RAWALPINDI, Dec 5: In Maj-Gen Bilal Omar Khan’s death the country lost a dynamic and intrepid Armoured Corps officer known by his acquaintances as a friend of friends.
Late Maj-Gen Bilal was amongst the victims of a terrorist attack which took place at the Army residential mosque in Parade Lane.
One of the eyewitnesses told Dawn: “His last brave action will always be remembered as instead of ducking for safety he tried to overpower one of the terrorists inside the mosque and lost his life when hit by a bullet from point blank.”
Known to his friends as ‘Billy’, late Gen Bilal was born on February 3, 1954 and got commission in the Army in 1973 in the 19th Lancers.
He was also the president of the Pakistan Polo Association and Equestrian Federation and had represented Pakistan in 2007 Polo World Cup in New Zealand.
“Maj-Gen Bilal was an excellent polo player, mostly playing in the forward line. He was a very aggressive polo professional playing the game with passion and sincerity,” said Col Raja Nadeem, one of his close associates.
“He was also a good hunter and used to go for shooting along with me in the toughest terrains of the northern region,” he said.
“Once we were in the mountains for hunting and the temperature there was -10 degrees centigrade. I was amazed to see Billy making ablution even in the freezing temperature of the north,” Col Nadeem said.
Polo had always been his passion and that was why Maj-Gen Bilal was attached to the game.“He used to play for Marco Polo Club mainly because he was the winner of the Marco Polo Sheep Trophy,” Col Nadeem said.
Marco Polo Sheep hunting is one of the toughest and most thrilling trophies in the world for renowned hunters played in the mountains of central Asia.
Col Nadeem recalled that Gen Bilal was a brave and upright man.
“It was Bilal’s style as he did not escape from the mosque during the attack and instead stayed there to fight the terrorists,” he said.
For Brig Sikander, another friend of Gen Bilal, it was a tragic loss.
He said: “Late Bilal belonged to a respectable family (Burki) and was a well mannered and whole hearted gentleman.”
“I cannot forget the day when I left the command of a brigade in Kharian and Gen Bilal took over from me. I sent him the staff car that very day, but Gen Bilal called me in the evening to inform me that he will use his personal car until I make some arrange
ments and sent the staff car back to me,” Brig Sikander said.
Gen Bilal was not only a mentor to junior army officers at Rawalpindi Polo Club but to the Air Force polo players alike.
“You people (Air Force players) ride horses like you are flying jets. They are not jets they are your horses,” Wing Cdr Shafiq said while taking a walk down memory lane.
Wing Cdr Shafiq said: “After Maghrib prayers Gen Bilal used to guide us on polo and gave us tips to play better and to win crucial fixtures.”
Gen Bilal left behind a widow, two sons and a daughter. He was laid to rest with full military honour at the Army Graveyard in Rawalpindi.