Dr. Abdul Hafeez
Sub-continent’s great defence scientist

POF Veteran Muhammad YUSUF MOHSIN writes about an UNSUNG HERO who made valueable contribution to Pakistan’s defence industry.

The foundation for the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) was laid in 1951 by the late Prime Minister of Pakistan Khwaja Nazimuddin. Al Hamdolillah today, after nearly 50 years, POF and its silent force of workers is a name well known to the world. However, one of the pioneers of POF who seems to find no mention in POF’s history is that of Dr. Abdul Hafeez. Very few people know that Dr. Abdul Hafeez is one of the very first of the few individuals to have worked with distinction for nearly 40 years in the USA, Australia, Germany and Turkey in the fields of explosives and arms before contacting the Government of Pakistan in 1948, urging them to establish an Ordnance Factory to fulfil Pakistan’s defence requirements and offered his services. At the time of creation of Pakistan in August 1947 Dr Abdul Hafeez was Director General in Turkey. The Government of Turkey very reluctantly let Dr. Abdul Hafeez to leave for Pakistan. The Governor-General of Pakistan Mr Ghulam Mohammad invited Dr Abdul Hafeez to Karachi and made him a member of the Commission formed to study the establishment of an Ordnance Factory.

Having lived outside Pakistan for 40 years Dr Abdul Hafeez believed that the Muslim nation which had forced the British out of India would be mature and innovative; however, his short stay in Pakistan gave lie to this belief. Dr Hafeez wrote to the Government that money was being spent uselessly in the Wah Factory, that the two British senior officers there, Mr Newton Booth and Mr Mason, were not loyal to Pakistan.

Mr. Mumtaz Hasan who was then Financial Advisor once said that Dr Sahib wrote very long memos pointing out old and obsolete plant and machinery being imported from England for Wah. Dr Abdul Hafeez was in favour of contacting German and Swedish suppliers and went about convincing the concerned circles about the expertise of German manpower, the excellent quality and competitive prices of German/Swedish machinery. Mr. Mumtaz Hasan says “Dr Sahib was a very competent person and we derived great benefit from his capabilities and expertise”. Dr Abdul Hafeez also had made plans for the training of the technical staff of the factory. His programme was that after initial training on explosives, arms ammunition in Pakistan, selected young men should be sent to Germany for higher training. With the help of the Punjab University he established an Ordnance Training Laboratory and Technical Training Centre and himself taught about a hundred young men the techniques involving explosives, etc. Many of his students later held various senior posts in POF.

Apart from the two British officers named earlier, Dr Abdul Hafeez was not happy with the then Defence Secretary Mr Iskander Mirza who he believed was not a patriot. Dr Hafeez was unhappy that, despite his having a Doctorate in Explosives Chemistry from Germany, the only one in the sub-continent, his vast experience in running an Ordnance Factory in Vienna, in Pakistan in 1948 people were thinking of 1901 methods and technology. He became disillusioned and in 1957 resigned from the Commission and from the POF. Earlier the Honorary Advisor to POF, the former Prime Minister of Hyderabad Deccan, Mir Laiq Ali, had also resigned because of the intrigues of some of the officers in POF. It is worth mentioning that Dr Abdul Hafeez’s fears did come true when progress at POF slowed down considerably but costs increased manifold.

Eventually the British officers were removed in 1962 by POF Chairman Maj Gen Mohammad Umrao Khan. It was in Maj Gen Muhammad Umrao Khan’s tenure that latest machinery was finally purchased from Germany for making infantry rifles and machine guns. Latest plant for explosives was purchased from Sweden. It is rather said that the present generation at POF probably does not even know about Dr Abdul Hafeez.

Dr. Abdul Hafeez was a student of Intermediate in Aligarh where he first started his revolutionary activities together with Dr Tassaduq and other like-minded young men. Their activities continued in England where in company with Chattopadhya (brother of Mrs Sarojini Naidu), Hardayal of Delhi and others he struggled for the independence of India. He irritated the Birmingham University authorities when he published his Ph.D. thesis in the name of Afghanistan’s Amir Ghazi Habibullah. The University refused to give him the Degree.

Dr Abdul Hafeez was a Pan-Islamist and a great believer of the unity of Muslim world. He had a special love for Islam and a hatred for the English. He was not afraid of danger and many of his exploits are still secret. In Central Europe he always carried a small vial of poison in case he got caught. When his wife said that this was proof of his lack of faith in Allah, he broke that vial. In India he had been declared a rebel. Dr Hafeez himself said “During my 40 years abroad, I never once forgot that my motherland was under the British”.

Dr Abdul Hafeez was a patriot and a revolutionary and the British had banned his entry into India. When the Home Minister of United India Sardar Patel was asked to end the exile of Dr Abdul Hafeez, he retorted, “Do you want me to be blown up by him?”. It is evident that it was not only the British who feared him but the Hindus and pro-British Muslims also. Apart from the fact that Dr Abdul Hafeez made sacrifices for the sub-continent, he is also one of the makers of Turkey. The people of Turkey still revere him. It is well known that he spurned a salary of 26,000 Dollars from a US company and preferred to work in Turkey at a pittance of 60 Lira per month. In Constantinopole he became friends with Rauf Pasha, Anwar Pasha and Khalida Adeeb Khanum.

Maulana Abdullah Sindhi’s friend Zafar Hasan, in his memoirs about his stay in Kabul, says “in mid-1920 Turk General Jamal Pasha was in Kabul. Those days Turkey was at loggerheads with Greece and Britain. Jamal Pasha wanted to spread rebellion against the British in India and therefore called Dr Abdul Hafeez from Europe to Kabul. The objective was to build a factory with Russian help to manufacture explosives etc so that the British sensing trouble in India would stop helping Greece. Unfortunately the British with the help of their allies in Afghanistan made this attempt unsuccessful.

After breaking off with POF, for 4 years Dr Abdul Hafeez taught Turkish language at the Punjab University. He has written an excellent book on the Turkish language and grammar. His one great desire was to see all the Muslim nations united. He believed that if Arabic was made the national language of Pakistan, all language based and ethnic problems would end. He used to say that “I have wept tears of blood for the freedom of the Millat”. It is a shame that Pakistan failed to obtain any benefit from this great man. Undoubtedly Dr Abdul Hafeez was the first Muslim scientist in defence technology in India and Pakistan and a great patriotic revolutionary.

Dr Abdul Hafeez died in 1964 at the age of 82 in a state of pecuniary as he had no money to get treatment abroad.

Dr. Abdul Hafeez’s name should be mentioned in golden letters in the history of Pakistan as a great freedom fighter and the highest national award be announced. The Chairman POF is requested to display Dr Abdul Hafeez’s photograph in the POF auditorium or other prominent place. A street or major thoroughfare should also be named after Dr Abdul Hafeez. The Lord Mayor of Lahore is also requested to honour this great man from Yakki Darwaza Lahore.