|Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee|
1978 – 13 April 1980
|Preceded by||General Muhammad Shariff|
|Succeeded by||General Iqbal Khan|
|Chief of Naval Staff|
23 March 1975 – 21 March 1979
|Preceded by||Vice-Admiral Hasan Hafeez Ahmed|
|Succeeded by||Admiral Karamat Rahman Niazi|
|Chairman of Federal Public Service Commission|
|Born||Mohammad Shariff Khan
Gujrat, Punjab, British India:372
|Citizenship|| Pakistan (1947-2015)
British Subject (1920-1947)
|Service/branch|| Royal Indian Navy (1940–1947)
Pakistan Navy (1947–80)
|Years of service||1936-1980|
|Rank||Admiral (S/No. PN. 138)|
|Commands||Vice Chief of Naval Staff
Eastern Command, Dhaka
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Operation Fair Play
Soviet war in Afghanistan
|Awards|| Legion of Merit (1980)
Admiral Mohammad Shariff Khan (Urdu: ايڈمرل محمد شريف; b.1920–7 July 2015, NI(M), HI(M), SI(M), LM, HJ, SJ, SK, was a four-star rank admiral and a memoirist who was at the center of all the major decisions made in Pakistan in the events involving the war with India in 1971, the enforcement of martial law in the country in 1977, and the decision in covertly intervening against Soviet Union in Afghanistan.:362
Gaining commission in the Royal Indian Navy, he participated in the World War II on behalf of Great Britain before joining the Pakistan Navy in 1947 as one of the senior staff officer. In 1969, he was appointed Flag Officer Commanding of the Eastern Command of the Pakistan military in the East-Pakistan and led by the Eastern Naval Command during the civil war in East, followed by the foreign intervention by India in 1971. After the war, he was taken as war prisoner alongside with Lieutenant-General A.A.K Niazi after conceding of the surrender of Eastern Command to the Indian Army.
He resumed his active military service in the Navy after his repatriation from India and was appointed the Chief of Naval Staff in 1975 after the sudden death of Vice-Admiral Hasan Ahmed. He has the distinction of being the first four-star admiral in the navy and was the first admiral to be appointed as Chairman joint chiefs committee in 1978 until 1980. As the Chairman Joint Chiefs Committee, he continued to advocate for an aggressive foreign policy and a strong nuclear deterrent against the foreign intervention.:331–334
After retiring from the military in 1980, Shariff was appointed as chairman of Federal Public Service Commission while he continued his role as military adviser to President Zia-ul-Haq until 1988 when he retired from public service. After living a quiet life in Islamabad, he announced to publish his memoirs, "Admiral's Diary", on providing further accounts, causes, and failure of military crackdown in East Pakistan.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Chief of Naval Staff
- 3 Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
- 4 Later life and Post-retirement
- 5 References
- 6 External links
World War II and RIN career
Mohammad Shariff was born in Gujrat, Punjab, British India, into an Arain Punjabi family in 1920.:372 As many of his contemporaries, he was also educated at the Rashtriya Indian Military College and joined the Royal Indian Navy (RIN) in 1936 as a sailor in the Communication Branch. He was trained as telegraphist with initially holding the rank as petty officer in the Royal Indian Navy 1937 and gained commissioned as Sub-Lieutenant in 1938 before participating in the World War II in 1940.[self-published source?] One of his close colleagues at this time was Gautum Singh, whom he would fight against in 1971.:218–219
He participated in the World War II as a signalist in the Royal Indian Navy on behalf of the Great Britain and took part in actions in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Red sea, and Bay of Bengal.:372–373 In 1945, he went to the United Kingdom to attend the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth, England where he graduated with a staff course degree.:372–373
In 1946, he formed the secret "Strike Committee" against the Royal Navy's appointment and had kept close contacts with Lieutenant Suresh Nanda at the start of the RIN mutiny against the Royal Navy. During the course of the mutiny, he coordinated secret messages among the mutineers who were seen to be moving across ships and establishments, in official vehicles, to speak to ratings at the behest of British naval authorities.
