Vicissitudes in the life of Lt Gen AAK Niazi

It is not uncommon for fortunes to fluctuate in life. But in the case of Lt Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, the amplitude of the swing was phenomenally large. He joined the army as a Y-cadet; earned an emergency commission at the somewhat late age of 27 and yet, rose to an exalted rank. At the peak of his career, he ran out of luck. I have chosen to narrate his story in an audio clip. Please click on the following link to listen to the tale. 



 The letter to the President of Pakistan

At the end of his book, Gen Niazi has appended a copy of his letter to the President of Pakistan in 1994. It contains a summary of his record of service and also gives details of how he was singled out to pay for the sins of scores of other generals. His tale of woes makes interesting reading. You can read the missive if you click on the link given below title of the book.

4.Niazi first page

Click here to read (PDF- 1.25 MB)

(After having read the letter, close this window on the tool bar to revert to the post)


The tailpiece

The question which we asked ourselves in the title of this post remains unanswered. But as I look at the story dispassionately, I find that the answer is obvious. Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi was a man made of flesh and bones, susceptible to all human weaknesses. At no stage of his life was he either a ‘tiger’ or a ‘jackal’. If a sobriquet has to be assigned to him, he should be nicknamed ‘goat’ because at the end of the day, the polity of Pakistan used him as a scapegoat.

Bhagat Kabir has composed a beautiful couplet which sums it all up beautifully:

 अव्वल अल्लाह नूर उपाया , कुदरत के सब बन्दे 

 एक नूर से सब जग उपजाया कौन भले को मंदे ?

(In the beginning, the Lord created the universe from a single light-source;

   The entire creation has emerged from it; who is good and who is bad?)

I suspect we waste a lot of time and energy in trying to classify human beings as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. And indeed, we pre-suppose that personally, we are paragons of virtue!

Is it necessary to be judgemental?



  1. Col M B Jauhari says:

    Thank you sir.

    I have a little more insight into an event that happened when I was in my first year of engineering at IIT Roorkee.

  2. wg cdr (r) Ramayabalachandran says:

    Dear sir, it was a great reading, unbiased, without humiliating the opponent . i had read Blood telegram. one’s blood will boil on the treatment of civilians of the east by the military of the west. No political or military logic will hold good for massacring the students in their university. Every evil action should be met with punishment. The country was punished by its disintegration into two. Niazi was punished by his President, by not even replying his pathetic letter unbecoming of a brave general as he claims to be. Two things become clear. He had washed the dirty linen in public. East was sacrificed for saving the west. may be that crook Nixon and kissinger combination would have sold the idea as Americans always fish in troubled waters.. All most all replies are dignified. Thanks for making us travel back. History should not be forgotten

  3. Kapil Aggarwal says:

    Dear Sir,

    Thank you Sir for the link.

    Also read Niazi’s letter to President. I think whosoever labelled him a jackal, in Pakistan, was not fair. The General at least deserved a hearing before being condemned. But when was Pakistan, a land of coups and political intrigues, known for being fair? He might have been a scapegoat.



  4. Cdr Prem Prakash Batra says:

    Dear Sirs,

    Very simple.

    It is better to be coward than lose, 95,000 Soldiers. Ashoka became Great, after annihilating the opposing Armies and total loss of lives on both sides. In the War of attrition, Mukti Vahini backed by Indian Army would have inflicted slow painful elimination. For sure, Pakistan President and Bhutto must have got some quid-pro-quo, from Kissinger-Nixon duo, for stopping India from wrecking Pakistan War Machine in West Pakistan. Plus unharmed 93,000 POWs, living in style were to be returned on a Platter. We as Cadets lived in lesser luxury in Italian POWs Barracks in Joint Services Wing [JSW] at Clement Town/Dehrdun, before JSW was shifted its permanent abode in Khadakvasla/Pune.

    Court Marshal of Niazi would have happened in any case. It is not Indian Army alone that has lived down for Political misadventures.

