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Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi
Imran Khan Uncle
Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi (1915–2004)
Governor of East Pakistan

In office
14 December 1971 – 16 December 1971
President Yahya Khan
Prime Minister Nurul Amin
Preceded by Abdul Motaleb Malik
Succeeded by Office disestablished - Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as President of Bangladesh
Commander of Eastern Command

In office
4 April 1971 – 16 December 1971
Lieutenant Rear-Admiral Mohammad Shariff
Preceded by Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan
Succeeded by post abolished
Personal details
Born Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi
Mianwali, Punjab, British India
(Present-day Pakistan)
Died February 1, 2004(2004-02-01)
(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
Quetta Staff College
Military service
Nickname(s) Tiger
Service/branch  Pakistan Army (1947–71)
British Raj Red Ensign.svg British Indian Army (1942–47)
Years of service 1942–1972
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg OF-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(Rank stripped/withdrawn)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
Commander Parachute Training School
Battles/wars World War II

Indo-Pakistani war of 1965
Bangladesh Liberation War

Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi (Urdu: امیر عبداللہ خان نیازی; b. 1915–1 February 2004), MC, popularly known as A.A.K. Niazi or General Niazi was a former lieutenant-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][not in citation given]

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 ~42000-45000 men[Clarification needed], to the Indian Army when the preparations underwent to lay siege on Dacca.[2][3]:170 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.[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.[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.[7] 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."[9] On 1 February 2004, Niazi died in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan .[10]


Early life and British Indian Army career

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.[3]:12[11][12] After educating from a local school in Mianwali, he joined the British Indian Army as an "Y cadet"[Clarification needed] in 1937 and selected for an emergency commission as he had passed out from the Officers Training School in Bangalore.[3]:12

He gained commission during the World War 2 in 8 March 1942 into the 4/7 Rajput Regiment which was then-part of the 161st Infantry Brigade led by the Brigadier D.F.W. Warren.[3]:12[13] 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.[3]:12

World War II and Burma campaigns

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

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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[11]

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.[11] 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.[11] 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.[11] On July 11, 1944, his military commission was confirmed as permanent and the new service number was issued as ICO-906.[3]:12

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.[14] 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.[14]

After 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.[3]:12

Staff and war appointments in Pakistan Army

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.[3]:12 He continued serving at the Command and Staff College in Quetta and briefly completed his tenure as an instructor.[15]:24

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.[16] In 1960–64, he was promoted as Brigadier and offered discussion on infiltration tactics at the Command and Staff College.[13] Subsequently, he published an article on infiltration and promoted talks on military-supported local rebellion against the enemy.[13]

Brigadier Niazi went on to participate in the second war with India in 1965 as he went commanding the paratrooper brigade stationed in Sialkot.[17] Initially, he commanded the 5th AK Brigade directing military operations in Indian-held Kashmir but later assumed the command of 14th (Para) Brigade in Zafarwal 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.[18] His role in a tank battle led him to be decorated with the Hilal-e-Jurat by the President of Pakistan.[18]

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.[19] In 1968, he was promoted as Major-General and made GOC of the 8th Infantry Division, stationed in Sialkot, Punjab, Pakistan.[20]:89–90 In 1969, Major-General Niazi was made GOC of 10th Infantry Division, stationed in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.[20]:91 In 1971, he was promoted to three-star assignment and promoted as Lieutenant-General, initially appointed Commander of the IV Corps in Lahore.[20]:91

East Pakistan

Eastern Command in 1971 war

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 Khan had initiated the military crackdown 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 Khan.[21] Furthermore, the violent crackdown at the Dhaka University 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.[22] On April 10/11 1971, he headed a meeting of his senior commanders to assessed the situation but, according to the eyewitnesses, he used abusive language aimed at the Bengali rebels that surprised the attendees.[21] From May through August 1971, the Indian Army trained Mukti Bahini led series of counter guerrilla campaigns against the Eastern Command stationed, and General Niazi began taking countermeasures against the Bengali rebellions.[23] By June 1971, he sent the reports on the rebellion and noted that 30,000 insurgents were hurriedly trained by India at the India-East Pakistan border.[23] On August 1971, General Niazi formulated a plan to defend the borders from the advancing Indian Army based on a "fortress concept" which mean converting the border towns and villages into the stronghold.[24]

By September 1971, he was appointed martial law administrator in order to provide his support to Governor Abdul Motaleb Malik who appointed a civilian cabinet.[25] On the issue of violences and bloodsheds, General Niazi had reportedly told his public relations officer and press secretary, Major Siddique Salik, that "we will have to account every single rape and killing when back in (West) Pakistan. God never spares the Tyrant."[26][27]

The Government of East Pakistan appointed General Niazi as GOC-in-C of the Eastern Command, and Major-General Rao Farman Ali as their military adviser for East Pakistan Rifles and East Pakistan Coast Guard.[25] On October 1971, he created and deployed 2 ad-hoc divisions to strengthened the defence of the East from further infiltration.[24]

