Zafar Muhammad Khan

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Zafar Muhammad Khan
Commander Zafar M. Khan, 1965.
Birth name Zafar Muhammad Khan
Nickname(s) Commander Zafar
Born Karachi, Sindh province, British Indian Empire
Died 4 December 1971
Visakhapatnam (Bay of Bengal), India
Allegiance  Pakistan
Service/branch Naval Jack of Pakistan.svg Pakistan Navy
Years of service 1956-1971
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Commander
Service number PN No. 643[citation needed]
Unit Submarine Service Branch
Commands held PNS Ghazi Submarine
Battles/wars Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Operation Dwarka
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Operation Falcon
Awards Sitara Jurat Ribbon.gif Sitara-e-Jurat (1965)
Hilal-Jurat Ribbon.gif Hilal-i-Jur'at (1971)

Commander Zafar Muhammad Khan (death: 4 December 1971) was a naval officer in the Pakistan Navy who was the Captain and Commanding Officer of PNS Ghazi during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The PNS Ghazi was sunk under mysterious circumstances while on a reconnaissance mine-laying mission in the approaches to the Indian port of Vishakapatnum (Bay of Bengal) and sank at about 00:10 hours. A total of 93 men, including 11 commissioned officers, and 82 non-commissioned officers lost their lives. In 1971, he was one the officer naval officers who were posthumously awarded Hilal-i-Jur'at for their actions.

Naval career[edit]

Khan graduated from Karachi University with a B.Sc. in Electrical engineering in 1956.[citation needed] He gained a commission in the Pakistan Navy in 1956, and was sent to Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth to take the General Naval Course (GNC). He began his active duty in 1960 when he graduated from there. He briefly served in PNS Ghazi as an Electrical Engineer Officer (EEO), and actively participated in Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. He then participated and also served as an Torpedo officer (TO) in Operation Dwarka on 7 September 1965. After the war, he taught electrical engineering courses as an Associate professor at the Pakistan Navy Engineering College. He was promoted Lieutenant Commander in 1967, and finally promoted Commander in 1971.

Four days later, he became a commanding officer of the PNS Ghazi. In late 1971, the political crisis and tensions between East and West Pakistan were heightened. Naval Intelligence (Pakistan Navy) realised that Indian intervention in Pakistan's affairs was inevitable. Sensing a deteriorating military scenario with the move of Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikrant close to East Pakistan, the Pakistan Navy launched a covert reconnaissance mission codenamed "Operation Falcon". It was followed by deploying PNS Ghazi around the Indian peninsula from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. PNS Hangor was deployed near the coast of West Pakistan under the command of Captain Ahmed Tasnim.

In the night of 14 November 1971, PNS Ghazi sailed out of harbour under the command of Commander Zafar Muhammad Khan with 92 men on board. It was expected to report back to its home base on 26 November 1971. According to Naval Intelligence, two different missions were assigned to PNS Ghazi. Copies of the missions were handed over to Commander Khan, marked "Top Secret".[citation needed] The Operation's Commander had instructed Commander Zafar Khan not to open the files until PNS Ghazi approached Visakhapatnam port.

One of the PNS Ghazi's missions was to lay mines on Visakhapatnam Port, Bay of Bengal.[citation needed] Another assignment was to launch an assault on the only aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy, the INS Vikrant. The PNS Ghazi was 400 miles off Bombay on 16 November, off Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on 19 November, and entered the Bay of Bengal on 20 November 1971. The PNS Ghazi had achieved the first objectives by laying the mines. On 23 November, as part of second assignment, PNS Ghazi under Commander Khan began to look for INS Vikrant.

At 16:00 hours on 1 December 1971, Indian Naval Intelligence Branch took decision of deploying INS Rajput to launch an attack on PNS Ghazi, note that was just after two days later when a massive explosions was heard by Indians prior deployment of INS Rajput. December 2, fishermen reported the found life jacket written DIABLO (class of submarine in US Navy which was then commissioned in PAKISTAN Navy) near Visakhapatnam, at that stage Indians Naval Intelligence investigated and thus claimed the sinking of PNS Ghazi At 23:40 hours on 3 December in its own interest, INS Rajput moved through the channel to the exit from Visakhapatnam knowingly that PNS Ghazi is sunk by self detonated mine. On 4 December, Indian Navy put on the formal claim to have been involved in sinking of PNS Ghazi without any authentic evidence officially, though it is still a subject of dispute. On 28 November 1971 at 00:10 hours, PNS Ghazi was sunk with all 93 men abroad, under unknown circumstances. 11 commissioned officers and 82 non-commissioned officers lost their lives.

The Sinking of PNS Ghazi's details and records are not fully publicly known. Pakistan and India have proposed different theories and reports. After the war, both countries concluded their investigations, not completely known to public. Pakistan had classified all the information regarding the PNS Ghazi, while the country has paid tribute to the men.[original research?][citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Commander Zafar M Khan got married to Lalarukh Zafar on December 1964. He has one son Sameer Zafar Khan, his only child. His family currently resides in USA. He has two grandsons.


The Pakistan Navy has paid tribute to Commander Zafar and the crew of PNS Ghazi by establishing monuments of the fallen officers. In 1998, a dramatization of PNS Ghazi, as PNS Ghazi (Shaheed), was filmed, and it was financed and produced by ISPR of the Pakistan Defense Forces. It was here that the Pakistan Navy first outlined the naval career of Commander Zafar Muhammad Khan and other officers. A well-known Pakistani actor, Shabbir Jan, portrayed the life and career of Commander Zafar Muhammad Khan.


  • PNS Zafar: Named after Commander Zafar Muhammad Khan (shaheed). The establishment was commissioned on 15 March 1974, and serves as the depot for all Pakistan Navy personnel stationed at Islamabad.[citation needed]
  • Zafar Chowk: Named after Commander Zafar Muhammad Khan (shaheed). In order to perpetuate his memory, the naval and Islamabad municipal authorities have named the road crossing which gives access to Naval Residential Area in Islamabad "Zafar Chowk".[citation needed]