    I am intrigued by one aspect after watching the Serial Ashoka Hai. Why suddenly Ashoka has become Great again, after his 4 Lions were embedded in National Emblem, in 1947. That his Mother was a Lower Caste Slave!!!! Also the demand by Dr Ambedkar followers now that Ashoka and his Birthdays be celebrated together. Another astonishing media revelation has been that why Indian Kings did not arm SCs/STs Adivasis to fight the wave after wave of Invaders. If they had done so, the Cruel Invaders reins could have been defeated or halted. Of course the practice goes back to many centuries before. The 2nd largest Indian Armed Police in the world is taking hits from Naxalites and Maoists in the present State quest to quell the arms.

    Assuming that the Armed Police in the end would prevail, then how Indian Army would recognize their fighting abilities of Adivasis. Nepal Army has been struggling with absorption of Maoists who now have the upper hand in Nepali Government. Brass of Nepalese Army is trained at NDA/IMA and now even China. And Madheshi have been given 2nd class status, in the new Constitution. Also not to be forgotten that small size Vit Cong Guerillas of Ho-Chi-Min defeated the two most powerful Armies of that time, the French and then the Americans. Yes they got all the help from Soviet Union and China but the biggest Tunnel Network of Logistics was their own sweat. That is what Palestinians are now doing against Israeli Settlements.

    With best regards,

    Cdr Prem P Batra Retd

  5. Vinayak Savarkar says:


    Why are you writing on this subject at this stage, 45 years after the event. What good is it for anyone in India? I can not understand.


    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Mr Vinayak,

      Good question.

      The book was presented to me, and some of my friends read it when I passed it around. It answers some questions, and we thought we would share it with others. I do not think that we expecte any national gains, through this exercise. It throws some light on the polity of our neighbouring country and also gives us an insight into games which politicians play.


      Surjit ​

      • Vinayak Savarkar says:

        My dear Surjit Singh ji

        namaste & SSA

        Nice to hear from you. Thank you.

        I went through the script you send me. The General seems to be in a lot of grievance against his own government and even in that dire circumstances he praises (in one para) that Islam is a equality? Is this true. If that was the case, even East Paki’s were muslins and did they give equality? It is shameful.!

        There is no gain for our country this script and what I know is that our country gave them a good biting and snatched their half country.

        As I notice from your name that you hold the title of Major in Indian Army. For this I salute you from bottom of my heart for serving the nation India.


  6. Brig KS Virk says:

    Dear Gen,
    It was pleasure to go through your article on Gen Niazi, his times and the events connected with life. It is the result of a lot of research and effort on your part. Congrats. Rgds
    Brig KS Virk (Retd )

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Brig,
      Thanks . I was a young Mag in the Eastern theatre, and moved by what I saw and heard. I was curious to know their side of the story. This book answered all my questions!

  7. Gul Dost says:

    It has been said many times that life is not fair. Ever so often the real culprit gets away and some one else pays for his sins.
    In this case Yahya Khan did all the goofing and Niazi was blamed. In addition to the strategic blunders he also drank up all the liquor! Prohibition was a direct consequence of his habits.

  8. PPS GILL says:

    Thanks Surjit. VeryInteresting and informative.

    There was a similar scenario for us in NEFA and Ladakh in Oct 1962. Very similar inept Political and top military leadership and gallant junior officers and men. I was in Gauhati as part of the transport support ( Air ). At the end of the short one sided affair our morale was down in our boots.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Brother,
      Indeed. War is like a team game. And when you lose, even the best players have to suffer the ignominy!
      Such is life.

