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Zia had the longest military career, Ayub the shortest


Jul 24, 2013
LAHORE: Of the 14 army chiefs and commanders-in-chief that Pakistan has had since 1947, General Ziaul Haq (1924-1988) had the longest military career spread well over 45 years and three months, while Field Marshal General Muhammad Ayub Khan (1907-74) had the shortest service length of 30 years, 10 months and 24 days, a thorough research and calculation conducted by “The News International” reveals.

Zia was commissioned in the British Indian Army in a cavalry regiment on May 12, 1943 and had served against Nazi Germany and its allies in World War II, whereas Ayub Khan had started his military service on February 2, 1928.Both Zia and Ayub Khan had also served as country’s presidents in uniform.

As far as the longest tenure as Army Chief is concerned, General Zia-ul-Haq (1924-1988) again takes the lead. He had served on this key position between March 1, 1976 and August 17, 1988, which thereby signifies that his term in office had lasted 12 years, 5 months and 16 days.

General Gul Hassan (1921-1999) had served as the Commander-in-Chief for the shortest period of time. Appointed Acting Commander-in-Chief on December 20, 1971, Gul Hassan was notified as Commander-in-Chief on January 22, 1972 till his ouster on March 3, 1972. Inclusive of his tenure as Acting Commander-in-Chief, General Gul Hassan had served on this post for just two months and 11 days.

Here follow some more interesting facts about all Pakistani Army Chiefs and Commanders-in-Chief till date, especially with reference to the length of their military careers and their respective tenure as heads of the land-based uniform service branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces:

General Sir Frank Walter Messervy (1893-1974) was the First Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army from August 15, 1947 to February 10, 1948. He had served for less than six months 175 days only to be more precise. He was commissioned in the Indian Army on January 21, 1913 and held the job till August 22, 1948, which means his career as a soldier was about 35 years, 7 months and one day long.

General Sir Douglas David Gracey (1894-1964), who had served in both First and Second World Wars, was the second Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan. He had remained in this office from February 11, 1948 to January 16, 1951. His tenure as Army Chief had lasted two years, 11 months and 5 days.

Gracey did not send troops to the Kashmir front and had refused to obey the order to do so given by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the first Governor-General of Pakistan. Gracey had argued that Quaid-i-Azam, as Governor-General, represented the British Crown of which he himself was an appointee. Similar to Gracey, the early heads of Pakistan’s Air Force and Naval Force were Englishmen.

Gracey was commissioned in September 15, 1915, which means he had a military career of 35 years, 7 months and 14 days till April 29, 1951, when he had finally retired from service. He was born in Muzaffarnagar (Uttar Pradesh) to English parents living in India.

Field Marshal General Muhammad Ayub Khan (1907-74) was made Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army on January 17, 1951, succeeding General Sir Douglas Gracey, thus becoming the first native Pakistani General to hold this prestigious position. He was the third Commander-in-Chief.

Initially, it was General Iftikhar Khan who was promoted to four-star rank and appointed as first native Chief of Army Staff but he had died in an airplane crash en route to his senior officers training in the United Kingdom.

However, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan had appointed Ayub, preferring him to a few senior officers like being Major-General Major General Ishfakul Majid, Major General Akbar Khan and Major General N.A.M. Raza.

A self-appointed Field Marshal, the only such five-star rank in Pakistan’s military history, he was also the second President of Pakistan and its first military dictator from 1958 until his forced resignation in 1969.

He was appointed the first Chief Martial Law Administrator by President Iskander Mirza in 1958, a post he had retained until the promulgation of a new constitution in 1962. As Army Chief, Ayub Khan had served between January 17, 1951 and October 26, 1958. His tenure as Army Chief had lasted seven years, 9 months and 9 days. He got commission on February 2, 1928, which means his military career was 30 years, 10 months and 24 days long.

General Muhammad Musa Khan (1908-1991) had risen to the rank of the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces in October 1958, an office he had held till September 17, 1966. The term of this fourth Pakistani Commander-in-Chief had lasted around 7 years and 11 months. His promotion to Commander-in-Chief had seen suppression of his seniors including Major General Sher Ali Khan Pataudi, Major General Latif Khan and Major General Adam Khan.

