The Third Principal
the first Vice Principal (1958-1972), and Professor of English
Prof. Syed Shaida
Azim - 2000
By Kazi Zulkader
Siddiqui, Kit no. 671, Latif
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.”
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."
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
then married again in the late-1960s to Mrs. Qaiser. His second wife
on March 6, 2005. May Allah have Mercy on both his wives and
grant them place in the Jannatul Firdaus.
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
Lt.Cdr.(R) A.W. Siddiqi.
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!
Allah grant him
Firdaus! It was my honour to have been his student.
Iftekhar Saeed Alvi,
Kit No. 40/Liaquat
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
was away he narrated the meaning of verses from Holy Qur’an
without seeing any book.
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).
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.