Mohammad Ashiq : The Unsung Hero of Pakistan!

Editor’s Note: Mohammad Ashiq is one of those having won laurels for Pakistan-and where is the 82 year old Olympian today? Can we not look after our assets? Is that not what Mohammad Ashiq is? This is an open question for our society!
Ashiq won medals at the Asian Games, but now strugg­les to make ends meet.
 Mohammad Ashiq seen with his sole mean of earning livelihood. PHOTO: TAHA SIDDIQUI/ EXPRESS
Former cyclist Mohammad Ashiq has shaken hands with prime ministers, competed at two Olympic Games and won several medals at home and abroad, including a silver medal at the Asian Games. He now drives a rickshaw and struggles to keep the wheels of his life turning. A message is plastered across the canopy of his vehicle: “Those nations that do not respect their heroes never prosper.” (We worship the Saudi’s in Pakistan and everything Arab.  No wonder the Saudis prosper).
Ashiq’s international career started in 1958 when he won a bronze medal at the Asian Games in Tokyo. After that he was selected twice for the Olympics and then the Asian games again, where he won a silver medal. “I used to be a boxer and took part in many national tournaments but one day my wife complained to me about the constant bruises I had due to my sports, and asked me to leave that and do something else. I decided to go into cycling,” he says.
How different the 1950s were: Ashiq bought a cycle for twenty rupees.
He started practicing on his own but one day his employers, Pakistan Railways, asked him to represent them in a national championship and he won. From then onwards, he was invited to many cycling events in Pakistan and later around the world. Even though his cycling career was successful, his professional career came to a halt when he was let go by Pakistan Railways.
“My manager wanted me to lose an event because his nephew was competing in it,” he says. He refused and was then fired, and since he was not a permanent employee, he did not get a pension, despite serving for the organisation for more than twenty years.
Even after he lost his job, he went on to participate in many games. In Nawaz Sharif’s first tenure, he was invited by the prime minister to receive an award. He shows a picture of this, one which is also printed on the back of his rickshaw.
However, after Ashiq stopped participating, the invites stopped coming. He thought he could get a job as a trainer but says he did not have the right connections. Nevertheless with the little money he had saved over the years, he bought himself a bus and hired a driver for it. Luckily he had a home back then but that was sold after his bus had an accident. “I had to sell my house to meet my expenses, and get my daughters married, and the only thing I own now is this rickshaw,” Ashiq says. He bought the rickshaw ten years ago through a bank loan which he only paid off recently.
Ashiq, now 82, lives with his wife and his grandson in a rented house in Samanabad, a neighborhood that has a labyrinth of homes stacked too close for comfort. His son died recently of dengue, and the mother left the child with them. “I have to take care of another child at this age; people of my age are either bed-ridden or have died. But I continue to work to earn a living, even though I cannot walk properly.” He shows his legs which he oils everyday and wraps in bandages to give him some respite from pain.
“I hand-delivered letters at the Chief Minister House, and have even posted numerous letters to the prime minister to help me, but no one ever responds,” he says while showing the copies of the letters he has sent, which include simple demands. “All I want from the government is to give me a pension at least from the Railways if nothing else. They keep announcing housing schemes for the poor … can’t I get a house to live in too? I was a national hero for this country,” he says, more in hope than expectation.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2012.
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Comments

  • Iftikhar Siddiqi  On February 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Can you please send me his contact details?

    • Yasmeen Ali  On February 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      I have requested the same & will post on SITE as soon as received.
      Rgds
      Moderator

    • Yasmeen Ali  On February 29, 2012 at 3:14 am

      MAIL FROM RELEVANT PERSON:
      More on our national hero…Olympian Mohammad Ashiq.

      I managed to speak to him in detail yesterday and could not help feeling my eyes getting damp. We need to get this ailing 82 year old hero off the auto rickshaw – sooner than later.

