The Telegraph, UK
Major Geoffrey Langlands has outlasted four military dictators, educated generations of Pakistani leaders and an international cricket captain, but now he is finally retiring from his remote mountain school – at the age of 95.
The British teacher has lived in the country ever since independence, surviving a kidnapping by armed tribesmen and bitter winters in the Hindu Kush. His search for a successor lasted for years, as a string of candidates thought better of the trying conditions or were stymied by visa problems.
Finally, on Tuesday, the 1000 pupils at The Langlands School and College gathered for a photograph with their new principal, Carey Schofield, who is a writer on military affairs, and to wish Major Langlands well in retirement. He will not be taking it easy. “I’ve got lots of things to do, starting with getting the rest of my money,” he said by telephone from Chitral, in the far north-west Pakistan, not far from the border with Afghanistan. He is chasing cash promised to the school by the government but stuck somewhere in a bureaucratic black hole. Even in retirement he said he will continue to raise funds.
Then there is a trip to London next month for dinner with some of the old boys of Aitchison’s College – Pakistan’s version of Eton – where he used to teach. He has plans to visit another of the schools where he used to teach in North Waziristan, a place riddled with al-Qaeda and Taliban militants and generally considered too dangerous for foreigners. Eventually there is a retirement flat waiting for him in Lahore. “I always wanted to continue, but I was slowing down and getting beyond doing a really super job that everyone expected from me,” he said. Major Langlands arrived in India during World War II, staying on to advise Pakistan’s military at independence in 1947.
An extraordinary career was just beginning. He returned to his first profession as a teacher at Aitchison, where he taught Imran Khan and Zafarullah Khan Jamali, prime minister between 2002 and 2004, among others. He was persuaded to take over the school in North Waziristan in 1979 and was held hostage for six days by tribesmen seeking to overturn an election result. In contrast, Chitral is one of the more peaceful areas of Pakistan, despite being bordered by the hotspots of Dir and Swat. The success he had in sending students from such a remote area to university – including girls – led to him becoming known as Pakistan’s Mr Chips, famous for his polished shoes and smart blazers. Locals feared that without Major Langlands the success of the school would evaporate but after a long search he is confident he is leaving it in safe hands. “Although they are only beginning to get used to a female,” he said with a chuckle.