Ashiq Qureshi - An Aristocrat With a Heart of Gold

At French Consulate, Lahore (2013)
At French Consulate, Lahore (2013)
©Ashiq Qureshi
 
Appreciation as CEO of PVCA
Appreciation as CEO of PVCA
©Ashiq Qureshi
 
With a grandchild at home
With a grandchild at home
©Ashiq Qureshi
 
With Mohammad Ilyas, former Test opener, at the launch of Another Perspective,Lahore (2019)
With Mohammad Ilyas, former Test opener, at the launch of Another Perspective,Lahore (2019)
©Taher Memon
 
Relaxing with a friend
Relaxing with a friend
©Ashiq Qureshi
 
With Pakistan Veterans in UK (2015)
With Pakistan Veterans in UK (2015)
©Ashiq Qureshi
 
Sitting fifth from left as manager of Pakistan Super Veterans to UK (2019)
Sitting fifth from left as manager of Pakistan Super Veterans to UK (2019)
©Nadeem Yousuf.
 
Pictured with Javaid Iqbal of Malik Sports, Slough - September 2019
Pictured with Javaid Iqbal of Malik Sports, Slough - September 2019
©Javaid Iqbal
 

The death of Ashiq Qureshi in Lahore (Punjab) on Friday, November 1, closes a chapter on one of Pakistan’s most dedicated cricket administrators. Four weeks away from his 70th birthday, he suffered a cardiac arrest which proved fatal.

Surprisingly for someone with a successful management portfolio, Ashiq only had a brief stint with Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) or Lahore City Cricket Association (LCCA), instead choosing to devote his mind to Pakistan Veterans Cricket Association (PVCA).  

Outside the game, Ashiq was better known as PM Imran Khan’s right hand man, having provided the impetus and support to a number of social causes. Despite a lifetime affiliation with a high profile figure such as Imran, Ashiq successfully managed in keeping a fairly low profile.

Born on November 28, 1949 to Nawab Sadiq Hussain Qureshi, who served separately as Governor and Chief Minister of Punjab under Z.A.Bhutto, in one of the wealthiest families of Multan in southern Punjab, Nawab Ashiq Hussain Qureshi, one of four siblings, inherited love of cricket through his maternal ancestors. His grandfather was married to the sister of Nawab Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, who played for England and later also captained India. His cousin Shah Mahmood Qureshi is the present Foreign Minister of Pakistan.

Ashiq was at Aitchison College till the age of 10 when he first met Imran Khan and both in their teens got picked to play for Combined Lahore and Multan Schools team against the 1968-69 Middlesex and Surrey Schools touring team, in a game at Sahiwal. Ashiq credited his initial cricket coaching to a Sri Lankan ‘brother’ at La Salle High School, Multan, established in 1960. As a natural athlete, in this period Ashiq also became the national junior champion in both 100 and 200 meters dash.

After graduating from Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul in 1971 where he was quick to form a battalion cricket team, Ashiq left army as captain. He was then appointed Foreign Affair Officer in UK. In 1976-78 period, he enjoyed his cricket for Pakistan Embassy, London against PIA that featured Test cricketers Alim-ud-din, Shuja-ud-din, Saleem Altaf, Shoaib Mohammed and journalist Shahed Saadullah. Embassy’s other opponents included British Airways, London Metropolitan Police, Barbados High Commission, etc.

On his return to Pakistan, as a franchise holder of Pepsi Cola in Lahore, he founded a cricket team that after competing for the first time in 1981 would go on to win the prestigious Multan Cricket Club (MCC) All Pakistan cricket tournament in Multan, for a record number of 14 occasions in its 18 consecutive years of participation. A record unlikely to be challenged in the near future.

Panther and Tiger (P & T) Gymkhana, one of the leading cricket clubs in Lahore, too benefited from Ashiq’s passion for the game, whom he joined in 1983. In his only first-class appearance – for Railways against United Bank in the 1983-84 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy – he dismissed Test opener Mansoor Akhtar, leg-before wicket.

He represented P &T Gymkhana as a player and teaming up with Azhar Zaidi, founder and captain of the club, would be part of the management that kicking off with England in 1988 would go on to undertake a number of overseas tours till the final one to Kenya and Zimbabwe in 1994. Both Azhar and Ashiq alongside Khalid Mahmood, former PCB Chairman, were the individuals that played key roles in raising the standard of umpiring in Pakistan by developing the likes of Athar Zaidi, Aleem Dar, Asad Rauf and Ahsan Raza – all four ICC umpires – at P&T Gymkhana.

Ashiq’s vision and tireless energy was behind the success story of Pakistan Veterans Cricket Association (PVCA) of which he served, in various executive roles, for over two decades. He spoke of ‘social change through sport’, ‘indigenous sports patronage’ and cricket being a great connector’. He strongly believed in tremendous potential of the Pakistanis, that given vision, initiative and leadership, could compete in any domain.

With a positive outlook, even when surrounded with doom and gloom, Ashiq was prepared to battle against odds with limited number of playing fields available to the present youth, particularly in the rural areas. To him a game of cricket was far beyond a sporting pleasure and emphasised on, ‘life skill development and character building’.

Based in Lahore, he was keen to embrace retired players all over the country in 40plus, 50plus and 60plus age groups and encourage them to stay connected with the game to ensure their physical and mental well-being. It didn’t stop at that for PVCA also helped to ease the pain of the cricketers and their families, under financial strain. His articulate approach to nutrition and lifestyle was inspirational and himself slim and slender, Ashiq was a good example to the rest. He sprinted till his late 60s and with a strict health regime bore fruits from it till the very end. 

