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Kismet Konnected Bashir Ahmed

Posted on December 3, 2009
Filed Under >Raju Jamil, Foreign Relations, History, People
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Raju Jamil

That cloudy day of June-1961 gave a weary look due to a mild heat spell which was telling on the faces of the scores of Government officials and diplomats lined up along side President of Pakistan General Mohammad Ayub Khan at Karachi International Airport.

All these people were there to receive Lyndon Baines Johnson, Vice President of the United States Of America who was due to land any moment in Pakistan. LBJ was on a good will tour and his itinerary included a tour of our then capital city, Karachi followed by Lahore and Peshawar.

The Pan American Clipper Jet Boeing 707 landed smoothly and the well decorated tarmac of Karachi Airport saw VP LBJ and MAK take slaute as National Anthems of both countries were played by a band of Pakistan Navy. There were 12 cars in the motorcade that left the airport later. There was a black cadillac driven by Presidential driver Ishaq. It had LBJ and MAK in it with front seat next to the driver occupied by Brig. Nawazish Ali Khan, the Millitary Secreatry to MAK and the American Ambassador in Pakistan followed by a convertible Chevrolet Impala-1959 with DIG-Police Mian Bashir Ahmed. This was followed by an Austin-of-England re-shaped into a Rolls Royce car in which my father Jamiluddin Aali, the then Personal Staff Officer to Ayub Khan and Shaikh Habibur Rahman the Protocol Officer were sitting.



Then of course there were cars like Dodge Dart and Chevy Bel-Air carrying Govt and U.S.Embassy officials. The whole motorcade took route of main Drigh Road (now Shahrah-e-Faisal) for the President’s House (now Sindh Governor House — we lived in the President’s Estate adjacent to the President’s House and Shaikh Habibur Rahman Uncle was our wall-to-wall neighbor in that 1912 one story buyilding which now houses Surveyor General of Pakistan‘s Office).

With Police Motorbikes speeding in line and blowing whistles and siren occassionally ahead of the motorcade…the journey progressed smoothly till something happened !!! Driver Ishaq applied brakes smoothly–good enough not to make the car behind hit the Presidential Car. All the followers literally ran towards the Presidential Cadillac fearing that something awful has happened to either of the two VVVIPs in that car when out came Vice President Johnson with President Ayub. They slowly walked towards the site left of Drigh Road at the exact spot where currently stands the Finance and Trade Centre (FTC). On that day however, a 38 year old camel cart owner (Sar’eban) Bashir Ahmed was standing there. He was cladfed in shalwar kameez full of dust and stood shivering next to his camel cart with DIG police Mian Bashir Ahmed (he had the same name as the camel man Bashir Ahmed) consoling him to remain calm.

Vice President of the United States Of America Lyndon Baines Johnson alongside his host President Ayub and many others–including my father—-casually walked towards Camel Cart owner Bashir—shook hands with him and said:

“Hello, I am LBJ from USA and I wanna be your friend!”

to which Bashir was translated the address–and he replied as:

“Salam Sahab, khosee huee aap se mil ke!”

Then 6 and a half minutes of invigilated exchange took place between Bashir and VP USA LBJ. The conversation ended with LBJ taking out a PARKER’61 fountain pen from his shirt pocket—handing it to Bashir saying:

“We are friends now and friends must meet again—so I am inviting you to USA as my guest–please accept?”.

Ten days later, two officials from the U.S.Embassy and two officials from the President of Pakistan’s Secretariat visited Bashir Ahmed at his residence in Lyari (Bashir was a Makrani) for arranging his passport and U.S.Visa. Government of Pakistan got him three sets of sherwanis, a white shalwar-kameez and Jinnah caps from Jalal Din & Sons in Saddar and Rahman Hat Villa near Paradise Cinema with some Onyx products as gift from Bashir to LBJ. Within a week this Pakistani Camel Cart owner from Lyari, Karachi flew to New York by Pan American Clipper Jet Boeing 707 where he was received by LBJ aide. The next 12 days of Bashir were spent in New York, Washington DC and Dallas at the personal ranch of LBJ where his daughter Tricia and Ladybird Johnson held Bar-B-Q party, luncheon and breakfast gathering in honor of Vice President of United States of America Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Pakistani friend Camel Cart owner (Sar’eban) Bashir Ahmed. Later Bashir returned home blessed with some worthwhile gifts which included a Mack Truck and a American bicycle for his son and some financial package to start a more elevated business.

