Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi

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Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi
General A. A. Niazi.jpg
Gen. A. A. K. Niazi (1971 photo)
Governor of East Pakistan
In office
14 December 1971 – 16 December 1971
President Gen. Yahya Khan
Prime Minister Nurul Amin
Preceded by Abdul Motaleb Malik
Succeeded by Office disestablished
Commander of Eastern Command
In office
4 April 1971 – 16 December 1971
Lieutenant Rear-Admiral Mohammad Shariff
Preceded by Gen. Tikka Khan
Succeeded by post abolished
Personal details
Born Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi
Balo Khel Village, Mianwali, Punjab, British India
(Present-day Pakistan)
Died 1 February 2004
(aged 89 or 90)
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Resting place Military Graveyard in Lahore
Citizenship  Pakistan 1947–2004
British Raj British India (1915-1947)
Alma mater Officers Training School, Bangalore (now obsolete)
Command and Staff College, Quetta (Pakistan)
Military service
Nickname(s) "Tiger General", "Tiger Niazi"
Service/branch  Pakistan Army (1947–71)
British Raj Red Ensign.svg British Indian Army (1937–47)
Years of service 1942–71
Rank US-O9 insignia.svgOF-8 PakistanArmy.svg Lieutenant-General (S/No. PA-477)
(Rank stripped/withdrawn)
Unit 4/7 Rajput Regiment
Commands GOC 10th Infantry Division
GOC 8th Infantry Division
OC 4th Para Brigade
Chief Instructor at the School of Infantry and Tactics in Quetta

World War II

Indo-Pakistani war of 1965
Bangladesh Liberation War
Awards Military Cross.jpg Military cross BAR.svg Military Cross
Hilal-Jurat Ribbon.gif Hilal-i-Jurat (withdrawn)

Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi (Urdu: امیر عبداللہ خان نیازی; b. 1915–1 February 2004), MC, popularly known as A.A.K. Niazi, was a former three-star rank army general in the Pakistan Army and the last Governor of East Pakistan known for commanding the Eastern Command of Pakistani military in East Pakistan during the third war with India until surrendering on 16 December 1971 to Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army.[1]

Gen. Niazi had the area responsibility of defending the borders of East Pakistan from India and held morally responsible by authors and critics within Pakistan's military for having surrendering the Eastern Command, consisting of ~93,000–95,000 men, to the Indian Army when the preparations underwent to lay siege on Dacca.:109–110[2]:170[3] Thus ending the liberation struggle led by the Bengali Mukti Bahini which also ended the war with India amid a unilateral ceasefire called by Pakistan in 1971.:2475[4]

After taken and held as war prisoner by the Indian Army, he was repatriated to Pakistan on 30 April 1975 and was dishonored from his military service after confessing at the War Enquiry Commission led by Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman.:620[5] The War Commission leveled accusations against him of violating the human rights, supervising the smuggling goods during the Indian supported civil war in East as well as held him morally responsible of military failure during the course of the war.[6][7][8] Niazi, however, he rejected the base allegations and sought for a military court-martial while insisting that he had acted according to the orders of the Army GHQ but the court-martial was never granted.[9] After the war, he remained active in national politics and supported the ultra-conservative agenda under the conservative alliance against Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's government in 1970s.[1]

In 1999, he authored the book Betrayal of East Pakistan where he provided his "own true version of the events of that fateful year."[10] On 1 February 2004, Niazi died in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan .[11]


Early life and British Indian Army career[edit]

Amir Abdullah Niazi was born in 1915 in a small village, Balo Khel, located on the east bank of the Indus River in Mianwali, Punjab, British India.:12[3][12][13] After educating from a local school in Mianwali, he joined the British Indian Army as an "Y cadet" in 1932 and selected for an emergency commission as he had passed out from the Officers Training School in Bangalore.:12[3]

He gained commission as 2nd Lt. in 1942 (8 March) into the 4/7 Rajput Regiment which was then-part of the 161st Infantry Brigade led by the Brigadier D.F.W. Warren.:12[3]:230–231[14] Prior to the start of the World War II, his military commission was subjected to continuous change in the army and was only issued temporary service numbers by his British superiors.:12[3]

World War II and Burma campaigns[edit]

