By Maj Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani (R), AC (24th PMA)
Editor’s Note: Maj Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani was commissioned in Guides Cavalry on 13 October 1961 and later joined 25 Cavalry on its raising. He retired in 1998 and settled in Islamabad. He is a former National Security Adviser and has also served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States. He is the author of several books.
My very first impression of Farrakh Khan, two years my senior in Burn Hall School, Abbottabad in the fifties was a smiling face with a twinkle in his eyes.
Over the years, as we grew older, Farrakh never lost his twinkle. Just four days before he left this world on June 25, I went to see him in the hospital; he raised his fist with a somewhat subdued twinkle but I failed to recognise that he was bidding me farewell.
In 1959, he was a Senior Under Officer in the Pakistan Military Academy when I also decided to follow his footsteps in the Pakistan Army. Our friendship blossomed, as we were fortunate to land up in the same Cavalry Regiment almost one year after my commissioning in the army.
Farrakh was not only a friend but also a professional guide and protector. The early sixties and that too in the fertile social environments of Sialkot, besides the rough and tumble of our profession, were full of innocent fun and our quest for winning a heart or two. However, the dashing Farrakh with big innocent eyes was way ahead of me and won the hearts of many a pretty girl.
With an excellent commanding officer and sound seniors officers, our Regiment 25 Cavalry was jelled into a highly professional force which proved its mettle in the 1965 War with India and earned the title of ‘Men of Steel’.
Naturally, Captain Farrakh Khan played a pivotal role in maintaining the tank strength of our regiment, in spite of a very high rate of attrition.
After the 1965 War there was no looking back for young Farrakh, as he climbed the professional ladder effortlessly. With time, he developed maturity and a sound understanding of strategic issues. But he never lost his sense of humour.
Farrakh’s notable achievements were his performance as a wise staff officer at the higher echelons of the Pakistan Army, his command of an Armoured Division and a Strike Corps. I would especially like to mention his stint as the Chief of General Staff at the GHQ, when he virtually ran the army for his boss, the Chief of Army Staff.
The Farrakh story would be incomplete if I did not mention his human qualities. He was a very good friend for sure and a very humane leader, he was very popular with his troops and the young officers, surprising even his colleagues were very fond of him. He remained a team player.
His wit was almost proverbial within the army. I am certain Farrakh will keep the Almighty in good humour and put in a good word for sinners like me. I look forward to seeing you Farrakh, hopefully in heaven.
It would be unfair if I did not mention that General Farrakh Khan was poised to become the Chief of Army Staff. It is the loss of the Pakistan Army that he did not become one; choosing the Army Chief is the privilege of the civilian leadership and they consider many factors besides professionalism.
Farewell my friend, may He provide you the choicest place in heaven. Ameen.
Editor: This article is being posted with the kind permission of the writer, Maj Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani (Retd). It was initially published in The News International, an e-paper, on 2 July 2016:- https://www.thenews.
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