By Lt Col (R) Rashid Zia Cheema (2nd SSC)
When the first time I saw that handsome lanky lad in a corridor in Government College Lahore, he was very conspicuous in the crowd of Ravians. He was not my class fellow, may be a year junior. We neither knew each other nor I knew his name, though I happened to see him very frequently in the main college building, Lodgia, Oval Ground, Canteen, Bukhari Auditorium, etc.
Then I saw him again in November 1971 in PMA, he in Haider Coy and I in Abdali Coy in 3rd Pak Bn at Tobe Camp. I then got to know his name, Azhar Ali. He was in H-4 Platoon and his platoon mates affectionately called him Azhar “Mona”. He got this nickname because his father Col Inayat Ullah was Comdt of Mona Remount Depot, Sargodha.
Azhar in PMA, 1971-72
Azhar in PMA 1972
We didn’t have much interaction in PMA too. He was quite prominent looking. He happily joined the PMA “Saddle Club” (Riding Club) and played a few Polo matches too. He was the guide (or was called Stick Orderly?) with Mussarat Ullah Khan (later Brig) during our Passing Out Parade. You can see Azhar in the following photo which is the final Rehearsal of our Passing Out Parade in July 1972. He is a guide immediately in front of Qaisar Rashid, our BSUO.
Azhar was posted to 15 Lancers. The Polo was in his blood. He played first class polo since 1969. He was later posted to PBG (President’s Body Guard) in 1975. He captained various Polo Teams during his short Army career. He was declared the Best Polo Player of Pakistan for the year 1978. He left Army and joined PIA in 1983. He raised PIA’s Polo team and was its first Captain. In the world of Polo his nickname was “Capi” but our Course mates still called him Azhar “Mona”.
Just have a glance towards right at Azhar’s picture in ceremonial uniform of PBG (President’s Body Guard). Doesn’t he look like a Prince?
He won many laurels in Polo. He added many feathers not only to 2nd SSC’s cap but also to Army and Pakistan. Maj Farooq Rana has sent me an article titled “Capt Azhar Remained a Big Name in Pakistan Polo”, published in the Sports page of The News of 1 Aug 2013. It amply covers Azhar’s achievements in the field of Polo. I have added that article at the end of this post.
If my memory serves me right, Azhar had a short stint in WAPDA as well. But I am not sure about the exact period. His platoon mates and his friends from Armored Corps may be able to throw some light.
In November 2009, I started collecting data for the Course website. I rang Azhar at Lahore and got the required details from him and requested him to send some good pictures. He was very enthusiastic about the Course website. He was very polite and sent the photos via email. His email of 16 November 2009 is shown here.
How right was Azhar ‘Mona’ terming the task of gathering data about our Course mates (we were 522 at the Passing Out Parade) a ‘colossal one’. Today (3 Aug 2013) almost 4 years have passed and I am still collecting the photographs and data of Course mates.
Azhar’s last appointment, at the time of his death, with PIA was as Deputy General Manager (Security) at Lahore.
Capt Azhar expired on 25 January 2013 and was buried in Lahore إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ. May Allah grant him a prominent place in Junnah and provide strength to the family to bear this irreparable loss, آمین. Please pray for his maghfirat.
Due to some security reason, there was no mobile phone service available at Lahore on that day therefore majority of the Course mates living in Lahore could not be informed about his death. Only three could attend the Janaza.
A few months before his death, Azhar didn’t encourage Course mates to meet him at his residence. In the heart of his heart he knew that the time has come to bid farewell to this temporary abode. Probably he wanted his friends to remember him as an energetic and thriving person as he always was. He didn’t want us to see his feeble self. He was slipping away pretty fast.
Rest in peace my dear Azhar ‘Mona’ , the real “Prince’ of 2nd SSC. Sooner or later we will also join you. I am sure you must be pretty happy up there. Stay blessed “Capi’ of Pakistan Polo team.
Azhar in 1983. Photo courtesy Lahore Polo Club.
Another Photo of Azhar Ali. Photo courtesy Lahore Polo Club.
Azhar with President of Pakistan gen Zia-ul-Haq and Jordanian Crown Prince. Photo courtesy Lahore Polo Club.
Azhar with Jordanian Crown Prince Hasan Bin Talal. Photo courtesy Lahore Polo Club.
Article by Ishaq Khan Khakwani, The Nation. Ishaq Khan Khakwani, Ambassador of Federation of International Polo and Former President Lahore Polo Club, wrote an article about Capt Azhar on 30 January 30, 2013, just five days after Azhar’s death. Please read it here: Capt (retd) Azhar Ali – a Distinguished Polo Player.
Sports Page of The News, 1 Aug 2013. This article has been inspired by the above article of Ishaq Khan Khakwani.
Editor’s Note: Please do write a very brief comment at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”.
Course mates from his platoon and those from Armour are requested to add those aspects of Capt Azhar’s life which have been missed out by me and in the above mentioned articles.