Zahid Ali Akbar Khan

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Zahid Ali Akbar Khan
Birth name Zahid Ali Akbar
Nickname(s) Zach
Born (1933-01-09) 9 January 1933 (age 84)
Jalandhar, East Punjab, British Indian Empire, (present-day India)
Allegiance  Pakistan
Service/branch  Pakistan Army
Years of service 1952-1990
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant-General
Service number PA – 4499
Unit Corps of Engineers, Pakistan Army
Commands held Project-706
Adjutant-General (AG)
X Corps, Rawalpindi
E-in-C Military Engineering Service
Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers
Engineering Research Laboratories
Army Technological Research Laboratories
Battles/wars Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Siachen conflict of 1984
Awards Tamgha-i-Khidmat
Other work Chairman Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA)
Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)
Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF)

Lieutenant-General Zahid Ali Akbar Khan (Urdu: زاہد على اكبر; 9 January 1933), TKdt, was an engineering officer in the Pakistan Army who oversaw the construction of the General Headquarters (GHQ), and is well known as the director of the Kahuta Project as part of the Pakistan's acquisition of integrated atomic bomb project. After graduating from the Military College of Engineering, Akbar was commissioned in Corps of Engineers, and took participation in both the 1965 and the 1971 wars; and finally reached to a prestigious three-star assignment, the Engineer-in-Chief, while he also served as the military Science Adviser advising the military government of Zia-ul-Haq on important matters on science and technology, from 1977 until 1983.

In January 1976, as a Brigadier he was delegated by then-Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the fledgling uranium-enrichment program under Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. He spearheaded the construction of science facilities (KRL) at Kahuta. Although, according to Dr A.Q. Khan, Brigadier Zahid Ali Akbar was deputed to KRL by Gen Zia Ul Haq.[1]

Under the fruition of CMLA and President General Zia-ul-Haq, he was made the principle military director of the atomic bomb project's one side Kahuta Project. He took participation in site selections with Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and directed the enormous construction of weapon-testing laboratories, made critical decisions on the various methods of gas-centrifuges on the acquired raw materials, directed the collection of military intelligence on Indian nuclear programme.

In 1980, he was promoted as the Engineer-in-Chief by General Zia-ul-Haq who also appointed him as the military Science Adviser, and remained associated with the atomic bomb project until 1983 when he handed over the responsibility of the entire nuclear technology project to Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in 1983 . In 1984, Akbar assumed the combat assignment when he commanded the X Corps during the start of the Arctic war in Gilgit–Baltistan. After the war, he then directed the DESTO Laboratories which was established to produce the high-atomic explosive materials and weapons. After retirement from the army in 1990, Zahid Akbar was appointed Chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority by then-Prime Minister Navaz Sharif. He was then appointed Chairman of the Cricket Control Board of Pakistan (BCCP) and oversaw Pakistan's victory of the 1992 Cricket World Cup,[2] following which he established Scarsdale International School in Lahore, Pakistan.


Early life[edit]

Zahid Akbar was born in Jalandhar, the eldest child of a prominent Muslim lawyer. At the start of the Second World War his father volunteered for service with the British Indian Army in the Artillery Corps and was killed in action during the Battle of Singapore. He received his elementary and intermediate education from Jalandhar. After the partition of India, Khan's family moved to West-Pakistan and settled in Lahore.

He is a dual citizen of Pakistan and the United Kingdom.[3]

Education and military career[edit]

He was accepted as an officer-cadet at the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul in 1950 and was commissioned into the Corps of Engineers two years later. Having received his B.Eng. in System Engineering from Military College of Engineering in 1954; he initially worked in the civil projects that were constructed and built by the Corps of Engineers. However, two years later, Akbar later completed his M.Eng. in Control Systems Engineering from NED University of Engineering and Technology, funded his education by the Pakistan Military Academy in 1960.

He later received his master's degree in Strategic and War studies from National Defence University. After his education he became a chief engineer at the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers with a rank of major. His engineering career was at peak when he was involved in the beginning years of Pakistan's atomic deterrent program. He has served in the army in both the 1965 and 1971 wars.

