
The pinnacle of his life which
came very early when he was in his early twenties, was undoubtedly his
association with the Quaid as the military ADC (Aide-de-Camp) for the last six
months of the Quaid’s life. He would relate with pride how he was interviewed
and selected by the Quaid himself. Here is how he would often recount this
interview: “I came to the Governor General’s house in Karachi – coming all the
way from Quetta by train. My name had been sent by the GHQ and two candidates
had already been interviewed before me by the Quaid. My ears were ringing as I
entered the room for the interview. The Quaid was sitting behind a large table
decked with green telephones, a cigarette box and case of Cuban cigars. He
seemed to have a pair of laser sharp eyes. As he looked at me, it was as if he
had switched on his headlights. I must have been shivering. I got pinned to the
ground and must have missed a heartbeat when he looked up and while shaking my
hand tersely said: “How are you? Sit down.” He asked a few questions about my
family. For the next few minutes, I was rigorously cross-examined by the Quaid
regarding my education, family, career, hobbies and interests. To my surprise at
one point, I was offered a Craven ‘A’ cigarette from a tin box and being a
non-smoker had to politely turn down the offer. Finally, the Quaid said:
“alright,” which I took as a signal to go. With a nod of the head, which was the
usual way to greet a dignitary, I left the room. Later, to my utter joy and
surprise, I was told that I had been selected.”
Being chosen by the Quaid himself
was a singular honour and one of Brigadier sahib’s most cherished memories.
In his last years, one can
remember him repeatedly mentioning his strong reservations about Mountbatten. He
was of the opinion that Mountbatten was not fit to be chosen as the Governor
General. According to him, Mountbatten was hand picked by Clement Atlee, the
then British Prime Minister because he was a grandson of Queen Victoria. Brig
sahib would also often cite the confession of Mountbatten recorded by Stanley
Wolpert in his book “Shameful Flight”: when asked by a journalist to comment on
his days as the Governor General of India, Mountbatten’s answer was to the
effect: “I got it all wrong. I messed it up.”
Today, Brigadier sahib is no more.
But how can his fond memories leave us? His funeral was the funeral of a soldier
who had spent all his life serving his country His life will remain an
inspiration to all patriotic Pakistanis and admirers of the Quaid. He was a
loyal son of the soil – a man of integrity and honour who has left many to mourn
His modesty, his scholar’s
His soul serene and clear
These neither death nor time
Sad this thing must be –
Hence forth ‘we’ may not speak