From that day and date of June-1961 till late 60′s the Bashir Magic was the talk of the country and of the State of Texas in USA.

Kismet Konnected Bashir Ahmed became a businessmen over weeks and stayed indebted to LBJ by continuing his correspondence through some Govt Officials assistance via U.S Embassy which ended with the advent of Vietnam War close by to JFK’s assasination in 1963.

EPILOGUE:

In 1972-73 when Zia Moheyuddin started his famous Zia Show by recording it before a live audience at the Fleet Club-Karachi auditorium near Lucky Star-Saddar, I was attached with Zia Bhai as his unaccredited Manager. I was then a young banker at HBL Nursery Branch, PECHS and I took pride in marketing the prize account of Zia Moheyuddin and provided home-service for his banking transactions like picking up his PTV cheques and arranging statements etc. At time I also acted as a chapperone to him at several shows he recorded there.

In one of his shows Zia Bhai invited Sar’eban Bashir Ahmed and after a good inter-action Zia Bhai, mildly pulling Bashir’s leg posed a question on him;

“YE AAP NE UMREEKA SE WAPIS AANAY KE BAAD OONT GAARI KIYON CHALANA BU’NDD KAR DEE?”

and i remember it as clear as a day that Bashir sort of went quiet and suddenly with a spark in his eyes came back sharply saying;

“WOH….JAANSUNN NE MUJH SE KAHA THA KE PAKISTAN WAPIS JAA KE MERI ‘POOSEE’SUNN’ (position) KA KHAYAAL RAKHNA!”

Bashir Ahmed died sometimes in the late 70′s and the news of his death was widely covered by almost all the Pakistani Newspapers of that time.

If I look at this whole episode closely I think this strange friendship could be the ONLY one of its kind in the World! unless we also name KISMET KONNECTED to the interesting incidence with that lady in Memphis who was staring at a car in showroom when Elvis Presley walked by and asked her if she likes the car and on her shy and smiling reply as “who doesn’t” Elvis gifted that car to her!! I dont know how far this is true but I do remember having read about it somewhere!)

The story told above comes from a key person who has, long time back, told me all of what I have fine tuned above—and he is none other than my father Jamiluddin Aali who is 85 now and Masha’Allah, good on his past days memory but quiet weak on the current. I was discussing this with him just yesterday—and he was quite surprised that I remembered the entire incidence. I was a school student and this incidence or happening—was too exciting and spell binding for us then)

References:

(1) Nation: Rabaiyat of Bashir Ahmad: Time Magazine
(2) NY news Clippings on Bashir Ahmed
(3) Dr. G.N.Kazi’s flickr page

20 Comments on “Kismet Konnected Bashir Ahmed”

  1. UMAIR MIRZA says:
    December 3rd, 2009 2:01 am

    wow wow wow.. what amazing piece to read .. thanks for sharing.. kismet konnection.. meri baari kab aye gi ..lol

  2. Sakib Ahmad says:
    December 3rd, 2009 6:47 am

    Dear Raju Jamil,

    As I got to the end of this story I was startled to learn that you are the son of Mr Jamiluddin Aali. May I ask you for a favour?

    I know that Aali Sahib is still quite active in the Anjuman-e-Taraqqi-e-Urdu and I read his columns in Jang from time to time. I have e-mailed him a couple of times, each time the e-mail bounced back. So I wrote a letter and posted it to him, care of Jang Group, but I never received a reply. I have no idea whether or not Aali Sahib had received my letter.

    The favour I ask of you is this: please click the link below, which will take you to a post in my blog titled “Pakistan’s colonial set-up/An illusion of freedom”; then either print off the post and all the comments thereon and give them to Aali Sahib or ask him to read them online.

    http://sakibahmad.blogspot.com/2009/10/slow-pace-of-pakistans-economic.html

    I will look forward to receiving Aali Sahib’s comments with great interest – either in the form of a comment at my blog or via e-mail. Could he also let me know the address of the Anjuman’s website (if there is one) and e-mail addresses of people who are actively working to implement Urdu as the official language of Pakistan.

    Thank you.

  3. adil says:
    December 3rd, 2009 1:09 pm

    Umair Sahib

    Ik sher yaad aya… khudi ko kar bulund itna….

    apna kismet konekshun khud banao!!!

