‘A Farewell’

By Maj Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani (R), AC (24th PMA)

Photo of Maj Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani, AC, 24th PMA Long CourseEditor’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.

Photo of Lt Gen Farrakh Khan, AC, 20th PMA Long Course

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.

Obituary of Lt Gen Farrakh Khan (20 PMA) - Khaak may kaya Suratain hongi kay pinhan ho gayeen

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.com.pk/print/132252-A-farewell

Related Pages:
Remembering Our Comrades
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)

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  1. I’m lucky to work under General Farrakh’s leadership. I’m fortunate to be with him for two years. I’m proud of my boss. When he interviewed me, he said, “Adeel! Join us whenever you like to.”

    After joining RCC (Rawal Cadet College) I found him a dynamic leader, a foresighted officer and certainly a man with a strong wit. I often would say to my colleagues that General’s wit was quotable. General Durrani has written matchless words, “General Farrakh will keep the Almighty in good humor.”

    After a few months when he appointed me Coordinator (ECA), our interaction started. I would have meeting with him once or twice a week. We used to have discussions on upcoming events and various issues regarding education in particular and politics and religion in general. Last year when I organized an event on September 6 to observe Defence Day, Gen Farrakh Khan came on the stage to unveil his portrait. He shared his (the then Captain Farrakh Khan) memories of 1965 War. I would like to mention an event organized on 16 December in the memory of Martyrs of APS Peshawar, I saw his eyes full of tears.

    Gen Farrakh was very kind to the faculty members, students and the other staff. He always laid great stress upon demonstrative performance, students’ character building and personality development.

    In third week of March 2016 I with some other faculty members had meeting with him at his office situated in Chaklala Scheme 3. He asked me to work on establishing an institute of modern languages. I started my work, but fate had decided something beyond our plans and executions. My last meeting with him was in first week of May 2016 when he came to his office after a month. Meanwhile, I was entering his office, he said with a cheerful gesture, “Hello Adeel! Long time, no see. How are you?”

    We discussed a few things and I left the office not knowing that it was my last meeting with Gen Farrakh. He came to his office on 2 June 2016 but unfortunately I was on leave that day.

    I can’t forget when after successful events he would say, “Adeel! Another job well done.” His words are certainly my lifelong asset.

    After offering his funeral prayer I had a look on his face, a peaceful gentleman was sleeping peacefully. Indeed, Gen Farrakh lived everyday of his life. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

  2. Kanwar Jit Singh Malik says:

    We one time brothers in Arms India/Pak, are fighting with each other, for WHAT?
    Principals? NO. Money and Power? YES. That is the Truth.
    In this process we have lost for now respective nations the time, the Energy to Progress along with WORLD POWERS.

  3. Mohsin Ashraf says:

    He was a great human, he was also the CE0 of RAWAL CADET COLLEGE. I am also a student of this institution. He told us how to live a good life. He also told us the incidents of 1965 War, he played his role as a captain in this war.
    A few weeks before his death, one day he came out of his office and I along with other class fellows hid from him because it is the nature of students that they often hesitate to face their principal & CE0. He was briskly walking just like a young soldier. We were hiding behind the door & could clearly hear the sound of his shoes. We didn’t know that we were seeing him for the last time.
    May ALLAH bless him with the higher ranks in Jannah, Ameen.

  4. RIP, General Farrakh Khan: a fitting eulogy in effortless penmanship.

  5. Maj Munawar Ahmed (R), AC (49 PMA) says:

    May Gen Farrakh Khan’s soul rest in eternal peace, Ameen.

  6. Brig Mehboob Qadir R) says:

    Remembering Late Gen Farrakh Khan
    It was 1984 when serving at Kharian I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the troop bus which ferried my children to school and back carried GOC Armored Division’s kids too. That was quite unusual to say the least. But the episode stayed in the back of my mind. A little later I was posted to GHQ, SD Directorate where soon enough I came across Gen Farrakh as MS.
    Those were difficult times. Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation was entering its final phases and GHQ was in the eye of the storm, so to say. In that high speed zig zag of history, one found Gen Farrakh so coolly composed when many around President Zia were losing their head. We developed a good working chemistry as I had to record minutes of all the Corps Commanders and PSOs conferences where MS was always a member. I was during Gen Zia’s last fateful conference at GHQ a few weeks before Bahawalpur crash when he turned towards Gen Farrakh and said, ‘Please get sanction of two hundred floating vacancies for officers from me before 01 September, Don’t forget.’. There was no reason to say so, we wondered. Gen Zia crashed to death in August that year.
    One day Corps Commanders were being shown an exhibition of the various traditional weapons in use in the Army whose range and effectiveness was supposed to have been increased by ‘genius’s’ in POF Wah after a concept given by the then COAS. This was the same time when Recoil less Rifles (RR) were mounted on farm tractors making them topple on every bump in the field. I was looking at an RR whose range was claimed to have been increased by quite a few hundred yards. Just then I heard Gen Farrakh behind me saying,’What are you looking at friend, it is not your weapon?’. I replied, ‘Sir in fact I am wondering that this RR is like my career, open at both ends’. He gave his trade mark hearty laugh. A week later I was posted to the MS Branch from there on we developed an equation of deference and understanding which lasted till his death. We became more like a family sharing our happiness and sorrows, worries and successes as the time went on.
    Through his professional brilliance, he went on to become Commander 11 Corps Peshawar and then CGS; senior most to be the next COAS. But he was cut out from a different cloth altogether. Never did one see him carry any airs nor wearing his rank on the shirt sleeve. Always dignified, down to earth and his natural cheerful self. Ready to help others on the drop of a hat. Very generous of heart.
    What a wonderful man and commander of men he was. May God rest his soul in peace for ever.