  9. Col Y V TULI says:

    Having served under British Generals, worked with Americans in Turkey, Communists in Belgrade (Yugoslavia) and having seen the tyranny of a Muslims
    General Mohd Quassim in Iraq, I am of the opinion that no country raises his soldiers from a lowly place to be a General of their fighting Army unless he is a Tiger of substance. This situation of selecting Commanders may vary while selecting them within/for supporting arms. None-the-less, a born soldier shall always remain to be a TIGER whatever may come to happen to his life later.
    Under the circumstances and the political tricks played by his Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, he was not left with any other choice i) surrender ii) be killed alongwith more of his men iii) face humility after returning to West Pakistan.
    I wish General Shahbeg Singh, whom I personally knew from CO 3/11GR days, had also written his version of the 1971 War and “inside story” of his force.
    Let us forget “Kabir” here and talk about soldiers and soldiering -
    “Girte hain “Sheh Swar” hi maidane jung mein
    Woh “Tifle” kaya gire ga jo ghutno ke bal chale”
    “Sheh Swar” – Horse rider.
    “Tifle” – A child who crawals

  10. yoginder sharma says:

    Hi Surjit,
    Great post- stimulating and thought-provoking.
    AV format is interesting but does not necessarily supercede the merits of the written word- my view? As to its quality I second Col Chaturvedi’s comments.
    But the most fascinating part of your post is the philosophical poser at the end. Not many have cared to engage with that or its implications, except Rishi and a few oblique comments. Some have indulged in judgment even here about 71 war, incl political/mil dispensations! Indeed it is in human nature to do so and often part of one’s job/role! Presently it has acquired odious proportions- the net stinks with it!
    Let me start with the Biblical injunction ‘Judge not lest thee be judged’ and the parable about the stoning of the fallen woman’let him cast the first stone etc…’. All things created are loaded with ‘pairs of opposites’ incl good and evil, courage and cowardice. Either side can emerge in a human’s lifetime- THIS IS FUNDAMENTAL!
    Hence your thesis-’tiger vs jackal’ is insoluble. It is just that some are blessed or cursed for one or the other side (head or tail) to come out more prominently in a lifetime. But judgment is still valid when it pertains to an incident or point in time. Similarly appraisal, which is a form of judgment, is valid on comparative-merit parameters as applicable, during that time frame- but NOT in perpetuity/career-time or to the person as a whole-his being!

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Affable General,
      Your comments are cogent, logical and comprehensive.
      I once read some where that it is wrong to categorize people as ‘good ‘ and ‘bad’. The more appropriate division is to rate them as ‘worthy of being taken note of’ or otherwise. In the movies we have a hero a villain and countless ‘extras’ (called junior artistes)
      Be that as it may, Niazi had his hour of glory. He lived in a palace in Dacca when the going was good. Even in India he was treated well. But it appears that he did not have many friends in the army, or else his pension would have been restored when Bhutto was over thrown by Zia.

  11. Political turmoil in Pakistan since its inception was responsible for creation of BANGLA DESH in 1971. We needed to cash on the victory by getting Kashmir vacated by Pakistan. One may like to listen to Untold stories of India Pakistan war 1971 by Lt. General Jagjit Singh Arora by visitng portal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLfEc3DMu4I

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear BBG,
      First of all let me compliment you on your daily doze of mails. They are well selected.
      My only complaint is that more than half of them come from multiple sources.
      Thanks for the link.

  12. Commodore Bibhu Mohanti says:

    Hi Gen,


    Am sure you must have read Blood Telegram which covers 1971 War eloquently & Niazi does figure in it.Blood & Niazi were both made sacrificial goats.Nixon & Kissinger made use of them to meet their ends to enter China.

    We too got the wrong end of the stick when our pension was reduced in 1973 trophy for 1971 war & we are still fighting the babus for OROP.


    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Bibhuti,
      I had heard about the Blood telegram but not read it. Thanks for telling me about it
      yes. We also have our tale of woes. We are expiring them in a peaceful manner. Let us hope we will succeed.

  13. Col RP Chaturvedi says:

    Thanks very much Sir, for sharing a facet of Gen Niazi that many of us would not have known. I found the couplet from Bhagat Kabir very thought provoking. Yes, who would judge Good or Bad, but the Good Lord.

