The life of Lieutenant General Sarfraz is truly inspiring, always leading from the front, having a people-centric approach and promoting long-lasting peace initiatives. It was also in the line of duty, to provide relief to the flood affected areas, where he embraced Shahadat.
“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men, the conviction and the will to carry on.”
If the ability to inspire others is a gauge of leadership, Lieutenant General Sarfraz Ali Shaheed was indeed a great military leader. He not only had a vision, but also the capacity to translate that vision into reality. He was an epitome of John Maxwell’s maxim, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Blessed with guts and glory, he was destined to earnestly serve his motherland and ultimately make the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty.
I am honoured to have served with him as the Public Relations officer at Turbat, when he was Inspector General Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan (South) as well as at Quetta when he was commanding 12 Corps. I saw him fighting on numerous fronts throughout without any sign of weariness or complacency. He had the courage to look in the face of problems and take them on. He was always on top of things, driving the whole workforce towards accomplishment of the great mission of securing and serving Balochistan.
His tenure at Headquarters (HQ) FC Balochistan (South), Turbat was marked with great accomplishments owing to his relentless pursuit of strategic and operational objectives. He viewed border security as the bedrock of internal security and strived to ensure expeditious completion of fencing along the international border. He was also instrumental in forward posturing of FC and adoption of a proactive operational approach. His readiness and ability to reach out to the troops in the remotest areas and personally supervising operations and other vital undertakings aimed at strengthening national security produced incredible results in a limited time. His achievements in the counter-terrorism domain can be viewed as a manifestation of his zero tolerance for the ones challenging the state and bent upon undermining Pakistan’s integrity. His drive for capacity building of FC resulted in fast-paced new raisings, induction of modern equipment and enhancement of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. He brought many operational and administrative reforms including some thoughtful measures for soldiers’ welfare.
Leading from the front was his instinctive trait evident from the gallantry award Tamgha-i-Basalat (TBt & Bar) bestowed upon him for his daring actions during the war against terrorism in 2005 and 2010. He would reach out to the leading troops in the midst of operations in the most difficult and dangerous areas, risking his own safety. He stood firmly with his men through thick and thin. He was always brimming with faith and radiated positive energy. His towering resolve, tenacity, spirit of sacrifice and belief in the righteous cause inspired his men to do more and become better. He would personally lead funeral prayers of the martyrs, presenting them his tears and signaling a solemn oath to carry on their mission.
His people-centric approach in dealing with violent extremism and terrorism helped reinforce public trust in the state and revive their hope of a secure and stable Balochistan. He was a great admirer of Balochistan and its people. The way he used to feel for the people of Balochistan was reciprocated by their overwhelmingly positive response to various initiatives for security and socioeconomic development of the area. His personal push resulted in the materialisation of a multi-billion package for the uplift of Southern Balochistan. He held numerous jirgas for resolving a host of issues with active public support, including facilitation/regularisation of cross-border trade including establishment of border markets. His care and concern for religious minorities including Zikri community in Kech earned him a lot of respect. He also galvanized public and local administration for anti-narcotics plan of action to save the future generations and helped establish a number of rehabilitation centres. His inclusive approach was evident from his fruitful efforts for encouraging Baloch youth to join FC which is a territorial force and serves their people/province in the long run.
Youth was at the heart of his vision for a peaceful and progressive Balochistan. He would take every small and big action to bring smiles to their faces and trigger their positive energy. He had tremendous faith in the youth of Balochistan and was always full of praise for their remarkable intellect and exceptional sociopolitical awareness. He did everything possible in helping the cause of education. Many schools were restored, rebuilt and enabled in the entire area of responsibility besides full facilitation of children at FC Public Schools. Once, he learnt about a cottage school in village Inami Bhent, Awaran being run by a teacher after the floods of yesteryears uprooted the school building. Upon his directive, in just a few months, a fully furnished school was opened for the children in September 2020. He was always full of support and encouragement for various colleges and universities in the area. He also ran a grand Youth Skill Development Programme for thousands of students including girls in Makran Division.
Lieutenant General Sarfraz had deep respect for the resilient women of the Baloch society. His strong conviction made him break the old myths and bring into limelight progressive mindset of the Baloch society. Against the popular perception, he moved to induct Baloch women in FC, and it worked out so well. He used to cherish the resounding success of this initiative. Later, his decision to dedicate Cadet College Turbat to girls also proved to be prudent. His initiatives turned out to be icebreakers transpiring hope and confidence in Baloch women.
He was the person people could turn to in moments of crisis. He could keep his wits alive in the worst situations and take bold decisions. His glittering eyes and immortal smile would always generate positive vibes around. He always used to reach out to the people in distress. Once, on learning of the death of a pedestrian in a roadside bomb blast, he personally visited the bereaved family for condolence in a remote village in Dasht, District Kech. His humility and sensitivity endeared him to the local populace so much that they got worried on his promotion, thinking that he would be posted out, until they learnt that he would still be accessible to them as Corps Commander in Quetta.
