Aboobaker Osman Mitha

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Aboobaker Osman Mitha
Nickname(s)A.O. Mitha
BornBombay, Maharashtra, British Indian Empire
Present-day India
DiedIslamabad, Pakistan
AllegianceBritish Subject (1923–1947)
Pakistan (1947–1999)
Service/branch British Indian Army (1942–1947)
 Pakistan Army (1947–1972)
Years of service1942–72
RankOF-7 Pakistan Army.svg US-O8 insignia.svg Major-General
UnitParachute Regiment
Commands heldSpecial Services Group
Quartermaster General, Army GHQ
Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul
Battles/warsWorld War II Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Bangladesh Liberation War
AwardsOrd.Nishan-i-Pakistan.ribbon.gifSitara-e-Pakistan (civilian)
Star*.svgSitara-e-Quaid-i-Azam (civilian)
Hilal-Jurat Ribbon.gifHilal-e-Jurat (withdrawn)

Aboobaker Osman Mitha (Urdu:ابو بكر عثمان متها; b.1923–1999), popularized as A.O. Mitha, SPk, SQA, was a two-star rank army general who is considered a legend in the Pakistan Army, and a "stay behind" conceptual founder of Special Services Group (SSG).[1] With the help from the United States' Special Forces, he created the special forces unit in Cherat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 1956.[2][3]


Aboobaker Osman Mitha was born into an affluent and wealthy Memon family in a house located in the Malabar Hill in Bombay, Maharashtra in India, on 1 June 1923.:1[4][5] family in Bombay. Mitha grew up in Bombay, spending his childhood and early years under the influence of a joint-family system presided over by an imperious grandfather and an omnipresent, all-powerful grandmother.

Career in the British Indian Army[edit]

Mitha, as a young man, rejected both a career in business and the bride chosen for him by his grandfather, deciding instead to embark upon a career in the army.

After finishing high school he joined a pre-cadet academy, and was selected for a commission in the British Indian Army. He passed out of the Indian military academy, Dehradun, on 21 June 1942 and was granted an emergency commission in the Indian Army and appointed to the 2nd battalion 4th Bombay Grenadiers.[6] After volunteering for the Indian Parachute Regiment, he served in Burma during World War II and was dropped behind Japanese lines for high-risk operations. He was promoted war substantive Lieutenant 21 December 1942. He was granted a regular Indian Army commission on 25 May 1946 with an initial commission date of 1 June 1944 and to rank as a Lieutenant from 1 December 1945.[7]

Mitha refers to the blatant racism that British officers practised against their Indian colleagues in his posthumously published book, Unlikely Beginnings. He wrote, "If there were ten officers in a mess, two of them British, they would see to it that they had little, if anything, to do with their Indian counterparts".

Pakistani Army[edit]

When India divided into the Republic of India and the Dominion of Pakistan in August 1947, Mitha opted for Pakistan.He qualified for the Staff College, Quetta and served as GSO 1 in GHQ Pakistan. He fell in love with Indu Chatterji, daughter of Prof. Gyanesh C. Chatterji of Lahore Government College, who had grown up in Lahore but had since moved to Delhi. That it was not just puppy love but something more lasting was proved by Mitha's perseverance, and four years after the young lovers' separation, Indu, against the wishes of her family, came over to Karachi and they were married. The couple had three daughters, two of whom turned out to be very talented classical dancers.

Mitha describes the GHQ in Rawalpindi of the early days of Pakistan in graphic detail, with junior officers using wooden packing cases for desks and chairs and bringing their own pencils to work. Toilet paper, called "bog paper" by the British, was used to write on, as ordinary paper was just not available.

In 1954, Mitha was selected to raise an elite commando unit for Pakistan Army. Cherat, a hill station near Peshawar was chosen as the highly restricted site where the commandos were to be trained and based. Mitha's sole instruction to his handpicked Pakistani officers was, "Be proud of your poverty." He remained head of the SSG for 6 years.

