Prof. Syed Shaida Azim

The Third Principal (1972-1975), the first Vice Principal (1958-1972), and Professor of English (1958-1975)

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Prof. Syed Shaida Azim - 2000

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

Great men and women create great institutions. It is these very giants whose vision provides the momentum for these institutions to flourish and grow despite the ups and downs of time and clime. Such were the giants who built a great educational institution in the desert belt of Sindh along the Indus which is called Cadet College, Petaro.

Undeniably, among the leaders of those visionary personalities was Syed Shaida Azim, the first Senior House Master and the first Vice-Principal of the college, who later rose to become the third principal of that great institution.

Azim Sahib has always been a thoroughbred professor. If you ever get a chance to meet him, you will immediately recognise what I mean. His speech, his demeanour, his expressions, his emotions, his fatherly approaches, his intellectualism, and his empathetic glances all point towards this fact.

My earliest memories of Azim Sahib date back to 1965. Every senior cadet would point out with awe that it was an honour to become a student of Azim Sahib’s. I too used to yearn for the day when I would get into Class XI and become one of those fortunate boys to have sat at his feet in order to acquire pearls of wisdom. If you have met Azim Sahib, you will no doubt agree with me that he must have had a scholarly disposition right from the day he was born.

Azim Sahib was born on 29 May 1917 at Lucknow, UP, India. He acquired his early education at home, which was centered around the Noble Qur'an. He started his formal schooling from class VI at St Joseph's School, Lucknow, where he studied for three years. He then completed his matriculation from Islamia High School and intermediate from Govt Jubilee College.

He acquired his MA (Maths) from Lucknow University in 1942 and a second MA in English from Bombay University in 1946. As expected, Azim Sahib was always the best student in his class right from his school days. Although he seems to have had a keen love for mathematics, Azim Sahib ended up becoming an English professor at Petaro. Let us trace through his career.

Shortly after acquiring his MA in English from Bombay University, Azim Sahib landed his first job as a teacher of Mathematics and English in the princely state of Junagadh. As usual, he excelled and established a position of respect in the field of education in that tiny state ruled by Muslims.

Barely had he established his credentials that all hell broke loose. The creation of Pakistan in August 1947 created problems for the Muslims of subcontinent in the Hindu dominated regions. Along with millions of other Muslims, Azim Sahib joined the hordes that migrated to the newly-born Muslim state of Pakistan.

Arriving in Karachi in October 1947, he realized that he could not remain jobless. Bolton Market sounded like the right place to be. Getting a copy of the Pakistan Times of the day he found an ad in the paper for a Mathematics and English teacher for a college in Gujrat, Punjab. Within two months, he was selected and he moved to Gujrat to join Zamindar College as a Senior Lecturer. Over the years, he rose up to become the Vice Principal of that institution.

The next move in his career took place in 1954, when he was selected as Senior Lecturer and House Master at Cadet College Hasan Abdal. It was a difficult decision for Azim Sahib. He already had a respectable position at Zamindar College. However, this was an opportunity that he could not miss. The four years he spent at Hasan Abdal were crucial in forming the stepping stone towards his ultimate move to Petaro.

In 1958, the Petaro position was advertised. Out of 24 short-listed candidates, a 15-member panel of senior educationists from all over Pakistan finally chose Azim Sahib. It was an honour for the institution, and the institution would eventually honour him as well. Thus, on 7th March, 1958, Syed Shaida Azim moved to Mirpurkhas to become the Senior House Master and Vice-Principal of Cadet College Petaro. It may be noted that the college was still in Mirpurkhas at that time. It moved to its present campus a year and a half later.

During the couple of hours or so I spent with Azim Sahib, he kept on reminiscing about so many incidents and relationships. Due to limitations of space, I am reporting only a few of these:

A couple of weeks after Azim Sahib joined the college, Col J.H.H. Coombes joined Petaro as its Principal. His first major task was to find a permanent home for the college. Col Coombes selected the Petaro site because of the Second World War hangars and the airfield. However, he did not realise that the main problem would be water since the old pipelines were not usable. People used to walk 2 miles to get water from the river. Therefore, at the first instance the pipeline was repaired and a pumping station built.

The cornerstone of the college was laid on 16th of January, 1959 by Habibur Rehman, the Federal Minister for Education. The country was already under Martial Law. This was an advantage for Petaro. Under the army regime, the contractors worked very hard and the construction was completed within months.