Despite his role, he avoided the dismissal from his military service by the British inquiries when the mutiny was suppressed by the British Army and the Royal Navy. Among between his Royal Indian Navy officers, he was described as "smart and intelligent" officer.
In 1947, the United Kingdom announced the partition of India after the failure of the cabinet mission sent in 1946. After the creation of Pakistan on 14 August 1947, Lieutenant Sharif decided opt for Pakistan and joined the newly established Pakistan Navy but dropped his last name from MS Khan to simply read as Lieutenant Mohammad Sharif.
He was among the first twenty naval officers who joined the Royal Pakistan Navy (RPN) as a Lieutenant with a service number PN. 138.[self-published source?] He was the 20th most senior Lieutenant in the navy in terms of seniority list provided by the Royal Indian Navy to the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in 1947. He proceeded his education at the Joint Service Defence College in Latimer in Buckinghamshire, England and graduated with the joint staff degree. In 1950s, he served on various assignment in the Pakistan military and served as a senior staff officer at the Navy NHQ from 1953–56 as Lieutenant-Commander. In 1960, he was promoted as Commander in the Navy and went to the United States where he attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and graduated with a master's degree in War studies in 1962.:1–2
In 1965, Captain Shariff continued his staff appointement role as DCNS (Personnel) at the NHQ and participated in the second war with India in 1965. He took participation in planning of naval assault against the Indian Navy and provided his analysis based on personnel preparation for the operation.
In 1966, he was promoted as Commodore and posted as DCNS (Operations) by the Commander in Chief Admiral Syed Mohammad Ahsan which he continued his role until 1969.:175–178 In 1968, Commodore Shariff paid a goodwill visit to China alongside and held defence talks with the senior leadership of People's Liberation Army.:55
In 1969, Commodore Shariff was promoted as Rear-Admiral, a two-star rank, and posted in East Pakistan as Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) at the Eastern Command.:249 He was the most senior flag officer in the Navy and commanded the naval operations in the East Pakistan with coordination with the Eastern Command under its Commanders.:438:51
During the same time, President Yahya Khan appointed Admiral Syed Mohammad Ahsan as the Governor of East Pakistan and the Unified Commander of the Eastern Command, and the activities, momentum, and magnitude of the Pakistan Navy in East Pakistan increased at a maximum level, and more military and naval exercises began to take place in East Pakistan that initially focused on gathering intelligence on Indian infiltration in East. East Pakistan under the martial law administration of Admiral Ahsan saw the period of stability and the civil control and law and order situation was effectively under control. In 2010, Admiral Sharif eulogize his memories and concluded:
The initial military success (Searchlight and Barisal) in regaining the law and order situation in East-Pakistan in March 1971 was misunderstood as a complete success.... In actuality, the law and order situation deteriorated with time, particularly after September of the same year when the population turned increasingly against the [Pakistan] armed forces as well as the [Yahya's military] government. The rapid increase in the number of troops though bloated the overall strength, however, [it] did not add to our fighting strength to the extent that was required. A sizeable proportion of the new additions were too old, inexperienced or unwilling....— Admiral Mohammad Sharif, Commander of Eastern Naval Command, 
In 1970, the Election Commission held the general elections in the country that resulted in Awami League securing the supermajority in the East while Pakistan Peoples Party claiming the mandate in the Pakistan. When the agitations in the East began to gain momentum, President Yahya held meeting with Governor Vice-Admiral Syed Mohammad Ahsan and his Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Yaqub Ali Khan over their mission outcomes where both objected the brute force against the Bengali rebels. Despite opposition, President Yahya Khan authorized the Operation Searchlight and accepted the resignations from Governor Admiral Ahsan and General Yaqub, only to be appointed Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan as their capacity.:xxxx
After Tikka's removal from the Government of East Pakistan on August 1971, he was appointed as the second-in-command of the East Military Command with Lieutenant-General A.A.K.Niazi leading the military in the front.
