‘Love Letter’ from the Brigade Commander

By Lt Col Zafar Iqbal Malik, Rtd, Ord (40th PMA Long Course)

Lt Col Zafar Iqbal Malik (40 Long Course)

Lt Col Zafar Iqbal Malik

Back in 1978, I was posted at Bunji, Gilgit, as OC of an IAP (Independent Ammunition Platoon). My Brigade Comd, one of the finest officers of the times, was Brig Zafar Hayat. He had ordered, “Whenever I go to any Brigade unit I should be served only a cup of tea and if it is lunch time then only Daal and roti, strictly nothing else”.

One day I received instructions from the Brigade HQ, that the Brig with his family, on their way from Gillgit to Astore, would break journey for lunch at Bunji and I shall serve Daal and boiled rice to the Brig and his family and nothing else.

When they arrived, after the normal chit-chat I asked him for lunch and took him and his wife to a small dinning hall. The table was laid, on one side of the table was the steaming rice and Daal and on the other, steaming pullao, chicken, trout fish, etc, etc. The smiling Zafar Hayat’s face started turning red, before he could say anything, I quickly gestured to Bhabi towards the chicken side and said, “Bhabi, this is your lunch. And as you are the guest of honour I would join you”.

Pulao, fish, chicken roast, qorma, etc

To the Brig I gestured him towards the Daal side. He stood on that side and mincing his words he said quietly to me,”Major Malik, to hell with you and the instructions, I cannot leave my wife alone, I’m joining her.”

Daal Roti

After a few days I received an official ‘Love Letter’ from the Brigade Comd . I leave it to the imagination of the readers about the contents of the ‘Love’ in the letter.

These were the commanders of a different breed and a different stock, a rare commodity now a days. Even when they punished you, it was with style and dignified manner.

Related Posts:
Army Jokes (in Urdu/Punjabi)

Army Jokes  (in English)

Humour in Uniform

Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)

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  1. Mahnoor Hameedi says:

    The article and the related comments were a great read. No doubt aAmy is lacking polished officers but with due respect to some uncles out there… Its not digestible to accept that people have so much hatred towards Ordnance Corps and its officers…being a daughter of an Ordnance officer and being the granddaughter of an ex-DG Ordnance, I literally felt as if these words were used for my dad/ grandfather. Inter arm grudges are always there but please avoid being rude.

  2. Lt Col (Retd) Tahir Anjum, Punjab (39th PMA Course) says:

    I was very lucky to have known him but unlucky not to have served under him except that he was one of the “other’ platoon s commander while I was in PMA. Zafar, these were another breed who touched whomsoever they met and will always live in their hearts

  3. Lt Col (R) Zafar Mustafa, Arty (6 OTS Course) says:

    Reference to a negative remark about Ord Corps officers, during my 22 years service, I found Ord and ASC officers extremely helpful in sorting out problems of dependent units.

  4. Brig Mazhar Iqbal (R) says:

    I know the gentleman personally. What a wonderful person. His greatness cannot be explained in words. He was a Brig of yesteryear. Such noble souls are difficult to find now.

  5. Lt Col (R) Qadeer Ahmad Ch (2nd SSC) says:

    Thanks Allah hang over of “Love Letter” still persists amongst retired Army officers. Well done, sir. Keep it up.

  6. Capt (R) Rana Muhammad Sadiq (2nd SSC) says:

    It was really a pleasure to read. Can we get the contents of the ‘Love Letter’ as well?

    • Lt Col (R) Zafar Iqbal Malik says:

      The ‘Love Letter’ contents have gone with the wind of late 1970s. But the contents are engraved in my heart forever till my death, for I got them from a greatest person I’ve ever come across, my mentor and my god father, Brig Zafar Hayat. Those words are my pride and my treasure, and shall be a part of me forever. For he sent them to me as he had to, for duty calls. What he did was expected from an upright commander, which he always was. I’m proud to have received his ‘Love Letter’ admonishing me with his beautiful words, call of duty. I cherish his words forever.

