Col.(R) Nasir Abbas, SI(M)

The Third Adjutant (1963-1965)

After the 1965 war as a Major.

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

Capt. Nasir Abbas was the third adjutant of Cadet College Petaro from 1963-1965.

In an interview I conducted back in 1999, Col. (R) Nasir Abbas recalled that “Col. Coombes, the college principal, was very kind to allow me to move to the war front in September 1965 immediately, after informing the then Naval Chief Admiral A.R. Khan (who was the Chairman, Board of Governors of Petaro). It was a great gesture on the part of both of them for allowing me to move out of the college.

They also decided that the college would make all the arrangements to move my wife and son and all my belongings to any place in Pakistan without placing a financial burden on me. This was an unforgettable gesture – true to the Petarian spirit!”

Let us go back and trace his biography. He was born on 10th of July 1936. He belongs to a family with traditions in the army. His father Altaf Hussain retired as a brigadier from the Pakistan Army.

Young Nasir Abbas was commissioned into the Pakistan Army on 7th of October 1956 and joined the 19th Lancers – a tank regiment. Sixteen years later, he was to command this same regiment for two years (1972-1974). During the course of his tenure with the army, he held various command and staff appointments. In the later years, he held Grade-I appointment in Military Operations in the Army Headquarters (GHQ) and as Colonel GS in Corps Headquarters at Lahore. He also served as an Instructor in the Tactical Wing of Army Training Institution at Quetta. Finally, in 1979 (as a full Colonel) he commanded Pakistan Rangers as Deputy Director General, Sindh. He retired from the Pakistan Army with full honors as a Colonel in 1989.

An honorable stand on the field against the enemy is the feather in the cap of a soldier. Col.(R) Nasir Abbas had the opportunity to serve the nation in 2 wars – 1965 and 1971. He was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Military) and Imtiazi Sanad for his chivalry.

While pursuing his military career, Col.(R) Nasir Abbas kept up his educational activities. He is a graduate of the National Defence College. As a part of the course, he studied Higher Strategy of War, National Defence Policy Formation, Geopolitical Analysis of various factors relevant to the security of Pakistan and foreign policy projection. As a result, he was also awarded a Masters Degree in War Studies from the Quaid-e-Azam University in 1974. He also passed the Army Aviation Course and obtained the Flying Pilot Wing.

During his last 8 years of active service in the Pakistan Army, Col.(R) Nasir Abbas was sent on deputation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Deputy Chief of Protocol. He remained in this position until December 1989 when he retired from the army. During his tenure at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was instrumental in conducting state and official visits to Pakistan by numerous Heads of State and Government of different countries. He also planned and conducted visits, and accompanied the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan on official and state visits abroad.

As a result of his services, the Government of Punjab inducted him as the Director General Protocol at Lahore in January 1990. He retained this position until December 1995 when he was appointed into the key position of Commissioner, Afghan Refugees in Punjab at Lahore. He finally retired from this position as well at the end of December 1996.

In his own words, his “main hobbies were flying, horseback riding, and traveling”. He has traveled extensively around the world both on official duty and on holidays.

Col.(R) Nasir Abbas married Nusrat (Nuchie) on 3 September 1960, and has two children – Nadeem and Nadia. Both of his children are happily married and well settled in life with children of their own.

Despite a rich experience in the army, Col.(R) Nasir Abbas recalled his 2 brief years at Petaro with no uncertain emotions. The boys of those days (who are fairly aged citizens now) are still like ‘sons’ to him. He had very fond memories, and was always eager to participate in Petarian activities.

During his tenure as the adjutant of the college, he was required “to maintain college discipline, organize all sports, and arrange inter-college and inter-organizational sports activities through visits to colleges and institutions like other cadet colleges, Pakistan Navy, Pakistan Air Force”. These interactions allowed our cricket, hockey, basketball and rifle shooting teams to eventually become leading college teams in the country. The Principal Col. Coombes and the Vice Principal Mr. S.S. Azim gave the adjutant a free hand in order for him to accomplish his duties. They considered him to be the “king pin” of the college. They would say to the adjutant, “you have a lot to contribute to the smooth functioning and image building of the college”.

