By Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (r), 2nd SSC
The extremely handsome Lt Col Chiragh Shah, 1 FF, ex 2nd PMA Long Course, was my neighbour in Askari 7, Adyala Road, Rawalpindi. He expired in 2002. He once narrated an interesting anecdote about an American Senator who wanted to visit Northern Areas (Now Gilgit-Baltistan Province).
In 1956, young Capt Chiragh Shah was posted in GHQ. Lt Col Riaz Hussain (uncle of former Information Minister Syed Mushahid Hussain) was his boss. In those days all foreigners desirous of visiting Northern Areas (NAs) were required to get permission from GHQ. An American Senator, who was staying in Flashman’s Hotel, wanted to visit NAs along with his movie camera. He requested for the Permit. Capt Chiragh Shah wrote on the file, “The applicant is a well-linked US Senator. He may be issued with a Permit to visit NAs.”
The Col put down his remarks, “He should not take us for granted. He should have sought the permission before undertaking the journey to Pakistan. Please refuse him politely.”
The young Capt persuaded his boss to grant the permission being a routine matter but he did not budge an inch. Capt Chiragh Shah rang up the Senator and informed him accordingly. There was a silence for a few seconds at the other end and then the Senator spoke in a coarse voice, “Young man, just remember one thing, you will come to my hotel and deliver the Permit personally within one week” and hung up abruptly.
The Senator was a close friend of US President, Eisenhower. He telephoned Eisenhower and informed him about his ordeal. A telegram was immediately sent to President Ayub Khan from the White House requesting for giving the permission to the Senator to visit NAs.
The next day the telegram was put up to C-in-C, Gen Ayub Khan. He summoned Col Riaz, who sensing the gravity of the situation, rushed to the Capt’s office and tore up the original Office Note and asked him to draft another one saying, “Due to the acute shortage of staff, it is not possible to arrange surveillance and security clearance of the applicant. He may not be issued a Permit”.
Capt Chiragh Shah wrote the new Office Note. Then his boss put his remark in a single sentence, “Please refuse him politely.”
Then the Col took the file to Gen Ayub Khan’s office. Capt Chiragh Shah had no idea what all had been discussed between his boss and the C-in-C, but when Col Riaz returned after ten minutes the beads of sweat were dripping down his forehead. He said wearily, “Chiragh Shah, issue the Permit and make sure that you deliver it personally to the Senator in his hotel in the evening.”
He went out of the Capt’s office but returned immediately and uttered with a grin, “Well, I have to give you a bit of my mind, which I have done.”
The young officer grinned back and it was crystal clear to him that what all could have transpired between his boss and Gen Ayub Khan. The blame was put on an “inexperienced” and “untactful” Capt. After admonishing Col Riaz, the C-in-C must have said, “Give a piece of my mind to the bloody Capt as well”.
That evening Capt Chiragh Shah went to the Flashman’s Hotel and delivered the Permit to the American. The Senator ordered a cup of tea for the Capt and laughed over the matter saying, “Young man, the dead line of one week is not over yet. Do you remember what did I challenge?”
Capt Chiragh Shah grimaced, “Yes, I do.” What else the poor Capt would have said.
The above narrated event took place in mid 50s when the world was bi-polar. In the present uni-polar world, are the American Senators still haughty and stubborn?
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)
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