It was a cold Saturday morning when I received phone calls from fellow artists Ghulam Abbas and Mudassar Malik saying that Akhtar had died. He died like my mother used to pray that she would be taken to the Almighty without any long ailment that would cause problems for the sick person and the ones looking after her/him. I recall that she did not put us into any trouble of looking after her and died in a day. Akhtar Khan did the same. He left for the permanent abode at 2 am on December 22, 2018. His son informed me at the funeral held the late singer’s house in Shahdara Town that he had returned after his Naat recital at midnight and complained of chest pain but breathed his last in no time. Perhaps Ustad Muhammad Akhtar Khan had gone tired of his life-long struggle to achieve a prominent place among fraternity of classical vocalists and left us so soon.Ustad Akhtar Khan received music training at a very early age. He belonged to a well-established and renowned classical music vocalists’ family. He had, after his struggle of three decades achieved the prominence he had wished for as a proficient classical vocalist. He used to say that his father Ustad Malang Ali Khan and brother Ustad Maqsood Ali Khan, another well-known classical singer, had given him initial training when he was just nine. I used to meet him at Pakistan Music Center in Room No, 13, Metropole Cinema, a music academy run by Ustad Ghulam Shabir Khan and Ustad Ghulam Jaffer Khan duo of ‘Sham Churasi Gharana’. We both were their disciples. Our teachers were pupils of Ustad Niaz Hussain Shami. After their demise his pupils run that music academy now. Akhtar was a frequent visitor there even after his teachers were no more.Ustad Akhtar Khan was also given training by Ustad Ghulam Haider Khan for some time. His vocalisation therefore had blossomed with a mix of singing styles of his teachers. Akhtar used to organise music mehfils in an adjoining school roof-top attended by music lovers. I had performed classical music there along with Ustad Mubarak Khan, Nadeem Riaz Khan, Imran Jaffery, Mudassar Malik, Ustad Nazeer Faridi, Jaffar Hussain, Ghulam Abbas and alike many times. He performed on all the classical music forums such as All Pakistan Music Conference and Alam Alkheyal, the latter wherein both of us performed on December 1st, 2018. He could easily touch top notes of the third sabtak. I always enjoyed listening to Raag Hameer in his voice. His visit to India for performance in SAARC Conference in 2009 was a success. Akhtar’s recent recitals comprised his performance in All Pakistan Music Conference on April 1st 2018 and in PNCA.Ustad Akhtar is respected and recognised by the simple people who love classical music. Sadly, he never received recognition at the state level which he deservedAkhtar Khan was an untiring person always found running in pursuit of vocation. He was found performing classical raags in almost all the classical sittings in the city and suburbs. He was a noble person, hardworking and carried on with his daily riaz. He would teach Quran’s Qirat to students in mosque, would recite Naats in different mehfils. He would tutor his students in classical music. He had dozens of students, the latest entrant being Nauman Majeed, a civil engineer. Ustad Akhtar was a versatile artist who could be a classical singer, a Qawwal or a Naat Khwaan at the same time. He was a craftsman of perfection whether in classical vocalisation or in woodwork, his basic profession. He taught and settled his children in different vocations from his earnings from music. Two of his sons own a band that performs on weddings and functions. The other two are settled in other jobs. He was a smart person with lean body. He wore either embroidered kurtas or was clad in in white, black or pink ackhans with white shalwar. He spoke in softer tone with a touch of humility.Ustad Akhtar is respected and recognised by the simple people who love classical music. Sadly, he never received recognition at the state level which he deserves. For four consecutive years, his name was sent to Islamabad for the highest civil award, ‘The Pride of Performance’ but every year someone else got selected for the prestigious prize. Our common desire was for restoration of monthly classical bookings at PTV and Radio Pakistan. We requested all the Station Directors but it seems that no positive action is in vogue. This state of affairs is a food for thought for Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. With Akhtar’s departure the fraternity of classical artists has further thinned down, a trend that must be stopped.Published in Daily Times, December 25th 2018.