A great patriot, genius, humble, highly capable, thorough gentleman, Aftab Ghulam Nabi Kazi, left us for his eternal abode recently. He was almost 97. May Allah rest his soul in Jannah – Ameen.
I was very closely associated with Kazi Sahib for many years. In 1975, my wife, our two young daughters and I came to Pakistan just before Christmas on our usual annual holidays. I met Bhutto Sahib after three days, at which meeting his competent MS, Brig Imtiaz (later Ma Gen) was also present. Bhutto asked me to check on the progress of the work being done under Munir Ahmed Khan of the PAEC.
I had given them some hints the year before on how to get started on enrichment. I was shocked to see the casual and lethargic way in which the work was being handled. When I informed Bhutto, he was visibly annoyed. He thought for a few seconds and then requested me not to go back but to help the country face the mortal danger from India after their nuclear test of May 18, 1974.
I was shocked. I had a good job and my wife’s elderly parents were in Holland and she was the only one to look after them. Considering everything and having discussed the matter with my wife, I agreed. My wife returned to Holland alone with the girls, and had the daunting task of informing her parents (her mother was in hospital at the time) and packing up the house. She returned to Pakistan after two months with only some clothes and personal items.
Meanwhile I had been appointed as adviser to the PAEC with a salary of Rs3,000 per month, which I didn’t receive for the first six months. The work couldn’t progress because of incompetence and bureaucracy. In July of that year I wrote to the PAEC chairman asking for an interview, to which I got no reply. Since I had joined he had strongly hinted that we should not work for weapons and that Bhutto was obsessed with making a bomb. When I didn’t receive a reply, I wrote a letter to Bhutto enclosing a copy of my letter to the PAEC chairman. He called me to the Governor House in Lahore immediately, where I met him together with Agha Shahi and Gen Imtiaz and explained my case.
After two days Gen Imtiaz phone that there was a meeting at the Foreign Office. I drove there in my own car as neither car nor driver had been put at my disposal. There I met A G N Kazi, Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Agha Shahi, all secretaries general at the time. After hearing me out they suggested that I take over as chairman of the PAEC. I declined as I felt this would immediately expose our plans to the West. I frankly told them that if the project was not under my control it wouldn’t succeed.
I was asked to return the next day, when I was informed that they had accepted my proposal and that a new organisation (Engineering Research Laboratories – ERL) would be set up. Gen Imtiaz used Shahi Sahib’s green line to inform Bhutto. I spoke to him as well and told him that I needed a free hand.
The next day we had a meeting in Bhutto Sahib’s office. He formed a coordination board with A G N Kazi as chairman and Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Agha Shahi as members. The board was given the powers of a PM. Gen Zia was also there as COAS and he agreed to give me a team of civil engineers. This team was headed by a brigadier, a dashing, handsome go-getter. They never let me down.
Next the problem of determining the powers I needed to rush through the programme was tackled by the brigadier and me. I made four copies of the suggestions and presented it to the board at Kazi Sahib’s office. After glancing at the very first page, G I Khan remarked that I was asking for powers only the PM had. At that Kazi Sahib said: “Ishaq, if you want another PWD, discuss it, otherwise give the powers Dr Khan is asking for. We are there to oversee everything.” With that the matter was closed. It was this approval that enabled our programme to succeed.
Kazi Sahib was a thorough gentleman – soft spoken and very competent. He could instantly grasp the gist of a problem. I was allowed to see him without any prior appointment. I was ably supported by Agha Shahi, who asked his DG Administration – a very competent officer – to issue me a diplomatic passport and to take care of our foreign travel.
On July 5, 1977, Gen Zia staged the coup. Ghulam Ishaq Khan was made secretary general-in-chief, the de facto prime minister, thus, due to his higher rank, automatically becoming chairman of the committee. He offered continued charge of our meetings to Kazi Sahib, but he politely refused.
The late A G N Kazi had a brilliant, chequered career. After high school in Sindh he obtained a double Masters in Physics and Statistics. He was selected for the ICS (together with Agha Shahi and Mian Riazuddin) and worked as DC before Partition.
After Partition he moved to Pakistan and was successively posted as secretary finance, Sindh and adviser to the governor; finance secretary of West Pakistan; economic minister in the Pakistan Embassy in Washington; additional chief secretary Planning and Development, West Pakistan; chairman Wapda (where he supervised the Mangla Dam); secretary Industries & National Resources; federal finance minister and chairman Central Board of Revenue; secretary general finance and economic coordination; adviser to the president on economic affairs; governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and, finally, secretary general finance.
When ERL came into being, he was secretary general finance and what a great support he was to us – a pillar of strength and hope. After he left, Ghulam Ishaq Khan handled the programme superbly. May Allah Almighty grant a high place in Jannah to all who helped us in making Pakistan a nuclear and missile power – Ameen.