By summer of 1959, the Jinnah-Liaquat Houses block and the administration building were complete. So were the Principal's house and senior staff bungalows. Col Coombes was in the UK for summer vacations. In his absence, the college moved lock, stock and barrel to the new campus on 26th of July, 1959 under the mantle of Azim Sahib. This was despite the fact that roofs were leaking and there were zillions of other problems.

Today Petaro is like an oasis. In those days, people would ask as to why such an impossible site was chosen. Life was tough at Petaro. Azim Sahib quotes one of the earliest student’s remarks who said: "Sir the gard (dust) is always urring (flying)". It was difficult to get boys to join Petaro under those circumstances.

The college was willing to accept almost any boy. He recalls that in an early interview, Col Coombes asked a candidate that if two oranges cost a rupee, how many would he get for three. The answer given was 5. The candidate was still considered.

Many a time, parents would come to the college to take back their sons due to the tough conditions. The teachers would go to their homes to coax them back. He recalls an incident about one famous son of a famous landlord of Mirpurkhas, who agreed to come back to the college. However, when they neared the college, the boy decided that he wanted to go to Hyderabad to watch a movie.

He volunteered to come back the next day. The unthinkable happened. The college administration agreed. In those days, the college used to be able to get 30 new students a year with great difficulty. The times have changed. It is now very difficult to get your son admitted to this prestigious institution. We must give our thanks to those early stalwarts who worked hard to make all this happen.

Ironically, Azim Sahib's relationship with Col Coombes was an estranged one. I suppose it is difficult to get two able administrators into one room. Col Coombes seems to have felt threatened by his able deputy as long as he remained the principal. The relationship remained tense.

Despite this tension, Col Coombes was full of praise for Azim Sahib. While discussing the staff members, the colonel once remarked to his wife: "Which one of them is better than Mr Azim?" At another instance, the colonel was full of praise for Mr Azim when addressing a visiting delegation from the British Council saying, "If you want to see English language taught at its best, go to Mr Azim's class".

The delegation did likewise and reported, "This is the best way how English should be taught. It was functional English, it was grammar, it was text. Everything was going on at the same time and the boys were so keenly interested, the delegation wished they had a movie camera with them.”

The colonel did discover a little too late that his only true friend in the college was none other than "Shaida". At the farewell dinner, Azim Sahib praised the colonel profusely in an extempore speech, highlighting only his achievements. At midnight, the colonel sent a note to him saying, "Dear Shaida! Thank you very much for your very kind words - so full of compliments. No credits did I deserve! I wanted to weep."

Azim Sahib is full of praise for Cdr Firoz Shah's tenure as well. Although the sports competitions between the cadet colleges were started by the colonel, it was during the Commander's Sahib’s period that Petaro won. In the early days, Petaro cut a very sorry figure and lost in all the competitions.

However, the colonel usually got his way because he was British. He once invited Ayub Khan for Parent's Day, but didn’t invite the governor, who was furious. The next time they met, the governor said, "I don’t want to see your face.” He then turned back laughing and said, "You can get anything you want". This was Brit power.

Azim Sahib continued as Vice-Principal of the college until March 1972, when Cdr Firoz Shah was forcibly retired from his position by Z.A. Bhutto. Azim Sahib is categorical in his judgment about the Commander. "He was innocent,” he says unequivocally. “The charges against the Commander and his forced retirement were totally uncalled for.” Who can be a better judge than Azim Sahib? This also demonstrates his straightforwardness, simplicity, tenderness and a lack of malice towards any and every one.

Azim Sahib was full of praise for Cdr Firoz Shah's capabilities and contributions. In his words, "The Commander was a very good man.” He recalls that academic achievements peaked during his tenure, and the college attained the maximum number of positions in the Board.

The Bhutto government's decisions created unions at Petaro for the first time, leading to student activities demanding the Commander's resignation. When the Commander retired, these very same miscreants wanted him back. This speaks volumes of the Commander's capabilities.

Azim Sahib was the Principal of the college for a period of 3 years until the summer of 1975 when he took his retirement despite the fact that the Board of Governors requested him to extend his tenure. The Bhutto regime problems prompted him to refuse any extension.

Many people look at retirement as a probationary period for preparing to meet the Lord in afterlife. For Azim Sahib, that preparation could happen only through active public service as an educationist. After all, he had been an educator par excellence throughout his life.

Thus, barely a few days after retirement in 1975, he joined the Pakistan Marine Academy as Senior Lecturer teaching Mathematics (once again) and English. He continued in this position until 1991.

