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 on 22 May 1971. They have 2 daughters - Mariam and Marvi.

His early education was at Hala before he joined Cadet College Petaro.

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, he did his MSc in Maritime Safety Administration from World Maritime University, Malmo, Sweden.

His first job was with PNSC in 1968 and sailed around the world calling at many of the famous ports of the world. He sailed as the Chief Engineer on board ships in the Merchant Navy for a period of 12 years - a great honour.

During his career, he chose to become a teacher. He became a lecturer at the PNSC Marine College at first and then became the Principal of the same college for 3 years. He also served as a teacher at the Martime Academy, Malacca, Malaysia 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 for 12 years until his retirement in 2004.

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, 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, but 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 Shaikh is a famous man.  He is a man of letters and a great traveler. He is famous in Sindh for his over 67 books that he has written about his travels. Most of his books are in the Sindhi language but some are in Urdu and English as well. He wrote his first book at the age of 18 when he was in Chittagong. It was titled "Anamika" (meaning "Unknown" in Bengali language). This was published in 1966.

During his sailings to different ports 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. His first book on travel was "munjho saagar munjho saahil" which was published in 1971. The book was acclaimed and won the Pakistan Writers Guild Award.

Thus, Altaf Shaikh is the modern Ibn Batuta.

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.

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.

Altaf Shaikh was given the Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai Award in 2008 by the Pakistan Academy of Letters, Islamabad for his book "From New Hala to New York". He was also given the coveted "Life Achievement Award" by the Sindhi Adabi Sangat - the highest literary body of the Province of Sindh in May 2009. The award was given by Sassui Palijo, column writer, poet and Sindh Minister for Culture and Tourism. This is truly a great honour for him and for all the Petarians.

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


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.