Lieutenant General Muhammad Safdar (Retired))
I was privileged to be the Commandant from September 1982 to September 1985. Like any head of this great institution, one was fortunate to have the best of the Faculty that any army could be proud of, and when you have also on the campus nearly 200 selected Pakistani student officers who have made it to the college after rigorous selection procedure and another 30 or so overseas officers coming from all parts of the world, the resulting mosaic has to be par excellence. What do I remember the College most for or more specifically as the Commandant's letter addressed to all the former Commandants has solicited their “reminiscences of the great moments of glory and accomplishment witnessed during their command tenure at the College”?
It is not easy to tabulate one's achievements for all this is best left to the discerning eyes of those who follow. It is the cumulative contributions of all those who have held the privileged position of the commandant and even more important the outstanding role of the Directing Staff who have left, as they say, “footprints on the sands of time” which has allowed the College to maintain professional ascendancy for a century.
Staff College has to be many things but above everything else it must remain dynamic and progressive for it is only then that it can remain relevant and a step ahead of our adversaries. Its curriculum and thought processes must evolve doctrines that compensate for disparity in our overall resources. Originality and creativity of thought must, therefore, remain at premium.
I remember quite vividly when during a presentation to the Chief of Army Staff on a variety of proposals, designed to further broaden and enrich the professional horizons, there was some opposition from those accompanying the Chief about Staff College's ability to assume the mantle of a ‘pathfinder role’ concerning doctrinal and conceptual issues. My argument in support of the creation of FORADS (hopefully it is still flourishing) essentially was that I could not think of any other place in the Pakistan Army, where we would find nearly fifty Lieutenant Colonels and those too the best ones, all under one ceiling, able to undertake the proposed task and also the totally professional ambience that prevails under that ceiling at all times, is something unlikely to be replicated anywhere else.
The issue was clinched and we secured the approval for not only FORADS but also a host of other allied progressive measures including the library complex. We had the privilege to physically start setting up the educational TV, a project conceived by my able predecessor Lieutenant General Shamim and saw it to its completion, when it emerged as the most modern TV setup functioning under a newly created Media Support Wing. The induction of computers was also initiated and despite some hiccups and reservations, I was able to persuade people about the “non-hostile nature” of these machines. It might not amuse the present lot of students, who I believe do all their work on laptops but twenty years ago these machines were not a very familiar sight.
As the Commandant, it was always a special occasion to welcome a wide cross section of guest speakers and it was the Commandant's privilege to say a few words of welcome and also sum up at the end, and I always immensely enjoyed this unique privilege. I recollect that in the beginning there weren't many questions put to the speakers and yet I considered that to be the most substantial part. I was told that the students were under the impression that no “stupid questions” were to be asked of the guest speaker. I knew from experience that with such an inhibition, the students would keep on vetoing their urge to speak and so to encourage the “give and take” atmosphere, I defined the stupid question as the one that is not asked. I was amazed how this definition proved so liberating as was evident in the very next encounter.
Our efforts at expanding and broadening the College’s horizons also meant extensive revising and updating of not only the curriculum but also exploring new visionary avenues. One such departure from the treaded path was when we instituted in 1984 an exclusively professional magazine, to be published three times a year. It may not be well known that the College suggested nearly seventy possible names for the new magazine to the Chief of Army Staff because of his close association with the College. General Zia ul Haq was thankful for our gesture, supported the new idea but thought that the most appropriate name for the magazine proposed to be issued at the Staff College, Quetta could only be its true representative, if it captured the essential and core spirit of the place. He proposed that the magazine be called ‘The Citadel’. And so, it stays to date, thriving and flourishing. My prayer and fervent hope is that this Citadel, and this time I mean the College, continues forever to provide the Pakistan Army with some of the best professionally groomed leaders.