On 11 June 1942, Lt. Niazi was stationed in the Kekrim Hills located in regions of Assam-Manipur to participate in the Burma front.[12] That spring, he was part of the 14th Army of the British Army and the British Indian Army commanded by General Slim.[12]

During this period, the 14th Army had halted the offense against the Japanese Imperial Army at the Battle of Imphal and elsewhere in bitterly fought battles along the Burma front.[12] His valor of actions were commendable and General Slim described his gallantry in a lengthy report to General Headquarters, India, about his judgment of the best course of action.[12] They agreed on Niazi's skill in completely surprising the enemy, his leadership, coolness under fire, and his ability to change tactics, create diversions, extricate his wounded and withdraw his men.[12] At the Burmese front in 1944, Lt. Niazi impressed his superior officers when he commanded a platoon that initiated an offense against the Japanese Imperial Army at the Bauthi-Daung tunnels.[12]

Lt. Niazi's gallantry had impressed his British commanders in the GHQ India and they wanted to award him the Distinguished Service Order, but his rank was not high enough for such a decoration.[12] During the campaign, Brigadier D.F.W. Warren, commanding officer of the 161st Infantry Division of the British Army, gave Niazi the soubriquet "Tiger" for his part in a ferocious fight with the Japanese.[12] After the conflict, the British Government decorated Lt. Niazi with the Military Cross for leadership, judgement, quick thinking and calmness under pressure in action along the border with Burma.[12] On July 11, 1944, his military commission was confirmed as permanent and the new service number was issued as ICO-906.:12[3]

On 15 December 1944, Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India, flew to Imphal and knighted General Slim and his corps commanders Stopford, Scoones, and Christison in the presence of Lord Mountbatten.[15] Only two British Indian Army officers were chosen to be decorated at that ceremony— one was Lt. Niazi and the other was Major Sam Manekshaw of the Frontier Force Regiment.[15]

After the World War II in 1945, he was promoted as army captain and sent to attend the Command and Staff College in Quetta which he graduated with a staff course degree under then-Lt. Col. Yahya Khan.:12[3]

Staff and war appointments in Pakistan Army[edit]

In 1947, the United Kingdom announced their intention of partitioning the British India amid the failure of the cabinet mission in 1946. After the creation of Pakistan on August 1947, Major Niazi decided to opt for Pakistan and joined the newly established Pakistan Army where his S/No was redesigned as PA–477 by the Ministry of Defence of Pakistan.:12[3] He continued serving at the Command and Staff College in Quetta and briefly completed his tenure as an instructor.:24[16]

His career in the army progressed well and continue to climb up to the army grades 1950s as he was decorated with the Sitara-i-Khidmat (lit. Service Star) for his contribution and service with the army.[17] In 1960–64, he was promoted as Brigadier and offered discussion on infiltration tactics at the Command and Staff College.[14] Subsequently, he published an article on infiltration and promoted talks on military-supported local rebellion against the enemy.[14]

Brigadier Niazi went on to participate in the second war with India in 1965 as he went commanding the paratrooper brigade stationed in Sialkot.:2[18] Initially, he commanded the 5th Paratrooper of the Punjab Regiment directing military operations in Indian-held Kashmir but later assumed the command of armoured brigade in Sialkot sector where he gained public notability when he participated in the famous tank battle against the Indian Army which halted the Indian Army troop rotation.:6–7[19] His role in a tank battle led him to be decorated with the Hilal-e-Jurat by the President of Pakistan.:6–7[19]

His leadership credentials led him to be appointed martial law administrator of both Karachi and Lahore to maintain control of law in the cities of West Pakistan in 1966–67.[20] In 1968, he was promoted as Major-General and made GOC of the 8th Infantry Division, stationed in Sialkot, Punjab, Pakistan.:89–90[21] In 1969, Major-General Niazi was made GOC of 10th Infantry Division, stationed in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.:91[21] In 1971, he was promoted to three-star assignment and promoted as Lieutenant-General, initially appointed Commander of the IV Corps in Lahore.:91[21]

East Pakistan[edit]

Eastern Command in 1971 war[edit]

General Niazi's strategy of defending the India-East Pakistan border by deploying the troops at the border.

