Mohib Banda: Air Vice Marshal Bahar ul-Haq`s life has taken a twist he would have never imagined, considering the fact that he was always regarded in Pakistani society as an ``enlightened, upright`` man, who brought up his kids “cleanly”.
Today though, he is known more as the dad of the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad.
At 70, the retired air vice marshal is hiding in humiliation and shock, secluded somewhere in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
His younger son, Faisal, whom friends say he sent to the United States to study and to escape Pakistan`s problems, stands accused of attempting to explode a bomb in New York`s Times Square with help from Islamist militants.
Pakistani investigators are poring through family files and quizzing neighbours. Television crews have mobbed the lanes of this northwestern village where Haq grew up and have camped outside his home in Peshawar.
According to the Washington Post, Haq "is very, very depressed”.
“He is an honourable, patriotic man who worked hard to rise in the air force and raised his children cleanly. Now his family`s reputation has been destroyed," said Hajji Sherzada, a retired importer and a lifelong friend of Haq.
"Every time his wife gets on the phone, she just cries," he added.
Haq has not made any statements and has not been seen in the past week. Provincial authorities said on Sunday that he was in "protective custody”, but relatives said he and his wife are in seclusion to avoid publicity.
Friends, relations and air force colleagues of Haq, interviewed in several northwestern communities and Islamabad this week, said they could make no sense of his son`s alleged actions or possible conversion to radical Islam.
His father, an accomplished pilot, rose from humble village roots to the top ranks of the air force, serving stints in Britain and Saudi Arabia. Several other family members were air force officers, including Shahzad`s maternal grandfather.
Over the years, Haq gained a reputation as an exceptional flight instructor and enjoyed training young pilots, especially in loops and other aerobatic stunts. He was invited to teach at an air academy in England for several years.
Described by friends as a strict and protective father, he raised his children to become civilian professionals.
Faisal`s older brother is an engineer in Canada, and one sister is a doctor.
Shirzada Bacha, a maternal uncle of Shahzad`s, said that if Haq had suspected that his son was involved in extremist activities, he would have "killed him in the house”.