Between the wars[edit]

Indo-Pakistani war of 1965[edit]

After graduating from engineering university in 1962, Akbar report to Army Corps Headquarter of IV Corps stationed in Lahore, where he was promoted to 1st-lieutenant. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, he served in the 5th Lahore Engineering Sector (5th LES). His first military engineer assignment was to lead the rapid construction of seven bridges at BRB Canal and Hudiara drain. The bridges were destroyed and demolished by the Indian Army due to their heavy artillery and gun battle. However, he was moved to Sialkot Engineer District (SED), where ongoing gun battle was taking place with the Indian Army. The assignment was considered quite difficult and dangerous as the gun battle was taking place continuously at that region. He led the installation of anti-tank and anti-personnel mines during the battle, where his unit came under intense gun fire. Having performed this task well, Akbar was promoted to the rank of major in October 1965.

GHQ construction[edit]

In 1966, he became special assistant to newly appointed Quartermaster General Major-General Abubakar Usman Mitha, and at this point, the new Army Commander-in-Chief General Yahya Khan embark on a national mobilization, and tasked the Quartermaster General Major-General Mitha to prepare the necessary accommodations and training facilities for the vast army that would be created. However, the enormous construction was delayed, mismanaged, and poor living conditions at the construction sites. Newspapers began to publish accounts charging Ayub Khan's corruption and his incompetency to complete this project even for his service of commission, the Pakistan Army. Few months later, Khan was replaced by his brother and Army Commander-in-Chief General Yahya Khan and decided to expand the project. In 1967, Akbar was made Commanding officer of 7th Military Engineer Company, MES at Rawalpindi; it was at this time that Akbar's reputation as a strict engineer officer began to be noticed by the Army. Akbar led a small construction project for the Quartermaster General's office where he helped install telephone lines for the Supervising Construction Quartermasters, demanded weekly reports on progress. He ordered his Engineering Company to hire whatever special equipment they needed and to pay premium prices if necessary to guarantee quick delivery. His speedy work of Quartermaster General's office had impressed Major-General Mitha and his superior officers who sat his example to his peers who were slowly working on the GHQ's construction programme. Major-General Mitha sent his recommendation to Engineer-in-Chief to turn the GHQ project around under his command; the recommendation was accepted. In 1967, Mitha personally send recommendation to Army Commander-in-Chief, requesting Akbar to be promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.

In 1967, the Engineer-in-Chief summoned Lieutenant-Colonel Akbar to meeting with the head of the Military Engineering Service for the military project. In attendance were the civilian architects, led by Abdur Rahmann Hay, of Institute of Architects (IOA), military engineers from Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and the Engineer-in-Chief. Together with IOA and FWO, the Corps of Engineers had designed the enormous office complex to house the Ministry of Defence's 40,000 staff/combatant commanders in one giant complex, an 8 story, and 8-square/rectangular curvy tall sided covering more than two thousand acres of land, ultimately became the General Combatant Headquarters (GHQ). Following the resignation of Ayub Khan, Abdur Rahmann Hay, assisted by Jasmine Lari became the architect-engineer, with Akbar leading the construction as well as working as system engineer. The electrical and road map of the GHQ was systematically designed and built by Lieutenant-Colonel Akbar who had worked more than 10 hours on the site, demanded progress reports from civilians and military contractors weekly, and refusing to take a break from the project recommended by his commanding officers.

Akbar overcame various labor strikes, shortages, alleged corruption in the military government that halted the project, and competing priorities and engineers who were not up to their tasks. Despite facing difficulties, Akbar completed this programme in January 1971, and it was finally inaugurated by General Yahya Khan soon after. He had worked six days a week in Rawalpindi, and determined to lead the project finished before its deadline to be reached. Akbar recalled that he was "hoping to get to a war theater so I could find a little peace".

Indo-Pakistan war of 1971[edit]

In 1971, the military was impressed by his speedy work, therefore, General Yahya Khan promoted him to the rank of Colonel, and was made Commanding officer of 20th Punjab Combat Regiment, a combat assignment. In 1971 war, he led the counter-combat operations in West-Pakistan aside laying anti-personnel mines against the Indian Army. On 29 December 1971, Akbar was promoted to 1-star rank, Brigadier, and was shifted as Chief of Staff of 212th Infantry Brigade, IV Corps.

Kahuta Project[edit]

In January 1972, the atomic bomb project was founded and formally initiated by Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Since 1972, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) had supervised the construction of the facilities of its own that directly reported to Science Adviser Mubashir Hassan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. During this time, the military had no role in the development of atom bomb project as it was under control by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who remained in charge of making critical decisions, acquiring raw materials, and as well as all civilian academic scientists reporting to Bhutto.