      But I feel sorry for Col Siraj Ullah Qazi, who feels so bad about an Ord officer, the less said about him the better. I pray that he finds wisdom in his thoughts and deeds.

      I’m proud to be an Ord officer, was yesterday, am today and will be forever and ever!!

      • Maj (R) Aminullah Khan Gandapur says:

        It is great to have heard something abut Zafar Hayat. I still relish the memories of Rann of Kachh (Mar-Jul 1965) and the 1965 War in Rajhistan, when we were together. Great man and a great sportsman.

        • Lt Col (R) Arif Mahmud, USA says:

          What a joy to see the name and writing of my revered platoon commander, Maj Amin Ullah Khan Gandapur…..takes me back 44 years….I am your cadet from Ghori-1 Platoon.
          Arif Mahmud

  7. Lt Col Masood Alam (retd), Air Def says:

    Dear Sir, thanks for sharing your ‘Love Letter’ anecdote. I must appreciate your vision and Hazir Jawabi (wittiness) by having two different menus. In those days any officer getting a ‘Love Letter’ was used to be considered an officer having initiative and drive. As far as change in Army is concerned, you ask any one, he will say his days in college and school were best but afterward it had gone to dogs. Actually institutions do not go to dogs but the traditions and customs change for betterment. But the old school can not digest it. They are happy in their own frame of mind.
    Presently also the Commanders and officers are excellent and caring. They look after the jawans and junior officers and are ready to die for their unit. The atmosphere in the Mess and BOQs is more congenial and comfortable. I am always in touch with my unit and with the youngsters that is why I am giving these comments. In old days also Army had all sorts of officers. I have seen Army since my childhood as my father was also in the Army. Pakistan Army will remain the same. Pak Army Zindabad. Regards.

    • Lt Col (R) Zafar Malik says:

      Dear Col Masood, we have no ambiguity of thoughts. I uphold what you say. What you are doing is great. I appreciate your actions and words. Marvellous!

  8. Maj (R) Khalid Saeed Shah, Arty (2nd SSC) says:

    Dear Sir, the anecdote is simply fantastic. I must appreciate your delicate sense of humor. I also appreciate the Bde Commander who acted decently being accompanied by his better half. ‘Love Letters’ are part of Army life, we had plenty of them in our time as well.
    Sir, keep it up and share more. Best Regards.

  9. Maj Gen (R) Parvez Akmal, Engrs (42 Long Course) says:

    After some 35 years in the Army and another ten in retirement, all such military narrations look like one’s very own; beautiful nostalgic readings indeed!!

    I admire Brig Aslam Khan’s candid comment particularly. We all know how the great Roman Empire collapsed. Most of the Roman politicians, clergy, generals, businessmen, media men and rest of the society were nibbling at the state’s assets like termite. All of them thought individually that their ‘nibbling a little’ would hardly matter; it did, for the Empire collapsed like a tree trunk.

    Somehow we keep boasting that the military is (still) the best institution of the state; yes indeed but on relative basis. Let’s not forget that any society degenerates uni-formally across the board. The civil-military merger in Cantonments alone is not to blame, for elsewhere, especially in the West, barring exceptions, the military has generally preserved its old values even in the middle of mega cities. One can only lament the military BMW and farm house culture here!

    Warm regards.

  10. Brig (R) Riaz Toor (2nd SSC) says:

    Brig Zafar Hayat plays golf at GG&CC, Lahore. He is the most respected and popular member of Golf Club.

  11. Col (R) Ayaz Malik, Avn says:

    Very interesting anecdote. Army life can always be made more enjoyable by such incidents.

  12. MashaAllah! Pakistan Army is full of sincere, versatile, dynamic and talented officers and jawans.

    Comments should be viewed with “Housla”, after all no opinion is fixed. It helps us grow and mature even at this age.