In the meantime, Azim Sahib was given another challenge during his superannuating years, and while he was still in active service at the Marine Academy. In 1982, the administration of Pakistan Steel Mills requested him to become Adviser Education to regulate the educational activities of the employees and their children.

He did so with reluctance since this would have meant a lot more undesirable strain on his regulated life. During a period of seven years there (1982-89), Azim Sahib was instrumental in the creation and setting up of Cadet College Steel Mills within a few months. The college became functional in September 1982. While the Martial Law helped in building Cadet College Petaro in a short time, this college was built without such a military infrastructure. He was instrumental in developing another 12 educational institutions at the Steel Mills during this same period.

Azim Sahib is always in demand. No sooner had he left the Marine Academy in 1991, the Delhi Mercantile Society got hold of him, and virtually forced him to become the principal of their school in Karachi, a position he continued to hold until recently. His students from every school and age have revered Azim Sahib.

He recalls that when the late Capt (PN) S.I. Malik (later commodore) was the Principal at Petaro, he sent Mr Kaleem (Admin Officer) to personally invite Azim Sahib to come to Petaro and preside over a declamation contest. The invitation letter was signed, "Your most obedient pupil from Hasanabdal.”

A car was sent to Karachi to bring Azim Sahib with full honours to Petaro. Upon arrival, he was requested to sit in the Principal's chair once again, which he did rather reluctantly. When asked how he felt, Azim Sahib said: "I feel very light with no responsibilities.” Indeed, it is a reminder for every principal of Cadet College in the future that the seat is loaded with responsibilities. Not every one is made of the mettle to discharge those responsibilities with justice, honour, love, integrity, honesty, strong leadership, and a proper sense of direction.

When I asked Azim Sahib to list out his achievements at Petaro, he seemed to be at a loss for words. Is it because what others would look at as achievements are considered as simple work in the normal course of duty by him? Or is it that he would like to avoid talking about these out of humility before the Lord?

Whatever it is, all I could get him to state was that the college flourished in academics while he was the principal. He led the college through a difficult turbulent period after the fall of East Pakistan, and maintained the discipline that seems to have broken down all over the country.

I would like to remind our readers of one other interesting Petarian personality who had a close affinity for Azim Sahib. This was the late Syed Maqsood Ali, our English teacher at Petaro. Maqsood Sahib was also Azim Sahib's teacher in Lucknow. It is indeed an honour for those of us Petarians who studied under Maqsood Sahib.

Probably the most unforgettable story that Maqsood Sahib used to narrate was about the 2 tigers he shot with one bullet. None of us believed him, and we would have a great laugh over his insistence. While he was at Petaro, he used to wear very thick eyeglasses, and used to have great difficulty in seeing beyond his nose.

Lastly, I would also like to bring back the memory of Mrs Jamilunnisa who was his first wife. She expired in a car accident near Hyderabad while we were at Petaro in early 1966. Alongwith her, the eldest daughter of Prof. A.A. Faruqui (Shahida) also died. In fact Mrs. Azim died trying to protect Shahida. Both of them were buried outside the perimeter wall of the college. She will remain a part of Petaro forever.

Azim Sahib then married again in the late-1960s to Mrs. Qaiser. His second wife who expired on March 6, 2005. May Allah have Mercy on both his wives and grant them place in the Jannatul Firdaus.

Azim Sahib had only one child - a daughter Syeda Niaz Fatima - from his second wife. This daughter is married to Major Ahsan Siddiqi, kit no. 7514/Liaquat, who is the son of our ex-teacher Lt.Cdr.(R) A.W. Siddiqi.

Azim Sahib lived a full life, and expired at nearly an age of 97 on 20 October 2014 due to old age medical issues. He expired at Karachi and was buried the following day on 21 October 2014.

That in brief is Azim Sahib. I encourage every single Petarian to pray for our noble teacher, vice principal and principal, and experience a man who has devoted his life to education and service to this nation. On behalf of all Petarians, I salute Azim Sahib. He kept on striving for the betterment of this ummat throughout his life!

May Allah grant him Jannatul Firdaus! It was my honour to have been his student.


by Major(R) Iftekhar Saeed Alvi,  Kit No. 40/Liaquat House 

I have least hesitation in saying that I had never been a good student and a good man. But I can proudly say that I have been taught by some legends. Had these legends not been my teachers I would have not gone beyond Matric. It is only because of them that I could obtain a first division in Matric and Intermediate examinations and ended up as a specialized engineer. One of them is Syed Shaida Azim. He is a man who cannot be explained in words. I wish I could be something like him.

