Obituary: Toheed Ahmad

Pakistan’s ambassador to Ireland who fostered cultural links and learning

Toheed Ahmad: October 15th, 1947-January 21st, 2017

Toheed Ahmad: October 15th, 1947-January 21st, 2017

 

Toheed Ahmad, who has died in Lahore, at the age of 69, was Pakistan’s ambassador to Ireland in the years 2004 to 2007. During that time, he made many friends here and was highly regarded for his work as a career diplomat and for significant achievements in the fields of art and poetry, literature and learning and the development of cross-cultural links.

Ireland was his last posting before his retirement; by 2007, he had spent 36 years in the Pakistan foreign service, serving in missions in Paris, Tunis, Hanoi, Damascus, Brussels, Singapore and San Francisco. He was educated mainly in Lahore, but attended language courses in other countries. In addition to his mother tongue, Punjabi, he was fluent in Urdu, English and French; and also spoke Arabic, Persian and Vietnamese.

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During their time in Dublin, Toheed and his wife Nausheen became well-known for cultural and other initiatives. In addition to his work as ambassador, promoting trade between Ireland and Pakistan, he promoted medical exchanges and literary and cultural links; and on one occasion organised a seminar on poetry in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. He also commissioned Gabriel Rosenstock to publish Irish-language versions of Pakistani poets, Munir Niazi and Allama Iqbal.

Toheed helped Nausheen to found two charities. First was the Bazaar na Náisiún – an annual fund-raising event involving many of the ambassadors, embassy staff and other diplomats based in Dublin – and the second was the establishment, in 2007, of the Brenda and Said Yasin (Pakistan-Ireland) Women’s Educational Foundation whose purpose was to fund an educational programme for Pakistani women to undertake post-graduate studies in Ireland.

Disaster relief

Toheed had a special interest in world literature and the visual arts and was instrumental in bringing an exhibition of Pakistani Old Masters painting reproductions to Dublin during his term of office.

Likewise, he arranged a Pakistani government invitation to Dr Abdul Bulbulia (who was on the board of the National Gallery of Ireland) and Patrick J Murphy (art adviser to the Office of Public Works) to visit Pakistan and meet and advise emerging artists there. They travelled to Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, meeting innovative artists and visiting contemporary galleries. They purchased examples of exciting modern painting which were later exhibited at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and University Hospital, Galway.

Lahore

At the time of his death, he was an adviser to the Centre for Language and Translation Studies at the University of Gujrat and the editor of the Urdu Criterion Quarterly in Islamabad. This man of many talents leaves much unpublished material of international significance.

He is survived by his wife Nausheen, their sons Shameel and Mureed, daughter-in-law Shirin and grandson Aydin Azad Ahmad.