“Repaying the Debt”

By Brig (R) Kamran Shariff (2nd SSC)

Brigadier (Retired) Kamran Shariff, 2nd SSCEditor’s Note: Brig (R) Kamran Shariff  was commissioned in 45 Punjab Regt (Later Sindh) in July 1972. After the retirement, he has settled in Islamabad.

I happened to serve with my course mate, Maj XYZ (name with-held on request), in the School of Infantry & Tactics, Quetta, in the early 80s. Unassuming in his appearance, he caught my attention while conducting a study on “Lipa Operation 1971”. It was one notable tactical success of the 1971 War – daring attack conducted by 9 AK Regt in Lipa Valley, Azad Kashmir (Editor: Please read the details of Operation in the article; “Remembering Lt Col Haq Nawaz Kayani (Shaheed), SJ & Bar”). He spoke verbatim, explaining details on a sand model, and he kept everyone spell-bound and virtually brought the School faculty, including the Commandant, late Gen Imtiaz Warraich, to tears through his inspired narration. Here was a young officer who, besides being talented, was extremely motivated. Such was the tenor with which he served till his retirement as a Brig. Convinced that access to education made the difference to his life, he decided to repay the debt.

After his retirement, Brig XYZ established Al-Azeem Trust with the aim of imparting quality education to deprived children of backward areas so as to enable them to realise their talent, both for livelihood generation and for being socially responsible. Its inspired performance is matched by an equally inspiring story of a young local talented boy (Brig XYZ) who rose from a very modest background. He was assisted in his early education by one Lt Azeem, his relative and an officer from Pakistan Navy, which enabled him to secure commission in the Army.

Brig XYZ, along with his wife, started the first school of Al-Azeem Trust in their village, Behand, Tehsil Kahuta, District Rawalpindi, in April 2002. The Programme aims at grooming talented children up to the time they are able to generate their livelihoods, whether it involves supporting their higher professional studies or exposing them to vocational training. Children of parents who cannot afford the tuition fees are admitted. Yet, an excellent quality of education is maintained, for which teachers are trained. They display exceptional commitment, are well paid and the academic standards are strictly monitored.

A unique education system has evolved in Kahuta region over the last thirteen years to endow the younger generation and the larger society with hope. The Al-Azeem School System is an outcome of labour of love a son of the soil who rose in his professional pursuits and chose to pay back. He has been supported by many over the years. This article attempts to capture its salient outcomes.

Azeem Public School, Panjar.

I am a regular visitor of Al-Azeem Trust. Recently I visited the Trust again along with Brig XYZ. We drove into a girls’ school campus in the outskirts of Kahuta City. Smartly clad girls in distinct uniforms, distinguishing the senior classes, were preparing for the Board examination. The younger classes were engaged in their studies with radiant faces, eager to learn.

Ownership and proactive support of the local communities and those endowed, constitutes the bedrock of the School System. Therefore, most of the School premises have either been provided by the local community members, or are leased out at a very nominal rent.

The Al-Azeem School System is dedicated to quality education and brick and mortar figures out as the lesser priority. Education in the English medium is provided at the door steps and beneficiaries pay for the tuition consistent with their capacities. The marginalised access free education. As a thumb rule, the monthly tuition fee in the primary schools equates with the price of fifteen ‘desi’ eggs, costing Rs. 300 approximately; a local produce that even the poor can barter for the education of their children.

With optimum resources geared towards providing quality education, administrative and peripheral costs are kept to the minimum. Three young ladies in a busy looking office assisted by one retired clerk constitute the administrative capacity of the School System. Individual schools settle their accounts and the management takes on the deficits. These young ladies also provide guidance on the syllabus, monitor adherence to the prescribed curriculum, and organise the examinations. A bureaucracy deals with such issues in other school systems.

Al-Azeem School System is now financially self-sustaining. It provides quality education to over seven thousand students studying in twenty-two schools, from the primary level to the twelfth class.

Quality control figures out as perhaps the most challenging function in a major undertaking. Yet issues like chronic absenteeism, misdemeanours or financial embezzlement rarely figure out. The School System works on a unique ethos that equates commitment to education with core self-interests. In the beneficiary communities, the elders solidly support the programme as they see the future of their children through the Al-Azeem School System. For the senior teachers, delivering quality education derives self-esteem. The younger teachers endeavour to excel the standards that are set.

In a school in village Behand, neatly lined children were seen collecting wrappers and waste. The activity flows from one of the numerous lessons that promote ‘tarbiat’ or civil behaviour, alongside education. Others inculcate the virtues of compassion, sharing, social responsibility and attending to the personal hygiene. What they learn in schools is practised at home, thus bringing about a social change through the process of reverse osmosis. One of the mothers who had come to accompany her children back home indicated that inspired and guided by her children, she is now a literate.