On October 1971, Niazi lost contacts with the Army GHQ and was virtually independent of controlling the Eastern Command from the central government in Islamabad.[28] On November 1971, General Abdul Hamid Khan, the Chief of Staff, warned him of an eminent Indian attack on East advised him to redeploy the Eastern Command on a tactical and political base ground but this was not need implemented due to shortage of time.[29]:303–304 In a public message, General Niazi was praised by Abdul Hamid Khan saying:"The whole nation is proud of you and you have their full support".[30]

No further orders and clarity was issued in regards to the orders as General Niazi had been caught unaware that the Indian Army planned out to launch a full assault on East Pakistan.[29]:303 On 3 December 1971, the Pakistan Air Force launched the pre-emptive strikes on Indian Air Force bases that officially led to start of the third war with India.[29]:304 According to author Sagar, General Niazi, surprisingly, was not aware of such attack and had no prior knowledge about such attack.[29]:304

Credibility of this claim is given by Niazi's press secretary and public relations officer, then-Major Siddique Salik, who wrote in Witness to Surrender, that Niazi's chief of staff Brigadier Baqir Siddiqi reportedly scolded him of not notifying Niazi and his staff of an aerial attack on India.[31]

Surrendering of Eastern Command

Lieutenant-General Niazi signing the Instrument of Surrender under the gaze of India's Lt. Gen. J.S. Aurora, on 16 Dec' 1971 in Dhaka.

When Indian Army soldiers crossed the borders and charged towards the Dacca, General Niazi panicked when he came to realise the real nature of Indian strategy and became frantically nervous when Indian Army successfully penetrated the defence of the East.[29]:304 Niazi's military staff further regretted for not heeding the intelligence warnings issued earlier in a compiled report by Major K.M. Arif, the military intelligence official in Niazi's staff.[32]

According to the testimonies provided by Major-General Farman Ali in the War Enquiry Commission, Niazi's morale collapsed as early as 7 December and cried fanatically over the progress report presented to the Governor Abdul Motaleb.[33]:183 He ultimately blamed Lieutenant-General Tikka Khan of turning the East Pakistanis hostile towards the Government of Pakistan and the creation of the Mukti Bahini.[34] Major accusations were also directed toward Lieutenant-General Yakob Ali Khan, Admiral S.M. Ahsan and Major-General Ali for aggravating the crises but General Niazi had to bore most responsibility for all that happened in the East.[35]:627

General Niazi, alongside with his deputy Rear-Admiral Mohammad Shariff, nervously tried reassessing the situation to hold the Indian Army's penetration by directing joint army-navy operations with no success.[36][37] The Pakistani military combat units found themselves involved in a guerrilla war with the Mukti Bahini led under Atul Osmani, and were unprepared and untrained for such warfare.[38]

On 9 December, the Indian government accepted the sovereignty of Bangladesh and extended its diplomatic mission to Provisional Government of Bangladesh.[39] This eventually led Governor Abdul Motaleb to resign from his post and took refuge with his entire cabinet at the Red Cross shelter at Inter-Continental Dacca on 14 December.[16]

General Niazi eventually took control of the civilian government and was reportedly received a telegram on 16 December 1971 from President Yahya Khan: "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".[3]:73–74

During this time, the Special Branch of East Pakistan Police notified Niazi of the joint Indo-Bengali siege of Dhaka as the Eastern Command led by Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora began encircling Dhaka.[40] General Niazi then appealed for a conditional ceasefire to Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora which called for transferring power to elected government but without the surrender of the Eastern Command led by General Niazi.[40] This offer was rejected by Indian Army's Chief of Army Staff General Sam Manekshaw and Manekshaw set a deadline for surrender, and President Yahya Khan considered it as "illegitimate.[14] [40] Niazi then once again appealed for a cease-fire, but Manekshaw set a deadline for surrender, failing which Dhaka would come under siege.[14]

Subsequently, the Indian Army began encircling the Dacca and Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora sent a message through Major-General Rafael Jacob that issued an ultimatum to surrender in "30-minutes" time window on 16 December 1971.[41] Lieutenant-General Niazi agreed to surrender and sent a message to General Manekshaw despite many army officers declined to obey although they were legally bound.[42] The Indian Army commanders, Lieutenant General Sagat Singh, Lieutenant General J.S. Aurora, and Major-General Rafael Farj Jacob arrived on Dhaka via helicopter with the surrender documents.[41]

The meeting took place at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka at 16:31 Hrs PST on 16 December 1971, and General Niazi signed the Instrument of Surrender with the J.S. Aurora in the presence of Pakistani military and Indian army commanders that nearly surrendered approximately 90,000 personnel of the Eastern Command to Indian Army.[43]

