British military commanders praises Pakistan military’s professional excellence

Several decorated British military officers have earnestly appreciated the professionalism and versatility of the Pakistan Army

Murtaza Ali Shah
A person receiving an award during a ceremony organised by Quetta Association at Pakistan High Commission London. — Photo by author
A person receiving an award during a ceremony organised by Quetta Association at Pakistan High Commission London. — Photo by author

LONDON: Several decorated British military officers have earnestly appreciated the professionalism and versatility of the Pakistan Army, calling it one of the best and most disciplined military organisations in the world.

Around 60 senior British military men who studied and served in Pakistan Army’s elite Command and Staff in the last 50 years shared their views after attending a luncheon in their honour hosted by the Pakistan High Commission.

The group is called Quetta Association veterans, comprising British as well as Pakistani Army veterans who are graduates of the College at Quetta.

The event was organised to cherish the indelible imprints of their stay at Quetta. The British officers paid rich tributes, unbounded homage and reverence to the great institution.

Notable British military officers who attended the event included Lieutenant General Sir Alistar Irwin (1980 graduate), Lieutenant General Anthony Palmer (1981 graduate), Brigadier Nick Thompson (1971 graduate), Colonel Chris Copeland (1976 graduate), Colonel Gavin Peebles (1975 graduate) and Major General Seumas Kerr (1985 graduate). They were accompanied by their wives who also remained active in reminiscing the good old memories of the past.

The event was conducted by Colonel Taimur Rahat, Army and Air Adviser at Pakistan High Commission London.

He spoke at length on the achievements of the Staff College and informed the audience of the value that Staff College beholds for the training of officers from 1905 onwards.

He paid glowing tributes to the faculty of the college led by some of the ablest Commandants over the years. It was interesting to note that till 1954 the College was commanded by British Commandants.

These 20 ex-British commandants are still respected by the College fraternity. From 1954 onwards, the College has been commanded by 32 different Pakistani Major Generals.

The incumbent Commandant Major General Amer Ahsan Nawaz has like his predecessors contributed significantly to crafting academic curricula to include the role of Artificial Intelligence, Cyber Warfare, Hybrid Warfare and Algorithmic Warfare in future wars. Colonel Taimur Rahat also read the message of the present commandant Major General Amer Ahsan Nawaz which received plaudits from all participants.

Colonel Rahat shared some insightful historical details with the audience which reignited their vigour and affinity for the College.

All three Chiefs of Army Staff of the Indian Army during the 1948 (Field Marshal KM Cariappa), 1965 (General JN Chaudry) and 1971 (Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw) wars have remained affiliated with Staff College Quetta.

He mentioned that all victorious Generals of the British Army during WW 2 are also graduates of Quetta including Field Marshal Montgomery (Operation Market Garden, Normandy, Battle of Bulge, Sicily and Al Alamin fame) who was at Quetta in 1934.

During speeches, the British military officers recalled their time in Quetta Staff College with great joy. They termed it to be the most enjoyable tenure of their military careers.

They recalled the seasonal fruits, dry fruits, streams, orchards and alluring sights of Quetta with vivid details. Some even remembered the names of their servants and the location of Photocopier shops in Chiltan Market.

They amusingly referred to the cold gusts of winter Kandahari Winds and the charming spectacle of the winter snowfall. They remembered the intensity of academics and the gregarious outings with their Pakistani comrades.

Some even recalled the Tambola evenings and Meena Bazar. Wives of some British officers recalled the beautiful hand-embroidered Quetta Shawls and activities of the Al Nisa Club. They recalled the various excursions that the College organised for them.

Commenting about the professionalism of the Pakistan armed forces, the British military officers said there was no comparison to the Pakistan military’s professional finesse and expertise.

They said the Pakistan army was battle-hardened and known for its ability to defend the country as well as providing vital help to the partner countries.

They recognised the probity, candour and integrity of the Pakistani Army officers and recalled their generosity. The British officers termed Pakistan Army to be a versatile Army and some even called it a very overburdened Army which delivers t its utmost despite all odds.

High Commissioner Moazzam Ahmad Khan addressed the attendees, expressing his views on the importance of Pak-UK relations and the role of defence diplomacy in strengthening these ties. He thanked the Quetta Association veterans and British officers for their service and contributions to Pakistan-UK relations.

The Chairman of the Quetta Association, Major General John Suemas Kerr also thanked the Pakistan High Commission for its traditional hospitality.

He spoke about the enduring friendship between the Quetta Association and Pakistan and expressed his hope for continued cooperation and collaboration between the two countries.

He also shared his insights on the work of the association and its contribution to promoting bilateral relations between Pakistan and the UK. He also read out excerpts of a letter written by a British officer currently undergoing a course at Quetta.

Defence and Naval Adviser Commodore Muhammad Zeeshan Nabi spoke about Pakistan-UK defence relations, highlighting the importance of continued collaboration between the two countries.

He mentioned that the present Chief of Naval Staff of the Pakistan Navy is also a graduate of the prestigious College. He highlighted the various steps being taken by Defence Wing Pakistan High Commission to promote goodwill between the two countries.

Souvenirs exchanged with the participants were also extremely well received. The British officers proudly flashed their antique finished coat pins especially sent by Command and Staff College Quetta for the occasion. British Ladies were given traditional Baluchi Shawls for which they expressed utmost gratitude.

Another notable attended was Shama Hussain whose father Major General Shahid Hamid was the first Director General of ISI in 1948.

She recalled her late father’s tenure as a Directing Staff at Quetta in 1934 alongside the famous Field Marshal Manekshaw of the Indian Army.

Colonel Rahat presented a special souvenir to the late General’s daughter on behalf of COAS General Asim Munir as a token of remembrance.

Hussain expressed her profound gratitude at the kind gesture and spoke of the enriched traditions that have always been upheld by the Pakistan Army.

Nestled in the beautiful vale of Quetta, Command and Staff College has imparted essential command and staff training to almost 25,000 officers in the preceding 118 years of its existence.

The early set of officers termed Quetta Little London due to the resemblance of its double-storied architecture with London.

Interestingly, the Old Building of the College was robust enough to withstand the colossal damage of the 1935 Earthquake — an event which destroyed everything else in Quetta.

Considered to be the pinnacle of any Army Officer’s professional career, the Staff Course marks the most significant milestone and learning year of any officer.

Viscount Slim who commanded the 14th Army during the Burma Campaign and became the Governor General of Australia as well was also a graduate. He has mentioned his time at Quetta in his book Defeat into Victory.

Lord Wavell who remained Viceroy and Governor General of India also remained at Staff College. Sir Claude Auchinleck remained at Quetta in 1930 and again visited it during the late 1950s to express his fondness for Staff College Quetta. He had always considered Quetta Staff College to be better than Camberley, UK.

Field Marshal Thomas Blamey is the only Australian Field Marshal credited with the creation of the Australian Air Force and was also a graduate of Quetta.

Field Marshal Cyril Deverell, General Andrew Skeen, General R Cassels and General Moberly are also notable graduates of the College. All 54 graduates of the Class of 1920 received gallantry awards and 15 of them became Generals.

Officers from Nepal, Maldives, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia who attended Staff College at Quetta have also later become Chiefs of their respective armies.

Staff College has provided training to Pakistani four-star Generals, 9 of whom rose to be the COAS including General Asim Munir.

In June 1948, Staff College Quetta was visited by Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah thus making it perhaps the last military establishment to be visited by the visionary leader.

The late Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh Prince Phillip visited the College in 1961.