  4. Naseer Aali says:
    December 3rd, 2009 2:52 pm

    - Owais Bhai, here is another story what my friend in Qamar Kazmi (Adil) sent from US after reading Raju’s (my elder brother )post.
    This story was printed in TIME- Nation-Titled- Rubaiyat Bashir Ahmed – date Friday 27th October 1961.
    Amazing – a MUST read—
    Sincerely
    Naseer

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,873459-2,00.html

    Nation: Rubaiyat of Bashir Ahmad
    Friday, Oct. 27, 1961
    In the course of his tour of Asia last spring, Vice President Lyndon Johnson stopped on a Pakistani roadside to greet an impoverished, illiterate camel-cart driver who had a grin as wide as his handlebar mustache. A true Texan, the Vice President casually invited Bashir Ahmad to “come and see us, heah?” A Karachi columnist picked up the invitation and ran with it: “My, Bashir is certainly lucky. He’ll stay at the Waldorf-Astoria.” Almost before Johnson could say L.B.J., he realized that his invitation had been accepted, and he was stuck with it. Last week Bashir jetted into New York, speaking not a word of English and wearing shoes for the first time in his life.

    Two Prayers to Allah. At the airport, Johnson was pale and apprehensive. But as Bashir materialized like a genie in the plane’s door, he soon let his host know that there was nothing to dread. Wearing a jaunty karakul cap, a trimly tailored frock coat and a 500-watt smile, the camel driver accepted the onslaught of press and public with the nonchalance of a Mogul prince. Nervously, Johnson apologized for the chilly weather. Replied Bashir: “It is not the cold; it is the warmth of the people’s hearts that matters.” In response to L.B.J.’s welcoming speech, the camel driver responded in his native Urdu: “Since I had the honor and good fortune of meeting you. I prayed to Allah for two things: One, for the good health of the American Vice President, and two, that I be allowed to come to America. Allah, as you see, has fulfilled both wishes.” Bashir recalled that when scoffers back home had predicted he would die of a heart attack in the excitement of his first jet ride, he had replied: “Then I will have died while going to see a friend.”

    Everywhere that Bashir went, his fluent comments flowed like a Rubaiyat. In Kansas City, Harry Truman was so flabbergasted that he referred to the camel driver as “His Excellency.” At a barbecue on the L.B.J. ranch in Texas, Bashir remarked that his little daughter was his favorite child (only four of his eleven children are living) because “a daughter in a family is like spring among the seasons.” Asked about his camel (who was reported to be pining away for him back home), Bashir thought a moment, then opined: “A camel is like a woman—you never know what it is going to do next.”
    Falling Petals. Said the camel driver to a newspaperwoman: “Each time you smile, petals fall out.” Standing on the floor of the U.S. Senate, he observed: “When a lot of minds are applied to a problem, you get a better solution than when one mind is applied to a problem.” In the Lincoln Memorial, gazing up at the statue of Abraham Lincoln, he said: “When a person sacrifices his life for his country, the country appreciates his services and makes a monument like this that will last forever.” Wherever he went in his week’s journey, from the plains of Texas to the office of President Kennedy, to the final, bewildering stopover in Manhattan. Bashir continued to drop his petals and to charm the natives. Finally, just as he was about to depart from the U.S. on his jet-propelled magic carpet ride back to Pakistan, Bashir got a telegram from Lyndon Johnson that moved him to tears. Wired L.B.J.: “Since your return to Pakistan takes you so close to Mecca, arrangements have been made through the People-to-People program for you to visit there.” Cried Bashir Ahmad: “Allah be praised!”

    So wise and well phrased were the utterances of the unlettered camel driver that some newsmen were skeptical. But State Department Interpreter Saeed Khan assured them that he was having a hard time matching his English translations with Bashir’s Urdu eloquence. Many observers wondered if the camel driver had not been well coached for his journey; he tended to repeat his most popular lines in the different cities he visited. But what ever the explanation, there was no gainsaying that Bashir was a smash hit where-ever he went. And if a tentmaker could be a poet, many asked, why not a camel driver.

  5. N. Baig says:
    December 3rd, 2009 3:01 pm

    Thank you so much for this wonderful story. I can still remember all the hullabaloo about Bashir and his encounter with LBJ and I often wondered what happened to the camel driver.

    Of course those were the days when we loved America, and couldn’t get enough of Americans who showed up on our shores. I remember the extensive press coverage not only of LBJ’s visit, but also of Jackie Kennedy’s. Those were the days, when our relationship with the U.S. was cordial and friendly. I doubt if we can ever capture those feelings again. But it’s nice to reminisce about those days anyway.

