Lt.Gen.(R) Alam Jan Mahsud

The Second Adjutant (1960-1963)

Lieut.Gen. Alam Jan Mahsud, 1987

By Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui, Kit no. 671, Latif House

Capt. Alam Jan Khan Mahsud was the second adjutant of Cadet College Petaro from 1960-1963.

He was born on 11 October, 1933, and got married to Mrs. Lubana on 19 March 1961. They have three children - Sher Alam, Mahmood Alam and Sonia.

After leaving Petaro, Alam Jan rose up through the ranks to eventually become a Lieutenant General in the Pakistan Army.

I had the great opportunity to spend an evening with Lt. Gen.(R) Alam Jan Mahsud at his home (farmhouse) in the Chak Shahzad, Islamabad on 27 September 2009. We spent over two hours talking about his life, his stay at Petaro, his thoughts about Pakistan and Petarians. I kept listening to him most of the time mesmerized, while I would keep on interjecting with leading questions to ensure that I got what I wanted. Although we were not contemporaries, but by the time I left his house I felt like I had known him all along. Let me try to summarize what I discovered that evening.

Alam Jan's family belongs to Waziristan, where the tribes are known for their bravery and courage. At the time of the Partition of India and creation of Pakistan, while the Pakistan's small army was busy trying to stop the massacres at the borders and helping the Muslim refugees, India had launched its invasion of Kashmir. He recalls that his own father led a lashkar of thousands of tribesmen from Waziristan to fight the Indians in Kashmir. Over a thousand fighters were martyred in these operations. His father was granted the war medals by the government of Pakistan, which he has treasured to this day.

Lt.Gen.(R) Alam Jan Mahsud at his home in Islamabad - 2009

Young Alam Jan spent his early years at Dehra Dun in united India where he had his schooling. After the creation of Pakistan, he joined Aitchison College and completed his Senior Cambridge in 1951. 

It was his studies at Dehra Dun and Aitchison which attracted attention and he was inducted into Pakistan Army in 1952. He got his commission as an officer in 1954 and joined the Armoured Corps. His was assigned to the 19 Lancers which remained his unit.

In 1960, when he was posted as a captain at the Armoured Corps headquarters at Kharian, he was summoned one day by his commander Brig Esam Al Affandi and informed that he was assigned as the Adjutant to Cadet College Petaro. Brig Affandi told him that Petaro is in East Pakistan, and he promised to visit him one day over there.

So it was quite a surprise for Capt. Alam Jan when he ended up at Petaro in West Pakistan in an almost deserted area next to an abandoned 2nd World War airfield.

Petaro was hot as hell, and most of the buildings were still under construction. The college had moved from Mirpurkhas to this location barely a year earlier. The place was in flux. While Petaro was a dismal place in the summer time, he was happy to discover that winter time is extremely nice. And the area around was flush with wild birds, and ideal for hunting. There were partridges in the bush, sand grouse, ducks, and bustards in the hillside. Over the weekends, he would rarely miss a chance to go out hunting with some of the cadets, and they would come back and enjoy a sumptuous barbecue after the shoot.

Capt. Alam Jan was to play a very important role in setting the standards and values at Petaro. He was a great favourite of the Principal Col. Coombes, and between them they would try to imbibe values that are key to success of an individual and a nation. He recalls that whenever he would get a chance at a gathering or at parades, he would talk to the cadets about how to develop a well rounded personality. He would encourage them to ponder over the characteristics of a person who contributes towards the development of the nation through a value based understanding. He would remind them that Petaro was not just about getting a Matric or an Intermediate certificate. One can get those cheaper at other schools. So it would be a waste of their parents money if they didn't obtain the best of this institution and be prepared to to out into the world and face its challenges.

Adjutant Alam Jan played an important role in promoting martial arts and sports at Petaro. He established the Riding Club and got good horses along with an instructor from the Army. He also established the Shooting Club and trained the boys in the use of rifles and marksmanship. Boxing was another sport which he encouraged. He felt great when cadets like Bashir Vistro, 50/A became fine boxers and were able to knock out the best of the Military College Jhelum boxers within the first minute in the ring. Likewise, their performance in shooting at Hasan Abdal was excellent.

He was also fond of talking about international affairs, and would discuss these with the cadets. At times, he would end up teaching a class when any of the teachers was not available. During these discussions, sports, shikar, and activities, he got very close to the boys, and would be appreciative of their thoughts and problems. This led Col. Coombes to give his blessings to Capt. Alam Jan for being flexible where required and yet maintaining discipline. There was an incident of a disciplinary problem once when he was away from the college, and he had to come and diffuse the matter. He always felt that the relationship with the cadets should be like the relationship between a father and a son.

After leaving Petaro in 1963, he was posted back to Kharian to his regiment and was promoted to the rank of major the following year.

In 1965, with war clouds gathering, he spent the summer with his regiment in the field. It was a tough summer. Just before the September war with India, his regiment was moved to Khem Karan sector, where he was commanding a squadron of the armoured regiment. An offensive was launched which failed unfortunately.

