Sunday Aug 13 2017

Major Uqbah to return home after two years at Sandhurst

LONDON: The first Pakistan military officer to be appointed as an instructor at the British Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, is set to return to Pakistan.

Major Uqbah Hadeed Malik, who graduated from the British Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2007 and underwent training at the time when Prince William of Wales was his fellow cadet, joined the prestigious faculty of crème de la crème platoon commanders of Sandhurst when Pakistan and British governments agreed to enhance mutual cooperation in defence training and capabilities.

On August 11, Major Malik witnessed his cadets, including Prince Hussain Bin Abdullah, his student and an officer, march off the square at the famous Old College steps to graduate and assume duties as officers.

It was Major Malik's last Sovereign's Commissioning Parade Ceremony reviewed by the Jordan's King Abdullah and his wife Queen Rania. The young prince followed his father’s footsteps who too was once an officer cadet at the Sandhurst.

The Jordanian royal family members were not the only royals in the parade; Grand Duchess Maria Teresa and Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg also attended the event to see their son Prince Sébastien graduate. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK Syed Ibne Abbas also attended the ceremony amongst other distinguished guests.

Speaking after the ceremony, Major Malik confirmed to this correspondent that he will be returning to Pakistan next month to join the 1st Sindh Regiment deployed in Waziristan. He recalled his visit to Waziristan when he returned from Sandhurst in 2007 after receiving the Sword of Honour in April to take part in frontline operations, as the war against terrorism raged in the region at that time.

Major Uqbah made headlines in English press when his British cadets rendered a tribute in his honour by singing Pakistan’s national anthem as a surprise for him. He recalled the many moments of pride, which had become humbling experiences.

He said he was particularly impressed by the affection shown by British Pakistanis living in the United Kingdom. Talking about meeting Pakistanis at events he said, “They felt proud that a Pakistani soldier was imparting training at one of the oldest and most prestigious military institutions in the world. I cannot thank British Pakistanis and Pakistanis at home enough for their love. The respect and affection at this early stage of service is beyond imagination for which I bow to Allah in gratitude.”

Major Malik said his colleagues, officers, and staff at Sandhurst supported him throughout his time at the academy. "I was not just part of the faculty but I led most of the assignments and projects within the training ambit and all other cadet developmental engagements. There is a significant increase in our defence engagement with the British Army. I recall the speech of Commander Field Army at a Sandhurst event in May this year in which he said that Britain wants to become Pakistan's best friend in the West. I think this is a huge statement and in terms of military cooperation this certainly is becoming the case when it comes to West," he added.

On his last farewell dinner night at Old College, once again Pakistan's national anthem was played and a loyal toast to the president of Pakistan was given along with the Queen's loyal toast.

At Sandhurst, Major Malik introduced Pakistan's navigation prize which is a medal presented by Pakistan Army to the best officer cadet in map reading, planning, and navigation. Now, each term it will be presented by the college commander to the leading cadet on Pakistan's behalf.

Major Malik said Pakistan has a great future ahead. “The resilience of Pakistanis is matchless which makes us a great nation. No country has rendered more sacrifices than Pakistan, whether it is hosting refugees of Afghanistan or laying lives to secure our borders, I want to pay tribute to all the officers, jawans and all the people of Pakistan who have sacrificed their lives and comfort for Pakistan, I also do not want to forget the recent sacrifice of Major Ali Salman and his men in Dir, fortunate are the parents and patience is their virtue. In the last two years, I most certainly missed being back in my regiment during the operations in Waziristan when I felt they needed me."

As a platoon commander at Sandhurst, Major Malik was responsible to train the British and international students (officer cadets) in leadership skills, personality development, military training, character building and bespoke officership in order to prepare them for their permanent role as officers and leaders in the cadets’ respective armies.

When asked about the best part of his work at Sandhurst, he said: "There is no better feeling than teaching and developing future leaders of the world, be it at Pakistan Military Academy Kakul or Sandhurst. I want to continue to serve Pakistan and lead my soldiers wherever I am needed. Amazingly, the more I have served in Pakistan Army the more respect I have gained for its soldiers and officers. The sacrifice they lay is ultimate and beyond belief.”