Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Salman Rashid, CCW and Bar

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Yes, this is me
Responding to my story about driving the truck on the Shorkot Air Base runway, Faisal Sherjan who tweets at @fsherjan had this to say about Cecil Chaudhry: ‘That probably meant, “I enjoyed it too but you pongo be smart next time, remove the governor so you hit 80 on the first run.”’

This makes me think I should have asked Cecil years later if he thought that was the right kind of caper for a young lieutenant to pull. But I never did. Faisal now makes me suspect that the make-believe wrath on his face and everything else was just something to put me in place and that perhaps even when my misdemeanour was reported to him, Cecil probably had a laugh – at least to himself.

So that brings me to another story from the first few months of my misadventure in the army. I was selected for 49 PMA Long Course, but with the 1971 war right on us, I received a letter in August 1971 telling me that the course had been abridged and that we would pass out in six months. I had a choice: I could take short service commission or wait until the regular courses resumed after the war.

I conferred with my friend at college where they used to study and where I just went to kill time that refused to die while I day dreamed during the Numbers Theory, Logic, Calculus and one other horrid subject in Math A&B which I just don’t recall. My friends, some of them long acquainted with me from school, said this business of graduating with Physics and Math A&B was just not my cup of tea (buss ka rog, is what they said) and that I should join the army forthwith. They also said that if I did not join, I would be conscripted in National Service and war being inevitable, I would have to go to the front to fight like a soldier. Being the coward I have always been I chose to flee to the safety of PMA [Pakistan Military Acedemy].

Now a short course at the academy is just six months. You only study military subjects and because they don’t teach academics you don’t get a degree when you graduate from the academy. If I had thought getting away from academics was going to be good, I was such a fool! Even those pointless military subjects were beyond me. Tactics is one I remember and no matter how hard I try, I just do not recall what other crap we were taught.

Of course, Map Reading was just another thing. With my natural fetish for maps, this was the only subject I enjoyed and did not have to study to pass. In fact, my platoon commander Major (later brigadier) Riaz Ahmed Chaudhry was surprised how I could get ninety percent marks in Map Reading when I grandly flunked in every other subject.

In the first exam after about two months at the academy, I flunked in all five (or was it seven?) military subjects. All except Map Reading. With a couple more of my platoon mates, I was dragged to the Company Commander’s office. Major Abdur Rauf (later brigadier), a great soul with a sharp sense of humour, gave us three a good dressing down and placed us on warning. Now, in the army they abbreviate everything. Everything – even abbreviations are abbreviated. So the Company Commander’s Warning was CCW. And it was not a good thing to be on CCW.

Back in my room, I made out a ‘nameplate’ on white paper with my name in bold lettering, added my khurpa image on one side – the one they took on the first day – and appended below my name the letters ‘CCW’. This was just as any saner body would write MA or BA or SJ (Sitara e Jurat) under their name.

The next round of exams everyone passed, even the other two who had been on CCW with me, but I kept my record of failure unbroken. After an initial ragging by the platoon commander, I was again hauled in in front of Major Rauf. He gave me hell in English and in Urdu – the latter never being done in PMA, but then Major Rauf was unique. He placed me on yet another warning and told me if I ‘did not pull up [your] socks’, there would be no third warning. I’d just be kicked out of PMA.

Back in my room, I added ‘& Bar’ to the ‘CCW’. For those of you who don’t know the bar, it signifies winning the same medal a second time. We have some good men from the services who are SJ & Bar. But I have to admit that it was fear of Calculus that made me just barely pass the final exam.

One evening Major Riaz Chaudhry came around to check if we loafers were studying or not. When I opened the door for him, he rapped his swagger stick smartly against my ‘nameplate’ and very angrily asked the obvious question: ‘What is the meaning of this?’

‘CCW and Bar, sir!’ I stood at stiff attention and bawled PMA style. And, I tell you, Major Riaz, who we called ‘Terror’ and ‘Banh’ because of the Punjabi banh he daily gave us, could not suppress a chortle. He said he was going to sort me out well and proper and then he turned around and left very fast. I think he had a hard time suppressing his laughter.

Major Riaz Ahmed Chaudhry could enjoy a good joke, that much I know because I was never sorted out for having my ‘decorations’ exhibited. He might even have shared the joke with his colleagues during tea break and if he did, I am certain Major Rauf would have thrown his head back in laughter.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 5 December 2013 at 10:18, Blogger Jalal Hameed said...

Good narration of the CCW and Bar. I really enjoyed reading it.

At 5 December 2013 at 10:34, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

:) Cheers, sir.

At 5 December 2013 at 11:24, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smart. I am imagining how would you look if you had stayed in Pak Fouj.

