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Books of general interest

Last week I met Prof Dr Munir Cheema, a doctor and human being par excellence. He is related to my dear friend, Sajjad Cheema, son of the famous Justice Muhamad Cheema, who was deputy speaker in the National Assembly in Ayub Khan’s period, a judge of the West Pakistan High Court, federal law secretary, a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, a chairman the Council of Islamic Ideology, and so on.

He used to offer his Juma (and other) prayers in the mosque in Shaheen Market, E-7, of which I had facilitated the building. It could accommodate about 500 namazis. He was extremely kind to me and used to come and see me quite often.

Sajjad Cheema introduced me to this tall, graceful gentleman who came across as a polite, gentle person with vast general knowledge. He is very interesting to talk to. After obtaining his degrees and training in Pakistan and in England, he joined the Pakistan Army and rose to the rank of brigadier. He served in the army for more than 25 years. After retirement, he remained very active in helping humanity. He gave me two books — ‘Death — Reflections of a Surgeon’ and ‘Ramblings’, published by Xlibris and RoseDog Books, Pittsburg PA, USA respectively.

The first book, ‘Death – Reflections of a Surgeon’, contains a treasure of excellent anecdotes and short essays based on facts. Each chapter starts with a meaningful quote and many chapters contain verses written by famous poets, giving us an indication of the taste of the author. Prof Stephen Thomas of Harvard University writes the following: “It’s both moving and wonderful. I enjoy it too much to put it down for long. I read through the entire work spellbound, reflecting on how rare it is to encounter reading material that both entertains and instructs…. Despite its title, the book is more about life than about death…”

On the back cover is written: “Despite the swagger and a steely surgeon; a senior professor and a brigadier general, Dr Cheema is a physician with heart. His involvement; living and dying with his patients and friends, at times blur the line of empathy; so critical in his profession…. He tells a story with panache and then leaves the rest for the readers.”

Personally, I found the chapter and description of Gen Shaukat to be heart stopping. I also had the privilege of knowing him — tall, fair and handsome with green eyes. I met him during a meeting with Mr Alvi, an architect with Naqvi and Siddiqui, and a good friend. Gen Shaukat told us that the previous day he had visited Mr Bhutto in jail, and was shocked and saddened to see him in very bad condition. His gums were swollen and bleeding and his face and arms were covered with mosquito bites, swollen and full of puss. After seeing that, he had gone straight to Gen Zia and asked him what he was doing.

He told him that Bhutto had been his benefactor and the case against him was fraudulent. He had made the army strong by raising new divisions; he had brought the POWs back from India and he had started an indigenous nuclear weapons program.

Gen Zia didn’t say anything, but just a few days later he (Gen Shaukat) was prematurely retired. I can still see him sitting there telling us of this episode. He was a man of principle, a brave man. May Allah Almighty rest his soul in Jannah — Ameen.

The second book, ‘Ramblings – An Insight Into Human Demeanor’ is also a gem of a book. It consists of two parts, each with a foreword by an eminent Harvard professor — Prof Stephen H Thomas and Dr Roger K Pitman respectively. In the first part, Prof Dr Cheema describes his experiences and in the second part he describes what he learnt from his life. It tells us about his practical life and the many journeys he undertook. An important factor in this book is the excellent style and simple use of the English language.

On a different note, the reactions to the judgment against Gen Musharraf are uncalled for and tantamount to trying to bully the judiciary. Gen Musharraf can still appeal to the Supreme Court and then to the president for clemency (which he would likely get).

This is the same country where Mr Bhutto was hanged on false charges, though he had been a former president and PM of the country. And where when Nawaz Sharif was overthrown, handcuffed and jailed.

Dr A Q Khan, "Books of general interest," The News. 2019-12-23.
Keywords: Education , General Knowledge , Nuclear weapons , Islamic Ideology , English language , Gen Zia ul Haq , Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto , Stephen H Thomas , Roger K Pitman , Pakistan , England