As a Corps Commander, his capacity to implement his vision for a secure and stable Balochistan enhanced manifold. He developed a team with sound understanding of the issues of Balochistan for producing durable solutions. He used to underscore that Balochistan is the most misunderstood region of Pakistan. He used to hold lengthy sessions with the entire staff including participants from provincial bureaucracy wherein various issues were discussed candidly with a view to develop collective wisdom and affect synergy in departmental efforts.
Lieutenant General Sarfraz worked day in and day out for implementing a comprehensive and effective counter-terrorism strategy in Balochistan. He was instrumental in capacity building of the security forces for breaking the backbone of the terrorists. Besides Army components, he kept steering FC, Coast Guards and other Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) including Police and Levies towards maintaining higher force readiness. He also proactively engaged concerned officials from Iran and Afghanistan, both virtually and through border flag meetings, to preserve and promote cordial bilateral ties and maintain peace along the border.
He took numerous pragmatic measures for the resolution of people’s problems. One of the many projects was preparation of thousands of acres of land irrigable through Mirani Dam for farmers in Dasht. Moreover, the number of crossing points along the border were increased to benefit larger populations. He requested the Government of Balochistan to notify committees at divisional/district levels for expeditious resolution of local issues. Headed by division/district administrators, the committees included officials of FC, Intelligence, Police and other relevant departments besides political parties’ representatives. The committees were also empowered to reduce the number of security checkposts in an area on the assurance of locals that law will not be violated. Monthly meetings of these committees resulted in speedy solution of many problems in different areas. Bigger issues were then taken up at higher level committees.
As Corps Commander too, he carried on with extensive outreach to public wherein he used to explain the state’s vision of Balochistan and the earnest will and capacity to implement it. Free and fair Local Bodies Elections in Balochistan in May 2022 were manifestation of the same resolve. He had full confidence and support of Chief of the Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whom he also hosted at grand jirgas in Panjgur and Turbat. He always underscored the need and viability of adopting political approach to seek solution to the problems and reiterated the futility of taking up arms against the state. He used to lament the wastage of precious youth who were misguided by the ill-wishers of Balochistan. He assured amnesty for those who would give up unjustified and futile war for a failed cause and pledge to abide by the law of the land.
He always tried to take along with him concerned senior bureaucrats of the government in jirgas so that people’s problems could be addressed at the spot as much as possible. His public appeal and ability to connect with people’s sentiment with sincerity enlivened the people throughout the length and breadth of Balochistan. I vividly remember the loving way in which he mixed up with local populace during his visits to Pishin, Kharan, Jacobabad, Nushki, Panjgur, Turbat, Dera Bugti and Ziarat. The people of Sanjawi, District Ziarat were exceptionally joyous and delighted to see him since he was the first-ever Corps Commander to visit the area in 75 years. The way Lieutenant General Sarfraz expressed Pakistan’s commitment to the Kashmir cause during his address at Quaid Residency, Ziarat on Kashmir Solidarity Day 2022 is an epitome of our national resolve.
Furthermore, frequent interactions with academia and intelligentsia helped him foster better mutual understanding over various issues. He visited almost all the universities in the province and offered all possible assistance wherever required. His candor, openness and directness in communication used to open doors to a healthy and constructive dialogue. He used to respect difference of opinion and had the grit to cheerfully respond to the hardest questions. He always encouraged youth to take initiative and lead their province to its rightful progress. He warmly hosted two young army officers from Balochistan who won the coveted Sword of Honour from Pakistan Military Academy in 2021 and 2022 along with their parents. With his zestful involvement and patronage, he induced new vigour into Balochistan Youth Workshops and National Security Workshops.
Lieutenant General Sarfraz also held the artists of Balochistan in high regards and was always there to support them. For example, he generously helped the ailing legendary folk singer, Akhtar Chanal whereas Jangi Khan was extended free medical treatment at Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Quetta. Unprecedentedly, grand celebrations of Baloch Culture Day throughout the province, particularly in Kech, and excellent conduct of Balochistan Excellence Awards Ceremony in March 2022 reflected his love and encouragement for the amazing artists of the province.
As Colonel of the Azad Kashmir Regiment as well, Lieutenant General Sarfraz will be remembered for his gracious patronage and visionary leadership of the glorious regiment. As a military commander, he accorded high priority to the morale of the troops and appreciated the value of military anthems for the same. I had the honor of writing and producing FC Balochistan anthem as well as AK Regiment anthem as a humble service to the daring defenders of the motherland.
In short, Lieutenant General Sarfraz’s services for the nation are meritorious and truly inspiring. His passion and perseverance endured him in the hard pursuit of peace and prosperity for Balochistan. What he did for the people of Balochistan, particularly youth and women, will be remembered as a herald of a new social contract. Till his very last breath, he remained committed to serving the nation to the maximum. As a commander and a comrade, his faith and fortitude will keep inspiring the future guardians of Pakistan.
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