At 5 December 2013 at 11:51, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

What I have come to know about Pak army is from such writings I read.... Good account of the memories of a loafer army man.

At 5 December 2013 at 12:49, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you too have an army background. That explains a lot.

At 5 December 2013 at 14:34, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha Ha. I can relate to this. Once our whole course failed in on of the exams and I was the only one who managed 33 % marks. I was called by our Platoon Commander Capt Ghulam Nab (later Brigadier), thinking he will say well done or something, but he gave me hell.

Surprised, I told dared to tell him, 'sir I have passed the exam.'

Yes, you have got poor 33 % but I expected much more from you. Daah


At 5 December 2013 at 17:51, Anonymous Anonymous said...

PMA, GC office, One Mile, there is so much to remember. Most of my time was spent in GC Office in full FSMO and dummy rifle. I miss that. DO you remeber your GC Number sir? Which course are you from?

At 5 December 2013 at 23:14, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They don't give u the BSc Hon's degree after the staff course if u r not BA. That still rankles with me.
I was born tired and can't remember how I made it amongst the first forty or so cadets for I distinctly remember if I ever passed a test requiring physical endurance,,,something very dear to a commando platoon Commander. I do not recall my GC no. but doremeber how, after the passing out parade, the drill seargent took me aside and said,@Sahib, aap jaisay aaye tha, vaisay he wapas jaa rahay hain."
Nice of u Salman Sahib to write about a subject and an experience that did nobody no good expect that had u not gone thru it, u would have wondered all your life what all u had missed.
None of my offspring showed any desire whatsoever to follow that road.

At 6 December 2013 at 06:47, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Sir, how can anyone EVER forget their GC number? I was 11148, 1st Special Short Course. Army No, PSS 14191.

At 6 December 2013 at 06:52, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

I was smart, Anonymous, because I was only 19. In 1997, a platoon mate of mine having retired as Major visited us. After he and his wife were gone, my wife said, Had you remained in the army would you too have been like him?' The question was not laced with awe but with pity!

At 6 December 2013 at 06:53, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

The GC office morning and night and Wednesday and Saturday Extra Drills were the most regular feature of my life. I did not miss a single one!

At 6 December 2013 at 09:40, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Strange that you forget the GC No, Sir.

At 6 December 2013 at 09:58, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have not changed much. Still smart, I mean handsome. I saw you in Gymkhana recently.

At 6 December 2013 at 10:45, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Glad you were at the Gymkhana. And thank you for the compliment.

At 6 December 2013 at 13:24, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

By the way, the pity my wfie had was not for my. It was for my retired platoon mate!

At 6 December 2013 at 14:28, Anonymous Arshad Ansari said...

I know one of my Pl Mate who was on CCW, TCW, BCW and CW... and he passed out...

At 6 December 2013 at 14:30, Anonymous Fazal Miran said...

Good to see you so young. I endorse every word of your story. If you remember I am your platoon mate. Please send me your PTCL contact. Mine is 0553866310.

At 6 December 2013 at 14:33, Anonymous Akram Malik said...

Real good and beautifully scripted by Salman

At 6 December 2013 at 15:21, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Fazal Miran: CONTACT!
Arshad Ansari: your pl mate was one hell of a man!
Thank you. Akram Malik.

At 6 December 2013 at 17:20, Blogger mansoor azam said...

Loved the piece. I could relate to it as any sorry ass which had graced the Kakul can :) I'm afraid the list of decorations i earned would rather merit a tombstone ;)
Yr pic displayed is magnificient. I thought you are from one of the courses around my father or probably his coursemate. That's why i asked about the course. As it turns out he passed out earlier though from short course him self, a war course. Passed out in 68 or 69 Maj Shabir Shareef Shaheed SJ (Bar) being his pl comd.

All in all a bravo effort. I couldnt help thinking a collected book of military anecdotes will do good to present generation. A future project ! aim at it Sire

At 6 December 2013 at 17:39, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Mansoor, Thank you very much. I really have to think hard to dredge these items from distant memory. But who knows: a book. When we reached PMA in Oct 1971, Maj Shabir Sharif had left about a year earlier.

At 6 December 2013 at 17:58, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Army is a life style and a grand one. I loved it while I was in uniform. Only if I could be young once again, I would join.

GC # 13488

At 27 December 2013 at 03:41, Blogger Asim Hafeezullah said...

Highly amusing, Salman sb. Very grateful for your writings.

At 27 December 2013 at 03:42, Blogger Asim Hafeezullah said...

Highly amusing Salman sb.

Very grateful for your writings.

At 24 March 2014 at 11:58, Anonymous Muhammad Athae said...

Good narration of the paper punishments awarded in PMA


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

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