Chief of Army Staff or COAS is the highest post in the Pakistani army and is held by a senior officer of 4 star rank. Under the 1973’s constitution of Pakistan, the COAS is under the authority of the civilian leadership and reports directly to the president, prime minister, defence minister and the defence secretary of Pakistan.
Before the 1973 constitution, the COAS were referred to as Army Commander-in-Chief. There were six Commanders-in-Chief namely General Sir Frank Messervy (15TH Aug 1947 to 10th Feb 1948), General Sir Douglas Gracey (11th Feb 1948-16th Jan 1951), Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan (16th Jan 1951-26th Oct 1958), General Muhammad Musa (27th October 1958-17th June 1966), General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan(18th June1966-20th Dec 1971), Lieutenant General Gul Hassan Khan (20th Dec 1971-3rd March 1972).
Among these Commanders-in-Chief, Field Marshal Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan overthrew the elected governments and declared martial law. Ayub Khan later became the president and remained on the post for almost a decade.
From 1973 onwards the Commander-in-Chief was replaced by COAS; the first COAS was General Tikka Khan (3rd March 1972-1st March 1976), General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (1st March 1976-17th August 1988), General Mirza Aslam Beg (17th August 1988- 16th August 1991), General Asif Nawaz (16th August 1991-8th Jan 1993), General Abdul Waheed (11th Jan 1993-12th Jan 1996), General Jehangir Karamat (12th Jan 1996- 6th Oct 1998), General Pervez Musharraf (6th Oct 1998-Nov 28th 2007) and General Ashfaq Kiyani (29th Nov 2007-present).
General Zia ul Haq also declared martial law by overthrowing the elected government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1977. Zia ul Haq proceeded to become the president; he even held elections on no party basis and brought his puppet government in power. For eleven years he held the posts of both the COAS and the President until he died in a plane crash in 1988.
General Pervez Musharraf too declared emergency in 1998 and removed the elected government of Nawaz Sharif from power. For nine years he ruled overPakistanas the president while refusing to surrender his army uniform which he called his second skin. Then in 2007 on the insistence of almost the whole nation he gave up his army post. After Gen Musharraff, General Kayani served as COAS. After General Kiyani’s retirement, General Raheel Shareef took over the charge, in 2013.
Lance Naik Muhammad Mehfuz (October 25, 1944 – December 8, 1971) was an infantry soldier of Pakistan Army who embraced martyrdom at the Western Front during the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict. Mehfuz was born in Pind Malikan near Rawalpindi. He joined Pakistan Army on October 25, 1962.
During then 1971 Indo-Pak war, Lance Naik Muhammad Mehfuz was serving in ‘A’ Company of 15 Punjab Regiment. His unit was deployed at Wagah-Attari sector during the war. Though cease-fire was announced on December 16, 1971 but India was taking advantage of cease-fire by creeping into Pakistan’s territory. On the night of December 17-18, ‘A’ company was ordered to occupy Phul Kanjri village. Mehfuz who was posted in Platoon no. 3 was assigned in the leading assault party with his platoon comrades. The assault party was made to face heavy fire from the enemy pill boxes. These concrete pill boxes were inflicting heavy casualties to whole company which was only 70 yards away from the enemy position. During the assault, Indian forces had stated artillery fire causing setbacks to company’s plan. While advancing, Mehfuz lost his machine-gun due enemy shell; see this he charged towards the enemy bunker which was inflicting heavy casualties. By the time he had reached enemy bunker, his both legs were wounded by shell sprinters but he still managed to encounter his enemy. Though unarmed, he bayoneted enemy soldiers and neutralized fire from enemy bunker, thus making way for his company’s advance. He was given medical treatment but he died on the night of December 17, 1971.
He was buried in his hometown Pindi Malikan with full military honors. He was posthumously awarded Nishan e Haider for the supreme sacrificed by him. A garrison of Pakistan Army has been named after in Lahore which is known as Mehfuz Shaheed Garrison.