In the meantime, the Indians attacked the Lahore sector and his regiment was immediately moved to Lahore a couple of days after the war began. They had to move the tanks overnight to the Burki sector. There was a rumour that the Indian forces had crossed the BRB Canal, but such was not the case.

Soon thereafter, the Indian forces attacked the Sialkot sector with full force and made some advances. They captured Jassoran.  Alam Jan's regiment was moved to Sialkot immediately, and there was a counter attack from the Pakistani side. Jassoran was retaken and the Indian forces were pushed back. During the battle, Alam Jan's tank was hit and he was injured. He was moved to the CMH in Kharian. Three days later the war came to a close.

In February 1971, he was promoted to the rank of a Lt.Colonel and he was posted to command his regiment at Multan. During the summer of 1971 with the war clouds gathering again, he moved his regiment to the Pirowal Forest to camouflage the tanks and other armoured equipment. When the war started, it was an anti-climax with hardly any action. He was supposed to lead an offensive in the Bahawalpur sector, but Yahya Khan quickly brought it all to an end.

Disgruntled and disillusioned after the war, he decided to call it quits. His GOC was Major General Ziaul Haq (later on President of Pakistan), who requested him to hold off until the regiment moved to its headquarters. Soon after the move, he was nominated to attend the War Course at National Defence College. This was a great honour and an opportunity. Thus, Alam Jan remained behind in the Army.

Gen. Tikka Khan was the Chief of Army Staff at that time. Alam Jan recalls that he was rather rude to Gen. Tikka Khan after the 1971 war, blaming the senior army leaders for incompetence and for bringing disgrace to the country. Expecting to be thrown out of the army for his intransigence, he was surprised when Tikka Khan insisted that he do the War Course instead.

After completing the War Course in 1972-1973, he was posted at Sibi to control the Balochistan operations against the tribes that were up in arms. He developed a good friendship with Qaisar Khan Marri (brother of Khair Bux Marri), who was a very dignified person and was not involved in the insurgency. He has some good memories of Qaisar Khan. Tikka Khan wanted Qaisar Khan arrested, which Alam Jan opposed arguing that if we arrest even the non-insurgents, we wont have any one to talk to. These are the mistakes of our different leaders who chose the path of war against our own tribes people rather than coming to terms through dialogue and friendship. He was against using the broom to sweep everyone away.

In the middle of 1975, Tikka Khan promoted him to the rank of Brigadier and posted him to Kashmir. A year and a half later, he was moved to Malir just in time to try to curb the troubles in Karachi before the general elections. And when the trouble started, he was assigned to Karachi West which was the most troubled area - Liaquatabad, Golimar, Nazimabad, etc.

It seems that he was now recognized as a trouble shooter. Thus, in 1978 General Ziaul Haq posted him as the Inspector General of the Frontier Constabulary in Balochistan to stop the mutinies in the ranks. He spent two years there, and during this same period he was promoted to the rank of a Major General.

In 1980, he was posted to Jhelum as the GOC due to tensions in that area. He had been familiar with Jhelum since he had commanded a brigade there earlier.

In 1984, Lt.Gen. Fazle Haq - Governor of NWFP and who was from the armoured corps as well - brought him to Kohat to head the 9 Division, which covered the area from Parachinar to Waziristan.

After two years in that position, he was promoted to the rank of a lieutenant general in 1986 and posted as the Corps Commander at Lahore. He served in that position until the middle of 1990 when he retired from Pakistan Army.

After his retirement, he was offered ambassadorship of Pakistan to China and Thailand, which he declined. He has chosen to be involved in farming in Waziristan, and to try to put sense into his own tribesmen to refrain from extremism. He also tried to advise the government of Pervez Musharraf to have a conciliatory attitude to build the area, and remember that these tribes have always been loyal to Pakistan.

Lt.Gen.(R) Alam Jan Mahsud has been very visible at Petarian gatherings in the Islamabad / Rawalpindi area in the past, and we hope he has a long life and will continue to patronize us.

In parting, I must mention that he keeps himself fit even at this age. He goes out for a walk every day. When I arrived at his house, he was just ending his walk and was sweating all over.

Capt. Alam Jan Mahsud with his wife, 1961

Lieut.Gen.(R) Alam Jan Mahsud, 1997


Lieut.Gen.(R) Alam Jan Mahsud, 2007

Alam Jan Mahsud

By Salim Mastan, 336/Liaquat

There he was – an officer on a white horse, dressed in an awesome military uniform on the parade ground introducing himself as Capt. Alam Jan Mahsud. What an impressive sight it was! That memory is still etched in my mind even after 47 years, as it must be in the minds of all of our 8th class entry who were there that morning of 1962 and saw our adjutant for the first time. I can never forget that moment.

Over the next two years, he taught us to be winners and alhamdu lillah this is what Petaro has produced for the last 52 years – Winners indeed.