In 1974, the Project-706— a uranium enrichment project— was formally launched by Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission under nuclear engineer Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. However, this project initially suffered many set back due to lack of leadership and technical difficulty for acquiring the raw materials necessary for uranium enrichment, and had no geographical boundaries, only a single mission: the uranium enrichment. Although Mahmood and Mabshir were satisfied with the progress being made, Bhutto felt otherwise.[4] After meeting with Abdul Qadeer Khan in 1974, Bhutto insisted Abdul Qadeer Khan to join the project as Bhutto realized that speedy scientific direction was needed.[4] More ever, Bhutto felt that an aggressive leadership was needed and disappointed with Munir Khan's civilian constructors due to their slow pace of work.[4] Wanting a capable military administrator, Bhutto turned to Chief of Army Staff General Tikka Khan and suggested the appointment of a prestigious general officer to the project. In addition, General Zia turned to Engineer-in-Chief for a Brigadier who recommended Akbar.[4] The E-in-C ordered Brigadier Akbar to meet him at GHQ where he was ordered to meet with dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan the next morning.[4] The Engineer-in-Chief had told Brigadier Akbar that "The Chief of Army Staff and the Minister of Defence has selected for a very national importance assignment, and the Prime minister has approved the selection... You must meet with this scientist, dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan."[5][6] At 9:00 am, Brigadier Akbar met with dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and could not hide his complain about having pulled out of the combat assignment: "Oh, Dr. Khan, that thing... I thought I was over with it."[7] As Akbar met with Dr. Khan to discuss the details and the nature of the project.[7] Akbar, along with dr. Qadeer Khan, surveyed the area Akbar's Army jeep, then finished the report as they had aerially surveyed the area in an army helicopter.[7] The next week, Brigaider Akbar designed the draft of the entire city of Kahuta, and submitted the feasibility report to Defence Secretary.[8]

According to Khan's column, Brigadier Akbar designed and constructed the Kahuta Research Laboratories and its related facilities.[9] In 1977, he led the rapid construction of the enrichment plant in Kahuta.[7] In 1978, after the removal of Bhutto, Akbar was put in charge of Project-706.[7] His office was shifted back to Generals Headquarter, this time reporting directly to Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq. Akbar was made the Director of the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) and began to supervise the classified academic research in the facility.[10] Brigadier Zahid had carefully scrutinized the papers of many contractors and had decided to give the contract of some very important buildings to former civil engineer and retired army officer Mahmoodul Haq Alvi.[11]

Eventually, Brigadier Akbar was promoted to 2-star rank of Major-General by General Zia Ul Haq, on (date?) as he felt that the title "general" would hold more sway with the academic scientists working on the confidential projects.[7] The same civilian committee that was supervising the atomic research development was immediately disbanded as Bhutto's Science Advisor, dr. Mubaschir Hasann was placed in Adiala Jail with Bhutto. A new committee was formed, with military officers are part of the committee, headed by General Akbar. This administrative committee, known as Military Engineering Committee (MEC) under Akbar, was fully charged with the developing and formulating policies concerning the development of centrifuge plant at Kahuta.[10] In 1977, Brigadier Akbar was promoted as military Science Adviser and his office was shifted at the Generals Headquarter which he would held this post until 1983.[10] Other sources suggest he was appointed Science Adviser and his office shifted in 1980 (see section on Senior Staff Appointments). In 1978, Akbar met with PAEC nuclear engineer Munir Ahmad Khan, and discussed on the laboratories where the atomic bombs can be tested. Akbar was impressed with the breadth of Munir Khan's knowledge ranging from engineering to theoretical physics, and Khan's comprehensive understanding of the military affairs in international politics.[12] A long conversation took at Akbar's office and convinced Akbar to send his recommendation to appoint Munir Khan as director of entire project, despite Munir Khan's closeness to Bhutto.[12] Akbar came to understanding that Munir Khan had a breadth of knowledge understanding the features of military science which General Akbar founded lack in other scientists, including Abdul Qadeer Khan, despite Qadeer Khan's cordial relations with General Akbar.[12] He knew that broad knowledge would be vital in an interdisciplinary project that would involve not just physics, but chemistry, metallurgy, ordnance, mathematics, and engineering.[12]

