When the news came that Irfan Nadeem had died of Covid, no one believed it. I was non-plussed too but Wamiq Zuberi, a common friend, had already called me to inform that Irfan’s condition was serious.
I had been with him at his place, along with Tariq Kirmani and Irfan Marwat, all common friends, at a ‘paya’ party which he had graciously arranged; he was hale and hearty like always and entertained us in his usual energetic manner. We joked about so many things and his warm laughter was really contagious. This was just one day before he was admitted to hospital and tested positive for Covid.
It seems so unreal that the jovial Irfan Nadeem we took for granted is not around anymore. The paya party would prove to be our last meeting. A few days before, he had come over to visit me at my house and was his usual self then – ebullient and full of life.
It’s so weird. The deadly Covid-19 disease not only renders the healthiest of people so sick that they need extra oxygen to breathe (Irfan was on a ventilator in his last days) and then their life is just snuffed out. And it happens to people like Irfan Nadeem, a person whom I had known as a fighter – and a brave one at that.
My friendship with Irfan went back to almost 50 years as we were at the S.M. Law College together. Irfan became president of the Karachi Jaycees in 1981 and also visited Japan in that capacity.
He then took up the civil service as a career. He retired some years back. I had seen Irfan move up the ladder in civil service through sheer hard work and intelligence. A person with a soft and unassuming bearing, Irfan probably had a rare persona because he was never influenced in his various positions in the Government by any outside considerations – political or personal.
He served as Chairman NAB, in addition to doing tenures as Director General of the FIA, Secretary, Ministry of Science & Technology and Chief of the Inland Revenue Services. He was also a founding member of Commecs College – the institution that has become almost synonymous with the best standards in commerce education in Pakistan.
For his great contributions, he was described once as the ‘Junior Sir Syed’ by none other than Waseem Haqee, the former Chairman of the Board of Investment and another close common friend.
Irfan Nadeem was a straight and unbending person in all walks of life. Our common friend Shabbir Mohajir once told me that he had called Irfan Nadeem to recommend a young man for admission to Commecs College. Irfan had replied that while he would be willing to do anything for Shabbir as a friend, he wouldn’t be able to help him about the admission because this was one area where all considerations were made on merit. If the candidate he was recommending had the requisite merit, he would be accepted in any case.
Irfan’s wife was always his close companion and he was the father of two distinguished daughters. In the last years of his life, he had winded down his social life and preferred to stay home with his nawasa (maternal grandson).
My heart weeps to think of Irfan Nadeem as just a memory now because this was clearly not the time for him to go. I know it is a sorrow that his wife, children and other family will take a long time to come to terms with. I grieve with them and share their sorrow. Farewell, Irfan!