I have had the privilege of knowing Colonel Mehdi for over 50 years.
When I joined the newly established Pakistan Military Academy
on the outskirts of Abbottabad along the foothills of Kakul, as a Junior 'Gentleman Cadet', I was assigned to Qasim Company
, newly raised under the dynamic leadership of the newly promoted Major S.G. Mehdi
, MC.He was also, perhaps affectionately referred to as 'killer Mehdi' by the British Commandant of the Military Academy, Brigadier F.H.B. Ingall DSO, a Cavalry officer, and his senior colleagues who came from the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun along with Major Mehdi after the partition of India.
When we first saw him as he
walked rather informally through the Qasim Company
lines one afternoon, he
certainly looked the 'killer' part with his
ferocious bristling moustache, and general demeanour.But his
soft and reassuring voice told a different story.Behind the outward manifestations of stern military authority was a simple professional soldier who wished to find out if we were settling down well in our new and unfamiliar surroundings.After a passage of over 50 years I still remember Major Mehdi teaching us the finer points of becoming an officer and a gentleman.He went on to graduate from the British Army Staff College in England and teach a generation of officers, military tactics and the art of command, at the Army Staff College at Quetta.He
was later selected to Command the Pakistan Army's
Corps de Elite, Commando force, the Special Services Group (SSG).His
former students and admirers often wondered why he
was not promoted to General's rank.With my experience I can now only add, that not every good officer is.Last year while sitting on the terrace at the Sind Club in Karachi, Colonel Mehdi eventually told me the story of the Quaid's train in March 1940.He
did so over many cups of tea and plenty of coaxing as he
is reluctant to talk about himself.