Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi

Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi

Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi (1915–2004)
Governor of East Pakistan
In office
14 December 1971  16 December 1971
President General Yahya Khan
Prime Minister Nurul Amin
Vice President Nurul Amin
Preceded by Abdul Motaleb Malik
Succeeded by Office disestablished
Martial Law Administrator of East-Pakistan
In office
16 September 1971  16 December 1971
Deputy Vice-Admiral Muhammad Sharif
Preceded by Lt General Tikka Khan,
Succeeded by Office disestablished
Commander of Eastern Military High Command
In office
16 September 1971  16 December 1971
Serving with Vice-Admiral Muhammad Sharif
Preceded by Vice-Admiral Muhammad Sharif
Succeeded by Office disestablished
Personal details
Born Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi
Mianwali, Punjab Province, British India
Died 2 February 2004 (aged 89)
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Resting place Army Grave Yard ,Cavalry Ground , Lahore Cantt .....
Citizenship British Raj British Indian (1915–1947)
 Pakistan (1947–2004)
Nationality Pakistani .
Alma mater Indian Military Academy
Cabinet Military Government of Gen. Yahya
Awards Hilal-i-Jurat (military) (withdrawn)
Military Cross
Military service
Nickname(s) Tiger
Jackal of Bengal
(In Pakistan)[1]
Allegiance  Pakistan
British Raj British India
Service/branch  Pakistan Army
British Indian Army
Years of service 1934–1972
Rank Lieutenant-General
(stripped of his rank)
Unit 5th Airborne, Punjab Regiment
Commands 5th Airborne, Punjab Regiment
14th Paratrooper Brigade
52nd Mechanized Division
50th Airborne Division, Pakistan Army
Battles/wars Burma Campaign of 1944
Battle of Imphal
Battle of Chawinda
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Operation Searchlight
Pakistan war in Bangladesh

Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi HJ, MC (1915 - 2 February 2004), was a general of the Pakistan Army. In 1971, as a Lieutenant General, Niazi was in charge of Eastern contingent (eastern command) of the Pakistani Army during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. He is held responsible by some within the Pakistani Military for having surrendered his forces of nearly 93,000 men to the joint forces of India and Mukti Bahini (Bangladeshi freedom fighters supported by India) at a time when joint forces were preparing to lay siege on Dhaka and thus bringing to close the Liberation War. Niazi had, however, always insisted that he had acted according to the orders of the High Command. Following the war, Niazi was made a scapegoat and blamed for much of Pakistan's human rights violations in Bangladesh (he was personally indicted of smuggling and rape by the Hamoodur-Rehman commission) as well as the military and strategic losses during the war. He was subsequently relieved of his position in the army. Throughout the remainder of his life, Niazi had sought Court-Martial to prove his innocence, but was never charged. Before his death, he authored the book The Betrayal of East Pakistan.

Niazi got commission in the Indian Army in 1934 and took part in combat operations in the Burma Campaign, most notably in the Imphal operation, for which he became famous. After the establishment of Pakistan he joined the Pakistan Army. He commanded Operation Chavinda in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965 and was ordered to command the Pakistan Armed Forces in East Pakistan during the Bangladesh Liberation War. In 1971 war, Niazi surrendered his forces of (less than) 95000 men to the Indian Armed Forces and the Mukti Bahini guerrilla armed resistance force. He stated that he had acted on the orders of the West Pakistan Military High Command under General Yahya Khan. After the war, other parties like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto held him as personally responsible for the surrender, and he was accused of being involved in Pakistan's human rights violations in Bangladesh.[2]

He was dismissed by President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from his general officer rank and his military decorations, while he sought a court-martial to prove his innocence, filing petitions through his military lawyers both in the civilian Supreme Court of Pakistan and in the Judge Advocate General Branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces.

Early life

Niazi was born in 1915 to a Niazi Pathan family in the Punjab, when it was part of the British Indian Empire.[3] In 1932 he was enlisted in the British Indian Army as a junior non-commissioned officer and was sent to the Indian Military Academy, where he completed his BSc in Military science and also completed a paratrooper course.[3] He was then commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 5th Paratrooper of the Punjab Regiment in 1937[3] and served in the Pacific Theatre of World War II.[3]

