Asad Mushtaq is a hero! Winning a Sword of Honour isn’t easy

Published: August 28, 2013

The Queen awards the Overseas 'Sword of Honour' to the Pakistani Officer Cadet Ahmed Raza Khan in 2009. Cadet Asad Mushtaq won the Sword on August 9, 2013. PHOTO: THE TELEGRAPH/FILE

The Royal Military Academy of Sandhurst, founded back in the 18th century is part of the British Army which works as an officer training academy. It takes around 10% of its cadets from overseas and is one of the oldest military academies in the world that has seen iconic figures such as Sir Winston Curchill and our very own, Field Marshall Ayub Khan.

Pakistan’s Corporal Asad Mushtaq, on August 9, 2013, not only graduated from this institution, but also bagged the highest award present there – the Sword of Honour.

As an overseas cadet, attendance at Sandhurst military academy is only possible by an arrangement with the army of the country of residence and it is, without a doubt, considered a huge honour to be selected for military training at this prestigious academy.

The Sword of Honour is the highest award that any cadet can receive here. This award is given to the cadet who is deemed the best by the commandant, on the basis of performance during the training. It is pertinent to understand that training at the Sandhurst academy is of the highest quality and is extremely competitive. It has elements of theoretical as well as practical military operations. Pakistan’s Ahmed Raza Khan won the sword back in 2006, followed by Muhammad Talha Zahid who won it in 2012 and now Mushtaq won it this year – a true moment of pride for Pakistan.

As someone who grew up in a household that has traditionally been part of the armed forces, I have heard stories about military manoeuvres and academic achievements. The one aspect which always stood out in these stories was the high level of reverence and respect given to the Sword of Honour award. For someone to be part of the armed forces, albeit the Army, the Air Force or the Navy, being considered even as a nominee for the Sword of Honour is a matter of great prestige within itself.

Winning this award can safely be termed as the biggest achievement for a young officer’s career.

So when I read that Mushtaq won the Sword from Sandhurst, I understood what he must have felt at the time. To be presented with the sword by the Countess of Essex and to feel that sense of pride surging through his body as sheer adrenaline, all his training and hard work had finally paid off – and in the best way possible.

Training at this academy is not for the ordinary Joe. All aspects of your mental and physical limits are tested here The cadet who excels in all four terms in the military subjects, academics, physical training and who displays good leadership skills, staunch discipline and also has the ability to take and deliver orders, receives this award. Moreover, the sword is given to the soldier who displays good military tactical sense. Thereby he stands above his peers for these achievements.

Some exercises that a cadet is made to perform include digging trenches (and you are not allowed to sleep before the task is finished), 70 km hikes and so on. You’re allowed only 15 minutes for breakfast and mobile phones, facial hair and chocolate is strictly forbidden. Cadets have to follow this rigorous routine for a full year every day, without any breaks.

Suffice is to say that not everyone can achieve what Mushtaq did, as the amount of intellectual and physical capacities and resolve required to achieve this award is beyond measure.

I, for one, am in awe of these Pakistani cadets, who go to a foreign military academy which hosts cadets from armies all over the globe, and yet they are able win this award. This speaks volumes of the sort of capability Pakistan has.  They, thus, deserve a high level of recognition and praise for their achievements- this is the very least we can do, right?

Mushtaq, who dedicated this award to his country, and is soon coming home to serve in the 57th cavalry of the Pakistan Army, is a hero, and I wish him the best of luck for an incredible future.


Ali Jehanzeb

An economics student who loves ice cream, reading, Game of Thrones and cricket. He tweets as @ajzeb

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Des Bakt

    It is only among the foreign cadets…a few balckies and an odd canadien… Inida stopped the Sandhurst colonial licking in 1953 !!Recommend

  • Parvez

    For Asad Mushtaq it is indeed a well deserved hounour.
    The prosess of sending officers to places like England and the US, apart from being a professional educational experience it also gives the other country the opportunity to size-up the future senior officer.

  • Naveed Razzaq

    A good job done Asad. We are proud of you! Nicely acknowledged by the writer. Recommend

  • What’s the fuss all about

    Armed forces have the largest share of this country’s budget. It’s only fair that they should be good at what they are supposed to do.Recommend

  • Pervez Musharraf

    I was delighted to see the news of yet another Pakistani cadet achieving the coveted SoH at Sandhurt. Suffice to say, I’m proud of you. The nation needs young professionals like you now more than ever before.Recommend

  • Self esteem

    We love an award given by a ‘gora’ …the fairer they are,the more valuable is the award !Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    @Des Bakt: Grapes are sour. India is not just in the same class.Recommend

  • Milind

    Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd) – “India is not just in the same class.”

    Hmmm… You forgot to add the outcomes of 1971 war, Kargil wars, or smoking out OBL from army cantt to your definition of ‘class’. If indeed these are barometers of ‘class’, then we’re glad that we’re nowhere miles near you.Recommend

  • Whoops

    @ Lt.Col. Alam

    You sound like a very wise and knowledgeble man…
    Got superseded or what …Recommend

  • http://Lahore AWA

    Milind & Des Bakt …. Wake Up !

