Command and Staff College

Lieutenant General Ahmad Shamim Khan b1The MS rang up at Murree in August 79, and told me that I was to move to Command and Staff College. The news was exciting, even though the anguish was equally great of having to vacate the command of the largest and fully deployed Division which was in an eyeball to eye-ball contact with the enemy along the LOC. I arrived in Quetta by 28 August 79.

Coming to the Staff College was like home coming. I had been a student in 1963, a DS in 1971-73 and was now coming as head of the great fraternity. It had a sentimental angle as well for both me and my wife who had been with me on the two previous occasions also. General Iqbal had come to the Airport to receive me. On entering the campus, and driving up to the Mess, the first impact of the new building of the College, in a mass of octagonal trapezoidal modules, was great. It stood impaled in the picturesque surrounding of the rugged hills of Quetta, depicting strength and robustness. For a long moment, I also very nostalgically missed the old building that had been laid to rest in March 1971 when I was a DS at the College. Recently I have been told that a replica of the old one is being constructed artistically/centrally alongside the main road against the backdrop of the new building and that it would be ready before the Centenary Celebrations. The change of command took place around 6 or 7 September 79. I had to re-discover the institution; now from a different height. The view was indeed broader, the responsibility greater and the task challenging. I had learnt to retain my faith in ALLAH, for HE is the best guide so, I started my work.

Although in recent years, our weapon systems, our strategic assets, and our global standing has undergone a change favourable to us, but in those days the enemy superiority in numbers and weapon systems had to be offset with our better training and motivation. For this, better leaders were required. Staff College had to produce all the higher leadership for our Army, on whose performance would hinge the outcome of war. With this in view, the College had kept striving particularly since 1947, in updating our doctrines in order to keep the teaching progressive and forward looking. I found our Training Team doing this very actively. Most of the initiatives came from the DS community who were indeed a capable lot. Most of them later rose to eminent positions. As I write, one such distinguished and dynamic personality that comes to mind is presently our COAS and the President of the country. Revision of preces, indoor/outdoor tactical exercises, concepts/doctrines and allied studies kept us on the hop, leaving just about enough time for College functions, club activities/hobbies and sports.

I now turn to the 75 Years Jubilee Celebration which was held on 18 September 1980. This was perhaps the most memorable non-training event of my tenure. Without wasting a single training day of the students and DS, all preparations were made by two or three spare DS. However, a day before (Jubilee Day), all responsibilities were decentralized, handed over to most DS and selected students along with comprehensive "BRIEFS" which were detailed in content, and also specific in nature. These teams did excellent job, because there was hardly any guest who left on completion of the event dry-eyed. (Gratitude I suppose!)

The Jubilee was indeed an event of historical significance. Sixty six general officers along with their lady wives had travelled from all over Pakistan to give us the honour of being with us.

b1General Zia ul Haq (the then COAS and the President), General Muhammad Musa Khan (An ex C-in-C), serving and retired Corps and Divisional Commanders were amongst the guests. Some among them had attended the Golden Jubilee as well. Although Quetta was gradually acquiring the status of a provincial metropolis, yet it was not big enough in matters of accommodation and transport etc. Within these limitations, and relying largely on the display of soldiers' magnanimity as also the esprit-de-corps of the Alma Mater, the guests had gladly accepted what we had to offer. They were more interested in the professional side and methodology of instruction, and the reputation of the College which with the passage of time, had established for itself a highly professional esteem within the country and abroad. After the two commemoration addresses by the Commandant and the President, we gave them detailed 'briefings' on all facets of College life. We happily informed them that military perfection based on intellectual honesty and sound reasoning had become our hallmark. It had become a professional necessity to keep the officers abreast with the changing scenarios of the contemporary world. Moulding and re-moulding of our studies for the purposes of meeting the national/international challenges was a continuous process. They also saw our improved facilities of reproduction, language laboratories, expanding library and the Mess.

The celebrations ended at a happy as well as a sad note. Happy, because the occasion had provided a 'rendezvous' for the re-union of old friends and allowed them a first hand knowledge about the College. Sad, because partings and departures are always so if one has enjoyed the event.

General Safdar came to replace me in August 1982. I left Quetta placing my trust in my successors with the comfort that they, with their better abilities, would ably carry the flag forward in training an officer class that would have the tenacity of a staunch believer in our ideology, dedication of a true Pakistani and realistic approach of a military officer.

Now, in spite of the fading memory, a few anecdotes are highlighted:

The Ladies Club was beginning to get dissatisfied with the attendance and response of the participants of the Troops Families Industrial Home. The club invited the Commandant for obtaining a decision for its closure. After the visit the decision was: "This will not be closed. Its scope will be enlarged. Syllabi of the Industrial Homes being run by the Balochistan Government will be obtained and introduced here. Successful students will be awarded diplomas in future… obtain affiliation of our institute and recognition of our diploma. Additional sewing / knitting machines and all allied material would be purchased from the Commandant's Welfare Fund. Profits on sale of finished goods will be shared equally between the participants and the Industrial Home". Soon it started running to capacity, later it became self-sustaining.

The College had added a new dining hall in the officers' Mess. When we received dining chairs and tables from the QMG, we thought we could not accept these as they were of poor quality. We conveyed it to the QMG, General Saeed Qadir, who readily agreed to arrange replacement from Chiniot, this time teak furniture. As A goodwill gesture, he allowed the College to retain the original consignment as well, and use the chairs in Abrar Hall, while the tables for the outdoor functions of the Officers' Mess.

One personal anecdote: In mid 1980, I was leisurely going round in front of the College Meena Bazar stalls, carrying a three month old baby girl on my shoulder. Some DS wives, looking lovingly at the baby asked me if she was my first grandchild. Came the reply, "No, hopefully she is my last". Quietly they whispered to each other, "Commandant has created a record, as no Commandant had been blessed with a child in the past while serving on Command at the College". (I suggest someone should discreetly check up if General Sahabzada Yaqub Khan had not already created that record!!).

And lastly, my predecessors can take the credit of starting a School, what they called "Toddlers' Academy" in the College with KG 1,2 and 3 etcetera. It was running rather well under the principal ship of our AQ's wife. It had started adding a class every year. The Ladies Club, and my wife took interest in it. She soon named it 'IQRA ACADEMY'. I believe it is still running under the same name, and has grown into a well reputed College of Quetta. My contribution was mainly my occasional presence at the entrance gate of the Academy a few minutes before the morning assembly bell. I also presided over the interviews/selection etcetera of the teachers. Wives of the DS community as well as the students were mainly on the teaching staff. Some of the teachers would be attending the centenary celebrations including the First Lady.

I would die with the satisfaction that I passed on the pearl of the highest price that I gained through a lifetime.