General Musa had succeeded Field Marshal Ayub Khan, who assumed the Presidency of Pakistan. General Mohammed Musa had got commission from Indian Military Academy in Dehradun on February 1, 1935, which means his military career was 31 years, 6 months and 16 days long. After General Musa had retired from the Army, President Ayub Khan had appointed him as the Governor of West Pakistan from 1967 to 1969.

After serving for a few years, he retired and settled in Karachi. In 1985, he was once again involved in politics. He was appointed Governor of Balochistan by the then President General Zia-ul-Haq. In Balochistan, Governor General Musa dissolved the provincial assembly in December 1988. However, the Balochistan High Court restored the assembly amid public condemnation of Governor’s move. The step towards dissolving the assembly was believed to have been taken with the consent of the President and Prime Minister though.

General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan (1917-1980) became the fifth Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistani Armed Forces on September 18, 1966 and held this office till December 20, 1971. His tenure as Army Chief was 5 years, 3 months and 2 days long. He had also served as the 3rd President of Pakistan from 1969 until East Pakistan’s secession in 1971. He had declared martial law for the second time in Pakistan’s history.

Yahya Khan was commissioned in British Army on July 15, 1939, which means his military career had spanned a period of 32 years, 5 months and 5 days.

In December 1971, during his tenure, Pakistan was defeated by India, with 93,000 of its Army personnel in Dhaka taken as prisoners-of-war. East Pakistan had then seceded to become Bangladesh. Yahya had then handed over the presidency to Bhutto and had stepped down as Army Chief in disgrace.

Bhutto had stripped Yahya of all previous military decorations and placed him under house arrest for most of the 1970s. When Bhutto was overthrown in a military coup in 1977, Yahya was released by General Ziaul Haq.

General Gul Hassan was appointed Acting Commander-in-Chief on December 20, 1971. He was appointed sixth Commander-in-Chief on January 22, 1972 till his ouster on March 3, 1972. Inclusive of his tenure as Acting Commander-in-Chief, General Gul Hassan had served on this post for just 2 months and 11 days.

This remains the minimum tenure of any Pakistani Army Chief till date. He was removed by the then President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto after the Hamoodur Rahman Commission, led by Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman, had recommended his sacking. In a trial led by JAG Branch, General Hassan Khan was immediately retired from the Army and further relieved from any benefits given to the retired officers. He was commissioned on February 22, 1942, which means his military career had spanned a period of 30 years and 9 days. He had also served as ADC to Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

General Tikka Khan (1915-2002) was Pakistan’s seventh Chief of Army Staff from March 3, 1972 to March 1, 1976. He had served just two days less than 4 years.

He was commissioned on December 22, 1940, which means his military career had spanned over a period of 35 years, 2 months and 7 days. He fought in World War II as part of the Indian Army.

After his retirement, Tikka Khan was appointed Defence Minister by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. General Zia-ul-Haq’s July 1977 coup had led to the arrest of both Bhutto and General Tikka Khan. Bhutto was executed in 1979, after which General Tikka Khan had emerged as one of the leaders of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), becoming its Secretary General, during a time when many of Bhutto’s trusted confidants had deserted this political entity.

General Tikka was imprisoned numerous times for his political activities during the late 1970s and 1980s, until Zia-ul-Haq died in August 1988 in an airplane crash.

General Tikka Khan was also appointed the Governor of Punjab in December 1988. When Tikka died on March 28, 2002, he had received a state burial. His funeral was attended by thousands of people, including the entire Pakistan Army hierarchy of the time.

General Zia-ul-Haq was appointed the eighth Chief of Army Staff on March 1, 1976. He remained in uniform till his accidental death on August 17, 1988. He remained in this office for 12 years, 5 months and 16 days.

At the time of his appointment, General Zia had superseded seven Generals. Those senior to General Zia were Messrs Muhammad Shariff, Muhammed Akbar Khan, Aftab Ahmed Khan, Azmat Baksh Awan, Agha Ibrahim Akram, Abdul Majeed Malik and Ghulam Jilani Khan.

The senior most at that time, Lieutenant-General Mohammad Shariff, though promoted to General, was made the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Zia was also the sixth President of Pakistan from September 16, 1978 until his accidental death on August 17, 1988.

He was Pakistan’s longest-serving head of state. He had declared the third martial law in the country’s history in 1977 after deposing an elected Premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Zia was commissioned in the British Indian Army in a cavalry regiment on May 12, 1943 and had served against Nazi Germany and its allies in World War II. So overall, his military career had spanned 45 years and 3 months.