The Searchlight resulted in quick success, but it had created a temporary momentum on Bengali rebels who started their insurgency from Barisal, a riverine city which the Army had failed to infiltrated. Therefore, Rear-Admiral Sharif's command was put in test when Sharif authorized the launch of Barisal which resulted in immediate success, but it had no long-lasting effects.
As the war progressed, he continuous insisted on deploying of the combat warships to mount a serious pressure on the Indian Navy's Eastern Naval Command but the Navy NHQ did not grant his wishes in a fear of losing the warships into the hands of the enemy.:455 As the India Navy effectively applied the naval blockade of the East Pakistan, Admiral Sharif focused on leading the riverine-based naval operations executed by the Pakistan Marines and the Special Service Group Navy (SSGN) to counter the Indian Army's advancement at the Cox's Bazar and other strategic naval shore. He personally led many operations undertaken after the deployment of the Marines and SSG(N) against the Eastern Command of the Indian Army despite logistical disadvantages. Overall, the Pakistan Navy performed its mission task well and diligently by providing support to the army till the end. However, while Navy was successful by performing its task, Pakistan Army's Eastern Military Commands were unsuccessful to achieve their objectives. In East, he earned his reputation as an effective commander within the military circles whose efforts had partially made the strategic shores of East Pakistan safe from the Indian Navy. Rear-Admiral Sharif was in attendance of every war meeting called by Lieutenant-General Niazi where he was presented every coordination mission led by the Army and the Navy.[self-published source?][self-published source?]
By the end of the conflict, Admiral Sharif had become the principal commander of Pakistan Eastern Command where many of Pakistan Army's leadership and Pakistan Air Force operations commanders where directly reporting to Rear-Admiral Sharif.
Liberation war and surrender
The Indian Air Force's successful aerial campaign resulted in the air superiority after taking Sq. Ldr PQ Mehdi as war prisoner and dismantling the only No. 14 Squadron active in the East. Admiral Sharif authorized Lieutenant-Colonel Liaquat Asrar Bukhari to evacuate the Aviation Corps and take refuge to neighboring Burma.:422–425 When Air Commodore Inamul Haq, commander of Eastern Air Command, argued against the evacuation due to total air superiority enjoyed by the Indian IAF, Sharif strongly lobbied for the evacuation by convincing Lieutenant-General Niazi thatColonel Liaqat Bukhari should be allowed to give it a try, as several helicopters would be prevented from falling into enemy hands. General Niazi agreed with Rear-Admiral Shariff and ordered Colonel Liaqat to launch an evacuation operation immediately. Over several nights, the army aviators, large number of PAF pilots and personnel successfully left for Akyab in Burma on their own luck.
About the deployment of US Taskforce 74 in support to the Pakistani military, Admiral Sharif had notified General Niazi that "if the American Fleet had been coming to help them [Eastern Command], it would have established contacts with his HQ.":156
During the entire military conflict, the operations were failed and the insurgency was widely spread to entire provincial state, the East-Pakistan. The senior general officers began start to blame on each other whilst each one of them projected himself as the hero who fought well and inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing Indians. The Indian Military had intervened in East-Pakistan, the Eastern Air Command and Eastern Military Command were fell apart, forcing Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi to surrender the Pakistan Eastern Command Forces to his counterpart Jagjit Singh Arora. Initially there were no intelligence on Indian military movements and troops rotation, and the senior general officers of both PAF and Pakistan Army were blaming the Corps commander and Commander of Eastern Military High Command, Lieutenant-General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi for their failure. In spite of Eastern Naval Command paying a heavy price, Admiral Sharif continued to keep the moral of Pakistan Navy personnel on high who were later pushed back to the wall by Mukti Bahni and the animosity of public that pounded the Pakistan Naval assets.
As Indian Armed Forces entered in East-Pakistan, Shariff planned an immediate evacuation operation. He commanded and oversaw the maximum evacuation of Pakistan Naval assets from East Pakistan to Burma in a limited time. However, the night Pakistan Eastern Military High Command were surrendered, Shariff with small number of military officers were planned to leave as the Pakistan naval vessel, with holding of other officers and civilian, was waiting for their evacuation. As the East-Pakistan fell, all the naval routes were successfully closed by Indian Navy, forcing Shariff to remain in East-Pakistan.
On 16 December, Rear-Admiral Mohammad Shariff surrendered his TT pistol to Vice-Admiral R.N. Krishna Eastern Naval Command at 4:31pm (14:31hrs). His TT Pistol is still placed in "cover glass" where his name is printed in big golden alphabets at the Indian Military Academy's Museum.
Later, he joined General Niazi where he was presented at the time when the Instrument of Surrender was signed. Sharif was the only Admiral at that particular event, with thirty brigadiers, and four Major-Generals, and thousands of soldiers and personnel witnessed the event and instrument that Niazi signed.
War prisoner and return
Upon surrendering of the Eastern Command, Rear-Admiral Sharif was taken as prisoner of war (POW) and was taken adjacent Camp No. 77A, where many of the senior military officials were held, including Lieutenant-General Niazi, in 1971.:218 In 1972, he was later shifted at the Fort William in Calcutta where the U.S. Navy naval chief Admiral Elmo Zumwalt paid him a visit, followed by a visit of Indian naval chief Admiral S.M. Nanda who came with basket of fruits and cakes which initially surprised him, and was concern of his health.:218
Therefore, Admiral Nanda transferred him to Jabalpur, to Rear-Admiral Gautum Singh who had done communications operations and specialization under Admiral Sharif in HMS Mercury during World War II.:218 He also requested a copy of Holy Quran which he recited during his time of his imprisonment and became religious, growing facial beard throughout his time was war prisoner.:218
At then end of conflict ... We [Eastern Naval Command] had no intelligence and hence, were both deaf and blind with the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force pounding us day and night ...
On March 1973, the Indian government handed over Rear-Admiral Sharif to Pakistan government at the Wagha border.:219 He was allowed to resume his military service despite many of his colleagues were forced retired and testified in the War Enquiry Commission, where he noted that: "the foundation for the defeat in East Pakistan could be trace back to the military coup d'état in 1958 where senior officers became greedy self-serving politicians rather than soldiers.":74 In 1974, he was promoted as Vice-Admiral and appointed as Vice-Chief of Naval Staff under Vice-Admiral H.H. Ahmed despite the latter being junior to Sharif.:xxxi
On 23 March 1975, Vice-Admiral Sharif's appointment as Chief of Naval Staff was approved by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after Vice-Admiral Hasan Hafeez Ahmed died of heart complications on 8 March 1975. At the time his appointment, he was the most senior admiral and supersedes no one.:237–327 In 1976, Vice-Admiral Sharif was promoted to four-star rank Admiral by President Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry— the first four-star appointment in the history of the Navy since its establishment in 1947.:3–4
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
On 22 January 1977, he was appointed acting Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in the absence of General Muhammad Shariff and led the delegation to meet with Vice Chairman Li Xiannian paid a state visit to Pakistan.:28
In 1977, Admiral Sharif controversially supported the martial law enforced by Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq after the popular civil unrest sparked after the general elections held in 1977. He was named deputy CMLA in the Military Council that is to be view to assist President Fazal Ilahi.