  7. Richly deserved tributes for a great soldier who has quietly faded away! Being 22 courses junior, I had obviously known the legendary Farrakh Khan, especially when he rose to prominence, but haven’t had the fortune of meeting him until early 2000’s. And guess where we would meet every evening; on the Rising Sun Jogging Track in front of 47 Staff Road, Chaklala, where I lived for five long years! He had known me from my Housing Directorate and OGDCL stints. Paying my hearty respects as I would slowly jog past him, he would wave a pat with his distinctive twinkle and broad smile, ”Hi, Akmal’? After his brisk walk and 5 BX, he would even heave on a beam; so fit and agile well into his sixties. Sometimes we would chat a little on how things were in the public sector.
    A role model for officers and men, he richly deserved to be our Chief; Gen Durrani shared why not. May Allah bless Gen Farrakh Khan in his heavenly abode and grant ‘Sabr e Jameel’ to his near and dear ones. Amen.

  8. I had the privilege of being Gen Farrakh’s favored student. He taught only one course at JTC, JTC 11 I think. it had all the backlog of late-comers due to the war in 1971, and I was one.

    I too had a sense of humor and the courage to use it at his expense too. We became close and, despite his seniority, I dare refer to him as a friend.

    Gen Durrani has expressed all the qualities of Gen Farrakh better than I ever could. But I wish to add one more.

    I have not been a favorite with too many seniors due to my bad habit of saying whatever I thought or felt. Gen Farrakh numbered among the few who not merely tolerated it, but appreciated and sought me out for it.

    In 1990, after the War Course, I was commanding my unit for a second stint in Peshawar. Gen Farrukh was the Corps Commander, Gen Beg the Chief. This was the year of War Games. Each time, the General received the exercise papers he summoned me and dry war-gamed with me playing the enemy.

    Not only was he unerring in spotting enemy weaknesses but his courage in taking decisions set him above his contemporaries.

    I would have been honored to serve under him in battle.

  9. Sikandar Pasha says:

    On the night of 8 Sept 1965, 25 Cav was leagured at Phillora after a hard fought historic battle at Gadgore. Captain Farrukh Khan being the Technical Officer of the Regiment was going around the battlefield recovering broken down tanks, when he came across more than a dozen destroyed Centurion tanks belonging to the enemy. It was one of these tanks (belonging to the squadron commander of Indian 16 Cav) from where Capt Farrukh Khan recovered a copy of Orders of ‘Operation Nepal’ which revealed for the first time that 25 Cav that day had performed a miracle by giving a bloody nose to the Indian First Armored Div plus 3 infantry divisions – a feat unparalleled in the history of armored warfare.

    May God bless his soul. Ameen.

  10. Mumtaz Bashir Waraich says:

    I was lucky to have served along with him at SI&T Quetta in early 70s. Although he was senior to me and serving in the Tactical Wing and myself in the Weapons Wing, he developed special liking for me and we would sit together for hours discussing everything happening around. I maintained by contact with him during service and even after retirement. He was most kind to me and I found no change in him even when he was holding very senior and important posts; for me he always remained a friend. He was very loving, kind and had a great sense of humour. One of the finest soldiers the Pakistan Army has ever had and I am sure like myself everyone who had served with him or had the chance of knowing him would be very sad to know about his demise.
    May Allah bless his soul.

  11. Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (R), Air Def/Avn says:

    Gen Farrakh Khan was a through gentleman and a true professional. His youngest son, Saad Khan, was my son Ali Cheema’s class fellow in 1998-99.
    I last met Gen Farrakh in Topi Rakh, Rawalpindi at my son’s Walima Reception in January 2012.
    May Allah bless him with the highest station in Jannah, Ameen.

  12. Maj Ayyaz Sipra (7th War Course), USA says:

    Never had the good fortune of any interaction with the late Gen Farrakh but the eloquent tribute of someone who knew him is sufficient for me to know that he indeed was an asset to the Pakistan Army! For that I salute the departed soldier!!
    May the Almighty in his Benevolence and Mercy grant his soul eternal peace, Aameen!!

    • My respects, sir, even if you don’t remember me.

      • Maj Ayyaz Sipra (USA) says:

        It was a wonderful surprise hearing from you Azam! What did not come to me as a surprise was how well you have done since I last saw you in Lahore in the late 1970s!
        A man of sterling character and a brilliant mind!!
        Let’s not lose touch now!!

  13. Col Shah Alam (R), AC/Avn, (34 PMA) Canada says:

    Thanks to Gen Durrani for writing such an eloquent obituary, epitaph and a befitting tribute—all in one. The one and only thing I dare add to Gen Farrakh’s accomplishments is that he was also an Army Aviator.

    I had a rather short personal interaction with Gen Farrakh while he was the MD AWT in 1996-97 and do not find adequate words to describe and praise his warmth, passion and informal but firm approach to leadership.

    May Allah bless Gen Farrakh’s soul. Amen.

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