Altaf Shaikh, 47/Liaquat

Capt. Altaf Shaikh - 2006

By Kazi Zulkader Siddiqui, 671/Latif

Altaf Ahmad Shaikh, kit no. 47/Liaquat House joined Cadet College Petaro in 1958 at Mirpurkhas and left the college in 1963 after completing his Intermediate.

He was born on 14 November 1944 at New Hala, Sindh (now known as Matiari District), and was married to Mrs. Mastoora Ghaloo on 22 May 1971. They have 2 daughters - Mariam (Jeejal) and Marvi.

After leaving Petaro, Altaf Shaikh joined the Merchant Navy. He acquired a degree in Marine Engineering from the Pakistan Marine Academy, Chittagong. In later years (1992-93), he did his MSc in Maritime Safety Administration from World Maritime University, Malmo, Sweden.

His first job was with PNSC (Pakistan National Shipping Corporation) in 1968 as a Junior Engineer (5th Engineer). Over the years he rose up to become the Chief Engineer - a great honour. During those years, he sailed on different types of Merchant Navy ships around the world, calling at many of the famous ports of the world. After nearly 13 years of service, he opted for an onshore job in 1980 in order to give more attention to his children's education.  

He loved to teach. Therefore at this juncture in life, he thus chose to become an educator and became a lecturer at the PNSC Marine College. Within a year, he became the Principal of the same college for 2 years. In 1983, he was selected to serve at the Maritime Academy (Akademi Laut), Malacca, Malaysia. He served as the Head of Marine Engineering Department there for eight years. In his later years, he settled down in Karachi, and became a professor of Maritime Sciences and Head of Marine Engineering Dept at the Pakistan Marine Academy (on deputation from his parent company PNSC) for 12 years until his retirement in 2004. He retired that year from PNSC as a General Manager.

Altaf Shaikh is truly a role model for Petarians. I have yet to meet such an amazing Petarian. He is the epitome of goodness, love, caring, intellectualism, and Petarian-ness. If you look at his face, you see a man who has the "noor" on it. He is a God-fearing man with such an amiable face. And since he grew his beard recently, he looks so grand.

And Mastoora Bhabi is as good a person as Altaf Bhai is. She is so simple, straightforward and a great mother who brought up two very good children.

I first met Altaf Shaikh in 1997.  I was sitting in my office in the FTC Building on Sharea Faisal at Karachi, and in walked Altaf Bhai with Ayaz Malik bhai, 470/Latif. I had never met either of them before in my life. I just cannot express in words the emotions of that meeting.  It was virtually love at first sight. I could relate to him so well even though he had left Petaro two years before I joined the college. I felt as if we had known each other always.

He pulled out a Petarian Association membership form which I gladly filled out and gave him a check for the life membership of the association.

Over these years, we have met each other at several occasions in Karachi and Islamabad. And every meeting was better than the previous one. In 1999, when I decided to quit my job and start up my own business in Islamabad, Altaf Bhai was there again.  He had a flat in the F-8 Markaz which was lying unutilized and he told me to set up my office there and use it as long as I wanted.  Although I did send him the rent money, he never asked me for it. Money never crossed his mind for a single minute.  I can never forget that act of love, and can never repay him back for that good deed. 

Altaf Bhai is a famous man.  He is a man of letters and a great traveler. He is a famous travelogue writer of our country and is the author of over 80 books - mostly about his sea travels. Most of his books are in the Sindhi language but some are in Urdu and English as well.

During his sailings to different ports and remote islands of the world he would observe the culture, traditions, and different aspects of the various countries and cities of the world. His series of books are an encyclopedia for travelers. He has done a great service to the people of Sindh by writing about his travels in the Sindhi language and exposing them to cultures of the world.

Thus, Altaf Bhai is the modern Ibn Batuta. His books have been a great help in educating our younger generation. Some of his books are used by Pakistani universities (Sindh University, Jamshoro, Karachi University and Shah Latif University, Khairpur Mirs, Sindh) as a part of their B.A and M.A curriculum.

As a visiting professor Altaf Shaikh lectures in different marine engineering institutions of Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan and other countries. He has lectured on ‘Travelogue Writing’ in Urdu and Sindhi in different universities of Sindh, Mumbai University India and Osaka University Japan. It is interesting to note that Osaka University Japan has a department of languages where they also teach Urdu and Sindhi. The Heads of Department at Osaka are Japanese nationals who have completed their Ph.D in Urdu and Sindhi languages from Punjab University, Lahore, and Sindh University, Jamshoro.

Altaf Bhai also honoured me as well in one of his books by dedicating it to me, even though I never deserved it. It shows his humbleness where he has cared for me so much.

Among numerous awards that he was honoured with over the decades, Altaf Shaikh is recipient of Pakistan Presidential Award T.I (Tamgha-e-Imtiaz) and PJK (Pingat Jasa Kebaktian) a Malaysian Government Award. He received the Best Book of the Year award from Pakistan Writers Guild Lahore in 1969 and from the Pakistan Academy of Letters, Islamabad in 2010. I am  proud to mention that he is the first Petarian to receive ‘The Life Time Achievement Award’ from our Petarian Association also. This is truly a great honour for him and for all the Petarians.

Other than his books on his travels, Altaf Shaikh has been an active member of the Petarian Association all along, and is known amongst the Petarians for the series of Directories of Life Members of Petarian Association that he published for many years (until 1999). The mantle fell on my shoulders when I took over this work from him from the year 2000 onwards and have published the directories of all Petarians ever since. Altaf Shaikh's contribution in this regard is extremely important.

One of his sons-in-law is a Petarian - namely Dr. Mushtaq Ahmed Memon, kit no. 7809/Ayub (married to Mariam).

May Allah grant Altaf Bhai and Mastoora Bhabi a long life with health and happiness.

Cadet Altaf Shaikh - 1959

The Travelogue

Scroll to the bottom for more photos

Following is an article by Altaf Shaikh published in the Daily Ummat Karachi on 12, 13 and 14 April 2009 in three parts about old memories of Petaro and Malaysia.

With cadets of PMA Karachi 43rd batch

Chief Engineer

In Malacca (Melaka) where he served for 10 years

Lecture in Sindh University, 5 Nov 2008

Receiving the Literary Award

With Mamia San, Head of Sindhi Dept, Osaka University

Lecture at University of Mumbai

"Ru-numai" (unveiling) of Altaf Shaikh's book on Iran by grandson of Imam Khomeini