General Akbar made critical decisions on prioritizing the various methods of gas centrifuges and acquiring raw materials needed by the scientists and engineers.[10] In 1980, he was promoted as lieutenant-general and was made as Engineer-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers to deal with senior people whose cooperation was required.[10] His appointment of prestigious 3 star rank and engineering assignment came to understanding by the military that military government officers wanted as administrative officer who understood the scientific needs of the project comprehensibly.[10] In 1983, the Project-706 became responsible for collecting the military intelligence on Indian nuclear programme, therefore, Akbar took participation in Operation Sentinel, an Air Force counter-intelligence operation that was launched after learning the Indian' air strikes on Kahuta.[10] Sentinel ultimately operated in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, and Kahuta, and the Project-706 scope on intelligence grew in size and intelligence teams.[10] In 1983, Akbar met with Munir Ahmad Khan where the preparation for the cold-tests were made, tunnels and test sites were constructed under his directorship.[10] On 11 March 1983, General Akbar witnessed the cold-test of the plutonium device, codename Kirana-I.[10] In 1983, Akbar was promoted to lieutenant-general in March 1983 and was awarded the Medal of Service.[10] Soon after the tests, the publicly open atomic tests had the military feared a catastrophic reaction from anti-nuclear movements active in the country; therefore, Akbar had resisted to the authorization of atomic testing programme despite the right-wings had made several proposals.[10] In 1983, he played a significant role in the matters of nuclear policy when at that time the country was made a subject of attack by international organization for not signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).[10] Akbar assisted General Zia-ul-Haq on intelligence matters to deftly neutralized international pressure by tagging Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme to the nuclear designs of neighboring Indian nuclear programme. He met with Munir Khan and Agha Shahi, Foreign Minister, drew a five-point proposal as a practical rejoinder to world pressure on Pakistan to sign the NPT; the points including the renouncing of the use of nuclear weapons.[10]

Senior Staff appointments[edit]

In 1980, he was shifted as the Adjutant-General (AG) at the Pakistan Army General Headquarters (GHQ) as well as serving military Science Advisor to the President. By the 1980, Akbar was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General as the Military wanted a military administrative leader who understood the scientific needs of the project comprehensibly. The same year, he was appointed as Engineer-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army Corps of Engineers to deal with senior people whose cooperation was required. After the end of Prime Minister Bhutto's regime, Akbar was given autonomous control of the Kahuta Project. Under Akbar's direction, PAEC and KRL spurred their work on atomic devices quickly.[8]

By the time Akbar was promoted at the rank of the Lieutenant-General, a noted nuclear physicist Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad conducted a cold test of a theoretically designed atomic device, codename Kirana-I, in Kirana Hills. After the successful test, the Government of Pakistan transferred control over the nuclear technology project from military to civilian hands. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), under Munir Ahmad Khan, was given full charge of developing the atomic weapons project and the nuclear power program. For his services, he was conferred with high military award along with other officers.

Siachen Operation[edit]

Soon after the transfer the control of nuclear technology to PAEC, Lieutenant-General Zahid Akbar was made Corps-commander of X Corps as he was appointed by, on a personal request, of President and Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq. In 1984, he would lead the corps in the Siachen conflict, a conflict in northern Pakistan, when the Indian Army launched Operation Meghdoot in 1984. Lieutenant-General Jahan Dad Khan handed over the command of X Corps to Lieutenant-General Zahid Ali Akbar on 31 March 1984.

Lieutenant General J.D. Khan gave him a detailed briefing about this operational plan and particularly stressed the importance of intelligence keeping a watch on Indian moves beyond Leh. He commanded the series of Siachen Operations with then-Brigadier Pervez Musharraf working as his subordinate.[13]

After the war[edit]

After the Siachen operation, Akbar was sent as the Director-General of the Defence Science and Technology Organization (DESTO) when the military government issued a decree to control the aspects of high nuclear explosives. At there, Akbar helped the Pakistan Ordnance Factories and the Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) to expand the military technology projects under the guidance of Lieutenant-General Talat Masood. However, in 1987, Prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo vetoed the appointment of Akbar as the director of the integrated space weapons programme and instead entrusted the programme under Air Force. Due to his closeness to general Zia, his importance diminished in the eyes of Prime minister Junejo, and later Benazir Bhutto who refused to fund any projects under his guidance. He continued directing the DESTO in the matter of science and technology but soon came to understanding that the postwar military and the civilian governments would not be given any assignment to him and as approaching in importance the one he had held in the Kahuta Project, as such posts would go to combat commanders returning from combat zones, and he decided to leave the Army in 1990.


Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board[edit]

Zahid Akbar retired as an honourable discharge military officer from the Pakistan Army in 1990, and became Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (then known as the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan or BCCP) in 1988. He was the uncle of Imran Khan-the Captain of cricket team. It was during his tenure that Pakistan won the 1992 Cricket World Cup[14]

Heading WAPDA[edit]

Due to his strong engineering background, the Government of Pakistan appointed him as a chairman of WAPDA, the water and power generation megacorporation.[15][16] In 1990, he then became the chairman of Water and Power Development Authority or WAPDA in 1990. Having closely work in Pakistan's atomic program, he suggested to the Government Pakistan's nuclear and atomic power plants be placed under the direction of his utility, in order to end international concerns that the plants are involved in weapons production. The Government's response to this suggestion was positive. However, then-Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif turned down his offer down.


Accused of corruption in Pakistan and having assets beyond his known income; the 91 year old Akbar was arrested by Interpol when entering Bosnia from Croatia in February 2016. Akbar made a plea bargain and wrote a confessional statement to the National Accountability Bureau and agreed to return 200 million rupees he had made through corruption[17]


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  1. ^
  2. ^ Khan, Chairman Wapda and PCB, Gen. (retd.) Zahid Ali Akbar. Power Demand Projections now 8400 MW. Economic Review. pp. 15, 34, 43. Retrieved 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ Detained by Interpol: Pak fugitive in Bosnia gets British help
  4. ^ a b c d e Niazi, Kausar (May 1994), "Chapter 9: The Reprocessing Plant—The Inside Story" (PDF), Last Days of Premier Bhutto (PDF), 1 (1 ed.), Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory: Maulana Kausar Niazi and Sani Panwjar, pp. 55–56, ISBN 969-8500-00-6 
  5. ^ Khan, Abdul Qadeer (29 July 2009). "Bhutto, Zia ul Haq Aur Kahuta". Jang Group of Newspapers (in Urdu). Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Territory: A. Qadeer Khan. p. 1. 
  6. ^ Barvarz, Fartash. Pakistan in the way. p. 5. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Khan, Doctor of Engineering (Metallurgical Engineering), Abdul Qadeer (4 July 2011). "Defenders of Pakistan". Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Doctor of Engineering in Metallurgical Engineering and former director-general of the Kahuta Research Laboratories, senior scientist at Project-706'. Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and the News International. Retrieved 2011.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  8. ^ a b A Q Khan. "Bhutto, GIK and Kahuta" The News, 29 July 2009
  9. ^ Khan, A. Qadeer (29 July 2009). "Bhutto, Zia ul Haq Aur Kahuta". A.Q. Khan. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Chaudhri, M.A. (May 2006). "Separating Myth from Reality". Defence Journal. Karachi: 2. 
  11. ^ Khan, DEng, Abdul Qadeer (16 July 2012). "Torch-bearers". The News International, 16 July 2012 (in English and Urdu). Islamabad, Islamabad Capital Venue. The News International. p. 1. Retrieved 16 July 2012. It all started in the '70s at the same time our nuclear enrichment and weapons programme began. We had acquired the Kahuta area. Brigadier Zahid had carefully scrutinized the papers of many contractors and had decided to give the contract of some very important buildings to defence contractor, HAKAS. 
  12. ^ a b c d Rehman, Shahidur (1999). Long Road to Chagai:§ Munir Ahmad Khan, an interview with author. Islamabad, Oxford: Shahid-ur-Rehman, 1999; Printwise Publications of Islamabad (§ Munir Ahmad Khan, an interview with author). p. 157. ISBN 978-969-8500-00-9. 
  13. ^ Khan, Lt. Gen Jahan Dad; Shah, Nikhil; S., Sunil; Bhattacharjee, B. (2008). "See The fact of the matter is in 1984 the Pakistanis lost out due to poor intelligence". Bharat Rakshak::Land Forces Site. Bharat Rakshak. Retrieved 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  14. ^ Anjum, Shakeel (1 August 2006). "NAB files case against former general". Jang Group of Newspapers. The News International. Retrieved 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help).
  15. ^
  16. ^ Anjum, Shakeel (1 March 1990). "WAPDA to float bonds to supplement resources. (interview with Zahid Ali Akbar Khan; Pakistan. Water and Power Development Authority) (interview)". Economic Review. Retrieved 2010.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  17. ^
Government offices
Preceded by
Mubaschir Hassan
Science Advisor to the Prime minister Secretariat
5 July 1977 – 11 March 1983
Succeeded by
Munir A. Khan
Preceded by
Office created
Director of Engineering Research Laboratories
31 July 1976 — 11 September 1983
Succeeded by
Abdul Qadeer Khan