Mitha in East Pakistan[edit]

Mitha was particularly active in East Pakistan in the days preceding the military action of 25 March 1971. Other generals were present in Dhaka along with Yahya Khan, and secretly departed on the evening of 25 March 1971, that fateful day after fixing the deadline for the military action. Mitha is said to have remained behind. Lt Gen Tikka Khan, Maj Gen Rao Farman Ali and Maj Gen Khadim Hussain Raja were associated with the planning of the military action. Eventually their action bloodied the capital city Dhaka with the blood of thousands of residents including students, military and police personnel, politician and the general mass. Later documents regarding their action on the early hours of 26 March 1971 known as Operation Searchlight was revealed to the world.

Betrayal by Lt Gen Gul Hassan[edit]

Mitha was Quartermaster General at GHQ when prematurely retired by the civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in December 1971. He was just over 48 years old. Lt General Gul Hasan added his name to a list of officers whose retirements were announced by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his first speech as president on 20 December 1971. This came as a surprise as Mitha had no hand in the Officer's Revolt at Gujranwala and the hooting down of General Abdul Hamid Khan (Chief of Staff) at a GHQ meeting.

According to Mitha, it was Gul Hasan who also saved then-Brigadier Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq from being sacked. Brigadier Zia was in Jordan. The year was 1971. Gen Yahya Khan received a signal from Maj Gen Nawazish, the head of the Pakistan military mission in Amman, asking that Zia be court martialled for disobeying GHQ orders by commanding a Jordanian armoured division against the Palestinians, as part of actions in which thousands were killed. That ignominious event is known as Operation Black September. It was Gul Hasan who interceded for Zia and Yahya Khan let Zia off the hook.

Honors, dishonors and death[edit]

In the course of his military career, he was awarded the Hilal-i-Jur'at, Sitara-i-Pakistan, and Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam. After retirement he was stripped of his medals and pensions without due cause, and that was quite a surprise to the public as he was never court-martialed. But Mitha gained more popularity by this due to which he was kept under surveillance by the Bhutto Administration as he was also a hero for his juniors in the SSG. He remained under surveillance through the Bhutto years.

He had a hard time finding any kind of employment. Had it not been for the generosity of a friend living in Britain, who asked Mitha to manage his farm for him, he would have been on the street.

Mitha died in December 1999. After he died, one of his friends wrote to his wife: "At the end of a tumultuous life, all he wanted was a room to sleep in, one to write and eat in – a space to walk, reflect and gaze across the fields to the distant hills."

Special Service Group (SSG)[edit]

Lt Col (later Maj Gen) Aboobaker Osman Mitha came to prominence, when appointed to raise the Special Service Group (SSG). He became a legend within the SSG, a fact attested to by SSG officers who came after he had moved on from the SSG. He was extremely hands on and leading from the front type of an officer. This made him a legend not only in the Army, but also with the Navy and Air Force. He left his mark on hundreds of young cadets when he commanded the Pakistan Military Academy from 1966–1968. In 1965 he commanded an Infantry Brigade in East Pakistan and was also active there in early 1971 as Deputy Corps Commander. He also commanded the 1 Armoured Division from 1968–1970.


  1. ^ Publisher (2 August 2009). "The forgotten hero". Dawn Newspapers. Dawn Newspapers. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  2. ^ Mitha, A.O. (2003). Unlikely beginnings : a soldier's life. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-579413-7.
  3. ^ Ali, Tariq. The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781471105883. Retrieved 14 October 2016.
  4. ^ Mitha, Aboobaker Osman (2003). Unlikely Beginnings: A Soldier's Life (Digitized) (1st ed.). Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press. p. 443. ISBN 9780195794137. Retrieved 27 September 2013. He said that as a Memon he felt very proud when he heard that not only had I become a brigadier, but also had raised and commanded the only commando unit in the Pakistan army.
  5. ^ August 1947 Indian Army List gives DoB
  6. ^ October 1942 Indian Army List Most Secret edition
  7. ^ October 1946 and August 1947 Indian Army Lists


External links[edit]