    I feel the audio recording level could have been higher; some words get inaudible and one has to listen carefully with ear to the speaker at times. My input Sir, since you asked for it. Thanks again.

    With Warm Regards,

    Col RP Chaturvedi,

    Mobile: +919891279035


    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear RP,
      This was my first attempt with AV format. I have acquired a new mike. So I may be able to achieve better results.

  14. Amit Sharma says:

    Dear Sir,

    I can recall the poem “Patriot” by Robert Browning in this regard. Hope you will like it.


    It was roses, roses, all the way,
    With myrtle mixed in my path like mad:
    The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
    The church-spires flamed, such flags they had,
    A year ago on this very day.
    The air broke into a mist with bells,
    The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries.
    Had I said, “Good folk, mere noise repels—
    But give me your sun from yonder skies!”
    They had answered, “And afterward, what else?”
    Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
    To give it my loving friends to keep!
    Nought man could do, have I left undone:
    And you see my harvest, what I reap
    This very day, now a year is run.
    There’s nobody on the house-tops now—
    Just a palsied few at the windows set;
    For the best of the sight is, all allow,
    At the Shambles’ Gate—or, better yet,
    By the very scaffold’s foot, I trow.
    I go in the rain, and, more than needs,
    A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
    And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds,
    For they fling, whoever has a mind,
    Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.
    Thus I entered, and thus I go!
    In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
    “Paid by the world, what dost thou owe
    “Me?”—God might question; now instead,
    ‘Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.

    Robert Browning



  15. Aridaman Jit Singh says:

    Sir !
    Sat Sri Akal !

    Thanks for sharing. Sir ! when am I going to read your views on “At War”. I was invited for a lecture to the students of indian diaspora in berkley university and with me came along my wife and son too.so right now in LA and may be here for little longer to take off the political campaign “Ghadar” to change the political power formation that we inherited from thugs and perpetuated by thugs with the help of Indian army and police.

    you will agree that from Modi to Kejriwal, Congress to BJP/AAP none of them have visionary political leadership that can address the institutional issues of the governance apparatus to democratize it for freedom and justice to the people and to confer on them civic sovereignty, all these so called political leaders are basically drama artists and good at reactionary firefighting. The institutional issues are real and serious but dynamics to address them are same with all these political parties, so I am sure we need to begin with “Ghadar”, so I am at spade work.

    regards also to Mrs.Singh

    Aridaman Jit Singh

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear AJ,
      I am glad that you are as active as ever.
      I am sanguine that you will be able to overcome all obstacles and make a difference.
      Wish YOU ALL THE BEST.
      Do send me feedback on your visit.

  16. Zal Kabraji says:

    Dear General,

    Very aptly described but considering the great political interference in his Eastern Ops, I don’t think he had much of a choice & the same thing , eventually cooked his goose !!!

    Bit of a shame for a professional soldier who started of so well.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Warm Regards,

    Zal Kabraji.

  17. Lalit Dutta says:

    Dear Surjit,
    Thanks for your mail reg. Gen. Niazi of Pakistan. Your audio summary says a lot. It is however unfortunate that the PDF reg. his letter to the Paki President does not open. Do you think you could possibly send it in some other format? Just the letter part of it.

  18. Brig Anil Adlakha says:

    Thanks a Ton. You have taken lot of trouble to bring out the essence of the book.

    Public remembers the success or failure reputation of a Hero or a Soldier upon his last movie or battle.

  19. col vrk prasad says:

    thanks a lot Sir, I remember you from Sikkim days.
    A very interesting peek into the history not fully known by all, though some of his views on the state of battle field scenario at that time may be debatable and could be taken with a pinch of salt..
    Then it’s nothing new that society in general has always been unkind to the honest and efficient.The general’s career is an inspiration for any uniformed guy. Thanks a lot once again.

