Sahabzada Yaqub Khan, 1920 – 2016


A great man and one of the most significant figures in the history of Pakistan has just died. I consider it my great fortune that I came to know him and the idea of a world without him in it is quite unbearable. Here is what I wrote about him more than 10 years ago on 3QD:

Sahabzada_yaqub_bw_plain_backgroundSahabzada Yaqub Khan is the father of one of my closest friends, Samad Khan. He is also probably the most remarkable man I have ever met. All Pakistanis know who he is, as do many others, especially world leaders and diplomats, but to those of you for whom his name is new, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce him.

The first time that I met Sahabzada Yaqub Khan about six years ago, he was in Washington and New York as part of a tour of four or five countries (America, Russia, China, Japan, etc.) relations with which are especially important to Pakistan. He had come as President Musharraf's special envoy to reassure these governments in the wake of the fall of the kleptocratic shambles that was Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's so-called democratic government. Samad Khan, or Sammy K as he is affectionately known to friends, invited me over to his apartment to meet his Dad. I had heard and read much about Sahabzada Yaqub and knew his reputation for fierce intellect and even more intimidating, had heard reports of his impatience with and inability to suffer fools, so I was nervous when I walked in. Over the next couple of hours I was blown away: Sahabzada Yaqub was not much interested in talking about politics, and instead, asked about my doctoral studies in philosophy. It was soon apparent that he had read widely and deeply in the subject, and knew quite a bit about the Anglo-American analytic philosophy I had spent the previous five years reading. He even asked some pointed questions about aspects of philosophy which even some graduate students in the field might not know about, much less laymen. Though we were interrupted by a series of phone calls from the likes of Henry Kissinger wanting to pay their respects while Sahabzada Yaqub was in town, we managed to talk not just about philosophy, but also physics (he wanted to know more about string theory), Goethe (SYK explained some of his little-known scientific work, in addition to quoting and then explicating some difficult passages from Faust), the implications of Gödel's incompleteness theorem, and Urdu literature, of which Sahabzada Yaqub has been a lifelong devotee.

More here.