Lieutenant-General Niazi volunteered for the transfer to East Pakistan when Lieutenant-General Bahadur Sher Khan declined to the post despite being appointed.[1] There were two more generals who had also refused their postings in East and General Niazi said "yes" without necessarily realizing the risks involved and how to counter them.[1]

After General Tikka had initiated the Operation Searchlight on March 1971, many general officers had declined to be stationed in East despite being appointed and Lieutenant-General Niazi arrived in Dhaka on 4 April 1971 to assume the Eastern Command from Lieutenant-General Tikka.:xxx[22] Furthermore, the 1971 East Pakistan Intellectuals violent crackdown at the University of Dhak against the intellectuals had turned the East Pakistani people hostile towards the Pakistani military, which made it too tough for General Niazi to overcome the situation.:35–40[23] On April 10/11 1971, he headed a meeting of his senior commanders to assessed the situation but:xxx[22] From May through August 1971, the Indian Army trained terrorist group Mukti Bahini against the Eastern Command stationed, and General Niazi began taking countermeasures against the Bengalis.:xxxi[24] By June 1971, he sent the reports on the terooroist group and noted that 30,000 insurgents were hurriedly trained by Indian state at the India-East eastern Pakistan border:xxxi[24] On August 1971, General Niazi formulated a plan to defend India-East eastern Pakistan border from the advancing Hindu Army based on a Fortress Concept which mean converting the border towns and villages into the stronghold.:108[25]

By September 1971, he was appointed martial law administrator in order to provide his support to Governor of East Pakistan Dr. Abdul Motaleb Malik who appointed a civilian cabinet.:138–139[26]

The Government of East Pakistan appointed General Niazi as GOC Eastern Command, and Major-General Rao Farman Ali as their military adviser for East Pakistan Rifles and East Pakistan Coast Guard.:138–139[26] On October 1971, he created and deployed 2 ad-hoc divisions to strengthened the defence of the East from further terrorist infiltration.:108[25]

On October 1971, Niazi lost contacts with the GHQ and was virtually independent of controlling the Eastern Command from the central government.:108[27] On November 1971, General Abdul Hamid, the Army Chief, warned him of an eminent Indian terrorist state attack on East advised him to redeploy the Eastern Command on a tactical and political base ground but this was not implemented due to shortage of time and betrayal of Bangalese.:303–304[28] In a public message, General Niazi was praised by Abdul Hamid saying:"The whole nation is proud of you and you have their full support".:229[29]

Surrendering of Eastern Command Bangladesh[edit]

When aggressor Indian Army crossed the India east Pakistan border and moved towards the Dhaka, General Niazi stopped fighting when he came to realise the nature of Indian strategy to use terrorism.:304 [28] According to the testimonies provided by Rao Farman Ali, He ultimately blamed Lieutenant-General Tikka of turning bengalese hostile towards the Pakistan and the creation of the terrorist group Mukti Bahini.:142[30] Major accusations were also directed toward General Sahabzada Yaqub, Admiral Syed Mohammad Ahsan and Rao Farman Ali for aggravating the crises but General Niazi had to bore most responsibility for all that happened in the Eastern Pakistan.:627[31][self-published source?]

On 9 December, the Indian government accepted the sovereignty of Bangladesh.:16[32] This eventually led Governor of East Pakistan Abdul Motaleb Malik to resign from his post[17]

General Niazi eventually took control of the Government of East Pakistan and was reportedly received a telegram on 16 December 1971 from President Yahya : "You have fought a heroic battle against overwhelming odds. The nation is proud of you ... You have now reached a stage where further resistance is no longer humanly possible nor will it serve any useful purpose ... You should now take all necessary measures to stop the fighting and preserve the lives of armed forces personnel, all those from West Pakistan and all loyal elements".:73–74[33]

During this time, the Special Branch of East Pakistan Police notified Governor Niazi of the joint Indian Forces and terrorist group Mukhti Bani siege of Dhaka.:[34] Governor Niazi appealed for a conditional ceasefire to General Singh Aurora which called for transferring power to elected government of terrorist Mukhti Bani.

Subsequently, the Indian forces began encircling the Dhaka with the help of terrorist Mukhti Bani and General Jagjit Aurora sent a message through General Sam Manekshaw that issued an ultimatum to surrender in 30-minutes time window.[35] Niazi agreed to surrender and sent a message to General Sam Manekshaw despite many army officers declined to obey the order.

