British major and founder of remote school to retire aged 94


Now at the age of 94 and five years after launching the search for a successor to run the remote, mountain school he founded, Major Geoffrey Langlands is finally ready to retire, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph.
The school is in North Waziristan, a tribal region that borders Afghanistan that has become a haven for Taliban fighters and al-Qaeda terrorists. In September, a new British principal is due to fly into the remote mountains of the Hindu Kush while Major Langlands will leave for Lahore and a suite of rooms of rooms set aside for him at the prestigious Aitchison College where he used to teach. “It won’t be all rest,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “There’s a biography I’m working on and I’ll still be raising funds to ensure the future of the school.
“No, I don’t think I could stop completely.” His is an extraordinary life that has followed the twists and turns of Pakistan’s history. After seeing action with 4 Commando in France, he volunteered to join the British Indian army and stayed on as India and Pakistan endured the bloody upheaval of partition in 1947.
He spent six years as an adviser to the new Pakistan Army before taking the job at Aitchison College, educating the young men who would grow up to run the country.
In the 1980s, when education authorities needed someone to take over a newly established school in North Waziristan they turned to Major Langlands, with his reputation as a Mr Chips-style master known for instilling British values of duty and punctuality in his young charges. Even then the mountainous area had its dangers.
The new headmaster was kidnapped by militiamen trying to overturn a disputed election result. They figured General Zia ul-Haq, the president, would reverse the outcome if he knew one of his friends had been snatched. It is an episode that Major Langlands shrugs off as educational rather than traumatic. “It was all part of the experience,” he joked.
The following year, he moved to his present school in Chitral, where he pays himself the modest sum of £40 a week and rises before dawn to a bowl of Quaker Oats porridge followed by poached eggs. His alumni include high-ranking politicians, military officers as well as thousands of young men and women who otherwise would have received only a basic education – making him something of a national treasure in his adopted homeland. The remote location and bitter winters of the Hindu Kush make it a difficult posting. To one side, lies the border with Afghanistan. On the other is the Swat Valley, where Taliban fighters threatened to close on Islamabad in 2009. That insecurity has deterred potential replacements.
In the past two years four different candidates were offered the job but each backed out at the last minute, much to Major Langlands’ bemusement. “They just couldn’t dream of coming to Pakistan,” he said. “One of them actually wrote in his final letter that he thought Pakistan was supposed to be getting better and better but found out it was getting worse and worse.
“But that is what has kept me here, the idea of getting my little bit better and better.”
All being well, Carey Schofield, 58, an author who is known in Pakistan for a book that looked deep inside the country’s military, will take over the reins later this year.
Major Langlands said the staff had insisted on another “Britisher”.