General Mirza Aslam Beg (born 1931) was made the ninth Chief of Army Staff on August 17, 1988 and had remained in the office till August 1, 1992. His tenure had lasted just 16 days less than 4 years.

He got commission in Pakistan Army on August 23, 1952, which means his military career was spread over a period of nearly 40 years. Beg was denied an extension from President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in 1991.

Apart from his military career, Beg briefly tenured as professor of security studies at the National Defence University (NDU) and also wrote newspaper columns.

After retirement, he was accused of playing an internal role in the airplane crash that killed General Zia and was summoned to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2012 for his alleged role in the Mehran Bank scandal, for bribing opposition politicians with millions of rupees prior to elections in 1990.

Upon returning to civilian life, General Beg founded and established a policy think-tank institute, known as Foundation for Research on International Environment National Development and Security (Friends).

General Asif Nawaz Janjua (1937-1993) was the 10th Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army from August 16, 1991 till his death in office on January 8, 1993. His term as Army Chief had lasted just one year, four months and 22 days.

He had suffered heart attack while he was jogging near his home in Rawalpindi. He is widely remembered as having died under mysterious circumstances. His widow demanded investigation and registration of a murder case. Former DG ISI Gen Asad Durrani had supported investigation in this case

General Janjua had got commission on March 31, 1957, which means his military career was spread over a period of 35 years, 9 months and 8 days.

One of his achievements as Chief of Pakistan Army was an anti-dacoit operation in Sindh, where he had deployed his best officers and direct orders were given to them to eliminate those dacoits from Dadu district.

General Abdul Wahid Kakar (born 1937) was made the eleventh Chief of Army Staff on January 12, 1993 and had held the office till January 12, 1996. His tenure as Army Chief was exactly three years long.

With Kakar’s appointment, at least four senior generals were superseded. These generals were Lt General Rehm Dil Bhatti, Lt General Mohammad Ashraf, Lt General Farrakh Khan and Lt General Arif Bangash. Among these generals, the last two had opted to stay in the Army.

Kakar got commission on October 18, 1959, which means his military career was spread over a period of 36 years, 2 months and 25 days.

General Wahid Kakar is remembered for starting the Shaheen Nuclear Missile Project. After taking over as COAS, Kakar had forced both Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Nawaz Sharif to tender their resignations at the height of the political and constitutional crisis in 1993.

General Jehangir Karamat (born 1941) was made the twelfth Chief of the Army Staff on January 12, 1996 and had held this office till October 7, 1998. He had served on this slot for 2 years, 8 months and 25 days.

Karamat got commission on October 14, 1961, which means he had a nearly 37-year long military career. After retiring from military service, he served as a professor of Political science at the National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad.

In 2004, General Jehangir Karamat was appointed as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States where he served from November 2004 until June 2006. He is also one of very few army generals in the military history of Pakistan to have resigned over a disagreement with the civilian authorities.

In 1995, along with Major-General Ali Kuli Khan of Military Intelligence, General Karamat had exposed the attempted coup d’état against the government of the then Prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who had later conferred a national award on him.

General Pervez Musharraf (born 1943) was the 13th Chief of Army Staff from October 6, 1998 till November 28, 2007.

He served as Army Chief for 9 years, one month and 22 days. Nawaz Sharif had preferred him to General Ali Quli Khan and General Khalid Nawaz Khan.

He had also served as country’s 10th President from June 2001 to August 2008. He got commission in Kakul on April 19, 1964, which thereby means that Musharraf had a military career of 43 years, 7 months and 9 days. The sitting Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s military career would span a period of 42 years and exactly three months on November 29, 2013, when he has announced to step down as Pakistan’s 14th Army Chief after 42 days from now.

Born on April 20, 1952, General Kayani had joined the Pakistan Army on August 29, 1971. As Army Chief, he will have served for 6 years by November 29, 2013 or his due retirement date.

Farah Sohail

Mar 2, 2012
Why did Hamood ur Rehman Commission recommend sacking of Gen Gul Hassan? and then also didnt get any retirement benefits? He was also, ADC to Quaid e Azam.....What exactly was the charge against him?



New Recruit

Oct 31, 2013
General Zia was the man of discipline he was very nice man and very daring person he is the good example of Pakistan Army .

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