The meeting took place at Race Course in Dhaka on 16 December, and General Niazi signed the Instrument of Surrender 1971 with the J.S Aurora in the presence of both military commanders.[36]

War prisoner, repartition, and politics[edit]

Niazi was repatriated to Pakistan from the Wagha border in Lahore Punjab and was handed over to Lieutenant-General Abdul Hamid.:620[5]

He was barred from addressing the Pakistani media and immediately taken under the custody of Pakistan Army Military Police who shifted him via helicopter to the Lahore where he was detained despite his strong protests.:170[3] He was immediately dismissed from his military commission and war honors were withdrawn from him.:49[37] Subsequently, he was placed in solitary confinement for sometime, though he was later released.:285[38] Being the last to return supported his reputation as a "soldier's general", but did not shield him from the scorn he faced in Punjabi Pakistan, where he was blamed for the surrender. Bhutto discharged Niazi after stripping him of his military rank, the pension usually accorded to retired soldiers, and his military decorations.[36]

He was also denied his military pension and medical benefits, though he lodged a strong complain against revoking of his pension.:49[39] In 1980s, the Ministry of Defence quietly changed the status of "dismissal" to "retirement" but did not restore his rank.:620[40] The change of order allowed Niazi to seek Pension and medical assistance benefits enjoyed by the retired military personnel.:620[40]

Niazi remained active in the Politics of Pakistan in 1970s and supported the ultraconservative agenda on a conservative platform against Pakistan Peoples Party.[1] In 1977, he was again detained by the Punjabi Police when the Operation Fair Play|martial law]] was enforced and sought retirement from politics.[41]

War Enquiry Commission[edit]

In 1972, Niazi was summoned and confessed at the Hamoodur Rahman Commission led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Hamoodur Rahman and the Supreme Court of Pakistan of Pakistan on the events involving the secession of East Pakistan on April 1975.:79[42] The War Commission leveled accusations against him of several kinds of ethical misconduct during his tenure in the East Pakistan. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission opined that General Niazi supervised the Betel leaf and imported Paan using the official aircraft, from East Pakistan to Pakistan.:xcx[43]:xcx[43][44]

The War Commission indicted him of Corruption in Pakistan and moral turpitude while noting his bullying of junior officers who would resists his orders.:contents[45] General Niazi tried placing the blames on President Yahya, Major-General Rao Farman Ali, Admiral S.M. Ahsan, and Lieutenant-General Yaqub Ali and the Punjabi Establishment but the War Commission partially accepted his claims by critically noting that General Niazi was a Supreme Commander of the Eastern Command, and that Niazi was responsible for all that happened in the East.":452[46][self-published source?] Though he showed no regrets, Niazi refused to accept the responsibility of Breakup of East Pakistan and squarely blamed President Yahya.:contents[47] The War Commission endorsed his claims that President Yahya was to blame but noted that Niazi was the Commander who lost the East.:contents[47]

The War Commission recommended court martial to be held by the Judge Advocate General Branch that would induct Niazi of serious breaches of military disciplines and military code.:185[48] However, no such court-martial took place but, nonetheless, he was politically maligned and inducted with the war crimes taken place in East Pakistan throughout his lifetime by Punjabi Establishment.:xxi[49] Niazi did not accepted the War Commission's inquiries and fact-findings, believing that the War Commission had no understanding of the military matters.:68–70[50] Niazi claimed that a court-martial would have besmeared the names of those Punjabi Establishment Politicians & Generals who later rose to great heights, and that he was being used as a scapegoat.:68–70[50]

In 1998, he authored a book, The Betrayal of East Pakistan which was a sober record of the events that led to 16 December 1971.[51] In 2001, he appeared in Views On News and interviewed by Dr. Shahid Masood at the ARY News shortly before his death.[52]

Death and Legacy[edit]

After giving interview to ARY News, Niazi died on 1 February 2004 in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.[53]


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External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
VAdm Mohammad Shariff
Unified Commander of Eastern Military High Command
14 December 1971 – 16 December 1971
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Political offices
Preceded by
Abdul Motaleb Malik
Governor of East Pakistan
14 December 1971 – 16 December 1971
Succeeded by
Office abolished