      This is what comes to my mind (others in the group may please weigh in)

      1. To appeal to the Fed Govt to get him a position (trainer/coach/adviser) in the Pakistan Sports Board, ASAP. Check out http://www.sports.gov.pk/PressRelease/PR_23_03_2010.html

      As a senior citizen and based on his rich experience, thats where he should be. He is receptive to moving to Islamabad. This process has already been put into motion. We have to rattle the chain in Isloo because there are so many national heros (and heroines too, I am sure) who have been left by the wayside.

      2. He needs financial help for sure as his ability to be on the road driving a rickshaw has been severely reduced because of his failing health, specially knee problems. This translates into reduced take-home income. Money can be sent to him in various ways, whatever the sender may feel comfortable with. I know members of this forum are spread fairly widely in the geographic sense. here is what I ahave been able to come up with:

      a. Directly to his bank account

      Mohammad Ashiq
      Bank Alfalah
      Account # 1002817660
      Samnabad Branch
      Lahore – Pakistan

      b. Through Pathfinders – a reliable NGO in PK.
      President : Dr Farhana Hussain
      I can provide bank details to those who may request.

      c. Through me in Boston
      A few people have suggested that those in the US
      can pool the funds and send him a monthly payment
      (whatever we are able to collect) by Western Union.
      (WU costs just $10 and gets the money across in minutes)

      For those interested, Ashiq Sb’s mobile # is 92-322 805 6575. Please feel free to call him with my reference, being cognizant of time difference and rest hours, of course.

      I would rather not wait to do things when I am there in Lahore or PK and suggest we crack the whip now. Any other ideas, options, bright flashes etc. are welcome. Please feel free to call me at 978-621-8030, if required.

      Hats off to Taha Siddiqi of Express Tribune to have brought this case to exposure!

      Best,
      Siraj

  • khan saheb  On February 22, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Dear friends in Lahore (also in the US and elsewhere)

    Please read below. I was very moved by this article, as I am sure you will be too, after reading it.

    Lets join hands to restore the lost pride of Mohammad Ashiq and make him feel like a national hero, all over again, in his twilight years. Maybe he can still operate the rickshaw and we can help him get a hired driver, so that he can rest a bit in this old age. I having nothing against rickshaw drivers as a vocation and means of a honest and respectable livelihood, but not for an Olympian who has represented his country with pride, multiple times.

    I am requesting my friends in Lahore to track down Ashiq as a first step to establish and assess the ground realities and then recommend what we can all do to assist him, in whatever way we can.

    Knowing you, I am confident that this will a message that you will think about more than once and would like to do something about it. Please contact me with ideas and thoughts for collective thinking.

    Thanks

    Siraj

    • Iftikhar Siddiqi  On February 23, 2012 at 3:57 am

      Please do let me know when you are in touch with him. I suggest that he may be asked to establish a cycling training set up at Qaddafi Stadium for the your boys (the basic facility already exists there).

  • Owais Saadat  On February 22, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Dear Yasmin,

    Such a coincidence. I felt like sharing my response to this email on Ashiq. It was sent to me by an unknown member of a Group that has included me on the circulation list. Lets hope we can do something useful for this forgotten hero!

    Owaise

  • GRK  On February 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    i am speech less.simply pathetic.how we expect that our creator will shower HIS choicest blessings on us?????grk

  • Fahim Mirza  On February 22, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    shame on us all

    fahim

  • Syed Wajahat  On February 22, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Hope one of the elite of Pakistan, including Mr. Zardari gets to read this.

  • Iftikhar Siddiqi  On February 29, 2012 at 3:54 am

    Dear Siraj,
    Good to see your effort. We make an effort to adjust him in Punjab Sports Board here in Lahore; for which CM Punjab may be the best forum.

  • nabiha rasool  On March 22, 2015 at 4:19 am

    is the number and address still working ? can any one gudie me plz thanks

    • pakpotpourri  On March 22, 2015 at 11:25 pm

      There seems to be a server glitch but I can log in & read & post. Saw your comment too?

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