Local educated women and younger girls practically run the entire School System which includes providing tuition and rendering administrative functions. Al-Azeem School System stands out as a model for women empowerment and sterling performance which is second to none. Its results rank among the best in the Rawalpindi Division and many students are accepted into the quality institutions for higher education.

As part of its social responsibility, Al-Azeem School System has over the years concertedly contributed in restoring the local forests. These efforts range from community based awareness raising, provision of watch and ward services and re-plantation of trees during monsoons. There is evidence of the pine and tree cover gradually reviving in the region and near denial of space for the timber mafias. An effective communities’ driven model is created which may be studied for wider replication. Environmental awareness can be gauged by the fact that even the local streams are cleaner from our standards.

Volunteerism more than anything else reflects social mobility in a society and fosters a sentiment of self-reliance. It is evident from the wider communities’ support for the Al-Azeem School System which includes activities like maintaining the road access to the schools, providing watch and ward functions and diverse services. The School System is being aptly supported by so many voluntary contributions.

An unswerving commitment to the future of the younger generation through quality education has welded together a sustainable bond between the beneficiary communities and the Al-Azeem School System. A situation where everyone stands to gain.

Related Page:
Pakistan Army Blog (Retired Officers)

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  1. Major (R) Muhammad Latasob Satti (Punjab) says:

    Brig XYZ is a great visionary, statesman and reformer of the area, the like of whom is rare. He along with his Mrs. and all family members is working day and night for the betterment and the revival of the area. His objective to make the community and country progressive and take them forward on quality education. His supreme interest is to intellectual development of the people through quality education.
    If we recall the history, Brig XYZ is doing the same as Sir Sayed Ahmed Khan – build up a strong Nation.
    It is suggested that all the four Secretary Education of Punjab, KPK, Sindh and Baluchistan must approach Brig XYZ to get guidance for a greater education change in Pakistan.

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

    Our Course mates have proved to be IQBAL KE SHAHEEN possess a great finesse as well. The gentleman made us feel proud by his devotion. May Allah always be with the couple, Aameen.

  3. I had the honour to serve with Brig XYZ at two locations and witnessed his courage and commitment on many occasions. We are lucky to have people like him who have devoted their lives to humanity.

  4. Maj (R) Muhammad Javaid-ul-Hussan, Ord says:

    I know Brig XYZ (my course mate) when we were Staff Captain in PMA. He is a wonderful man. Some time back he came on TV for interview with Mubasher Luqman. Both husband and wife worked hard, and now the Trust has turned into an Academy. May Allah Pak give them strength to improve more, Aameen.

  5. Maj Gen (R) Waqar Ahmad Kingravi, Avn (50 PMA) says:

    A great service to humanity being done by Brig XYZ, who wants to remain in the background. He has shown many of us the way to repay our debt for all the bounties Bestowed upon us by Allah. Very noble of Brig Kamran Shariff to highlight this project. I think it is time to stop talking and take concrete steps to pay back in what ever way that we can!

  6. Lt Col (R) Ejaz Nazim says:

    May Allah S.W.T. make things easier for Brig XYZ and his companions, guide and light up their path and allow us, the lesser souls, to follow him in his noble journey. I shall be grateful if his email address could be provided to me.

  7. An inspiring narration and work. I sometime wonder how great talent is wasted of lifetime experience and wisdom one gains in life by not doing anything after retirement. We need to repay the debt this poor nation has invested in us. Well done, Sir. God bless you.

  8. Col (R) Jehan Zeb says:

    Brig XYZ made us also weep while undergoing Staff Course, he was DS there. Salute to him.

  9. Maj Gen (R) Khalid Jaffery says:

    Our coursemate XYZ is well known in the entire Army as a very motivated, dedicated and sincere individual. I know something about his schools and what tremendous efforts he had to put in to make it a success. It is indeed difficult for ordinary mortals like us to emulate his efforts.
    Kamran Shariff has done a wonderful job of highlighting the achievements of XYZ. My congratulations to him on a nicely written article.
    If XYZ is following this forum, my message to him is “Buzurgo, tusee kithay lukkay o? Mein lori lori thak gaya”.

  10. Col (R) Faiz Afridi, FF says:

    Brig XYZ had displayed the same traits during his service and was highly regarded. May Almighty Allah grant strength, serenity and good health to him to continue with this noble work.

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

    Excellent work being done by Brig XYZ. I salute him for this noble cause.