  20. Dave Sood says:

    9171happened about 45 years ago. This piece brought back many memories. Audio is well done. Condenses the story in under 5 minutes.

    Niazi letter is written in desparation. The style and content speaks of the state of his mind.

    Feel sorry for him as he was the chosen one as the scapegoat.

    Thanks for sharing it. Do send a copy to Arnab Goswami so that he can batter the Admiral on his show with this letter.

  21. Prem Hejmadi says:

    The AV idea is brilliant, and coupled with the write up conveys max in min time.

  22. HIS Aurora says:

    Nice format. A very interesting piece. Thanks for sharing.
    Very apt tail piece, no need to be judgemental.

  23. colls says:

    BANGLA DESH REVISED ……1971—– 2016

    Hello General,
    If you may recall the snap you have posted
    is the cover page of my book


    which has a FOREWORD
    by no less than a great INDIAN GENERAL SK SINHA PVSM twice Governor
    The GOI/ARMY… took only 13 years to clear my book.. which had by then lost its market potential value.
    If you read many emails emanated from REPORT MY SIGNAL
    and your own version, I may seek your permission to use the APPX’s for my forth coming book… which my publisher wants me to rewrite …under a changed scenario.

    Not many Indian Army officers least of all an EME guy, would have had such a close experience of the General, who after the surrender stayed in our Corps mess.
    At that point of time I was Offg AAG and OC Details at the Corps.

    Your permission will be of considerable help. I had the opportunity of visiting
    Nator Palace
    where the General lived so immensely luxuriously. A palace few wouldn’t envy…
    With best regards as usual.


    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear CSM,
      Surely you need no ‘permission’ from me.
      If I can get a copy of your book, I would like to share its contents with my friends.

      • colls says:

        I just came by
        Sorry I don’t have a spare copy
        but HQ WEST.COM and MCEME have it
        liby and archives have a copy to spare or loan may be
        they had two…
        rgds ex csm

  24. madan says:

    Fine resume. Thank you .It was interesting to learn that Gen Niazi was ordered to surrender to save West Pakistan !Cant recall the situation on the Western Front around 16 December. I need to look up Sukhwant Singh’s book again.
    That Bhutto himself was hanged later…… and so on is possibly the real commentary on life.There is no way to judge its course. Regards. Madan

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Gen,
      Do please let me know if you discover some new facts.
      The fact is that we shall never be able to know all that happened in 1971.

  25. Brig V Bajaj says:

    Hi Surjit,

    Thanks. Very interesting reading.

    He certainly did not deserve the treatment meted out to him by his Govt.



  26. AK Mathur says:

    Dear sir,
    1. Extremely interesting reading. Very knowledgeable, specially for those of us who did not participate in that war.

    2. though I doubt if all is correct, because it was the Pak troops who indulged in prostitution, not our soldiers. Some portions appear self laudatory specially those pertaining to his role against Indian troops. But maybe he was trying to project his case to alleviate himself & his family from abject poverty.

    Warm Regards

  27. Maj Gen Surendra Rishi says:

    My dear Surjit,

    A thought provoking article, well summed up in the end by you. It is in human nature to be judgmental while we all forget that all of us have our faults as well as virtues in equal measure.

    I think the AV format is well utilised by you and keeps the interest going.

    Thanks for sharing.



    • Surjit Singh says:

      Dear Gen,
      Thanks for the kind words.
      The more I see of life, the more I am convinced that we are governed by a script which is written by an invisible hand. We are mere puppets.

  28. Brig Harikumar Krishnanair says:

    Thank you Sir. It is a very interesting analysis not generally known.

  29. J Thomas says:

    An outstanding general. Full credit to him for standing by his troops at the time of defeat.

    • Surjit Singh says:

      Thanks. As usual you are the FIRST to respond. I agree with you. Niazi stood by his troops when they were in distress. He did not abandon the sinking ship!
      I was looking forward to your views on the AV format. Is it as effective as written words?

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