‘Army Officer with his Heart on the Right Side’

By Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema, Retd (2nd SSC)

Rashid Zia Cheema, Lt Col, Air Def/AvnEditor’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 (Retd), Air Def, 16th OTS CourseMaj 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 unique placement of heart.

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”.

Maj Shahzad Saroia, 16th OTS Course, parent unit 29 LAA regtExtensive 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 uniquely. 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 and some of your organs are also uniquely placed. Has 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.

GC Shahzad Saroia with Platoon Commanders at OTS Mangla
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. Please see the following photo of that Boxing Bout. It seems to be a very tough fight, see the bleeding nose of Shahzad and the swollen eye of his opponent.

Boxing Bout in OTS Mangla, 1985, Winner is Shahzad Saroia

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, SJ and Capt Shahzad Saroia at Gayari, Siachen in April 1989
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”.

Major Shahzad Saroia (16th OTS Course) after retirementHe 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!!

Related Page:
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)

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  1. Khalid Masood says:

    I know Maj Shahzad since long time. We served together in 135 Air Def Regt and had very good time. He is indeed an Officer, a gentleman and dear friend.

  2. Lt Col Qazi Najeeb Khan (52nd PMA) says:

    Assalaam-o-Alaikum, Sir.
    Thank you for an enlightening article, on things we normally take for granted. Your skillful writing has impressed me to no end. Do write an article on the advantages of aaroo sometimes.
    Regards and best wishes.

  3. Gen Tahir Qazi, Air Def says:

    I know one person in my childhood, who was my elder brother’s friend, and had the heart on the right side. He would always say that “when you hug me, it a the only occasion when two hearts meet”. How true!

  4. Ghulam Malik says:

    Allah ki shan

  5. Yasub Ali Dogar says:

    Dear RZC, your write ups are very educative and informative. I had once read in newspaper about a person with his heart on right side. Wishing Maj Saroia a very healthy and rewarding future.

  6. Sir, Masha ALLAH a very well written & very informative article indeed. But I think we may not claim it as wrong side rather we may call it as uniquely placed human organs because how can we claim as wrong side since we are not the one who placed them… Just a thought.

    • Dear Imran,
      Thanks for the suggestion. I have suitably modified the write up. Please read the article and info me if I have still missed to correct the mistake at some place. Stay blessed.

  7. Lt Col Muhammad Naseem Akhtar, Retd, 54 Cav (53rd PMA) says:

    Subhan’Allah…… a great sharing. Never heard before that almost all organs of a physically fit person could be on ‘wrong side’.
    May Allah SWT continue showering HIS Blessings on Maj Saroia and you too for sharing the unique personality.

  8. Lt Col Malik Mansoor Khan (Retd), EME. says:

    One of my class fellows at Cadet College Hasan Abdal, Mr Akbar Khan of Swat had his heart only on the right side. He left for his final abode during 2016, at the age of 66, but not due to any medical problem. It was an accident.

  9. Brig Latif (r) says:

    Very rare case to have the heart on the right side. Most of us have it on the wrong side.
    ❤❤ Subhan Allah .

  10. Maj Aminullah Khan Gandapur, FF says:

    One should be more conmfortable with someone who has the heart on the RIGHT side, because one is always troubled by people with WRONG hearts.

  11. Dear Shahzad Saroia,
    I wish you health and long life. May you always be happy.
    Here ia another person having ‘Dextrocardia’:-

  12. Had never heard of ‘Dextrocardia’; Subhan Allah. God bless you Shahzad.

  13. Brig Zafar Ch., Rertd says:

    Allah be blessed. Jazak Allah, Cheema, for sharing and helping in raising level of Emaan. Could you share Maj Shahzad’s mobile.

  14. Lt Col R Qadeer Ahmad, Retd (24/29 Punjab) says:

    Thanks for sharing this info. Subhan Allah.