    This is the best Army in the World…dust of environment may cover as per prevailing environment, but it can be blown away whenever we want to…

  13. Lt Col (R) Shahbaz Thuthaal, Punjab/Avn says:

    Please post the contents of the ‘Love Letter’.

  14. Major Munir Ahmed (R), 2nd SSC says:

    Dear Sir,
    Thank you for sharing an amusing experience. Knowing Brig Zafar Hayat, I can very confidently say that he was an institution by himself. Army must be having such breed in plenty even now but we are not in touch with them. Hats off to such great officers. PAK ARMY – ZINDABAD.

  15. A good read of fine military humour. That was the right thing to do under the circumstances. Officers are supposed to take calculated risks; not many in this situation.

  16. Maj (R) Amjid Quamber (2nd SSC) says:

    Dear friends,
    One’s Pl Comd is one’s friend. Bde Comd or not. The officer did the right thing. I am from AC. But one of the few who served in Ord for a year while wearing a black berret. They, the Ord Corps officers are no less than any other Arm or service.

  17. Brig (Retd) Aslam Khan (33 Long Course) says:

    At the outset, I belong to the Army era starting in 1963. So ignore if my short discourse sounds strange and out of sync.

    Deterioration or improvement of individuals’ character is related to that of the national population as a whole. Moreover, the historically matured British had “isolated” Military officers and men from the public by restricting them to a world of their own in the exclusive Military Cantonments for Khakis, Whites and Blues, alike. There was valuable wisdom in this method. These Cantts presented the uniformed personnel abundant facilities for indulging in sports activities, military cinemas for watching war/adventure movies, Officers Clubs for both outdoor and indoor healthy engagements. Even the table game of good old Bridge was a great vehicle for tactics and sharpening the mind and memory. So, the rank and file yearned for nothing more. And, there was consistent character building directly as well as indirectly. They thrived proudly in a world of heroism and gallantry as “Men of a Different Kind & Breed”. They talked till late nights about the brave and the bold like Aziz Bhattis, Shabbir Sharifs, T M Shahs, M M Alams, Rashid Minhases, A U Khans, etc. They were a happy, contented lot who worked with dedication, sweated a lot, were proud of their “exceptional career” which was based on integrity and for the extra kick they climbed a mountain or went on shikar with Army encouraging them by providing rebated cartridges from POF Wah. At the end of the day, sweetly tired, they slept like a log. The impact of this narrative can only be gauged by those who were fortunate enough to have gone through that experience. It still consumes me with a nostalgic special aura that cannot be bought in gold, ever.

    Army expanded consistently; Army Cantonments did not in consonance. Due to shortage of accommodation for the expanding army-men, soldiers “outliving” and officers requisitioning in the cities became widespread. Cantonments merged with public habitation. Unwittingly, this brought the officers and men silently and gradually in materialistic competition with the affluent civilians with whom they started to intermingle. Of course it is naive to assert that human beings would not get enticed by the environments. Then, unfortunately contingents to Saudi Arabia and Housing Schemes lured them towards materialism. Resultantly, they got distanced somewhat from the good old shroud of adventurism that encompassed them wholly; wherein money mattered naught. The much loved Robin Hood aura began to pale.

    As if to win hands down, the national leadership set unbeatable records of monetary corruption (of Swiss Bank vintage), excelled in lies, fake degrees, etc ad infitum. The dirty stenching seepage had to penetrate all segments of society including the armed forces. How can it be otherwise, especially when the Faujis are isolated no more? However, I have the opportunity to quietly yet penetratingly observe to a degree the present Army generation through the conduct and mind bent of my son (now a young Lt Col) and his friends. Let me say, they are still not as bad as they could have been under the given circumstances. Strictly on the professional plane, they are definitely superior. As for the soldierly conduct, there is degradation by the way the older stock, including myself adjudge. Their aspirations are possession of latest cars, brand name outfits, restaurants rather than cycles/bikes, simplest of clothes (which was considered a manly trait) and enjoying the evenings in Officers Messes or Army Clubs with any food as long as it was in plenty ………..” Koi Haiyyyy, Fauji Bhookha Hai, Jaldi Double Omelet Maro aur Saath Jo Kuch Hai”.