 Since he was Senior House Master, there was a distance between us. But it is an admitted fact that he is still very close to our heart. We respect him, we love him we adore him and we cannot forget him. Mr. Azim comes from a very educated family. He is first cousin of Mr. Syed Waqar Azim, a renowned personality and an authority on Urdu Language. He was born on 29 May 1917 at Lucknow (UP), a place famous for its language, culture and Customs in the entire subcontinent. His father Khan Bahadur Ehsan Azim was a renowned person in the city. He was honoured with the title of Khan Bahadur by the British Empire. Mr. Azim did his Masters in Mathematics from University of Lucknow in 1942. Later he did Masters in English from Bombay University in 1946. I can confidently vouch that Mr. Azim was equally excellent in Urdu and Persian languages. He started his carrier as Assistant Professor from Bahauddin College Junagarh (India). I do not know from which institution he came to Cadet College but I must say, that institution was really unlucky to loose him.  

Mr. Azim joined Cadet College Petaro in early 1958 before the arrival of our batch (Second batch). The college was then at Mirpurkhas. Mr. Azim being Senior House Master did not take regular classes but taught us English and at times even Urdu and Persian.

It is an admitted fact that in English language there is no match of Mr. Azim. Colonel Coombes who was a British and M.A. (Oxen) was at times corrected by Mr. Azim in English language and Colonel Coombes admitted it open heartedly.  He is a man composed of all good qualities, a true practical Muslim, a highly cultured and well read person true to his words and deeds; he would never compromise on wrong things. We always saw him well dressed whether he wore a suit, shirt pant or Sherwani with pajama. He loves us very much.

One real example is that one day when we were having dinner Mr. Azim came to hostel and saw one Cadet roaming outside the Mess. Mr. Azim asked why he was not having food. The cadet could not give a satisfactory reply. (Perhaps he was feeling home sick). Mr. Azim did not take dinner that night telling his wife that how he could eat when one of his sons was going to sleep without food.

Another example is that in one recent gathering some one asked him how many sons he had. Mr. Azim promptly replied "more than seven thousand". The gentleman was totally astonished. Mr. Azim said all the cadets whom he taught at Cadet College Petaro are his sons and he is proud of them. It is honest fact that he loves us even today.

Mr. Azim met a tragedy in 1966. His wife died because of an accident between our college microbus and a truck at Hyderabad.  She is buried in the college premises at Petaro. She was very fine lady, as aristocratic as her husband and had always been very motherly to us. Mr. Azim had no children from her. He later married and as far as I know he has one child.

Mr. Azim had one peculiar habit - that is whenever he spoke his head went up with jerks on each side. When I met him in 2002 I think his head did not go up with jerks or probably I did not pay attention. He used to walk faster than the normal pace. I never saw him strolling or walking leisurely. Today when he is over 87 years old he is as agile and smart as ever. He still walks like a young man. There is no whistling or vibration in his voice, and his vocal chords are as strong as ever.

At times Mr. Azim behaved like a conventional Professor. Once I was sitting on the stairs of Liaquat House absorbed in my own thoughts when suddenly I saw Mr. Azim near me. I immediately got up and wished him. Mr. Azim first looked at me and then lost temper. I remember only this much that he said Iftekhar Saeed I am going to write to your father that you do not know how to behave with teachers and I will punish you for your idiotic behaviour. (I had always been terribly scared of father. Even after I became a father I dared not speak in front of him). I was totally scared up to neck and did not know what to do. Then Mr. Azim asked me what I said. Although I was totally upset but could manage to tell him with lot of efforts that I had wished him. Mr. Azim said Walaikum Assalam and patted on my shoulder.

He was very fond of playing scrabble. He played scrabble with us and because of this we improved our English vocabulary to a great extent. He took over as Principal of Cadet College Petaro after the departure of Commander Firoz Shah. During late October 1974 when I was getting married. I went to Petaro to fetch my younger brother who was studying there; I met Mr. Azim in Principal’s office and gave him invitation card. Mr. Azim wished me all the best.

As a teacher Mr. Azim is a man of much higher class. What ever he taught us he was thorough in that subject, whether it was English Urdu or Persian. When we were in Matric in English subject we had five plays of Shakespeare. The language of these plays was made simple by Charles and Mary Lamb. Some of the phrases were difficult to under stand so they were to be elaborated in simple English. Although Mr. Abdullah Khadim Hussain another legend of English language taught us English, in his absence Mr. Azim used to take the Classes. I still remember the Phrase “bid her steal into that pleasant arbor where the honey suckles ripened by the Sun, like an ungrateful minion forbid it to enter”. Mr. Azim took nearly one period to explain this phrase so elaborately that with so many examples and meanings that even after 43 years I do remember the phrase and can explain it in his words. He used to teach us in such a beautiful way that we understood every thing very quickly. I was pretty weak in English but Mr. Azim always encouraged me and few days before the Matric examinations he said Iftekhar Saeed I am sure you will secure first class marks in English because the way you are improving I feel quite satisfied. These were his sacred words that I did secure good first class marks in Matric.