It was in 1998 when Ashiq persuaded Fawad Ijaz Khan of Ideal Group, a business group to come forward and establish and sponsor the Pakistan Veterans Cricket Association (PVCA) and promote its activities nationwide. In 2001 PVCA staged its third inter-city tournament and by 2015 had 65 cities and over 100 teams participating in veterans’ cricket in Pakistan. 

Working alongside primarily with Col. Rafi Nasim, Javed Zaman and Azhar Zaidi, Ashiq through his influence and strong network was able to engage high profile cricketers, both past and present and besides PVCA, he also brought the youth cricket into sharper focus whilst briefly serving as Director Grass Root Cricket Development with PCB in 1999. He also undertook tours of India, Sri Lanka, South Africa and recently managed Pakistan Super Veterans team to England in 2019, having also brought a veterans team in 2015.

Ashiq was seen running in suit to be among the first to congratulate his friend Imran Khan the captain of Pakistan team, following the 1992 World Cup win at Melbourne. His management and networking were of tremendous help to Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital launched in 1988, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) formed in 1996, Namal University established in 2008 and the Imran Khan Foundation. Despite being one of the founding members of PTI, the ruling political party in Pakistan after its win in the 2018 general elections, he has never sought publicity or limelight. He also served as Honorary Consul of France in Lahore.

Ashiq’s funeral was held at Polo Ground, Racecourse Park Lahore while the body was laid to rest at Hazrat Bahauddin Zakariya shrine premises in his home town of Multan. He is survived by wife Farzana, daughters Mahnaz, Mehreen, Sadaf and Nida.

Tributes

Imran Khan

Devastated by the death of one of my oldest friends Ashiq Qureshi last night. He was always there during my many setbacks in life. Was the first to stand by me when I decided to build SKMT & was a PTI founder member. Above all, he will be missed as a gentleman & great human being

Shahed Saadullah

I was devastated to hear last night that my very good friend Ashiq Hussain Qureshi had passed away. There must be very few people about whom it can be genuinely said that no one had an ill word to say about them; Ashiq was one such person. His contribution to the youth cricket in Pakistan is immense and he made his contribution out of a love for the game that was truly genuine, without any expectation of return. He was one of the most sincere, honest, modest, loving and truthful people I have ever known and it was a privilege to be his friend. I hope and pray that his soul rests in eternal peace and that his family finds the strength to come to terms with this tremendous loss.

Taher Memon

The death of Ashiq Qureshi is a tremendous loss for all of us. He devoted his life to cricket in his own way whether it was junior, senior or veterans. Besides PVCA, he had few more platforms that he was engaged in. I had the first-hand experience of him co-ordinating half a dozen PVCA fixtures on the same day and making sure the players and officials arrived on time to fulfil their commitment. He belonged to an aristocratic family in Multan and gave a great account of himself as an amiable gentleman. In view of his great services to the game he was passionately in love with, I would suggest the PCB hierarchy to consider naming a gate or an enclosure at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore after Ashiq Qureshi, an acknowledgement that will be befitting of his stature. 

Azhar Zaidi

I am heartbroken at the death of my dear friend Ashiq Qureshi, who always called me skipper. It was back in 1983 when we invited him to join P&T Gymkhana. He took the new ball and bowled medium-pace but it was his role as a first-rate organizer that stood him apart. P & T Gymkhana dominated club cricket in Lahore and myself and Ashiq also won great laurels in All Pakistan tournament in Multan with the Pepsi Cricket Club. As a captain, at times he would sit out when he judged the team could do better without him. 

Sattar Malik

I first met Ashiq Quershi in the 1970s when he was at the Pakistan Embassy in London. His passion for cricket was unbelievable. While playing for Pakistan Embassy cricket team, he introduced a number of international  cricketers to our club Old Thorntonians Cricket Club in Surrey. Over the years we became good friends and in 1988, I organised the first UK cricket tours for Ashiq’s team Panthers and Tigers (P & T) Gymkhana from Lahore. ICC Umpire Aleem Dar was part of the team. P &T under Ashiq and Azhar Zaidi toured UK 4 times, and he always treated all the team members with utmost respect. Friends like Ashiq are unique and irreplaceable. You were laid to rest, but you know what they say. Allah only takes the best. Everything happens for a reason. Will miss you.

Usman Shirazi

The death of Ashiq Qureshi is a huge setback to Pakistan for he was involved with a number of good causes, both in and outside cricket. In my interaction with him as a cricket journalist in the 1990s, I found him to be unique in so many ways. He was consistent and clear with his vision and channelled his energy in a calm and composed manner. He valued sincerity and friendship. To me Ashiq was a class act and with his soft-spoken and caring demeanour enjoyed a huge network of friends and took it upon as a duty to connect and unite people all around the world, for a variety of causes. By nature he was a giver and he would go to extraordinary limits to promote Pakistan brand.  

Qasim Umar

It is a very sad news I am surprised that I got this news late. I have never came across such a great gentleman in my life. A very rich man but he was always down to earth person like Abdul Qadir. He was also kind and respectful to everyone. We as cricketers had a very close friendship with him and he himself was a decent club level cricketer but he always behaved like a genuine Test cricketer. I am totally convinced that all cricketers, club, first-class or Test cricketers are really going to  miss him. My heart felt condolences to his family and I pray for almighty Allah to grant him a special place in Jannat (The Paradise).


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