by Ahmed Tahir Chohaun
Mr. Ghulam Muhammad Naz served Pakistan as a hero. He helped fight some of the toughest fires that included a blaze of Ojhiri arsenal camp in 1988, in which according to reports 5000 people died. He was one of the hundreds of firemen who served in the mighty “Ghakhar Plaza Incident of Rawalpindi” that resulted in a loss of 18 persons including 13 fire fighters from Pakistan Ordinance Factories (POFs), Civil Aviation, Municipal Fire Brigade Rawalpindi and Rescue 1122. He is a true hero and an inspirational figure for the young and upcoming professionals who devote their life to rescuing people from fire. He is the epitome of what a fire fighter is; one who risks his life carrying out onerous tasks of extinguishing hazardous fires that threaten civilian population and property, rescuing people from collapsed and burning buildings and other such situations.
“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a fireman.”- Naz said. In Pakistani social structure, the vocation of firefighter appears to be low-key; but we who know the work which the fireman has to do, believe that this is a noble calling. Gulam Naz always envisaged living in the glory of saving lives of others. He is a real hero who gave his whole life to the Muncipal Fire Department Rawalpindi, (Pakistan).
Fighting fire is only one of his passions. Fighting for the rights of the fire-men is his life long ambition and goal. Mr. Naz proudly served 30 years in Muncipal Fire Department at Rawalpindi, Pakistan. He often used to say that due to rapid and modern industrialization and the complex surrounding it, the chances of fire breaking out are mazimized. In such a climate, where hazards are umpteenth it has only manifested in developing finer skills required in fire-fighting technology. Also he stressed upon the importance of broadening fire-men’s remit enhancing his need of awareness of duties and knowledge of his surroundings. Mr. Naz’s mission is to modernize the Fire Service of Pakistan. He hopes that the firemen of Pakistan will get the due respect and recognition as recieved by any firemen of a advanced nation.
He was the Chief Patron of all Punjab Fire Service Employees Association of Lahore and Director of Fire Protection Association of Pakistan Karachi, (FPAP) and is a renowned fire officer. He is commonly known in Pakistan as “BABA E FİRE FİGHTİNG”. He tried his best to make a solid platform that fights for the rights of real rescuers and fire fighters in Pakistan. He finally came up with an originization called Fire & Safety Association of Pakistan (FSAP), and was elected as a Vice President of the association. The association includes members of higher ranks like masters students, M. Phils, PHD’s & fire engineers. The ultimate goal of FSAP is to push Government of Pakistan to work on “National Fire Policy” and push them to do legislation for the fire departments via regulations and laws. Unfortunately for the emergency services running in Pakistan, there is not a single line of law which guides and protects the rights of fire fighters and Rescuers.
He always thought about the internal defence of Pakistan. This is reflected in his patriotic image suggested from the statement-
“Both internal and external defence forces makes a country strong and safeguards against different threats, our external force is no doubt one of the best defensive & attacking forces of the world with proper discipline, but unfortunately our internal defence is not up to the mark which is a question mark on the government authorities of Pakistan, For the strength of the internal defence it is necessary to have a complete and comprehensive law and strong and trained emergency services. But unfortunately our stake holders currently working in the field have no interest over this sensitive issue; we are negating the fact that our neighbours are atomic powers.
We are on the dangerous line of earthquake as well as flood and Tsunami. If unfortunately, our neighbors impose war on us then our army serve our external defense or internal defense or we will seek aid from USA or UK or other countries to help us in our internal defense (as we normally practice) During massive earthquake in 2005 and Flood in 2010.”
These thought-provoking and imperative sentences are found in almost all of his letters and essays he wrote to different government agencies or newspapers to create awareness among them. It is a pity by the government that in Kyber Phaktoonkwa (NWFP) area the policeman who is not performing his duties is deported and gifted to Fire Department thinking that this is a useless department.
Mr. Naz is among very few fire fighters (in fact a small team of fire fighters) who decided to raise his voice against the cruelty and injustice done by the Government of Pakistan to the People of Pakistan and the workers who are working in the emergency services. With every passing day his team and his members are increasing. He dreamed of a uniformed emergency service in Pakistan which is at least present in Punjab and Peshawar by the name and style of Rescue 1122.But still lot more to be done. He is the founder of International Fire Fighter Day (4th May) in Pakistan, has the honor of celebrating the International Fire Fighter Day for the first time in years 2006 & 2007.
Down to earth, he is a great personality who never thought about social recognition. All he wanted was to carry out the work and mission he started. In a personal interview, I asked him about his reluctance towards National Awards. In spite of his heroics, he is never even nominated for the highest honor. He replied- “There are heroes who walk among us never looking for glory or praise, they don’t seek recognition and for me the best reward is to save a life and receive token of thanks and satisfaction from the eyes of the victim whom I helped and saved life”. The Government of Pakistan appreciated his effort and awarded him with TAMGH-e- Imtiaz on 23rd March 2014.
After retirement from his government services at age 60, he didn’t stop his mission. In fact he came up with more force, courage and passion to help citizens of his area and helped them out of the suffering when in need. He joined Punjab Emergency Service, Rescue 1122 as an active Volunteer and started participating in the community awareness activities that were held in different areas of Pakistan. With his practical knowledge and his old age which serves as a motivational force for the rescuers of Punjab Emergency Services, 1122 and also his students, he inspires his students with his great experience. He imparted the way of teaching being friendly to all, ready to help others when in need and always ready to participate in community building measures. He trained a force of more than 200 Civil Defense scouts and Fire Fighters from Rawalpindi, who served their best in 2005 Earthquake, and different major emergencies of metropolis and other part of the country and to his honor and pride, 3 of his students were awarded National Award while one fire fighter Mr. Sajjad Khurshid lost his life during Search and Rescue Operation after controlling the fire at Gakhar Plaza putting his life at risk. This is the first time in Pakistan that the services & sacrifices of these heroes were recognized with National Award and its all due to the sole effort of Mr. Naz. He always says to his students that “The rescuers & fire-fighters should always be there to rescue in any emergency even if their own lives are at risk”. He always urged the responsible authorities to ensure the compliance with building safety codes and to appoint officials for conducting regular and thorough inspections in their respective zones. All to make sure that the emergency exists, emergency staircases, fire hydrants, smoke detection & fire alarm system along with all other building safety codes and methods are readied and made available in all multistoried & populated buildings. The presence of these amenities in accordance with the Government rules were also stressed upon, as they act as the preliminary line of defence, and in some cases prevent or minimize the impact of the accidents, which will further contribute to a positive step forward in building safer communities.
He always said through his message for the upcoming fire fighters and rescuers that- “It is a great honor for you to join this prestigious profession. It is certainly a kindness of Al mighty Allah that he chooses you for this noble cause. As Allah Almighty says in Holy Quran that “He who saves a life, saves the humanity”. You always perform your job like worship and always are on your toes to help the humans and humanity.