Sawar Muhammad Hussain (June 18, 1949 – December 10, 1971) was a driver in the Armored Corps of Pakistan Army who got martyred during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Sawar was born in Dhok Pir Bakash (now Dhok Muhammad Hussain Janjua) in Gujar Khan. He joined Pakistan Army on September 3, 1966 at a young age of 17 years. He was given training of driving military vehicles and was posted in a unit of Armored Crops. Despite of just being a driver, Sawar always used to participate keenly in military exercises where he learned different arts of warfare.
Sawar Muhammad was posted in 20 Lancers when 1971 war broke out between India and Pakistan. His unit was deployed in the frontline are of Zafarwal-Shakargarh. Using his experience of military exercises, Sawar used to engage enemy by taking over a machine gun whenever such an oppurnity was available.
During the war he delivered ammunition to forward trenches despite of heaving shelling by Indian forces. He always used to volunteer for patrols and dangerous missions which earned him high name in the 20 Lancers. On December 10, 1971 he spotted enemy tanks near a village called Harar Khurd. He informed the second-in-command of his units about the advancing tanks. He on his own initiative started directing fire to anti-tank gun crew on enemy tanks. He kept on directing fire and was hit by a burst of machine gun fire from an advancing enemy tank. Later he embraced martyrdom at around 4:00 PM that day.
Sawar Muhammad Hussain was buried in his ancestral town. He is the first soldier (foot soldier) of Pakistan Army to receive country’s highest gallantry award of Nishan-e-Haider.
Major Shabbir Sharif (April 28, 1943 – December 7, 1971) was a Pakistani Army officer who embraced martyrdom at Western front during the 1971 Indo-Pak. Shabbir Sharif was born in Kunjah town of District Gujrat. He did O-Levels from St. Anthony’s High School, Lahore. He joined Government College, Lahore for further studies but he received call to join Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul before he could complete his studies. Sharif had an outstanding stay at the military academy and was given the prestigious ‘Sword of Honor’ on passing out. He was commissioned in Pakistan Army on April 19, 1964 and was posted to 6th Battalion of the Frontier Force Regiment (FF).
Shabbir Sharif participated in the 1965 Indo-Pak war as a young Lieutenant. He led many successful assaults on Indian forces. During the war, he got injured and was admitted in the Military Hospital but he escaped to rejoin his unit. He was later awarded the Sitara-e-Jurat for his bravery. In 1971, Pakistan Army decided to launch an offensive on the Western front to ease pressure on its forces fighting in the Eastern Front in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Sharif by then had rose to the rank of Major by then. Major Shabbir Sharif was ordered to capture and attack an important linking bridge called ‘Gurmakhera Bridge’. Major Sharif and his troops carried out a successful assault despite of being outnumbered by Indian troops. In one of the fights with Indian troops, he engaged his counterpart Major Naryan Singh of 4 Jat in a man-to-man battle and was successful in killing him. But in the process his right shoulder was badly burnt. Another offensive was launched by Indian Army to eliminate Major Sharif’s troops on December 6, 1971. He kept leading his troops from the front despite of heaving injuries. On the morning of December 6, 1971 heaving shelling started from Indian tanks. One of the shells landed near Major Shabbir Sharif throwing him and other troops in air. He embraced martyrdom few seconds later after falling on ground. His lasts words were “don’t lose the bridge’.
Major Shabbir Sharif was buried in his hometown with full military honors. He was posthumously awarded ‘Nishan-e-Haider’. He is the only person who has been awarded both highest gallantry awards; Sitara-e-Jurat and Nishan-e-Haider which makes him the highest decorated soldier of Pakistan Armed Forces.
Major Muhammad Akram (April 14, 1938 – Decemer 1971) was a Pakistani Army officer who embraced martyrdom during the Indo-Pak war of 1971. Muhammad Akram was born in Dinga city of District Gujrat while he belonged to village Nakka Kalan of District Jhelum, Punjab. He was born in an Awan tribe of Pakistan.
