Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

‘Little Paki friend’ is a high-achieving officer

When the Queen attended the 150th Sovereign's Parade at Sandhurst nearly three years ago, few paid much attention to Junior Under Officer Ahmed Raza Khan.

All eyes were on Cadet Harry Wales and the monarch presiding over her grandson's graduation into the officer ranks of the British Army.

But the young Pakistani soldier referred to by the third in line to the throne as “our little Paki friend” was entitled to feel he deserved some of the limelight surrounding his classmate at the Royal Military Academy after 44 weeks of intensive military training.

While Prince Harry left the Berkshire college without particular distinction, 2nd Lieutenant Khan stepped forward to receive the Overseas Sword of Honour, awarded to the best foreign student of each intake, from the Queen.

Lt Khan beat 14 other overseas cadets to the title, including a Bahraini prince and the son of a Jordanian general.

The newly-appointed officer was apparently unaware of the “nickname” given to him by the prince despite being described as a member of a close-knit group of his friends at Sandhurst.

He outstripped his fellow graduates by winning three medals for achieving the highest academic score on his course as well as excellence in war studies and international affairs.

It was a measure of the esteem in which Lt Khan was held by his superiors that he was introduced along with his father, Muhammad, to Prince Charles at a reception after the passing-out ceremony. Mr Khan Senior, described in an account of the parade by the Pakistani military as feeling “100 feet tall” as he watched his son collect his honour, is seen swapping jokes with the heir to the throne in an official photograph.

A relative of Lt Khan yesterday appeared to cast doubt on claims from St James's Palace that the derogatory remarks had been misjudged banter between close colleagues. In a statement, a spokesman for the prince said the prince had not been seeking to insult “his friend” by using a “nickname about a highly popular member of his platoon”.

But Lt Khan's uncle, Iftikhar Raja said his nephew had no knowledge of the term.

He said: “At no time he told us that he was called Paki or he was good friend of the prince Harry, I mean, although they served together, that is true.”

The young officer, described by the public relations department of the Pakistani Army as a “highly intelligent and physically active individual with extraordinary leadership qualities”, comes from a well-off middle class family in Abbottabad, north west Pakistan.

His father was a former senior executive in the Muslim Commercial Bank, the fourth largest in Pakistan, and Lt Khan attended the elite Pakistan Military Academy before being selected to attend Sandhurst.

Since returning to Pakistan, he has been serving with the 1st Frontier Force — the elite corps being used by Islamabad to crack down on extremists in the lawless tribal areas in northern Pakistan.

His experience in Sandhurst does not seem to have dissuaded Lt Khan from returning Britain. The Sandhurst website states that he hope to return to the British Army in the future as an exchange officer.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz