Khalid Mahmud Arif

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Khalid Mahmud Arif
Khalid Mahmud Arif.jpg
Khalid Mahmud Arif, 1982
Native name خالد محمود عارف
Nickname(s) Silencer
Born 1930 (age 86–87)
Jandiala, Jalandhar District, Punjab
Allegiance  Pakistan
Service/branch  Pakistan Army
Years of service 1949–1987
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Service number PA–3107
Unit Probyn's Horse
Commands held Chief of Army Staff
Army Chief of Staff (COS)
GOC 111th Army Brigade
X Corps
Awards [1]

General Khalid Mahmud Arif, born in 1930, (Urdu: خالد محمود عارف‎ popularly known as General K.M. Arif), was a senior four-star ranking general officer who served as the vice chief of army staff of the Pakistan Army under President General Zia-ul-Haq. Working as the principal military adviser to Zia's military government in the capacity of chief of staff, Arif rose to become Zia's closest collaborator and confidant who worked closely on matters of national security, overseeing and handling major civil-military issues directly involving the country's internal and foreign security.

Preceded by Lieutenant-General Syed Refaqat as chief of staff until General Zia-ul-Haq's death in a 1988 plane crash, Arif reached a four-star rank and commanded the Pakistan Army as its designated vice chief of army staff in place of General Sawar Khan who was due for retirement, in March 1984. He held on to this post for three years, after which he was himself replaced by General Mirza Aslam Beg in March 1987.

Early Life and education[edit]

Arif was born in Jalandhar, East Punjab and was a refugee who emigrated from eastern Punjab to West-Pakistan after independence in 1947.[2] After passing the Inter Services Selection Board (ISSB), he joined the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) as a cadet, and two-and-a-half years later, in 1948, he was commissioned into the Pakistan Army Armoured Corps, and was selected for further training in the United States. In 1950, Arif graduated from the United States Army Armor School at Fort Knox.[3] Throughout the 1950s, he attended the joint service course at the Command and Staff College, and held staff assignments in the Army.

Between wars: 1965 and 1971 war[edit]

Arif knew Zia-ul-Haq since his days as an army captain, and actively participated in the 1965 September war with Zia-ul-Haq.[4] After the 1965 war, he was stationed in East Pakistan and appointed martial law officer (MLO) at the Eastern High Command under Admiral Syed Mohammad Ahsan. In 1967, he took extreme close initiatives with then-Major-General Yakob Khan formulating an integrated battle plan for the province, dubbed "Operation X-Sunderbans-1".[4] X-Sunderbans-1 was a non-combat military exercise designed to form the basis for the operational combat plan. In East Pakistan, Arif remained an influential member of the Military government, responsible for deployment of junior units in the province as well as overseeing law and order. He fought well in the East Pakistan war and the 1971 Winter war leading him to earn a decoration in the former East Pakistan.[4]

Staff Appointments[edit]

His efforts in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971, and accounts of bravery in East Pakistan, prompted Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to accept a recommendation to decorate Arif with the Nishan-i-Imtiaz (Military) and the Sitara-i-Basalat in 1974, after his release by the Indian Army as a prisoner of war. In 1975, Arif was promoted to the rank of colonel, and then to brigadier-general in 1977 and subsequently became the GOC of 111th Infantry Brigade of X Corps.[4]

Operation Fair Play[edit]

Arif's 111th Brigade was subsequently used by General Zia-ul-Haq to topple the government of Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.[4] While the Military Police initiated massive arrests of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) activists and members, the X Corps and other military units consolidated control of the entire country into the hands of General Zia-ul-Haq. According to Lieutenant General F.A. Chishti, the former colonel commandant of Ralwalpindi-based X Corps, who helped General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq to overthrow the democratic government of Prime minister Zulfikar A. Bhutto in a 1977 military coup, Lieutenant-General Chisti had said: "General Zia was lucky to have Major General Arif as his life long confidante. He had experience as a Martial Law Officer during General's Yahya's regime and handled matters efficiently."[5]

Chief of Army Staff[edit]

A quintessential staff officer, Arif was a GOC of 111th Brigade for only eight months. Following General Zia's assumption of control of the country, Arif's career accelerated.[6] Despite commanding large military formations, Arif was promoted rapidly, commanding staff assignments rather than field assignments.[6] In 1977, Arif was hastily made lieutenant-general and shifted to army chief of staff in 1977.[6] He replaced the aging generals in his staff, bringing in the most qualified officers who had worked with him previously.[6]

