This is a glimpse of the house of a retired brigadier in Islamabad’s posh area. Two Mercedes cars, one for the ‘Sab’ and one for his daughter, are parked in the courtyard. ‘Begum Sab’ is out with her son in her own car to a shopping mall. The son lives in the U.S. but is on vacation to see parents in Islamabad. A garden in front of the lounge is blooming with flowers—seeds of some were sent by a friend in Australia. A bearded, wearing a knitted cap, is sprinkling the lush green garden with water.
In one corner of the plush bungalow is standing a large, corroding wooden door as a decoration piece the retired army officer had ‘purchased’ in Swat. The corridor, connecting the lounge and garden, is laden with a lion’s skin at one end, Afghani carpets on the floor, horses and dogs’ paintings hanging on the walls, family portraits, a statue of a man and woman belonging to some ancient civilization and a few pieces fixed here and there, showing the modern world’s beauty.
The interior of the lounge has a bit of everything—a combination of marble and wood work, Italian furniture, hand-woven carpets, embroidered cushions on sofas—a specialty of women in Swat Valley, a Chiniot-made wooden coffee table and side tables and hardly a blank space on the four walls of the lounge. The brigadier hints at one portrait and tells a visiting western journalist he bought it for $5000 in 1982 during a trip to Paris. The whole lounge is a gallery of paintings—British red coat military marching in some Indian battlefield, a dancing girl in a Moghal court, hounds chasing terrified rabbits in a sub-continent autumn, a Bengali girl with her long black hair trying to cover her exposed breasts, a battlefield full of elephants and horses. Pictures of the ‘Sab’ when he was young wearing khaki, a shot of his days when he was playing polo, ‘Sab and Begum Sab’ on their marriage day, the newly married couple on honeymoon, group pictures with batch fellows, some retired as generals, hand-shakings with prominent military generals and many more pictures of their kids. A number of crossed swords, flags, badges and models of guns and cannons are placed on walls and surfaces of tables.
‘Sab’ has a busy schedule. He has his farm 15 miles away from his residence where he goes every day to see his two horses of Clydesdale breed, walk around, take fresh breath, play some light games, and do gardening. His farm house is somewhere near Chuck Shehzad, a suburb of Islamabad. The value of one horse is Rs 700,000.00 and monthly maintenance is unknown. At least four men take care of the farm house and the properties there. He is fond of riding horse but says his age doesn’t allow him to go for a race. His men help him controlling the horse if it gets wild while carrying its master’s burden on the back. He recently abandoned hunting trips in Punjab’s wild lands. His preys included rabbits, fawns, birds and “democracy too”, the journalist said laughingly while adding to the Sab’s list of victims.
When at home, he roams around with a dog in his beautiful two canal house with a military stick in hand, wearing black glasses and a cowboy cap on his head. His favorite dress is safari suit. The golden strip of his new watch was speaking of its quality. His shoes are not ‘made in Pakistan’ and so was his shirt. His lounge was not declared a ‘no-smoking’ zone and the former military official showed his skills in cigar two times in a session of one and a half hour. He has watched almost all hit movies of Hollywood. The movies had made him a great fan of the West, he told the visiting journalist. The Hollywood’s influence on his mindset was very much visible though he was a lonely character at the time of the meeting.
“This country has given us everything—thanks God,” he said while condemning politicians’ role in the 1971 War. He was one of the veterans of the war that led to the fall of Dhaka. The meeting was aimed at recording his recollections of the 1971 war. The brigadier didn’t agree with the stories of atrocities by then West Pakistan military in Bengal nor did he seem repentant of its role in the war. He rejected Hamood ur Rehman Commission report (http://www.bangla2000.com/bangladesh/Independence-War/Report-Hamoodur-Rahman/default.shtm) though he agreed with some of its portions. He opined the majority Bengalis didn’t want fighting with their Muslim brothers but India and lack of political will in Pakistan caused the catastrophe. He didn’t buy politicians’ role in securing release of over 90,000 Pakistani military men from Indian prisons, adding the move rather rectified the mistakes of civilian leaders.
The meeting on a cup of tea ended as Sab’s plain-clothed chauffer with a knitted white cap was ready to drive his master to Lahore. He wanted to settle a land dispute with his relatives there. “You are lucky. In your country you don’t spend years to owe your properties”, he told the visiting journalist.
The session with the former military official in his house was limited only to his lounge. We didn’t see how the master bedroom and other rooms will look like and how the house kitchen works. It was a view of the 30 percent or so of his bungalow. He is a filthy rich, the journalist later said. He valued his one black Mercedes car at $40,000, counted seven servants in the house and was not sure about the value of his posh residence and other properties.