  12. Lt Col (R) Kamran Gul Abdullah, Engrs says:

    I simply can’t find the words to express my feelings for my noble friend, Brig XYZ. My question to the honorable editor- Mubashir Luqman once arranged an exclusive program on ARY for a retired Brig who even sold his Brig house to start a school in Kahuta. I remember some details as it was over 10 years ago. Is Brig XYZ the same Brig interviewed by Mubashir? It is beyond imagination.

    • I think that interview was that of Brig XYZ but not sure of selling of his Brig house. His family is living in a Brig house in Askari 11, Rawalpindi. Not sure whether living as tenant or owner.

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

    Hats off to great living legends like Brig XYZ. A splendid & magnificent job being done by him & his Mrs. Such Great people make us proud. May Allah bless them with wisdom & strength to carry on their sacred task with same zeal, quest & zest. Thanks to Brig Kamran for sharing such a nice write up.

  14. Brig (R) Tariq Saeed, Arty says:

    Salute to the great Brig who has set a model for our leaders to follow and promote education for deserving in our country. From a humble start in 2002, today people wish to send their children to Azeem Public Schools and every village in Kahuta Tehsil desires to have a campus of this school system.
    May Allah Almighty bless the Brig with excellent health, long life and many more successes, Ameen.

  15. Brig XYZ is really repaying the debt. May Allah help him in this noble task, Aameen.
    I rang him up a few minutes before posting this article and asked him to allow me to publish his photo but he politely denied the permission. Humility thy name is Brig XYZ!!!

  16. Col (R) Qaisar Rashid says:

    After reading it for the second time it struck to me that this article should also be included in the 2nd SSC page under “A Tribute to a Coursemate”. I also recommend that it should also be shared on 2nd SSC Face Book Page. Mr. Editor, please look into it.

  17. When we were passed over for the next rank, instead of cribbing Brig XYZ gracefully resigned from the Army. To my query as to what he will do, he said, ‘I’ll go to a place where there is no TV or newspaper” to which he meant his village. In his village, he went to his school and seeing the plight of education, started correcting the wrong, rather than bickering about it, which we all need to do.
    Salam, my friend.

  18. Col (R) Qaisar Rashid Shaikh, Baluch says:

    I am short of words to express my sentiments for my course mate. He is more honourable as he wants to remain in the background after doing so much for our society. Hats off to you brother. Jazak Allah.
    Brig Kamran, a standing ovation to you for such great writeup.

  19. We are proud of the great man. I am aware and informed of this project since 2002. Here is the man who is declared winner in this and the other world. Let us wish him well and all the success.

  20. Col (R) Shah Alam, Avn (34 PMA) says:

    Words cannot truly describe the efforts of such noble work. We need more – many more of such dedicated people to undertake such bold and noble ventures for catapulting Pakistan’s poor out of poverty and blessing them with better education.

    Giving is one area where Muslims should have excelled: regrettably though we haven’t. Andrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919), the founder of US Steel, gave away to charities and foundations $350 million (in 2015 values $4.76 billion) – almost 90 percent of his fortune – and built over 2,500 libraries. But what needs to be admired most about him is his statement that “The man who dies rich, dies disgraced.” On the flip side, King Abdullah of Saudi Arab died leaving behind a net worth of US $19 billion for his heirs.

    May Allah Bless us with the wisdom, motivation and the energy to follow Brig XYZ’s example. Amen.

    PS. And lest I forget, thanks to Brig Shariff for taking the time to inform us of this noble venture.

  21. Brig (R) Asad Hakeem says:

    This piece of write up is nothing in comparison to the real traits and achievements of this brother officer. He is the best of the best and nobody among us or even people like Edhi and Mother Tressa come near him in dedication and pursuance of his mission. He is a messiah in the real sense of the word. I wish we could collectively exchange information about his virtues and write a biography for him.

  22. Our wonderful course mate is a great motivator. It is people like him who are beacons for others to follow. Charity starts small and Allah guides and helps spread the good work. May Allah bless the Brig and his lady for their compassion.
    Brig Kamran, thank you for sharing the goodness that is being sprinkled in Tehsil Kahuta.

  23. Shaukat Ali Alvi says:

    He is serving the humanity and the Nation as well. May Allah bless him.

  24. Brig (R) Noor ud Din Ahmed (6th Graduate Course) says:

    As you are aware we are serving humanity through Karwan-e-Falah Trust. Recently we have introduced education of deserving students who cannot afford it. We can cooperate with Al-Azeem. Please inbox contact details.

  25. Maqsood Choudary says:

    Salute to the greatness of Brig. XYZ. What a sense of devotion and that also with a zeal!!

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