In 1977, he was appointed acting Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee in the absence of General Muhammad Shariff who later resigned amid disagreement of the decision of the martial law on 22 January 1977.:331 In 1977, Air Chief Marshal Zulfiqar Ali Khan, the Chief of Air Staff, had revolted against the martial law and was replaced by Air Chief Marshal Anwar Shamim who superseded three senior air marshals.:73–75 To sustain the presidency, the military staff appointments in the Navy and the Air Force was highly important for President Zia-ul-Haq to keep the inter-services loyal to General Zia-ul-Haq. In 1978, his appointment for the chairman joint chiefs was officially confirmed by the President Ilahi after the involuntary resignation of General Muhammad Sharif.:331 He was the second Chairman joint chiefs and the first admiral to have been appointed chairman joint chiefs.:331
With Admiral Sharif appointed as Chairman joint chiefs, he invited Admiral Karamat Rahman Niazi to be appointed as Chief of Naval Staff in his capacity who was also promoted to the four-star rank. His experience as Deputy MLA in East Pakistan highly benefitted General Zia-ul-Haq to consolidate and stabilized the presidency of President Zia-ul-Haq in 1978.
Soviet war in Afghanistan
Admiral Sharif worked to enhance the capabilities of Pakistani military towards professionalism and focused towards guaranteeing the national security despite General Zia sustaining the control of the country through the military control.:74 To sustain the presidency, the military staff appointments in the Navy and the Air Force was highly important for President Zia-ul-Haq to keep the inter-services loyal to General Zia-ul-Haq.
On 25 December 1979, the Soviet Union officially intervened in Afghanistan and President Zia called for a national security meeting that was attended by the Chairman joint chiefs, chiefs of staff of army, navy, and air force. At this meeting, he made no intentions against Soviet involvement in East-Pakistan's crises after witnessing the Soviet support to India and Mukti Bahini. In this meeting, Admiral Shariff advocated for an operation to teach Soviets a lesson, and Lieutenant-General Rahman was kept hearing saying: "Kabul must burn! Kabul must burn!". After this meeting, Zia authorized this operation under General Rahman, and it was later merged with Operation Cyclone, a programme funded by the United States and the CIA.
At this meeting, President Zia had asked Admiral Sharif and his chief of staff General Khalid Mahmud Arif to lead a geo-strategic civil-military team to formulate a geostrategy to counter the Soviet aggression. He played a crucial role in President Zia's policy on nuclear weapons and was a strong proponent for the implementation of the nuclear deterrent in a view of prevention of foreign intervention.:362 He advised for an aggressive policy towards supporting the Afghan mujahideen and supporting a covert but aggressive nuclear option to prevent the military infiltration from India and the Soviet Union.:362
Later life and Post-retirement
In 1980, Admiral Sharif's retirement was due and decided not to seek for an extension as he was succeeded by General Iqbal Khan.:285 He was given an honorary guard of honor, and a monument after under his name was built in Navy NHQ and the Joint Staff HQ.
Upon retirement, he was appointed as Chairman of the Federal Public Service Commission and continued his role as military adviser to President Zia. However, he was given criticism for leading the appointment of those civil bureaucrats who were loyal to his government and his chairmanship, while those who weren't were subsequently moved. He continued his role as military adviser and the chairmanship until the death of President Zia-ul-Haq in 1988 and took retirement from the public service and his role as the military adviser to the Government of Pakistan.
After his retirement, he lived a quiet life in Islamabad for more than a decade, and served as President of Elaf Club of Pakistan, a political and military think tank based in Islamabad.
On 23 September 2010, Admiral Shariff wrote and launched his first autobiography "Admiral's Diary", in English. The ceremony was held at the Bahria University Auditorium. Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Noman Bashir was chief guest on the occasion. The book launching was attended by seasoned retired military officer and serving bureaucrats, senior retired and serving officers of the three services, family members and friends of the author, notable literary personalities, press and media.
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|Unified Commander of Eastern Military High Command
31 August 1971 – 14 December 1971
Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi
Hasan Hafeez Ahmed
|Chief of Naval Staff
1975 – 1979
Karamat Rahman Niazi
|Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee
1978 – 1980