By Lt Col (R) Zafar Iqbal Malik (40 PMA)
Editor’s Note: Lt Col (R) Zafar Iqbal Malik is from Ord. After the retirement, he has settled in Islamabad.
In life, some people are born great, some inherit greatness and some achieve greatness. This is a small story of my such a friend who achieved greatness on his own. In the summer of 1961 when I joined my new class 8th in Military College Jhelum, as a young lad, I met in my class a tall boy with dark complexion having deep-set eyes and possessing a very pensive smile and a very talkative face who in the shortest possible time without being asked, on his own introduced himself, telling his name as SAULAT ABBAS and discreetly emphasising again and again that he was from Gujrat. We shook hands without realising destiny had chosen Saulat Abbas and me to be thick pals for the next 45 years or so. Thus began a brotherhood of a life time. He was a dare-devil in his many episodes in the college of which I’m a witness to. But this particular one which I’m relating to you, is significant as here we were, young lads of hardly 15 years of age. It was winter and our Commandant Col Sardar Khan’s orange Orchard was fully ripe, word reached us that this year his oranges were very sweet. The dare-devil in Saulat Abbas, had begun to get restless, it was decided amongst us, to raid the Orchard of the Commandant’s House quickly, before the oranges were eaten by him.
A team was chosen. Saulat Abbas alias Ulli, as the leader, Zafar Saeed Malik alias Guru, Jamil Khalid alias Poundry and myself Zafar Iqbal Malik alias 91. Lot of planning for the raid was done however to cut the long story short, on the marked night we reached the Commandant’s Orchard, the first major shock we got was that Col Sardar Khan, had got a high-powered bulb installed over his favourite trees and it was almost day like in the garden and his bedroom was very near to the Orchard. The morale of all us, the raiders, went down our boots, very disappointed the raid was to be called off. But then in the silence of the night a strong hush voice of Saulat spoke , “91! I’m going in.” Surprised but then we all agreed to him. Immediately the plan went into action. Ulli will go in, Guru to move near the Commandant’s bedroom for early warning and Poundry, near the entrance gate and me, 91, to cover the guard. I was the mess secretary of my house thus some articles were brought from the mess for this raid. The soot of the pails and of the kettle was applied on the already dark face of Saulat Abbas, the black shirt of cook Nawab Din, was given to Saulat to wear, we all were already in black trousers. Soot was applied by all on each other’s faces. When Sualat was ready, believe me, with the soot on his face and his face already of dark complexion and with his black dress, ‘Lo and Behold’ he was completely invisible. We moved in, I went towards the guard to cover him in case he moves, to my good luck he was fast asleep in his post, yet I kept the powder of red chilies taken from the mess, ready in my hand to be thrown into the eyes of the guard, if he gets up. The raid was planned for 15 minutes and no one was to extract himself, till Ulli comes out. Time started ticking, 5 minutes gone, 10 minutes, 20 minutes gone …., and now I could feel the tension mounting, as there was no noise at all, where the hell could be Ulli? Then the guard moved, he raised his head, opened his eyes, I got ready with the red chilies in my hand in case he gets up, but thank God he did not see me standing towards his rear, ready for him, he closed his eyes and slept. I then saw Ulli coming, only his white teeth were visible they were all out grinning, a visible and a vital sign of ‘success raid’. He was followed by Guru and Poundry. We were very happy our raid in our Commandant’s House was a success. We carried the bag of oranges and our hero was grinning and laughing all the way back to our House. There we opened the bag. To our utmost surprise Ulli had plucked almost a complete tree. The oranges were almost 20 kilos, Ulli told us that he made it a point to taste all the trees and then to pluck only the sweetest tree of Col Sardar’s entire Orchard.
Next day the Commandant was completely shaken and very furious, he announced anyone giving any information to him about the raiders, would be rewarded with Rs. 20, a big amount in those days, along with a weekend holiday. Many knew about us, as to what we had done, but then, they and we were of Military College Jhelum, no amount of lucrative rewards could buy our loyalties towards one another. Major Zafar Saeed Malik alias Guru, was one the greatest naughty and witty Character ever produced by our mother college, he died of sudden heart attack while serving as Security Officer of TIP, Haripur some 18 years ago. One of my greatest friend and a brother was gone with him.
Editor’s Note: Brig Saulat Abbas was from 41 PMA Long Course. His parent unit was 12 Punjab, which was also the unit of his father Maj Syed Anwar Hussain. Brig Saulat expired on February 23, 2008 in Syria where he was on visit to Holy Shrines. He was buried in his native town Muhmmadipur Madina, District Gujrat. He had also served as DG Pakistan Sports Board from February 14, 2000 to September 13, 2003. He was responsible for formulating the first ever National Sports Policy in 2001.
Saulat Abbas played the most daring innings of his life, while serving in this august Army. In Somalia as the Commander of his forces, he brought laurels to the Army and to Pakistan as never before in history, has one of the most modern Armies of the world, the American Army had been completely at the mercy of the Commander of Pakistan Army for its safe exit strategy from Somalia. Brig Saulat Abbas made it sure as a Muslim Comd, to be the last to leave the killing fields of Somalia where the American troops were butchered mercilessly by the Somalian rebel fighters and were saved and retrieved by our Army. A famous Hollywood movie named “Black Hawk Down” was made on this episode. Brig Sualat Abbas was the chosen one by the Almighty Allah, we all yearn for a pious death from Allah but only the chosen one do get it. He died in the Shrine of Bibi Zainab at Damascus, Syria on 23rd Feb 2008 of sudden cardiac arrest, where he had gone for Ziarrat. He was buried at Gujrat his native town of which he was so very proud of. What a noble and pious death for one of the greatest man I’ve ever known, a brave heart, a loving friend, a loving husband and a father, a down to earth man. A leader who led from the front. A Comd who made his country proud. His name is still ushered in USA as he saved hundreds of American troops from sure death. Last but not the least, an approved Maj General of our Army, he was a dare-devil thus his rank was not pinned on his shoulder. May he rest in Peace at his eternal abode. Col Khalid Jamil alias Poundry is settled in Lahore and in this age of his, he does not raid any orange Orchards anymore, for now he buys them.
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