The adjutant was also expected to supervise and control the building and development activities during those nascent years. Col.(R) Nasir Abbas recalls that during his tenure, the following developments took place:

  • Laying of the grassy field between the houses

  • Construction of the swimming pool

  • Building a new water supply line from the River Indus

  • Establishment of the Riding School

  • Organization of a Sailing and Rowing Club with assistance from the Naval Headquarters, which provided necessary training to cadets in their early stages.

In order to improve their sports skills, the principal gave an open cheque to the adjutant to organize trips to Hyderabad and Karachi to play against Pakistan Navy and Pakistan Air Force teams. The teams would travel twice a month to Karachi to play there. Thus, for the first time, college teams were able to beat Cadet College Hasan Abdal in 1964 at their home ground. This was a great achievement.

During the early years, few graduates of Petaro were selected at ISSB, Kohat for induction into the armed forces. This was a matter of concern for the college administration. With permission from the GHQ, the principal and the adjutant officially visited ISSB at Kohat in early 1965 to investigate the shortcomings of the CCP cadets. As a result of this trip, the following actions were taken that eventually allowed numerous CCP graduates to be selected in the coming years:

  • An obstacle course was set up at the college in order to provide physical training and physical fitness to be able to compete at Kohat.

  • Weekly discussion groups were organized in order to overcome shyness, and to allow them to open up their intellectual horizons for participation in discussions on a wide variety of subjects of national importance.

In his words “it was a tribute to this farsightedness of the college administration at that time that we see so many Petarian officers today holding higher ranks in the Armed Forces. We wish them all the best of luck”.

Among other activities that he remembered of the time, the college riding team was taken to the National Horse and Cattle Show at Lahore in 1965 to participate in Tent Pegging and Jumps. During that trip, Aitchison College hosted the Petarians, providing them accommodation, and stables for the Petarian ponies. The most memorable part of that show was the famous Petarian mare “Anarkali”, which won the maximum number of prizes at the horse show. Petarians of that tenure remember this feat of Anarkali with pride.

That same year, Aitchison College also visited Petaro in 1965 in return with their cricket, hockey and boxing teams as a good will gesture.

He also recalled that, “during my Petaro stay, I distinctly recollect the visit of Field Marshall Muhammad Ayub Khan to the college at the personal invitation of our principal Col. Coombes. The President of Pakistan met the cadets in the classrooms and on the sports ground. It was exciting to say the least”.

“Life at Petaro was out of this world, with its higher discipline and a regulated life. Though only 20 miles away from Hyderabad, we were living in a different world, away from strikes and basking in the purity of the sun and the pollution-free environment of the desert around us. This milieu allowed the cadets to develop an atmosphere of lesser imposed discipline and greater self-discipline. Despite restrictions, the cadets were permitted more freedom which developed their initiative and self-respect. They used to be mostly on their own. Thus, the Petarians became a part of the most honored, responsible, and respected brotherhood. They turned themselves from being ordinary citizens to becoming the future of Pakistan – responsible Pakistanis having a rich tradition and professionalism, which is second to none”.

Lastly he stated, “indeed, without a doubt, the very best of my life and service was the two year stay at Petaro as the Adjutant”.

In his concluding message, Col.(R) Nasir Abbas conveyed to his Petarian ‘sons’, “the nation expects you to carry a greater burden on your shoulders for the sake of its ideology and for the sake of the integrity of the people of Pakistan. They have full confidence, faith and trust in your dedication and your competence. We look forward to your honoring us at every step. I wish all Petarians greater heights in life”.

Col.(R) Nasir Abbas lived his last years at Lahore and expired on 20 September 2006 of pulmonary cardiac arrest. May his soul rest in peace.

With Princess Diana and Punjab Chief Minister Wyne during Diana's first visit to Pakistan

In his study room at home - 1999


With his wife Nuchie at the Foreign Office in 1981