A Tribute to Maj. Gen. Amir Faisal Alavi
January 10, 2010 by Ali Abbas
By Maj Gen. (retd) Syed Ali Hamid.
This is not an obituary. It is to honor a brother officer and one of the outstanding shaheeds of the Pakistan Army. Maj. Gen. Amir Faisal Alavi was not slain on the battlefield neither was he in service when died but in this war on terror that the nation is fighting, there is no battlefront and soldiers and civilians all are fighting it daily; at risk in traveling to their work places, in the bazaars and on the roads. Gen. Alavi embraced shahadat just a kilometer from his home, one early morning on his way to office and fully conscious of the threat that confronted him each day. But Gen. Alavi was not the sort of person or soldier who could be intimidated.
I was a young Squadron Commander when Alavi joined our regiment and it was obvious from those initial days of his career that he was a very different breed. We all played sports with our soldiers like hockey and basketball but Alavi was one of the few who challenged them in Kabaddi, a game that was traditionally soldiers only. Dark by complexion but extremely well built and muscular, he was an intimidating sight in the arena and earned the nickname of ‘Gorilla’. Those were the days of the boxer Mohammad Ali and his famous bout in the Philippines. So, along with ‘Gorilla’, Alavi was awarded the acronym of ‘Thriller in Manila’.
Alavi was an extrovert and got along extremely well with all of us. He was confident but willing to learn, strong but gentle and with energy that infected those around him. He was extremely frank with the soldiers but always commanded respect through the qualities of leadership that he naturally inherited from a good upbringing. In spite of his strong personality Alavi was a good team member fitting in both with officers and soldiers alike.
It was fortunate for Alavi to have been commissioned in the Armored Corps. Because the close relationship that is bred between officers and soldiers in this Corps; it provided a strong foundation for him to be such a successful officer in Pakistan’s elite Special Services Group. I didnot see much of Gen. Alavi for the next few years as he transferred to SSG and I went off on staff and courses, but we met up again in the Staff College, Quetta; I as an instructor, and he as a student. For the first time I became aware that there was a lot more to him that muscle and brawn. He did well on the staff course as also in his tenure as a Brigade Major and subsequent command of a tank regiment which I had commanded earlier. Those who served in the regiment under Alavi’s command to this day we speak of him with fondness and respect. At regimental reunions I recollect Alavi surrounded by serving and veteran soldiers, sharing banter and recounting past experiences and episodes. What the rank and file greatly admired in Alavi was his quality to lead from the front, something which he carried with him right through his service up to his command of the SSG.
Gen. Alavi was not just a good field officer; he was also strong in theory. He not only graduated from the National Defense College in Pakistan but also graduated from National Defense University at Beijing. There were occasions that we discussed operational aspects and I found his views were a good balance between theory and practice. It was a period that a larger role was being considered for the SSG and Alavi’s promotion to General Officer to command this fledging formation was an obvious and natural choice. The circumstances of his dismissal from the service cannot detract from the fact that the Gen. Alavi had a most successful and enviable command and led the SSG through one of its challenging periods, both operationally and organizationally. It was his personal example asking no more from his men than what he himself was willing and to be able to face. In the early days of the Waziristan Operation, he was frequently under direct fire and was instrumental in eliminating a number of militants. Unfortunately this made him an assassin’s target.
His tragic death was overshadowed by a wave of speculations and theories. But as this wave crested and disappeared into oblivion what reappeared at the surface like a jewel from the sea was the Alavi we knew – strong of heart, a kindred soul, a soldiers General.
I would conclude this ode to a brother officer with an extract from a tribute on Gen. Alavi written by Brig. Samson Simon Sharaf, who was his contemporary and probably knew better than I did. He says, â€œIt is the destiny of every professional soldier to lie in wait for a day that may never come and yet be prepared if it does even at the peril of his life. Soldiering for me and my friends like Alavi spans those romantic expanses of military life through all its peaks and valleys, which none other than soldiers grasp; and always leading towards a horizon of ideals that no other profession can rival.
I consider it a privilege to have known this officer. May his soul rest in peace and may the Almighty give courage to his family. He giveth and He taketh away.