  6. Owais Mughal says:
    December 3rd, 2009 7:59 pm

    Naseer. Thanks. I’v provided a link to that Time magazine article on Bashir in reference section of the post.

  7. Rashid Ali says:
    December 3rd, 2009 9:57 pm

    Raju Jamil Saheb, Thank you for sharing the story of long ago. Those were innocent days. Jamil Uddin Aali Saheb is our national treasure. He has enriched Urdu langauage with his poetry. Made Dohai popular. I remember his nationalistic Dohai during 1965 war. If memory serves me right there was one which went like this…………Pakistani baray larraiya jin ki sahee na ja aiy maaar.Pakistani.Pakistani…

  8. Faraz Shams says:
    December 3rd, 2009 11:31 pm

    What a fantastic post!!

    S0, there was a time in our history when an American gesture was not considered a conspiracy against the fortress of Islam.

  9. shahran says:
    December 3rd, 2009 11:32 pm

    Great Acccount by Raju Jamil,

    Keep writing

    Here is the newsclipping of NY Daily News of 1961 on this episode.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=757&dat=19610705&id=KSAUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wa0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=6521,122813

  10. Amber Hafeez says:
    December 3rd, 2009 11:42 pm

    Absolutely fascinating.

    Thank you to ATP and to writer. This is the stuff that makes ATP the legend it is.

    I had heard of him from my parents once but the details here are amazing.

    I don’t have a specific comment but just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this.

  11. Benawa says:
    December 4th, 2009 7:16 pm

    I have seen this delightful episode in LBJ’s older biographies.
    It is pretty obvious that Bashir held his own everywhere he
    was taken to in the “wonderland”– was totally unfazed, and he
    had a way with words– especially when he was complimenting
    the ladies, such as Ladybird Johnson, and the Johnsons’ two
    daughters. I believe the “falling petals” metaphor was addressed to Ladybird herself.

    My theory is that Texans have a history of easy rapport with
    Pakistanis.

    (p.s. I don’t remember reading anything about Johnson’s “discomfort.”)

  12. Kamran says:
    December 5th, 2009 3:22 pm

    Mazza aa gaya

    great post

    really worth reading

    made my day

  13. coldrain says:
    December 6th, 2009 1:39 pm

    Wonderful! Had a great time reading this. A strange world it is.

  14. Quazzii says:
    December 6th, 2009 5:08 pm

    “Yes! Those were the days”. I will be correct if I say that till the 80s, “Pakistani Dream” remained a version of “the American Dream”. The special relationship between the US and Pakistan was not only about governments talking to governments but ,perhaps, people to people relationships were stronger. It was only after 90s when Americans started acting more as masters enacting amendments and refusing to understand Pakistan’s build up of nuclear capabilities as a deterrence to the Indian nuclear program . Sad to say but what started as a row on nukes has now peaked to a hostile American diplomatic policy where coercion, threats and use of force is the only means employed by the Yankees to engage Pakistan. While going through this article, i remembered how different it was then when compared to Ms. H. Clinton’s recent visit. By making Bashir his friend, LBJ won the hearts of the Pakistani nation. Contrary to that, while speaking to the students at Government College, Lahore, Clinton blamed Pakistan even for the American failures in Afghanistan and went in a row during her dialogue with local TV anchors. I wish if only the feel of those good old days can come back when American navy vessels used to land in Karachi where Pakistanis welcomed them with both hands gone up in the air and a big smile always came in return.

  15. Nasir says:
    December 6th, 2009 5:27 pm

    Great post! Thanks for writing about a part of history i may never have known otherwise.

  16. Minerva says:
    December 7th, 2009 7:21 am

    You’re Jamiluddin Aali’s son?

    Wow.

  17. Arif Aziz says:
    December 14th, 2009 8:10 am

    Amazing!!

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  19. MEHMOOD HUSSAIN says:
    December 3rd, 2010 2:07 am

    Raju Jameel taken us in past, we backed to past 50 years
    historic happenings, i was also a school boy of class 6th,
    at PAF-model school, drigh road,
    Bashir sarban or oont wala got fame, after historic handshake
    with late l b johnson of usa and his guest at usa-white house.

    raju is good story teller for us,

    thanks

  20. Aqeel Abbas Jafri says:
    May 19th, 2011 10:28 pm

    Bashir Ahmed died on 14 August 1992 not in 70′s as described above

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