Firoz Shah, SI, presenting his report at a parents' day celebration
in late 1960s
By Kazi Zulkader
Siddiqui, Kit no. 671, Latif
you were asked to identify one unforgettable personality
of the 1965-72 era of Petaro, the answer would be none
other than its principal Cdr (R) Firoz Shah,
Sahib” (we always called him that, as if there was, or
is, no other commander) had a profound effect on our
The “Commander” to us was much greater than any general.
In retrospect, even though he is of a normal height and
stature, Commander Sahib appeared to be a towering
figure during those good old days. In sufistic parlance,
the Commander was Petaro and Petaro was the Commander,
though never the twain shall meet again.
His dynamism, his energy, his patience, and love for the
college and its students were simply remarkable.
However, he had a soft corner for sports and sportsmen.
After all, it was through his efforts and leadership
that the college won the ICCST consecutively for four
years. He brought about the "Famous Forties".
During a discussion with him a few years ago, Commander
Sahib pensively remarked that real education can be had
only “in the field”. That is what Petaro truly aimed at,
by providing that balance between studies and physical
training and sports.
He was born on
7 January 1914 at Baghanwala near Chakwal which is located at the foot of the Salt
Range. It is barely a mile from the famous hilltop Nandna Fort of Al-Biruni fame.
Cdr (R) Firoz Shah has had a very fulfilling
career. He graduated from the Punjab University, Kitchener’s
College, Nowgong (in undivided India), and later from the
Royal Navy College in London.
joined the Royal Indian Navy in 1938, Commander Sahib became a de
facto member of the Pakistan Navy in 1947. His career in the Navy was also in
the field of education. He served as an instructor and trainer in different
positions and locations. He was the Chief Instructor Officer at the Anti-Submarine
School, Main Training Centre, PNS Bahadur, Manora PN Cadet Training School, PNS
Himalaya and at the Cadets' Training Ship PNS Shamsher. His last position in the Navy
was as the Director of Education in Pakistan Navy since 1954 for a period of
12 years. After a meritorious service, 1965 brought about his retirement.
Thus, when he retired, the Board of Governors of Cadet College
Petaro chose the able Commander to relieve
Col J.H.H. Coombes
as the principal of the college in June 1965. Commander Sahib ruled
over Petaro for seven years until his retirement on March 14,
year 1997 marked the silver jubilee year of Commander Sahib’s
retirement from Petaro - and in fact from active service.
Retirement, however, does not necessarily mean a withdrawal
from life. In contradistinction to an ascetic life, Commander
Sahib has had a fulfilling two and a half decades of activity
at his native village Baghanwala (Jhelum district), as he
engaged in farming and social activities, including performing
magisterial duties, establishing a primary girls school,
provision of electricity and a roads infrastructure to the
village and the adjacent localities.
lived in Islamabad for many years after his retirement,
Commander Sahib moved to Karachi, living
in DHA Phase 1 with his son’s family. In the last years of his life,
Commander Sahib faced several medical problems due to his
age. The Almighty
was kind to him and he remained mentally alert always with no
The college administration
was more than eager to invite Commander Sahib to come to
Petaro for any of the major functions and be the chief guest.
Unfortunately, his health did not allow him to travel. He
could not even come to Petaro for the Golden Jubilee
celebrations in February 2007.
With his failing health,
Commander Sahib was recalled by his Lord, and he left this
world on 6 August 2007 at Karachi. His body was taken to
his village Baghanwala near Pind Dadan Khan (Punjab) - around
160-170km south of Islamabad on the Motorway. He was
buried there the following day.
Nearly a week after his
death, the President of Pakistan awarded Commander Sahib
posthumously with the Sitara-e-Imtiaz on 14 Aug 2007, for his
meritorious services to Cadet College Petaro and the nation.
Let us go
back to his days at Petaro. I asked Commander Sahib to recall
some of the achievements of his tenure at Petaro. I was
surprised to see the extensive list.
Provision of Sui gas to Petaro;
Installation of a 35mm movie projector as educational aid
(despite restrictions by the government on imports);
College expansion as the number of students increased from 350
to 600. Seventh class was introduced on an experimental basis
for Sindhis. Two new houses (Iqbal and Qasim) were built;
Pre-medical stream: The Board of Governors permitted
introduction of pre-medical classes at the intermediate level;
Flying Club was started with the patronage of PAF who provided
a glider and necessary staff;
The "President’s Shield" donated by late President Ayub Khan
which used to be given to the college winning the ICCST (Inter
Cadet Colleges Sports Tournament). Petaro won the shield and
the championship for four consecutive years (1966-69), gaining
the right to keep the shield permanently;
Selection into Services Academies increased dramatically as a
result of special training introduced;
Other improvements: Boundary wall, main gate, tennis courts,
two squash courts, expansion of riding club, shooting range,
grassy hockey field, extension of dining hall, trees along all
roads, orchards, agriculture farm, Guest House for visiting
parents and VIPs, etc;
Staff Welfare: Increase in staff, additional House Masters,
allowances sanction, courses for higher qualifications in the
UK, staff club improvements, additional housing, staff sons
permitted to join college;
Colony Welfare: Sui gas connections at Rs5 per month, subsidy
on food, transport for colony children attending schools in
Hyderabad, Welfare Fund.
The year of the silver jubilee of his retirement from
Petaro was quite a difficult year for Commander Sahib.
As it is said, behind every great man, there is a great
woman. Or if I may rephrase it, great women prod their
consorts to become great men.
Well, the great woman in Commander Sahib’s life - Mrs.
Sughra Firoz Shah - was
the all-encompassing memory for him. They were married
on 24 November 1940 and she bore him two sons - Shafqat
Shah and Sajjad Shah - and a daughter. After a fulfilling
life, Mrs. Sughra parted company with him to return to the Lord
in 1996. May the Almighty shower His Mercy on her!
Petarians pray to Allah to grant
Commander Sahib and his wife a place in Jannatul Firdaus.