Burma Campaign

On 11 June 1942, Niazi was sent to the Kekrima area of the Assam-Burma front.[3] That spring, he was part of the 14th Army Offensive Group of the British Army commanded by General Slim.[3] During this period, the 14th Army Group had halted the offense against the Japanese Imperial Army at the Battle of Imphal and elsewhere in bitterly fought battles along the Burma front.[3] General Slim described his gallantry[3] in a lengthy report to General Headquarters, India, about his judgment of the best course of action. 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.[3] At the Burmese front, Niazi impressed his superior officers when, as a lieutenant, he commanded a platoon that initiated an offense against the Japanese Imperial Army at the Bauthi-Daung tunnels.[3]

Niazi's gallantry had impressed GHQ India. They wanted to award him the Distinguished Service Order, but his rank was not high enough for such a decoration.[3] 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.[3] After the conflict, the British Government awarded Niazi the Military Cross for leadership, judgement, quick thinking and calmness under pressure in action along the border with Burma.[3]

On 15 December 1944, Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India, flew to Imphal and knighted Slim and his corps commanders Stopford, Scoones, and Christison in the presence of Lord Mountbatten.[4] Only two Indian officers were chosen to be decorated at that ceremony. One was Niazi and the other Major (later Field Marshal) Sam Manekshaw of the Frontier Force Regiment.[4]

Indo-Pakistan wars

After the Partition of India in 1947, Niazi chose Pakistani citizenship and joined the newly formed Pakistan Army. He rose quickly through the ranks, earning various awards, including the Hilal-i-Jurat twice.

As colonel and commanding officer of the 5th Paratrooper, Punjab Regiment, Niazi participated actively in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, during which he was promoted to brigadier general. He commanded the 14th Paratrooper Brigade, 50th Airborne Division, during operations in Kashmir and Sialkot. They gained international fame from the success of the Chawinda counter-offense, which resulted in ultimate success and halted the Indian Army troop rotation further inside Pakistan. After the war, Niazi was appointed Martial Law Administrator of both Karachi and Lahore.[5] In 1968, he was promoted to major general and was made GOC of the 52nd Mechanized Division, based in Karachi during this period. In 1970, Niazi commanded the 50th Airborne Division, and by 1971, he had reached the rank of lieutenant general in the Pakistan Army.

East Pakistan

In 1971, a period of political turmoil in Pakistan, Niazi was the most highly decorated officer in the Pakistan Army.[4] In April 1971, he was sent to East Pakistan after a Pakistani military crackdown on Bengali intellectuals.[4] On 25 March, Operation Searchlight, planned and executed by Lieutenant General Tikka Khan and Major General Rao Farman Ali, had made the population of East Pakistan hostile to the Pakistan Armed Forces, and Pakistan was internationally condemned for its military action.[4] Niazi publicly condemned the military operation of 25 March. During a meeting he condemned the operation after its outcomes had surfaced.[4] In April 1971, General Niazi became commander-in-chief of the East Pakistan Army, replacing Tikka Khan. Throughout this period, Niazi headed the military operations of the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan.[2][4] Despite having about 100,000 men under his command, and the full support of Army Headquarters in West Pakistan Niazi was unable to stop the gradual takeover of the country by the Mukti Bahini irregulars. Despite his incompetence Niazi continued to receive message of support from his superiors such as one from General Abdul Hamid Khan, Chief of General Staff, saying, "The whole nation is proud of you and you have their full support".[4] On 3 December, the Pakistan Air Force launched Operation Chengiz Khan without notifying the Eastern Military High Command.[4]

Eastern Military High Command

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

Following the resignation on 7 March 1971 of Vice Admiral Syed Mohammad Ahsan as the Unified Commander of the Eastern Military High Command and Martial Law Administrator, Yahya Khan's military government could not find an active-duty officer willing to take this position. Several officers assumed the command over a nine-month period, but each was removed after failing to restore order. Many other senior Pakistani officers were reluctant to take charge of East Pakistan, until Niazi volunteered for the job of East Pakistani Governor on 14 December. Yahya Khan immediately appointed him and made him Unified Commander of the Eastern Military High Command at the same time. Yahya Khan supported Niazi to until the end, sending him a telegram just before his surrender on 16 December 1971, saying, "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".

