Born in 1933 in Chakwal, a small North Punjab town, Abdul Khaliq was fascinated by kabaddi, the traditional sport of rural Punjab. He was a man of medium height but had very strong thighs. His forte was speed and it was extremely difficult to catch him in the kabaddi circle. Those days Brig Rodham, an Englishman, headed the Army Sports Board. Athletics was his first love. Rodham was always on the lookout for talented youngsters. He picked Khaliq from Chakwal’s kabaddi fields and recruited him in the army. The young soldier immediately showed aptitude for sprints.
Progressing through the various tiers of army meets, he was soon the best in the country. In his first appearance in a major international meet, Khaliq astonished everyone — winning the 100 metre gold at the 1954 Asian Games in a new record time of 10.6 seconds in Manila. This achievement earned him the title of the Fastest Man of Asia. Pakistan’s athletics officials then set their eyes on the 1956 Olympics. In the intervening years, Khaliq gained much needed experience by participating against the world’s top sprinters. The Melbourne Olympics were Khaliq’s and indeed Pakistan athletics’ finest hour. He overcame the great disappointment to earn glory in his second appearance at the Asian Games. In 1958, Khaliq retained the 100 metre crown and thus also the title of the fastest man of the continent. In 1960, he was past his best. He won 100 gold medals in the national meets, 36 gold medals, 15 silver medals and 12 bronze medals in the international arena.
His rivalry with Indian athlete Milkha Singh was also well known The first Indo-Pakistan athletics meet was held in New Delhi in March 1956. The highlight of the meet was the ‘Sprint Double’ for Khaliq. In 100 metres, he clocked 10.4 seconds, thus equaling the timings of the gold medallist at the 1952 Olympics. His 21.4 seconds in 200 metres was an Asian record. In 1960, he lost for the first time to his Indian rival. The last reunion of the two legends was set in very tragic circumstances. Khaliq was taken a prisoner in the 1971 war. When Milkha came to know this, he visited Khaliq in the prisoner of war camp. Milkha recalls this meeting with these words: “Tears appeared in the eyes of both.”
Khaliq was well-looked after by the Pakistan army. His achievements on the track earned him out of turn promotions, and he retired in the rank of Honorary Captain — the highest a sepoy could get. When the great athlete passed away in 1988, his family was allotted a house by the Army. But unfortunately nobody of our generation not much about this hero. The following lines we got from an Indian news website during our research for this hero.
“India has immortalised its legend Milkha Singh by making a movie on his life, but in Jand Awan village, family members of Abdul Khaliq, known as the ‘Flying Bird of Asia’, ask, “Has Khaliq run in vain”? ”