    I can understand why INDIANS are fraid of our Military Might.

    One day this Gentleman Cadet may spend a day or two in your terrority just like General Musharaf who was there under your nose in Early 1999 , pre Kargil war era.Recommend

  • Noor

    @ Lt. Col.I. Alam

    Wasn’t OBL living inches away from a pak military establishment ?Recommend

  • What

    @ Awa

    The same musharraf,who’s on his way to court with a squeaky clean reputation ?Recommend

  • Baig

    @ Awa

    You talk about military might as if it’s something you worked hard for in the gym…a personal accomplishment.
    Both countries should be afraid of each others weapons.

    The things you’re talking about so foolishly,only benefit your ego…the actual use will lead to loss of life on both sides…will that satisfy your ego ? ”..military might..” pah!Recommend

  • Adil Khan

    @ Des Bakt:

    We are proud of Asad and all our great cadets who consistently prove their mettle at Sandhurst. Surely Indian cadets cannot sustain the rigors of Sandhurst which is why they chickened out. Lick your wounds looser.. Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    @Milind: you did not have body bags available in kargil. Had to order a fresh lot. I myself knocked off an Indian Company in Pukhlean Sector 1971 with precise Artillery Fire as an Air Observer. Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    @Whoops: How many PM’s do you have. All cannot go up the ladder. I enjoyed my stint & retired with Honor and as a Ghazi of the 1971 War.Recommend

  • Hammad Ali

    “Bravery is believing in yourself, and that thing nobody can teach you”,and you Asad Mushtaq proved this thing very right.You are deserved to be praised and hounoured.
    It is well-acknowledged by the writer too.Recommend

  • bagnash

    He won award for overseas cadet. Despite these awards most Pakistani general officers have proven themselves to be supremely incompetent.Recommend

  • sk90y

    @Des Bakt:
    “blackies”?? seriously??? Recommend

  • Pappu

    And now…what he gonna do with this sword??Recommend

  • Shiv

    To be then indicted by his own people for murdering their prime minister!Recommend

  • M. Emad

    In other countries this is no news.

    Make him Army Chief as well as Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan.Recommend

  • M. Emad

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd): ”….retired with Honor and as.a Ghazi of the 1971 War…..” !!!

    Rest of world consider 1971 Pakistani ‘GHAZIs’ as WAR CRIMINALS. It is also amusing that the post-WWll biggest ‘PUBLIC SURRENDER’ army member retired with HONOR !!!

    By the way, Pakistan Navy’s long renge submerine PNS ‘GHAZI’ was torpedod on the 1st night of 1971 war. PNS ‘GHAZI’ is still lying in its thousand feet deep grave in Bay of Bengal !Recommend

  • Whoops

    @ Lt.Col.Alam

    Sorry about the superseded comment.No offense.Recommend

  • Whoops

    ‘ I myself knocked off an Indian company…’
    War or no war,Sad to hear you talk about it,as an accomplishment…better to forget it ,man… Beg forgiveness from the almighty,for taking lives..Recommend

  • Very sad

    @ Col.Alam

    Were you really in Bangladesh in 1971 ? The pak army slaughtered east pakistanis there…I would’ve thought,you wouldn’t want to mention such bits from your career under Gen. Tikka Khan-known in history as the ‘butcher of bengal’.

    Look at the Nazis..even today,the Germans are so apologetic about the holocaust…they have memorials to the dead too.Is any other country so civilized to accept its dirty history and apologize this way ..will the Japanese apologize for war crimes in Nanjing and south korea,will pakistanis apologize for bangladesh ?Recommend

  • Milind

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd) – Sir, those body bags were due to the advantageous position you guys were in… This was due to intelligence failure on our part…

    Another point – Our army functions despite the odds (paralytic internal policy making, resistance from Govt torn in different directions, in short inspite of our Govt), you army is ensconed in the saddle and does all the policy making, corners the budget to its liking, drives the country and has yet to win a single war.. No comparison…Recommend

  • Chunky Lafanga

    FYI, that’s Cadet Ahmed Raza Khan in the picture receiving the sword in 2009. That is NOT Cadet Asad Mushtaq. Please correct the caption, or the picture.Recommend

  • Hella

    Strange. Pakistan does not seem to have good enough training academies, so cadets need to be sent to Sandhurst. Britannia still rules, Pakistan at least. Watch the youtube video of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1950s. Pakistan is mentioned as one of Great Britain’s dominions. Hope its not the same in 2013.Recommend

  • Lolly

    And now this guy will fight for Queen Elizabeth or Pakistan or Islam?Recommend

  • Ali Jehanzeb


    Queen Elizabeth. Her Majesty the Queen. Happy?Recommend

  • Ali Jehanzeb


    It does have great academies, but Sandhurst is one of the best in the world, it has 200 years of history behind it. Pakistan is part of the Commonwealth and in the past was a British colony and was a British dominion, like Australia, till 1956.Recommend

  • Ali Jehanzeb

    @M. Emad:

    Well that escalated quickly.Recommend

  • Ali Jehanzeb

    @Des Bakt:

    Hey man, credit where credit is due?Recommend