By Maj Gen (R) Waqar Ahmad Kingravi, 50 PMA
Editor’s Note: Maj Gen (R) Waqar Ahmad Kingravi was commissioned in 26 Punjab Regt in Oct 1974 and joined Army Aviation in the early stage of his service. After the retirement, he has settled in DHA Islamabad.
Today, 19 Jun 2014, is the first death anniversary of my very dear friend, Lt Col Muhammad Shakeel Khalid. It is still hard for me to reconcile with the fact that Shakeel is no more with us. He died a couple of days after an open heart surgery at Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC), Rawalpindi. The surgery was successful but apparently something went wrong during the post operation phase. I had seen him recovering in the ITC the previous evening and was preparing to visit him on the afternoon of 19 Jun, once I received the dreadful call from his son-in-law, Rauf, that Shakeel has left us for his eternal abode, leaving behind his wife, three daughters, other family members and innumerable friends.
Shakeel and I were not friends when we were cadets in Pakistan Military Academy (PMA). Our friendship developed during Officers Weapons & Junior Leadership Course (OWJOL-4) at the School of Infantry & Tactics (SI&T), Quetta during 1975. We used to call this Institution ‘The School of Injuries & Torture’ due to its tough regimen and bare essential facilities. However, we later came to respect the School because of its high standards and excellent instructors. Due to the large intake, we were stuffed four to a room designed for two. Besides me and Shakeel, Nawaz Asif Janjua and Fiaz Ahmed Satti were the other occupants. Shakeel was the most diligent and well-organized amongst us. Janjua was totally carefree, careless and boisterous. Satti was the most meticulous and hard-working. We used to conveniently copy Satti’s laboriously prepared notes a few days before the exams. Shakeel used to be the first one up in the morning and thereafter was usually imploring us to get ready so that we do not get late. He used to rush off at the last-minute on his black Honda 175, with Janjua running after him for a lift. Those were the days when we did not really have a care in the world. We were physically fit and in the end, did quite well in the Course.
After Part-1 of the Course, officers of other arms were allowed to go back to their units while the infantry officers stayed back for Part-2, which was in fact a mini commando course, run by Commando instructors to include Maj Afzal Janjua SJ, Maj Akram and a few others. This was a very tough but interesting course where we learned survival skills in addition to various field operations. Shakeel and I were buddies during this course and therefore developed very strong bonds of friendship under adversity. After the termination of this course, both of us stayed back in Quetta as our units (mine was 26 Punjab and his 7 Punjab) were located there. This resulted in further strengthening of our bonds of friendship. Thereafter, we always remained in touch during service in various stations and kept visiting each other from time to time.
Shakeel was a wonderful person. He was from a military family and a thorough soldier. He was tall, handsome and well-built. He was an excellent athlete and an Army level Hockey player. He was kind, honest, upright and disciplined and hard-working. He was extremely meticulous and would keep worrying about filing his tax returns on time. He was also very helpful, caring and generous. He would go all out to help anyone who asked for it, even if he did not personally know the person. He was a caring husband and a loving father. He lived a clean and well-organized life. He was not spend thrift, but maintained a dignified life style. He was deeply religious, but not an extremist. Overall, he was a kind-hearted person, a sincere friend and a joyful mate.
I am reminded of my Platoon Commander in PMA, Major Zia, whom we lovingly called ‘Mocha’ because of his big mustache. While teaching us various operations of war, we also learned about ‘Withdrawal” from him. Sometimes it is necessary to withdraw in an orderly fashion to a rear line of defence so that you regain balance or as per the higher direction of war. During this operation, after necessary preparations, small packets of troops start moving back while others give them cover. This is called the ‘Thinning out Phase’. Since Maj Zia was a Pathan, he used to say in his Pushto accent, “Then the Theening out will begin”. Well gentlemen, the ‘Theening Out’ has begun and you never know who will be next. Everyone has to go. Some have gone much earlier than expected. Others will follow. I just pray that sequence of withdrawal remains correct and that Allah Blesses us all with His Kindness and overlooks our blunders.
I miss you very much, Shakeel and pray that Allah Grants you the choicest place in Heavens.
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