The situation in East Pakistan was critical, as Bengali forces in the Pakistani Army had gone into mutiny, large segments of the population were hostile, and an independence movement was gaining momentum among Bengalis.[4] Niazi and Mohammad Shariff tried to reassert Pakistan's control over large parts of East Pakistan by unleashing one of the most brutal genocides of the 20th century.[4]

On 16 December 1971, the East Pakistan Intelligence Directorate (EPID) learned of the Indo-Bengali siege of Dhaka.[4] Niazi appealed for a cease-fire, but Manekshaw set a deadline for surrender, failing which Dhaka would come under siege. Niazi [4] To save the city, Niazi signed an instrument of surrender with his counterpart, Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, commander-in-chief of Eastern Command of the Indian Army. The meeting took place at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka at 16:31 IST on 16 December 1971, and Niazi surrendered nearly 80,000 personnel of the Eastern Military High Command to India.[6]

Aftermath: revelation

Only on returning to Pakistan as a prisoner of war did Niazi criticize Tikka Khan and Rao Farman. Niazi admitted that he had raised the Razakar forces that were used against the Bengali Mukti Bahini guerilla forces and to kill and terrorize people and destroy rural villages. Pakistan combat forces found themselves involved in a guerrilla war with the Mukti Bahini under Bangladeshi General M. A. G. Osmani.[7] The Pakistan forces were unprepared and untrained for such warfare. After a preemptive strike on the Indian territories in the western front, a full-scale invasion of East Pakistan by India resulted in Niazi's and Shariff's forces being isolated and ambushed by the Mukti Bahini and forced to surrender.

Return to Pakistan

More than 93,000 Pakistani armed forces, paramilitary personnel and civilian intelligence officers, including about 55,000 regular army soldiers, were taken prisoner after 16 December 1971 surrender.[6] These were the largest number of prisoners of war taken since World War II, and included some senior government officials. Most would remain in captivity for more than three years after the conflict ended, as they were to be tried for crimes such as murder of Bengalis. Niazi was the last prisoner of war to cross back to Pakistan, after Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the Simla Treaty with his counterpart, Indira Gandhi, the Indian prime minister. 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.

Pursuit of Court-Martial

The Commission led by Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman of the Supreme Court accused Niazi of several kinds of misconduct during his tenure as Martial Law Administrator in East Pakistan.

To clear his name, Niazi sought a court martial from the Judge Advocate General Branch, but it was never granted by Bhutto and Tikka Khan, who was then Chief of Army Staff. Niazi tried to take up politics to clear himself, but was jailed by General Zia-ul-Haq, the Chief Martial Law Administrator of Pakistan, to quell such actions. In 1998, Niazi released The Betrayal of East Pakistan, in which he blamed Yahya Khan, Rao Farman Ali, Tikka Khan and Bhutto for the separation of East Pakistan. Niazi did not accept the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, as he believed that it was prepared by one of the guilty parties (Bhutto) and that it was no alternative to a court-martial, where accused persons can defend themselves, bring in witnesses and cross-examine. 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.


Niazi lived his life in Lahore and died there in 2004. His wife predeceased him.


Niazi was a mixture of the foolhardy and the ruthless. He was also noted for making audacious statements like "Dacca will fall only over my dead body". 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."[8] 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".[9] 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”.[9][10] 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.[11]

From the mass of evidence coming before the Hamoodur-Rehman Commission from witnesses, both civil and military, there is little doubt that Gen. 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. The allegations regarding his indulgence in the export of Pan by using or abusing his position in the Eastern Command and as Zonal Martial Law Administrator also prima facie appear to be well-founded.[12]


  1. Hamid Mir (26 March 2010). "Apology Day for Pakistanis". The Daily Star. Retrieved 25 May 2013.
  2. 1 2 "Genocide in Bangladesh, 1971. Gendercide Watch". Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "Lieutenant-General A. A. K. Niazi". Times. London. 11 March 2004. Archived from the original on 14 May 2009. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Bose, Sarmila (15 November 2010). "Sarmila Bose on events of 1971". The Times of Bombay. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  5. "The Rediff Interview/Lt Gen A A Khan Niazi". Rediff. 2 February 2004.
  6. 1 2 Orton, Anna (2010). India's Borderland Disputes: China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Epitome Books. p. 117. ISBN 978-93-80297-15-6.
  7. Raja, Dewan Mohammad Tasawwar (2010). O General My General (Life and Works of General M A G Osmany). The Osmany Memorial Trust. pp. 35–109. ISBN 978-984-8866-18-4.
  8. Rosser, Yvette. "Abuse of History in Pakistan: Bangladesh to Kargil". Pakistan Facts. Archived from the original on 17 March 2006.
  9. 1 2 The Betrayal of East Pakistan. A.A.K Niazi
  10. Online snippets of Niazi's comments
  11. Siddiqi, A. R. (13 February 2004). "Gen A. A. K. (Tiger) Niazi: an appraisal". Dawn. Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 2010-09-08.

Further reading

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
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