Akhtar Abdur Rahman

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Akhtar Abdur Rahman
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee
In office
29 March 1987 – 17 August 1988
Preceded by Rahimuddin Khan
Succeeded by Iftikhar Ahmed Sirohey
Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence
In office
21 June 1979 – 29 March 1987
Preceded by Muhammad Riaz Khan
Succeeded by Hamid Gul
Personal details
Born 11 June 1924
Rampur, Punjab, British Raj
Died 17 August 1988 (aged 64)
Bahawalpur, Pakistan
Alma mater Imperial College London,Yale University
Profession Soldier
Religion Islam
Awards Sitara-e-Basalat
Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military)
Nishan-e-Imtiaz (Military)
Military service
Allegiance Pakistan Pakistan
Service/branch  Pakistan Army
Joint Services
Years of service 1947–1988[1]
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Unit 2 Field Regiment Artillery , Pakistan Artillery
Commands GOC 12th Army Division,Murree
DG Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
Battles/wars Indo-Pakistan War of 1948
Indo-Pakistan War of 1965
Indo-Pakistan War of 1971
Soviet War in Afghanistan

Akhtar Abdur Rahman Khan or Akhtar Abdur Rehman Khan (Urdu: اختر عبد الرحمن‎; 11 June 1924 – 17 August 1988),[1] was an influential four-star rank general officer who tenured as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of Pakistan from 1987–1988 and as Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from 1979-1987.[2] As director of the ISI, Akhtar holds a world prestige for masterminding the resistance network against the Soviet Union in their war to protect the fragile regime of Communist Afghanistan.

Close to General Zia-ul-Haq, Akhtar consolidated political power and was widely regarded as country’s most powerful statesman to have an influence on country’s covert and overt public policies. Being regarded as the consistent United States ally, he was a close friend of counterpart William Casey of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). After his death, two of his sons Humayun Akhtar Khan and Haroon Akhtar Khan later entered politics in Pakistan.


Early life and education[edit]

Rehman was born on 11 June 1924 in Rampur, British Indian Empirein a Pathan origin family of Rampur.[1] After passing the university entrance exam, Rehman enrolled in the Imperial College London in London in 1941, and subsequently earned Bachelor of Science in Statistics[1] in 1945, followed by Master of Science in Economics in 1947 at Yale University.[3]

Military service[edit]

Akhtar joined the British Indian Army in 1946, before becoming Captain in Pakistan Army in 1949.[3] After witnessing the traumatic events during the partition, Akhtar was appointed as an instructor at the Artillery School inNowshera. Later, he was selected for an infantry training course with the British Army and was sent on deputation to complete a course in the United Kingdom.[3] Upon returning to Pakistan, he secured the promotion as Majorand posted as a military adviser to East-Pakistan Army from April 1954 to October 1954.[3][4] He was later transferred back to General combatant headquarters (GHQ) as a staff officer which he hold from April 1956 to February 1957.[3] He actively participated in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 and appointed at IV Corps as an operational field officer.[3] He fought well in Lahore sector that led to his promotion as lieutenant-colonel and remainedsecond-in-command of the infantry regiment in Lahore.[3] After the war, he was promoted as Colonel while being stationed with the IV Corps. Later, he was promoted as Brigadier and given transferred to northern parts of the country, and commanded an infantry brigadier as its brigadier commander, in Azad Kashmir.[3]

Director of Inter-Services Intelligence[edit]

In 1971, he was promoted to two-star rank, Major-General, and served as General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 12th Infantry Division stationed in Murree. Akhtar was generally close to Bhutto and personally greeted Bhutto when he visited to command office of the 12th Division.[5][6] He did not take part in Operation Fair Play and privately opposed the martial law to remove Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. In mere six months, he was appointed as adjutant general at GHQ for next two years.[3] During this time, Rahman became aware of the conspiracy in the armed forces that included senior lieutenant-general Faiz Ali Chishti of X Corps, who was counted among the close associates of General Zia-ul-Haq, secretly became rebellious and conspired to stage a military coup in the country.[3] As early as of 1977, Akhtar received a call from General Chishti and had his office inChaklala Military District (CMD).[3] At this meeting, Rehman was revealed of counter-coup that was aimed to topple General Zia-ul-Haq and was seeking help from him. According to the News International‘s intelligence unit, Chisti was under the impression that since Rahman had not been promoted, he would accept this invitation; especially when he was promised that after the design worked out successfully, he would not only be promoted but would also become one of the pillars of the new regime.[3] After coming back to GHQ, Rehman, as surprised he was, quickly contacted General Zia-ul-Haq and foiled the plot against Zia.[3]

In June 1979 after the counter-coup had been foiled, President General Zia-ul-Haq called Akhtar and awarded him a promotion while offering him the coveted position of the directorate of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).[3] After being promoted to three-star rank,lieutenant-general, General Rehman directed the ISI’s operation that would make the ISI to become one of the major organs of Pakistan’s fast expanding organisational machinery of military.[3] His influence on atomic weapons program grew and worked tirelessly and collected around him colleagues who were equally dynamic and determined to make the ISI an organisation that would have great impact on the domestic and external policies of the country.[3]

Chairman joint chiefs[edit]

During his eight-year tenure, the ISI became one of the most powerful spy agencies of the world.[3] In 1987 at the princeple of his career, General Akhtar was elevated to the four-star rank and secured the appointment as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the highest and most prestigious four-star assignment in the Pakistan Armed Forces.[3]

Role in the Soviet–Afghan War[edit]

When the Soviet Union deployed its 40th Army in Afghanistan, many of General Zia’s leading generals believed that Pakistan would be the Soviet Union’s next target. They felt that because of Pakistan’s strategic location and given the fact that it has warm water ports in the Arabian Sea, it was a prime target for future invasion. Since the top military brass believed that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan threatened Pakistan’s national security, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency the ISI headed by General Akhtar started providing financial, military, and strategic assistance to the Afghan mujahideen. The ISI received billions of dollars in military assistance from the CIA and Saudi Arabia to train and command the Afghan rebels in a bid to defeat the Soviets. This covert operation was known asOperation Cyclone, and was executed with the CIA provided the money and weapons, the ISI trained and commanded the Afghan Mujahideen groups, and the Mujahideen conducted guerrilla warfare, ultimately helping lead to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. General Akhtar is widely praised for his crucial role as Director General of the ISI during the war.

Books mentioning General Akhtar[edit]

  • Fateh by Haroon-ur-Rasheed
  • Silent soldier by Mohammad Yousaf
  • The Bear Trap by Mohammad Yousaf and Mark Adkin
  • Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile
  • Ghost Wars by Steve Coll
  • A Case of Exploding Mangoes by Mohammed Hanif

See also[edit]

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Akhtar Abdur Rahman
Akhtar Abdur Rahman Khan or Akhtar Abdur Rehman Khan, was an influential four-star rank general officer who tenured as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of Pakistan from 1987–1988 …Wikipedia
Born: June 11, 1924, Rampur, Punjab
Died: August 17, 1988, Bahawalpur, Pakistan
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