    I am from Armoured Corps. But, having served in the Army for 32 years and another 12 years in Army Welfare Trust where too one mingled with Army officers, I can vouch that some of the best officers that I came across were from the Services Corps, including Ordinance. That,s no kidding as men of my era don’t kid.

    Going down the eventful, precious and especial memory lane, one could go on forever. Let me “Halt” and see “Who Goes There?” Would love to hear from the Retired or Serving as this is a bondage of exceptional nature.

    Pak Army Zindabad.

    • Col Obaid Zia ( Retd ) , EME says:

      Dear Sir,
      A very well written description of old lot compared with the present one and the prevailing atmosphere in the Cantonments. It simply just can not be better than yours. Though, joined the Army in post ’65 era, but was born and brought up in an Army family, so can feel the difference .

  18. Playing and responding on high moral ground would never let you down as your conscious is clear. I think that today’s breed of officers of Pakistan Army are doing extremely well under the prevailing conditions.

  19. Azam Gill, France says:

    Thanks for a pleasant read.
    Something tells me there must be officers of such calibre even now, only I don’t know them. Maybe a visiting officer should, as a rule, just be handed a Mess bill with different rates for different dishes!

  20. Col Sohail Qureshi, EME/Avn, USA says:

    Was he trying to reach out to the Brigade Commander in a round about manner, inspite of the Bde Comd’s orders? I would write much more if I can see the “Love Letter”. He had it coming. You know very well that Dall, Roti, Pakora and Chai are a well respected institutions in the Army.

    As my Platoon Commander in PMA Maj STH Naqvi (later Lt Gen) used to say, “There is no dearth of clueless officers in the Army, imagine you people will be officers very soon”. He was so right. Full marks to the Bde Comd.

    It is just my personal opinion. No offense meant to anyone.

  21. Lt Col (R) Saeed Rana (43 Long Course), USA says:

    Brig. Zafar Hayat was an upright and a true professional. Spoke his heart out always smiling. I remember during Army Golf Championship in 1984 or 1985 at Rawalpindi, we played one round together. I really enjoyed and ever since been his admirer.

  22. Lt Col (R) Siraj Ullah Qazi says:

    Only an Ordinance Officer could do a thing like this. I think it amounted to embarrassing the Brig Comd by making him violate his orders. This shows the difference between his breed of officers and that of the Bde Comd. So the decline had set in.

    • Lt Col (R) Zafar Malik (40 Long Course) says:

      Some people just cannot tolerate humour and are sadist by nature. Brig Zafar Hayat was like a father to me as he was also my platoon commander in PMA. And by the way the Ordnance officers are no less than any other arm officer. We do not forget the decency of the officer Corps, and are never rude by hitting below the belt.

      • A very interesting and factual anecdote. We must enjoy “Humor in Uniform” and forget initiating a destructive debate. During the service each and every one amongst us must be having varied experiences pertaining to fellow officers and one’s own conduct itself. Let’s not be judgmental on others (especially negative one), the relationship, the situation and circumstances in which a family had traveled to “Bunji” may have encouraged Col Zafar Iqbal Malik to take liberty with his Commander.

        I enjoyed the writing.

  23. Maj (R) Farooq Rana (2nd SSC) says:

    I agree fully with Col Zafar Malik.There’s always a different breed and class present every where around us…..its God’s blessing to have such commanders in life…its never the place its always the people around you. Most forsaken places can be a Heaven with such people around you. I am sure such great people are still there but we the retired persons are not there. 🙂

  24. Lt Col Ansar Khas (2nd SSC), UK says:

    Sir, those were the days when the officers were only “True Officers” and were groomed and moulded in to the finest material found anywhere in the world. Cheers.

  25. Sir, it’s a wonderful anecdote. Please share more. Regards.

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