By Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema, Retd (2nd SSC)
Editor’s Note: Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (R) was commissioned in 75 LAA Regt in July 1972. He also served in Avn for 8 years. After the retirement, he has settled in DHA Islamabad. He is Editor of a website ‘Native Pakistan’.
Maj Shahzad Saroia (R) belongs to Hafizabad and after his retirement has settled in Gujranwala Cantt. He has a very unusual physical feature. His heart is located on the right side of his body. In medical term it is called ‘Dextrocardia’, a rare condition in which, instead of being in the left side of the chest, a person’s heart is located in the right side. Dextrocardia is congenital, meaning that you are born with this abnormality. Less than one percent of the general population is born with Dextrocardia.
Shahzad cleared his ISSB in 1984 and his medical was done at CMH Gujranwala. Unfortunately, he was declared medically unfit on the pretext that his heart was not on the left side. Shahzad appealed against this decision and appeared before a Medical Board at CMH Rawalpindi. Brig (Later Lt Gen) Mahmood-ul-Hassan was heading the Board. Shahazd told him, “Sir, I am physically fit and can do any type of exercise. It is unjust that I have been declared unfit by CMH Gujranwala”.
Brig Mahmood-ul-Hassan replied, “Son, don’t worry, we will examine you thoroughly”.
Extensive tests of Shahzad were conducted which included X-rays, CT Scan, Ultra Sound, etc. It was found that not only the heart but all other internal organs of his body were placed wrongly. In spite of all this, he was physically fit and could do all types of exercises (sit-ups, push-ups and some more exercises) without any hint of fatigue.
After the completion of all the exhaustive tests and exercises, Brig Mahmood-ul-Hassan called him and said,”Shahzad, Congratulations, I am declaring you medically fit. Your entire internal system is unusually located on the wrong side. Had it only been your heart, I would not have declared you fit”.
Shahzad Saroia joined OTS Mangla and passed out with 16th OTS Course in Nov 1985. He was first in Assault Course in his Company (Eftikhar Company). He was 3rd in his course in Cross Country race and always got 1st position in One-mile Test in his Platoon (E-15). There were not 15 platoons in Eftikhar Company, probably the numbers to the platoons were allotted at random.
Standing (Lt to Right): GC Tasawar Gujjar, GC Zubair, Maj Farooq (Shazad’s Pl Comd),
Maj Javed Mujtaba (Pl Comd), Maj Ashiq (Pl Comd) and CSUO Imran Khurram.
Sitting (Lt to Right): GC ??, GC Shahzad Saroia (without cap), GC ??, GC ??, GC ??, GC ??.
He is playing badminton since 1975 and plays it regularly even today. He also won the Boxing Bout in OTS. It looks that it was a very tough fight, please see the bleeding nose of Shahzad and the swollen eye of his opponent.
Shahzad’s parent unit was 29 LAA Regt. He also served from June 1988 to Sep 1990 in an Air Def Missile Bty under the severe weather conditions at Gayari (Siachen area).
Capt Naveed came down to Gayari from ‘Naveed Top’ after ‘Chumik
Operation’ suffering from frostbite:
Left to Right: Two sepoys of 9 AK, Capt ?? from Cav Regt (att with 9 AK),
sepoy of 9 AK, Capt Naveed, SJ, sepoy 9 AK, Capt Shahzad Saroia.
(Editor: Chumik Glacier in the Siachen region is located on the west of Saltoro ridge, it is a 4-mile-long offshoot of the Bilafond Glacier. The conflict of Chumik Glacier started when the Indian army attacked and captured it. As a result, the Pakistan army launched operations and recaptured it.
‘Chumik Operation’ was carried out by 9 AK Regt on 19 April 1989. Capt Naveed (17th OTS Course) reached at the peak and killed the Indian soldiers alone. Capt Naveed was awarded Sitara-e-Jurat. The peak was later named as ‘Naveed Top’. Naik Yaqoob of SSG embraced Shahadat in this operation. After an agreement, both armies demilitarized their troops from Chumik Glacier in May 1989.)
Shahzad later served with me in 89 Air Def Regt at Mahfoozpura (previously Harbanspura), Lahore, in 1990-91. He was physically fit and passed all PETs (Physical Efficient Tests) with ease. When I knew about his rare phenomenon, I jokingly used to tell him to appear in a popular TV show of that period “You Asked for it”. He always laughed.
A few days back I recalled this rare condition of Maj Shahzad Saroia and wanted to write a brief article. I rang him up and got the details. I asked him, “When did you first come to know about this phenomenon?”
He said, “Before joining the Army, I had applied for GDP Course in PAF. It was discovered at the initial medical test at the PAF Recruiting Centre, Lahore. As I could not qualify ISSB for GDP, the detailed medical test was not carried out. As such this rare phenomenon was not highlighted”.
“Did your parents know it?”, I inquired.
Shahzad said, “No, even they did not notice it at any stage”.
He retired on 30 November 2009, after serving the army for 24 years, and settled in Gujranwala Cantt. He had a job for 5 years in Dawlance company as Vice President, then he left it and now living a complete retired life. He regularly goes to the mosque, seldom misses his morning walk (with his walk partner Lt Col Sajid Bari Cheema, Retd, 23 FF, 3rd SSC) and plays badminton.
I wish best of health and good luck to my unit officer, Maj Shahzad Saroia, the man with his heart on the RIGHT side!!
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)
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