Bari ImamRemembering a Dervish

By Dr Ghayur Ayub

He was tall by physique, tall by maturity, tall by knowledge, tall by honesty, tall by courage, and most importantly tall by wisdom. In every perspective, he was a ‘Dervish’. His name was Syed Riaz Hussain Naqvi. I used the word ‘was’ because this lovely tall man left us last Friday on a journey he always looked forward to begin.

At the age of seventy five he looked like someone in fifties. The sweet smile in his eyes for the deprived ones and arrogance on his face for the powerful ones was his life style. He was a true devotee of Bari Imam Sarkar. When over three decades ago I started going to Bari Imam and was introduced to Raja Akram Sahib of Bari Imam House, the first question he asked me if I met Naqvi Sahib. When I replied in non-affirmative, he advised me to do so. That is how I met Naqvi Sahib. He was an officer in CBR. I found him easy to talk to with no formalities and filled with courtesy. From then on he became ‘Shah Sahib’ for me as he was for others.

Over the years I found him to be encyclopedia of knowledge. I met people during my processional and social life and found knowledge pouring out of their personalities but only in their own fields. Naqvi Sahib was unique. He was like an internet. You asked him any question. He had an instant answer along with references as if he carried a computer in his brain and all it needed was to touch the appropriate button and open a page of wikipedia. How did he do it beyond anyone. But that’s how he was.

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And the memory? His memorial acuity was unbelievable. We always loose words, phrases, and sentences in our conversations as we grow old. Not him. At the age of seventy five his memory was as sharp as the memory of a young boy of sixteen. The incredible combination of knowledge and sharp memory made him unparalleled. When all this was added to his incorruptible honesty, his personality became multi talented and tall.

Working in CBR and staying dead honest needs moral courage. He was full of both. Working as an officer in CBR for decades not a single person ever pointed finger at him about his honesty and courage. Sometimes we find people who are honest but not courageous. Not Naqvi Sahib. He was a true follower of Imam Ali and a ‘Dervish’ of Bari Imam. I’ll just quote two examples.

Once when he was Member CBR, Asif Ali Zardari approached him for a favour. He told him he would study the case and come back to him. After going through the file he found gross irregularities. Writing his comments he rejected it. A few days later BB called him to PM house. She was sitting at the top of a shiny mahogany table with a few cabinet members at the sides chairs. She greeted him and pushed the file on the table towards him. The file slid smoothly and ended up near Naqvi Sahib. He leaned forward and picked it up while in the background BB was asking that Zadrai Sahib wanted him to sign it. He opened the file. It was the one which he already rejected. He slowly closed it and slid it back in the same way towards BB saying he would not do it. As the file was sliding back on the smooth surface of the table towards BB many jaws around the table dropped. That was Naqvi Sahib showing his arrogance to the mighty ones. That night he was transferred from the post. Did it matter for him whether he was an OSD or something else? Not really.

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On another occasion when he was Chairman CBR during the heydays of Gen Musharaf, he was called to brief the generals in a Corps Commanders Meeting on some issues pertaining to taxes. In those days Naqvi Sahib wanted to widen the tax-net and bring in the big ones of the society in the net. In doing so he made many powerful unhappy including a few generals in the army. During his presentation one of the Lt Generals asked him a technical question in a sappy manner to impress general Musharaf and humiliate Naqvi Sahib. His answer reflected his courageous intelligence and presence of mind. He politely answered with stony firmness, “ Sir, would it be fair if I question your professional capabilities and tell you how to move your division in a battlefield?” Gen Musharaf realised the sensitivity and intervened to cool the atmosphere. Again it needed a courageous person like Naqvi to call spade a spade. I can quote tens of such incidences.

For example whenever he was called to cabinet meetings, he would doze off on a sofa while waiting for his turn. The other secretaries would keep turning on their seats with nervousness. That was Naqvis Sahib as a professional, as an officer, as a person and of course as a ‘Dervish’.

Standing by the side of his grave at Mansar, I could see his smiling face in the drying petals of red roses as if he was telling me to be happy for him as he is in a better place. But then, I am a weak person who heard Ahmad Faraz saying, “Ab Ke Bechray Hein Tu Shayad Kaheen Khaboun Mein Melain: Jaysay Ke Sookey Hooway Phool Kitaaboun Main Melain.

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Good bye my friend. I know you are happy up there but we cant help missing your company, your guidance, your love, your friendship and your advices. Inna Lilla Hey Wa Inna Illah Hey Rajioon.

The End

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