x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Pakistan's Englishman

The story of a veteran British educator in Pakistan reminds us how much one individual can accomplish, even in an unfamiliar setting.

Left behind when the tide of empire receded from British India, a young officer named Geoffrey Langlands chose to settle, after the partition of 1947, in Pakistan. He is there still.

Only now, at 94, is Mr Langlands ready to retire, The New York Times reports, after more than half a century of teaching, first at the prestigious Aitcheson College in Lahore and for the last quarter century in Chitral, north-west Pakistan, an isolated spot between the Swat Valley and the Afghan border. His students have included Zafarullah Khan Jamali, a former prime minister (2002-04), and Imran Khan, the cricketing legend and rising political star.

A few voices complain that Mr Langlands is a relic of colonialism, but his long tenure and the success of his 900-student Langlands School (motto: "there is always room for improvement") testify to the high regard in which the local people hold him.

Consider how many stereotypes this one man smashes: the self-interest and arrogance of colonialists, the diminished faculties of old age, the bureaucratisation of education … He is inspiring evidence of how much good one determined individual can still accomplish in this world.

Mr Langlands will retire to a flat arranged for him at Aitcheson College, showing his continued commitment to the country and its people.