So it was quite a surprise for Capt. Alam Jan when he ended up at Petaro
in West Pakistan in an almost deserted area next to an
abandoned 2nd World War airfield.
Petaro was hot as hell, and
most of the buildings were still under construction. The
college had moved from Mirpurkhas to this location barely a
year earlier. The place was in flux. While Petaro was a dismal
place in the summer time, he was happy to discover that winter
time is extremely nice. And the area around was flush with
wild birds, and ideal for hunting. There were partridges in
the bush, sand grouse, ducks, and bustards in the hillside.
Over the weekends, he would rarely miss a chance to go out
hunting with some of the cadets, and they would come back and
enjoy a sumptuous barbecue after the shoot.
Capt. Alam Jan was to play
a very important role in setting the standards and values at
Petaro. He was a great favourite of the Principal
Col. Coombes, and between them
they would try to imbibe values that are key to success of an
individual and a nation. He recalls that whenever he would get
a chance at a gathering or at parades, he would talk to the
cadets about how to develop a well rounded personality. He
would encourage them to ponder over the characteristics of a
person who contributes towards the development of the nation
through a value based understanding. He would remind them that
Petaro was not just about getting a Matric or an Intermediate
certificate. One can get those cheaper at other schools. So it
would be a waste of their parents money if they didn't obtain
the best of this institution and be prepared to to out into
the world and face its challenges.
Adjutant Alam Jan played an
important role in promoting martial arts and sports at Petaro.
He established the Riding Club and got good horses along with
an instructor from the Army. He also established the Shooting
Club and trained the boys in the use of rifles and
marksmanship. Boxing was another sport which he encouraged. He
felt great when cadets like
Bashir Vistro, 50/A became fine boxers and were able to
knock out the best of the Military College Jhelum boxers
within the first minute in the ring. Likewise, their
performance in shooting at Hasan Abdal was excellent.
He was also fond of talking
about international affairs, and would discuss these with the
cadets. At times, he would end up teaching a class when any of
the teachers was not available. During these discussions,
sports, shikar, and activities, he got very close to the boys,
and would be appreciative of their thoughts and problems. This
led Col. Coombes to give his
blessings to Capt. Alam Jan for being flexible where required
and yet maintaining discipline. There was an incident of a
disciplinary problem once when he was away from the college,
and he had to come and diffuse the matter. He always felt that
the relationship with the cadets should be like the
relationship between a father and a son.
After leaving Petaro in
1963, he was posted back to Kharian to his regiment and was
promoted to the rank of major the following year.
In 1965, with war clouds
gathering, he spent the summer with his regiment in the field.
It was a tough summer. Just before the September war with
India, his regiment was moved to Khem Karan sector, where he
was commanding a squadron of the armoured regiment. An
offensive was launched which failed unfortunately.
In the meantime, the
Indians attacked the Lahore sector and his regiment was
immediately moved to Lahore a couple of days after the war
began. They had to move the tanks overnight to the Burki
sector. There was a rumour that the Indian forces had crossed
the BRB Canal, but such was not the case.
Soon thereafter, the Indian
forces attacked the Sialkot sector with full force and made
some advances. They captured Jassoran. Alam Jan's
regiment was moved to Sialkot immediately, and there was a
counter attack from the Pakistani side. Jassoran was retaken
and the Indian forces were pushed back. During the battle,
Alam Jan's tank was hit and he was injured. He was moved to
the CMH in Kharian. Three days later the war came to a close.
In February 1971, he was
promoted to the rank of a Lt.Colonel and he was posted to
command his regiment at Multan. During the summer of 1971 with
the war clouds gathering again, he moved his regiment to the
Pirowal Forest to camouflage the tanks and other armoured
equipment. When the war started, it was an anti-climax with
hardly any action. He was supposed to lead an offensive in the
Bahawalpur sector, but Yahya Khan quickly brought it all to an
disillusioned after the war, he decided to call it quits. His
GOC was Major General Ziaul Haq (later on President of
Pakistan), who requested him to hold off until the regiment
moved to its headquarters. Soon after the move, he was
nominated to attend the War Course at National Defence
College. This was a great honour and an opportunity. Thus,
Alam Jan remained behind in the Army.
Gen. Tikka Khan was the
Chief of Army Staff at that time. Alam Jan recalls that he was
rather rude to Gen. Tikka Khan after the 1971 war, blaming the
senior army leaders for incompetence and for bringing disgrace
to the country. Expecting to be thrown out of the army for his
intransigence, he was surprised when Tikka Khan insisted that
he do the War Course instead.
After completing the War
Course in 1972-1973, he was posted at Sibi to control the
Balochistan operations against the tribes that were up in
arms. He developed a good friendship with Qaisar Khan Marri
(brother of Khair Bux Marri), who was a very dignified person
and was not involved in the insurgency. He has some good
memories of Qaisar Khan. Tikka Khan wanted Qaisar Khan
arrested, which Alam Jan opposed arguing that if we arrest
even the non-insurgents, we wont have any one to talk to.
These are the mistakes of our different leaders who chose the
path of war against our own tribes people rather than coming
to terms through dialogue and friendship. He was against using
the broom to sweep everyone away.
In the middle of 1975,
Tikka Khan promoted him to the rank of Brigadier and posted
him to Kashmir. A year and a half later, he was moved to Malir
just in time to try to curb the troubles in Karachi before the
general elections. And when the trouble started, he was
assigned to Karachi West which was the most troubled area -
Liaquatabad, Golimar, Nazimabad, etc.
It seems that he was now
recognized as a trouble shooter. Thus, in 1978 General Ziaul
Haq posted him as the Inspector General of the Frontier
Constabulary in Balochistan to stop the mutinies in the ranks.
He spent two years there, and during this same period he was
promoted to the rank of a Major General.
In 1980, he was posted to
Jhelum as the GOC due to tensions in that area. He had been
familiar with Jhelum since he had commanded a brigade there
In 1984, Lt.Gen. Fazle Haq
- Governor of NWFP and who was from the armoured corps as well
- brought him to Kohat to head the 9 Division, which covered
the area from Parachinar to Waziristan.
After two years in that
position, he was promoted to the rank of a lieutenant general
in 1986 and posted as the Corps Commander at Lahore. He served
in that position until the middle of 1990 when he retired from
After his retirement, he
was offered ambassadorship of Pakistan to China and Thailand,
which he declined. He has chosen to be involved in farming in
Waziristan, and to try to put sense into his own tribesmen to
refrain from extremism. He also tried to advise the government
of Pervez Musharraf to have a conciliatory attitude to build
the area, and remember that these tribes have always been
loyal to Pakistan.
Lt.Gen.(R) Alam Jan Mahsud
has been very visible at Petarian gatherings in the Islamabad
/ Rawalpindi area in the past, and we hope
he has a long life and will continue to patronize us.
In parting, I
must mention that he keeps himself fit even at this age. He
goes out for a walk every day. When I arrived at his house, he
was just ending his walk and was sweating all over.