Remembering Anwar Saleem



April 30, 2022

Hoor Asrar remembers an affectionate friend and colleague


We lost Anwar Saleem in 2005 at the age of 52 and mourn him since then. Anwar was intellect personified and was rated as an illustrious civil servant. Anwar was by nature a fighter and fought his way up from difficult circumstances and then struggled for most of his adult life with disability and disease. He possessed genuine intellect that manifested itself in his weekly columns penned for the News International and his contribution was widely lauded. He had a wonderful sense of humour and bore most vicissitudes of his life with a smile on his face.
After a problematic childhood in which he lost his mother at the tender age of just 2 years and faced problems when his father re-married. He, however, braved on with the steadfast help and devotion of his two elder sisters who amply made up for the maternal loss in life. In turn he remained completely devoted to them throughout his life and never separated from them. He was considered brilliant in academic studies and was feted throughout his educational pursuits. He finished his formal education with completion of his master’s degree in international relations from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad with flying colours.
He further met success when he topped the prestige CSS examination landing in the top-notch Pakistan Administrative Service then known as District Management Group (DMG). He steadily worked his way up in the civil service hierarchy and rose to become deputy commissioner Sargodha in 1991. It was at this juncture that gross misfortune struck him when his vehicle overturned and while pulling him out of the wreckage his vital neck-nerves were cut paralysing him waste down. It was painful to see this attractive man standing well-over 6 foot to toil away his life as a cripple permanently confined to wheelchair.
An incident that would have left anyone broken but for strong-nerved Anwar it merely proved to be a glitch in his life that could be overcome. After months of extensive physical therapy, he rejoined the civil service as the Additional Commissioner Revenue in Rawalpindi and travelled to and from office in a specifically designed automobile and during his tenure improved the revenue system considerably. In 1999, he concluded a set of guidelines for Additional Commissioners with these words: “We owe it to ourselves and the poor people who seek justice from us and whose toil funds our salaries, to be satisfied in our hearts that we have done our best in deciding each case. Beyond that, no one is infallible.” In recognition of his contribution to public service he was honoured with Presidential Pride of Performance Award in 2011. The citation of the award recognised his outstanding performance as a graceful public servant who discharged his official duties with integrity. It was widely known that he would have gone very high in civil service annals if he had not met the unfortunate accident.
It was during this time in September 1993, he started writing for ‘The News’, becoming a weekly contributor in 1994. He remained a regular columnist for the next ten years, continuing to write up to a year before his death. His op-ed columns were widely read and appreciated. His readers would wait for his column on Monday without knowing the physical effort he had to go in writing. He considered himself fortunate that recently developed software enabled him to compose the columns with the sensory touch of his computer keys. His columns were an epitome of profound ideas couched in well-crafted language getting directly at the crux of the matter he touched upon. His approach was incisive and the prudence of his though process was evident from every word he wrote.
He followed a pragmatic and evolutionary approach towards the events taking place in the country and exquisitely brought his point to fore. Anwar felt thrilled to write for the newspaper and aired his views on every subject as he was a repository of kaleidoscopic knowledge possessing uncanny acumen to argue his point effectively and convincingly. His opinions were considered apt and timely that he peppered with his keen sense of history and his eclectic mindset. He was a wise soul and well aware of the limitations of human mind and eventual possibilities offered by life. It was a treat to read his columns and they still provide verve and energy to a thinking mind as they were full of rational discourse.
While Anwar was managing his life however best he could he experienced another misfortune when he was struck in 2000 with Non-Hodgins’s Lymphoma – a cancer of the lymph nodes. He fought it bravely but it was this dreaded disease that finally extinguished his life eventually on 18 April 2005. Anwar Saleem’s legacy is a shining example of consistent and lofty human endeavour even in stark circumstances exhibiting that human spirit is capable of rising up to any challenge fate delivers him. TW

Hoor Asrar Rauf has remained a national swimming champion and recently Graduated from UCF-USA in Hospitality and Event Management


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