A keen Hockey player in his youth, Kiani joined the British Indian Army in 1931 at the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun, sitting for the entrance exam in preference over a trial for the Olympic Hockey trials at Calcutta.
He won Sword of Honour & Gold Medal for the most outstanding Cadet in 1935 from Indian Military Academy. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on the Special List 15 July 1935 and attached to the 2nd battalion, Highland Light Infantry as of 10 August 1935.
He joined the 1st Battalion 14th Punjab Regiment as a Second Lieutenant 24 January 1936, and was promoted Lieutenant 4 May 1936.
At the start of World War II, he was sent to the south-east Asian theatre and was stationed in the Malayan theatre during World War II when Singapore fell. He later joined the Indian National Army when it was formed in 1942 and was put in charge of the INA at the time of its revival in February 1943. After the proclamation of Azad Hind under Subhas Chandra Bose, Kiani was appointed the commander of the first division, and later went on to be appointed the Chief of General staff. which had been earlier held by Lt. Col J.K. Bhonsle. At the time of the fall of Rangoon, Kiani led the personnel of the Indian National Army and the Azad Hind Government who, along with Subhas Chandra Bose, marched overland to Bangkok.
Kiani surrendered to the British 5th Division at Singapore on 25 August 1945 as the commander of the INA, along with the rest of his troops. and was repatriated to India and interned till 1946 before being cashiered and discharged from the army. Following the Partition of India, Kiani settled in Pakistan, and was later appointed the Political agent of the Government of Pakistan at Gilgit.
He wrote his memoirs in retirement in Pakistan. This was published after his death through Mag Gen Chand Narain Das through Sh Sisir Kumar Bose. This is author's personal account of the INA.
- "A Hundred Horizons:Indian Ocean in the age of Global Empire.". Harvard University Press.. 2006. ISBN 0-674-02157-6. .
- "The Shadow Warriors of Nakano: A History of the Imperial Japanese Army's elite intelligence school.". Brassey's.. 2002. ISBN 1-57488-538-3. .
- "India's Freedom Struggle and The Great INA Memoirs of Maj Gen Mohammad Zaman Kiani Foreword by Sisir Kumar Bose.". Reliance Publishing House.New Delhi. 1994. ISBN 81-85972-04-4. .
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