In 1984, Arif was finally appointed to four-star rank and appointed as vice chief of army staff of Pakistan.[6] This promotion made General Arif a de facto chief of army staff of the Pakistan Army with the entire commanding staff reporting to him.[6]

Soviet war in Afghanistan[edit]

In 1979 General Zia held a meeting composed of five civilian statesmen and senior military officers, most notable of which were: Foreign minister Agha Shahi, Pakistan Ambassador to Afghanistan Kazi Humayun, Director-General (DG) of ISI (Pakistan) (ISI) General Akhtar Abdur Rahman, Lieutenant-General Yakob Khan, and Chief of Army Staff General K.M. Arif. They prepared a draft after consultations with strategists, intellectuals, practitioners, scholars and academics, and senior statesman, highlighting and recommending options for Pakistan.[7] Arif remained a vital figure in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, coordinating the international logistics against the Soviet Union there and managing international aid to Pakistan as well.[7]

Consolidation of atomic bomb project[edit]

In 1978, Zia completely disbanded the civilian committee under Dr. Mubashir Hassan. General Arif played a major role in formulating the nuclear policy and military control of the atomic bomb project.[8] General Zia acknowledged the importance of the success of the atomic bomb programme. General Arif made frequent trips to the United States to hold talks on Pakistan's ongoing atomic bomb project. He successfully convinced the United States to allow the atomic bomb project to continue in light of the Soviet war.[8] General Arif made it clear to the United States that "[Pakistan] won't compromise on its nuclear weapons programme, but won't conduct a test to harm to United States-Pakistan relations."[8] In 1983, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) placed a mole near the Kahuta Research Laboratories but was thwarted by the ISI.[8] According to General Arif, the ISI took the mole to its secret museum to train its own spies in espionage operations.[8]

According to the Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, General Arif was an uptight and strict army officer who was directly and indirectly involved in nuclear weapons development. He was also responsible for the security of Pakistan's scientists and its nuclear facilities. Arif oversaw the secret testing of nuclear weapons by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) led by its chairman Munir Ahmad Khan, throughout his career, and developed cordial relationships with both Munir Ahmad Khan and Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan. General Arif was one of the high-ranking officers who witnessed first-hand the first cold fusion test by the PAEC of a nuclear device in the Kirana Hills in 1983.

Post Retirement[edit]

General Arif retired from the Army and was succeeded by General Mirza Aslam Beg as chief of army staff. After his retirement, General Arif focused on poetry and wrote a book Khaki Shadows, published in 2001, that recounted the military history of Pakistan during the cold war.[9]

Currently, Arif is chairman of the Pakistan Security and Development Association, a non-government and autonomous research body. He is also a prolific writer, contributing articles to national newspapers, and is well known for his first book Working with Zia, published by Oxford University Press, and for his anthologies of Urdu poetry.


  1. ^ USA, United States Army; United States Department of the Army (November 1, 1985). "Legion of Merit" (PDF). United States Department of the Army. Headquarter of the United States Department of the Army (The Pentagon), Washington D.C. Retrieved 1 July 2011. 
  2. ^ Pakistan under Zia, 1977-1988 By Shahid Javed Burki Asian Survey, Vol. 28, No. 10 (Oct., 1988), pp. 1082-1100
  3. ^ Mian, Dr. Zia (2009). South Asian cultures of the bomb: atomic publics and the state in India and Pakistan. Bloomington, Indiana, United States: Indiana University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-253-22032-5. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Haqqani, Hussain (2005). Pakistan: between mosque and military. Washington D.C. United States: Broocking Institute of Press. p. 400. ISBN 978-0-87003-223-3. 
  5. ^ Shahid Javed Burki. "Pakistan: Fifty Years of Nationhood (Westview Publishers, 1999)"
  6. ^ a b c d e f Abbas, Hassan (2005). Pakistan's drift to extremism: Allah, the army, and America's war on terror. New Heaven, United States: Yale University Press. p. 270. ISBN 0-7656-1496-0. 
  7. ^ a b Hilali, A.Z. (2005). U.S.-Pakistan relations: Russian war in Afghanistan. Burlington, United States: Ashgat Publishing Company. p. 296. ISBN 0-7546-4220-8. 
  8. ^ a b c d e History Commons. "Profile: Khalid Mahmud Arif". History Commons. Retrieved 29 December 2011. 
  9. ^ Arif, PA, General Khalid Mahmud (2001). Khaki Shadows. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. p. 452. ISBN 0-19-579396-X. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Sawar Khan
Vice Chief of Army Staff
1984 – 1987
Succeeded by
Mirza Aslam Beg