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1959-2007: Remembering Peshawar’s iron man

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PESHAWAR: It was the evening of January 27—exactly eight years ago—when Peshawar CCPO DIG Malik Muhammad Saad Khan’s mother-in-law Gohar Saeed saw the last of him at his official residence on Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Road. Little did she know hell awaited the two-star officer as he went off to work.

“His wife and two children had already obtained US visas. It was the immigration process of his youngest son Malik Salim that forced him to stay behind,” said Saeed while talking to The Express Tribune. She used to frequent the house in order to look after her grandson while Saad was occupied with the job he loved so much.

“I had brought sweets and cake for Salim. The domestic help told me Saad had not eaten anything since morning,” she added. “Saad had a sweet tooth so I offered him some cake and then his elder brother Khan Lala arrived,” she said. Lala reminded him of a family dinner they had to attend.

Saad excused himself and left to change his uniform. That was when the civil engineer from University of Engineering and Technology received a phone call from work. “He rushed out without eating anything,” said Saeed.

He had sped off to Qissa Khwani Bazaar to ensure security arrangements were in place for a Muharram procession. Within two hours his family was informed of a suicide attack on Saad’s entourage.

That evening in Dhaki Dalgaran, as Saad went over security measures, a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing Saad and 12 other people, leaving at least 30 injured.

A man of action

Talking to The Express Tribune, Saeed said Saad was a man of action and a ‘malang’ in the true sense of the word. While top cops have dozens of armoured vehicles and security personnel at their disposal, Saad maintained an old car for his family and commuted to work in his official vehicle. “Saad was an upright officer and the fear of death never held him back from his cause,” she said.

Saeed said the CCPO could have stayed in the comfort of his office and mobilised forces over the telephone but he instead chose to fight his battle in the field.

For the good

Chamkani DSP Wasim Khalil recalled he had never seen an influential man who was also brave and honest at the same time. While talking to The Express Tribune, Khalil said Saad used to ask him: “Why do I like you Wasim?” To which Wasim would respond, “Because you’re a good man and only see the good in others!”

Saad’s rebuttal: “No, it is your own impeccable nature that attracts attention.” The CCPO DIG never worried about ranks and bureaucratic protocols, said Khalil. “I was an inspector and he was a DIG yet I was allowed to walk straight into his office whenever I wanted.”

Khalil said when former governor Ali Jan Orakzai asked for recommendations for competent officers, Saad suggested Khalil and inspector Kokab’s names. Khalil and Kokab were thereon posted at Governor House.

“When he arrived at Governor House that dreaded day, I thought I’d quickly offer my prayers and catch Saad on his way out,” recollected Khalil. By the time he was done, Saad was already on his way out.  “I only caught a glimpse of Saad’s vehicle as it exited the premises. That was the last time I saw him alive,” he said.

“We spent the entire night with the bodies at the hospital and when I returned home, I told my mother it felt as if I was orphaned for the second time,” said Khalil. Saad was awarded the prestigious Nishan-e-Shujaat by the Government of Pakistan the same year as his demise.

The Übermensch

Saad was one of the many lynchpins of the country’s police service.

The force has seldom seen cops like him who were a constant threat to enemies of the state when alive and posthumously became symbols of resistance in the war against militancy.

Published in The Express Tribune

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