  15. Lt Col Khalid Hasan Butt, Rerd (44th PMA), Avn says:

    That reminds me about another senior officer who had his heart on the right. He went with ZAB delegation to China and had a cardiac problem. Pakistani doctors were putting stethoscope on right side. The Chinese doctors started telling them, “It’s on the left”.
    By the way my heart is in the centre. Even if one has it in the centre, it’s the beat that makes it right. Normally left lung has 2 lobes to accommodate the heart while right lung consists of 3 lobes. Maj Shahzad might be having it the other way.

  16. Brig Arshad Abbasi (r) says:

    Always be thankful for health no matter what are arrangements. Good luck!!

  17. Maj Gen Syed Khalid Amir Jaffery (Retd) says:

    Dear Cheema,
    Good job, as usual! I was also a Platoon Commander with 16th OTS and recognized him from his photograph. I did not know about his rare condition, and I think very few knew about it, since it was never discussed at any forum. Very interesting.
    The heart should be in the ‘right place’… Left or right doesn’t matter!

  18. Maj Rauf Shad (R) says:

    This is not wrong side but the right side, Right is always the blessed side. May he stay blessed ever.
    Thanks for sharing.

  19. Capt Aslam Noon (R), USA says:

    A truly amazing tale.

  20. Lt Col Naeem A Khan, Retd, Air Def says:

    Amazing indeed. Never heard of it before.
    Thanks for sharing.

  21. Yunus Ghaznavi says:

    This is not abnormal, the human anatomy can be placed at different locations due to DNA and family genes, it has no effect on life.

  22. Lt Col Sajid Majeed Bhatti, Retd (47th PMA) says:

    Very interesting indeed.

  23. Brig Akram Malik, Retd says:

    Dear Cheema,
    Thanks for sharing.

  24. Lt Col Tahir Anjum, Retd (39th PMA) says:

    Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema,
    An excellent write up. Allah ho Akbar!!

  25. Col Cheema,
    Sir, thanks for sharing about Maj Shahzad Saroia. You write very well.
    Maj Shahzad Saroia (R) is a wonderful army officer, unique friend and loving person. I know him since many decades, we served together in a Unit at Multan and developed intimacy. I still cherish those good memories. I wish him all the best in his retired life.

  26. Maj Munir Ahmed, Retd says:

    Dear Shahzad Saroia,
    All praises be to Allah, the most merciful & most beneficent. I can only say “SUBHANALLAH”. You were blessed with a special miracle. Wish you a very healthy life in days to follow.
    My special thanks to Col Rashid for sharing a unique & unbelievable fact.

  27. Maj Jamil, Retd (55th PMA) says:

    So this means if he has the Heart on right side, we all have it on the wrong side. lol.
    Allah is greatest and we see such miracles rarely but surely. Allah o Akbar.
    May Almighty Allah bless Shahzad Saroia.

  28. Lt Col Amir Afzal Khan, Retd (40th PMA) says:

    Dear Col Cheema,
    Thank you for this rare medical information. My compliments to Major Shahzad Saroia. I am pleased to know that Shahzad is also from 89 LAA Regt, the unit which I raised in 1971.

  29. Shaukat Chandna (56 PMA) Doha, Qatar says:

    Dear Major Shahzad Saroia,
    May the good Lord bless you and your intrepid spirit with happiness and contentment. You are an example of how dominating the mind is over the body. Lots of respect for you, Sir!
    And may I sincerely and humbly thank Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema for an excellent work that he is doing in bringing the ‘fauji’ spirit to life. God bless you, Sir.

  30. Lt Azam Gill (2nd SSC) France says:

    An inspiring and very well-written story written with a seasoned hand.

  31. Col Shah Alam, Retd (34th PMA) Canada says:

    It’s not just his heart but I think everything in his life, as a being and as a career, has landed on the right side. Shahzad is a fighter and a man of indomitable spirit. My best wishes for you in your retired life.

    Rashid Cheema! Indeed thanks to you for not letting this captivating story go unnoticed.

  32. Gajanand Thakur says:

    Very attractive headline! A nice post indeed.

  33. Mohammad Ishaq says:

    I love these posts.

  34. Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema, Retd (2nd SSC) says:

    Dear Shahzad Saroia,
    I wish you health and long life. May you always be happy.

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