PM’s teacher Geoffrey Douglas Langlands passes away

LAHORE/ISLAMABAD  -   Former principal of Aitchison College, prominent educationist and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s teacher Major (retd) Geoffrey Douglas Langlands passed away on Wednesday. He was 101. He breathed his last in a simply furnished room in Bahawalpur House (now Langlands House) in Aitchison College where Langlands spent last years of his life. He had been serving Pakistan since its creation in 1947.

Prime Minister Imran expressed his condolences on the demise of his teacher Geoffrey Langlands. PM tweeted, “Saddened to learn of the passing of my teacher. Apart from being our teacher, he instilled the love for trekking and our northern areas in me - before the KKH was built. (I was 12 years old in the school picture)”. Prime Minister Khan also shared his school era picture along with the condolence message.

British High Commissioner in Pakistan Thomas Drew said, “Pakistan has lost a great friend and teacher of generations of its students. We today mourn Major Geoffrey Langlands CMG MBE HI SPk who passed away in Lahore aged 101”. Aitchison College issued a statement on Wednesday and said “Aitchison College mourns the passing of Major Geoffrey Douglas Langlands MBE, CMG, HI, SPk who left us quietly on Wednesday, January 2 at 10:15 a.m. after a brief illness”.

According to statement, ““Born on October 21, 1917 and affectionately known to all as ‘The Major’, we acknowledge the life of a soldier, teacher, gentleman, story-teller, mountaineer and humanitarian whose life was devoted in service to others and especially his adopted country Pakistan”.

Geoffrey Langlands was born in Hull, Yorkshire in England. Mr Langlands was raised with his twin brother John Alexander Langlands who was 10 minutes older than him. After the sad demise of his parents and grandfathers it was his older brother who arranged bread and butter for raising three children. Langlands completed his A Level in July 1935 and started teaching science and mathematics to second grade students at a small school in London at the age of 18.  He was retired British Major and a retired educator who lived in Pakistan since partition of British Indian Empire into two dominions in 1947.

In an interview with The Nation in 2016 on eve of Independence Day, Geoffrey Langlands had said, “Pakistan has been a tremendous host throughout the past decades and he wished Pakistan Day to Pakistani nation”. He told this scribe in that interview about his stay in Pakistan.   Langlands joined the British Army as an enlisted soldier and later in January 1944, Langlands arrived in British India as an army volunteer. At the time of partition of British India, Langlands decided to move to Pakistan and was transferred to Rawalpindi where he served for 6 years and witnessed partition riots. 

It was President Ayub Khan who asked Langlands to stay in Pakistan. Later Langlands served Aitchison College in Lahore. In 1979 he went on a tough job. He went to tribal areas to establish and lead Razmak Cadet College. He served there till 1989 and then took charge of Principal of Sayurj Public School Chitral. He received many awards including Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1982, Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 2010, Hilal-e-Imtiaz in 2011 Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 1987 and Sitara-i-Pakistan.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Usman Dar said, “Rest in peace Major Geoffrey Langlands. Your service to our nation and your role in educating our children will always be remembered. Your strong character was indeed a positive influence on many young souls”. Geoffrey Langlands served in Chitral also for quite long time. People of Chitral remember him even today.

Deputy Commissioner Chitral on his twitter handle @DC_Chitral tweeted, “Major Geoffrey Douglas Langlands - the blue-eyed boy - (1917 - 2019) was an institution rich with stories, an understanding of the people and the country he once witnessed coming to life in 1947, a philanthropist, educationist, passes away in Lahore today at the age of 101. RIP”.

Ali Sabtain Fazli who has long associated with the Geoffrey Langlands as a student and now running a trust named Langlands Endowment Trust told The Nation “Maj. Langlands was my teacher, my mentor and a person who impressed me most throughout my life. Maj. Langlands is one of the few people I can name who has been a man of character, dedication to his duty as a soldier or as a teacher. He was an upright man who stood by his principles,” Fazli said.

Senior Minister Abdul Aleem Khan said, “His demise is a huge loss to Pakistan; his services in field of education and positive influence of his teaching on his students will always be remembered”. PTI leader Babar Awan said, “Pakistan thanks you for your service, Geoffrey Langlands. You opted to stay in Pakistan since the day of independence. Our generations are indebted to you”.

Haroun Rashid, who is also student of Langlands, tweeted, “PM Imran Khan, many people clamouring for a State Funeral for our old teacher and mentor Geoffrey Langlands. Personally I feel, after Abdus Sattar Edhi, he really is the most deserving. I hope you agree”.

Provincial Minister for HR&MA Aijaz Alam Augustine expressed deep sense of sorrow and grief over Langlands’ death. The minister said services of Langlands will be remembered for long time.  After 1947, Langlands was transferred to the Pakistan Army, from where he retired as a Major.  On the request of the then president, Ayub Khan, he stayed in Pakistan and was given a job at Aitchison College in 1954.  Since then he has been educating Pakistanis in different institutes. “I recall many yrs ago Shamim Khan(Aitchison Principal) telling me that Geoffrey Langlands had just arrived looking tired & dishevelled having travelled from Chitral to Lhe by wagon. Couldnt afford flights as even Rs1lakh recently given to him, he had donated to his school, wrote a user @HarounRashid2 on his Twitter account.

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