Although Mr. Aziz Ahmed Faruqui taught us Urdu and Persian, I must confess he was too good in both the languages but Mr. Azim was of much higher class. He was born in Lucknow brought up and studied there, so there was a different touch of language in him. When he spoke it was like a rhythm of a flowing spring piercing deep in our brain never to come out. He used to explain the poetry of Milton, Byron, Keats, Shelley and Words Worth so beautifully that we used to imagine our self in that era and scenario. 

Once he told us to write an account of some outing or picnic party. I thought he wanted us to write the details of expenditures made on some outing or picnic party. I gave the details of expenditures made on one outing. When Mr. Azim read my essay, he called me and asked what I meant by account. I said something to do with expenses of amount. Instead of loosing temper Mr. Azim laughed and then explained the meanings of account. I did not commit make this mistake again. He is a teacher who is totally devoted to his profession.

I am sure Mr. Azim knew Holy Qur’an by heart with correct meaning in Urdu and English because he could narrate the meaning of any verses from holy Qur’an without seeing any book. In morning assembly Col Coombes used to read out the English meaning of verses from Holy Qur’an read out by some Cadet, and at times he corrected the meaning. Also when Col Coombes was away he narrated the meaning of verses from Holy Qur’an without seeing any book.

After leaving Petaro Mr. Azim took over as Principal of Cadet College Steel Mills, Karachi. Today even at this age when mostly people have a tasbeeh in their hand, regularly go to mosque to beg God for pardon of sins committed by them Mr. Azim in still busy in imparting knowledge to youngster, he practices Islam better and more than many but is still devoted to his cause. Till recently he was Principal of Delhi Mercantile School Karachi (may be he is still there).

Mr. Azim lives in Maymar Square, Gulshan-e-Iqbal Karachi and welcomes his students whenever they want to meet him because as per him they are his sons and a son can meet his father any time, he does not need any permission.


Some memories of Azim Sb

Commodore Sajid Ali Hashmi (Retired), 6857 Latif

May ALLAH bless the departed soul.

Baishak hum sub ko usee ki taraf lout kay Jana hey

Sooner or later we all have to pass through this transition and this is the ultimate truth.

But this is also a fact, that

Loug is bazm mein aatey hein, chaley jaatey hein,

Yaad un mein se hamein loug wohi aatey hein,

Zindigi mein jo hareef-e-gham-e-douraN ban ker,

Muddat-ul-umar raqeeb-e-saro samaaN ban ker,

Sehen-e Gulshan ko ghanee chaoN ata kartey hein,

Aur barh Jaai andhera to chiraghouN ki tarah,

Muskaratey hu'ay ta umar jala kartey hein....."

Late Professor S S Azim was an authority on English language. His command of the subject was immaculate and par excellence. 

Honesty, integrity, devotion to duty, simplicity, humility and total commitment to teaching were the hall marks of his personality. We all were fortunate that at CCP, faculty with such towering personality traits and caliber taught us. 

In January 1980,  the first Petarian Reunion (inaugural function) was held at Hotel Metropole, Karachi. I also had the profound privilege of attending that great function and get-together.

And I very distinctly remember that while addressing the audience,  Late Professor S S Azim stated in Urdu,

" Keh humein angrazy bolna nahein  Aa sakti. "

These words are being said by a person for whom Col Coombes once said,  "If you want to see English language taught at its best, go to Mr Azim's class". 

To further elaborate his statement, he mentioned that,

"Kisi ne hum se kaha, Aap Urdu key is jumley ka angrazy  mein tarjmua ki-ji-ey"

"Aaj dariya ka paani garam hey " 

" Mein (SS Azim) ne kaha, The water of the river is warm today."

Jawab mila, "Ghalat".

The correct translation is, "The water in the river is warm today."


"To Waqi-ee humein angrazy bolna nahein Aa sakti. "

 This was his humbleness, modesty and humility.

"Respected Professor S S Azim Sir, May Allah place you at a very high position in Jannat-ul Firdous and give sabar to the family members (including all of us) Ameen.