War prisoner, repatriation, and politics

Niazi was repatriated to Pakistan was handed over to Lieutenant-General Abdul Hamid, then-GOC-in-C of IV Corps, by Indian Army from the Wagha checkpoint in Lahore District, Punjab, in April 1975, in a symbolic gesture of last war prisoner held by India.[5]:620 Upon arriving in Lahore, he was immediately refrained from speaking to news media correspondents and immediately taken under the custody of the Pakistan Army's Military Police (MP) who shifted him via helicopter to the Lahore Cantonment where he was detained despite his strong protests.[3]:170 He was immediately dismissed from his military commission and war honors were withdrawn from him.[44]

Subsequently, he was placed in solitary confinement for sometime, though he was later released.[45] Being the last to return supported his reputation as a "soldier's general", but did not shield him from the scorn he faced in 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.[43] His three-star rank was eventually reduced to Major-General, a two-star rank, but was dismissed from the service in July 1975.:144[25]

He was also denied his military pension and medical benefits, though he lodged a strong complain against revoking of his pension.[46] In 1980s, the Ministry of Defence quietly changed the status of "dismissal" to "retirement" but did not restore his rank.[47] The change of order allowed Niazi to seek pension and medical assistance benefits enjoyed by the retired military personnel.[47]

Niazi remained active in the national politics in 1970s and supported the ultraconservative agenda on a conservative platform against Pakistan Peoples Party.[1] In 1977, he was again detained by the police when the martial law was enforced and sought retirement from politics.[48]

War Enquiry Commission

In 1972, Niazi was summoned and confessed at the War Enquiry Commission led by Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman and the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the events involving the secession of East Pakistan on April 1975.[49] 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.[50][50][51]

The War Commission indicted him of corrupt and moral turpitude while noting his bullying of junior officers who would resists his orders.[52] General Niazi tried placing the blames on Yahya administration, his military adviser Maj. Gen. Farman Ali, Admiral S.M. Ahsan, and Lieutenant-General Yakob Ali and the military 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."[35]:452 Though he showed no regrets, Niazi refused to accept the responsibility of Breakup of East Pakistan and squarely blamed President Yahya.[53] The War Commission endorsed his claims that President Yahya was to blame but noted that Niazi was the Commander who lost the East.[53]

The War Commission recommended court martial to be held by the Judge Advocate General that would induct Niazi of serious breaches of military disciplines and military code.[33]:185 However, no such court-martial took place but, nonetheless, he was politically maligned and inducted with the war crimes taken place in East Pakistan.[54] Niazi did not accepted the War Commission's inquiries and fact-findings, believing that the War Commission had no understanding of the military matters.[55] Niazi claimed that a court-martial would have besmeared the names of those who later rose to great heights, and that he was being used as a scapegoat.[55]

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.[1][not in citation given] In 2001, he appeared in Views On News and interviewed by Dr. Shahid Masood at the ARY News shortly before his death.[56]

Death and legacy

After giving interview to ARY News, Niazi died on 1 February 2004 in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. He was buried in Military Graveyard in Lahore.[1]

Political commentators described Niazi's legacy as a mixture of the foolhardy and the ruthless.[51] He was also noted for making audacious statements like: "Dacca will fall only over my dead body".[1] According to Pakistani author, Akbar S. Ahmed, he had even hatched a far-fetched plan to "cross into India and march up the Ganges and capture Delhi and thus link up with Pakistan."[57]

This he called the "Niazi corridor theory" explaining: "It was a corridor that the Quaid-e-Azam demanded and I will obtain it by force of arms".[58] In a plan he presented to the central government in June 1971, he stated in his own words that "I would capture Agartala and a big chunk of Assam, and develop multiple thrusts into Indian Bengal. We would cripple the economy of Calcutta by blowing up bridges and sinking boats and ships in Hooghly River and create panic amongst the civilians. One air raid on Calcutta would set a sea of humanity in motion to get out of Calcutta”.[58][59]

A journalist from Dawn had observed him thus: When I last met him on 30 September 1971, at his force headquarters in Kurmitola, he was full of beans.[1]

From the mass of evidence coming before the War Enquiry Commission from witnesses, both civil and military, there is little doubt that Niazi came to acquire a bad reputation in sex matters, and this reputation has been consistent during his postings in Sialkot, Lahore and East Pakistan.[60] The allegations regarding his indulgence in the export of Pan by using or abusing his position in the Eastern Command and as Commander of his command also prima facie appear to be well-founded.[61]


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  58. 58.0 58.1 The Betrayal of East Pakistan. A.A.K Niazi
  59. Online snippets of Niazi's comments
  60. Mookherjee, Nayanika. The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories, and the Bangladesh War of 1971. Duke University Press. pp. contents pages. ISBN 978-0-8223-7522-7. 
  61. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-09. 

External links

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
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as President of Bangladesh

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