Here is the Cecil Chaudhry eulogy written by Michelle Chaudhry for our Memorial service:
No amount of words spoken in his honor could do justice to the person that was Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, who was an acclaimed national hero, a highly decorated war veteran, a legend of the Pakistan Air Force, a bold and fearless human rights activist, a beacon of light and inspiration for thousands of Pakistanis; Who’s passing away has been widely mourned - from the President of Pakistan to the man on the street, the magnitude of the loss was felt.
A testimony to this fact was evident by the funeral he received. It was the Pakistan Air Force, which left everyone completely overwhelmed. The Chief of Air Staff flew into Lahore for the funeral from the Air Headquarters in Islamabad, and senior serving and retired officers and all the officers at Lahore Air Force Base went beyond all expectations to bid farewell to their colleague, in an extremely befitting manner.
The Honor Guards of the Pakistan Air Force were especially flown in from the Air Head Quarters in Islamabad; he was presented with a Guard of Honor, carried by the Air Force pallbearers in a coffin wrapped in the national flag of Pakistan. A fourteen gun salute was given at the cemetery as he was being lowered down to rest. He was given a funeral with complete military honors, the kind he truly deserved.
Cecil Chaudhry was a brave, courageous and an illustrious man, who was bestowed with numerous honors, from Gallantry Awards to equally high peace time citations. During his twenty eight year service in the Pakistan Air Force, he achieved the highest level of professionalism and went on to be one of the highest decorated officers of the Pakistan Air Force. He commanded the most prestigious fighter squadrons and set up some of the most influential fighter training schools of the Pakistan Air Force.
He fought the Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971 with great valor, for which he was awarded by the President of Pakistan the Sitara-e-Jurat (Star of Courage) one of the highest military awards of Pakistan, which is awarded for gallantry services during combat and the Sitara-e-Basalat (Star of Good Conduct) for distinguished acts of gallantry, valor or courage while performing duty.
Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry excelled in everything he chose to do.
He received enormous recognition for his phenomenal contributions towards the rights and empowerment of religious minorities in Pakistan. He was truly the voice of the voiceless; he fought for the rights of the underprivileged, the downtrodden and the marginalized communities regardless of cast, creed or religion. Cecil Chaudhry believed in Humanity and often said “By faith I’m a Christian but my religion is humanity” In one of his interviews he said “I have never talked in terms of only my community being persecuted. I consider all of the 170 million people of this country as my community, and believe that 90 per cent of them are being persecuted at the hands of the powerful; as such, I am involved in the struggle for everyone’s rights.”
On another occasion he is known to have said “I have fought two wars for this country, but am willing to fight 100 wars against extremism”
Cecil Chaudhry fought non-violently for the rights of the downtrodden, especially the Religious Minorities, with bravery and determination to bring about change for the better. He was a mentor and guide to Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti who in return was like a son to him. The assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti left him shattered and this was one of the very rare occasions on which he is known to have emotionally broken down. He was the first person to support and guide Shahbaz Bhatti in his struggle for religious freedom and together, they struggled for 27 long years. Cecil Chaudhry founded the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), which was headed by Shahbaz Bhatti.
When the joint electorates system succumbed to one of the darkest chapters of Pakistan’s history, by the Military Dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, who imposed the Separate Electorate System upon the religious minorities against their will; under this undemocratic system, the religious minorities were not allowed vote outside their religious affiliations, hence severely disenfranchising the non-Muslims citizens of Pakistan.
Cecil Chaudhry termed this as “religious apartheid” which promoted intolerance and served the purpose of ‘divide and rule’. He along with Martyr Shahbaz Bhatti launched and led a campaign for the restoration of joint electorates. In 1999-2001, he called for a boycott of the local elections by the religious minorities, which was overwhelmingly successful; it took them fourteen long years to have the joint electorates restored. A landmark achievement indeed!
Cecil Chaudhry spoke out both locally and internationally against Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws and vowed to fight for the repeal of these laws, saying, “We are ready to lay down our lives for this cause”. It was not an empty promise, for he knew the cost. He had faced several attempts on his life, in addition to fabricated charges of even treason in 1995. He and his family faced death threats on a number of occasions but nothing deterred Cecil’s resolve to fight for justice in the most dangerous of circumstances.
Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry refused numerous government portfolios; leaders of mainstream political parties would invite him to join their party but he never accepted any of these, always stating that he could be so much more effective on his own than from any government or political party platform.
In the field of education, his services were second to none. Despite numerous lucrative offers by various organizations and Governments he chose to educate Pakistani children; to groom the leaders of tomorrow. He served as Principal St Anthony’s High School Lahore for fifteen years and served as Principal St Mary’s Academy Rawalpindi for four years. Both institutions excelled under his care and guidance, for the first time in the history of these Institutions students attained top academic positions in examinations both locally and internationally.
He served on the Board of Governors of various Institutions such as the Forman Christian College Lahore, the Punjab Education Foundation and numerous others.
He was a proud, dignified and daring man, who always held his head high, he encountered and defied death on numerous occasions and in the end he fought the battle of his life this time against lung cancer with dignity and courage. He took it in his stride with a positive attitude. He refused to bow down his head, even in the state of extreme pain. He fought cancer, an absolute merciless disease, like a brave and courageous warrior right to his last breath.
Then one day with his loved ones by his side he bid this world farewell, he died the way he lived strong, graceful and dignified; God decided that his work on earth was done so on the wings of angels He carried him home; Heaven needed a Hero too!
Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry lives on forever, in our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers.
I leave you with one last thought there is a Cecil Chaudhry in every Pakistani, so let us bring him out in our spirits, so that others may reap the harvest of Goodness!
Thank you and God bless!