He kept on drumming into our minds non-stop the essential values which made up Petaro – without our realization of the true meaning of the word Petaro:

P = Pakistani

E = Extraordinary

T = Tireless

A = All-rounder

R = Realizable

O = One

And therefore, a Petarian meant

P = Pakistani

E = Extraordinary

T = Tireless

A = All-rounder

R = Realizable

I = Independent

A = Able

N = Naughty (always having fun)

Our 1962 entry was unique indeed. This group consisted of great stalwarts like SP Shahid 332, Jawed Baig 290, Saadat Farooq 275, Nashat Raffi 426, Raees Ahmed Khan 444, Munawwar Pasha 387, Arshad Raja 273, Afzaal Akram 287, Iqbal Jumani 317, Abdul Haleem Qureshi 389, Shahid Ahmed Khan 430, Sher Mohd Larik 601, Khalid Aslam 453, and so many others. This was the batch that led to the first complete victory at the ISSST tournament, and became the first of the Famous Forties. They were groomed by and impressed by no less a figure than Adjutant Alam Jan Mahsud. Thus, although our adjutant was gone from Petaro long before that 1966 victory, he was the one who sowed the seeds.

When we had gone to Military College Jhelum in 1962 for the ISSST tournament, the Petaro teams lost in all the games except for the Shooting competition. We never lost in Shooting.

I distinctly remember Capt Alam Jan Mahsud’s golden words that we should never lose hope, and one day we will win all the games and they will run away. This is what happened four years later. The entry class of 1962 was the first group of Petarians to win the ISSST (Inter Services Schools Sports Tournament) in 1966.

I was in the boxing team and was in the 8th class. I was probably one of the few kids who represented Petaro in those tournaments from the 8th class. I lost the fight. Alam Jan came to me after the fight and said winning or losing is not that important in a game. The opponent was much older than you and you gave a very good fight. And you will never lose in years to come. Those words ring in my mind to this day. It helped me during my Engineering University Lahore days when I led UET Shooting Team to many victories.

Alam Jan and Col Coombes laid the foundations of the traditions that have become famous over the years. And today when one identifies himself as a Petarian, every Pakistani knows what we stand for.

He was very strict and a disciplinarian. He was very particular about our appearance and turnout. He would inspect all the cadets from head to foot and even pull a loose thread from a uniform and instill in our minds how important it was to have a good appearance and a proper dress.

He would set an example by dressing very well. And sometimes he would appear for a dinner in the mess in the full military uniform of the armored corps with all the chains and badges to show us that we need to take pride in our “turning out”. We should not be shabby. Another important aspect is how he instilled the feeling of brotherhood amongst all Petarians.

These  small and trifle matters have made many Petarians into generals, admirals, CEO’s, MD’s and heads of organizations. The long list of eminent Petarians is there to see on website.

My elder brother Niaz Ahmed 141/Liaquat who was in the Shooting and Cricket team met Alam Jan several years later in Karachi.  He narrates that Alam Jan met him with so much love and affection that it is beyond imagination. He would spend hours talking about Petaro.

Some Memories of Capt. Alam Jan Mahsud

By Iftekhar Alavi, 40/Liaquat

I was already a cadet at Petaro when Capt Alam Jan Mahsud arrived in 1960, and I bade him goodbye in 1963. I was appearing for my Matric examination in Hyderabad, and we were going to center when Capt Alam Jan and Lt Asrarullah met us on the way. Alam Jan asked me how is preparation, I replied “Sir First Division is my target”. He said “Great! I will give you a treat if you get First Division”. In those days getting first Division was an honour. Allah bestowed me with First Division and Capt Alam Jan kept his promise.

Alam Jan appeared in CSS examination while he was at Petaro and was selected for Civil Services too. However, Capt Alam Jan wanted Foreign Service so he declined to join CSS academy.
 As a Corps Commander he was always very helpful to me. I was simply a Major, and yet I could enter his office without any permission. Whenever he came for any Corps gathering, Tactical Discussion or other matter, and if he did not see me he would invariably ask “Where is Alavi”. My Brigade Commander would never forget to remark sarcastically that “Corps Commander is Alavi’s Chacha”. It was due to Lt.General Alam Jan that even Major Generals paid respect to me.

The last time I met him was at Chak Shahzad in 2005. His wife is great lady too. Before going to meet him, I called his house to seek an appointment and the lady of the house answered the phone. Her response was that for a Petarian there is no need for appointment - and especially for who were with him at Petaro, they should simply knock the door and walk in. I felt so honoured by her loving remarks for us Petarians.

 I do not recall the exact year, but 19 Lancers was at posted at Hyderabad and Commander Asrarullah was the Principal of Cadet College Petaro in those days. This should have been in the latter half of the 1980s. Col Arif Hasan (now Lt Gen(R) Arif Hasan) was Commanding 19 Lancers. Lt.Gen Alam Jan was visiting his regiment. The funny part was that Col. Arif Hasan complained that Gen Alam Jan spent only half an hour in the regiment and more than 4 hours at Petaro. This shows how much the General had an affiliation with Petaro even after all those years.

He is truly a great man and real elder. I was going for Hajj in 1999. In the morning I rang up the General and asked for his blessing because my father had died and he was like my father. His words are unforgettable. He said “Alavi you are going as guest of Allah to Khana-e-Ka’aba only because those who are allowed to go there can go. So Allah will be your host. Remember never ever betray your host, because he looked after you when you were his guest in every location.  Allah is looking after you even when you are not at the Kaaba. Never forget Allah”.