After completing his early education, Akram appeared for Pakistan Army selection and was selected for the 1963 batch of Pakistan Military Academy. Akram graduated from PMA and was commissioned in the Frontier Force Regiment on October 16, 1963. While being posted at Lahore cantonment, Major Muhammad Akram (then Captain) participated in the 1965 Indo-Pak War. He was commander of a small company which preformed successful operations against the Indian Army.
In 1969, Captain Muhammad Akram was promoted to the rank of Major and was soon posted to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). After the start of civil war in East Pakistan, Major Muhammad Akram’s unit 4 FF was placed in the forward area of Hilli district as war was impending between India and Pakistan. After the unannounced attack by India of East Pakistan, he and his men were subjected to heavy air, artillery and armour attacks from Indian Army. For almost fortnight, Major Muhammad Akram and his troops were able to force Indians back and inflicting heavy damages to them. He got injured during the battle and later embraced martyrdom. He was buried in the village of District Bogra of East Pakistan (now Bangaldesh). He was posthumously awarded Nishan-e-Haider by the Pakistani government. He is the only soldier of Pakistan Army who is buried in foreign land but received Nishan e Haider. In his remembrance, a memorial was built in the city of Jhelum.
Major Raja Aziz Bhatti (1928 – September 11, 1965) was a Pakistani Army officer who embraced martyrdom during the Indo-Pak war of 1965. Major Aziz Bhatti was born to a Muslim Rajput family in Hong Kong, his family moved to Pakistan before its independence in 1947. Major Aziz Bhatti’s father Abdullah Bhatti was a school master. Major Aziz Bhatti joined Pakistan Army in 1948. He had excellent student career in the then newly built Pakistan Military Academy, Abbotabad; he was awarded Sword of Honor and Norman Medal by the Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan. After passing out in 1950, Major Aziz Bhatti was commisned in Punjab Regiment. During his career of 15 years in the army; Major Bhatti served at various command and staff appointments of the Pakistan Army.
Major Aziz Bhatti was appointed as the Company Commander of a Punjab regiment before the outbreak of war between India and Pakistan in 1965. As the tensions escalated between the two countries, forces were ordered to get themselves prepared for any eventuality. Major Aziz Bhatti was given the command of Burki sector of Lahore. He laid a perfect model of defensive tactics and used every available thing for it. After the start of war Major Aziz Bhatti decided to stay with his forward troops instead of going back to Command post. He led his troops and did not sleep for almost three days. He and his men defend the strategically important BRB canal against enemy attacks for five days and nights despite of repeated attacks by Indian army.
In order to see every moment of Indian forces, Major Aziz Bhatti kept himself on elevated positions. He directed accurate fire to artillery which resulted in heavy loss of men and tanks to Indian forces. He kept leading his men from the front despite of heavy artillery fire from enemy positions. On September 11 as he was directing artillery fire he was hit by an enemy tank shell in the chest and embraced martyrdom.
He was buried in his village Ladian, Gujrat. He left 6 children and a wife. He later awarded Nishan-e-Haider for the supreme sacrifice offered by him. He is the only recipient of Nishan-e-Haider from the 1965 Indo-Pak War.
Captain Raja Muhammad Sarwar Khan Bhatti (1910 – July 27, 1948) is the first recipient of Nishan-e-Haider. Sarwar Khan was born in Singhori village, Tehsil Gujar Khan, District Rawalpindi. Born in Rajput family, Captain Sarwar went to join Indian Military in 1942 and was commissioned in the Punjab Regiment of Indian Army in 1944. After independence of Pakistan in 1947, Captain Sarwar Khan was transferred to Pakistan Army.
Soon after the partition of sub-continent, tensions raised between India and Pakistan over the disputed area of Kashmir. Indian troops landed in Kashmir and took control of Kashmir. Flared by anger, patriotism and love for their Kashmiri brothers, Pakistan Army was ordered to intervene on the order of the then Governor-General Muhammad Ali Jinnah. During the early days of Kashmir war, Captain Sarwar Khan was busy in doing a course at a military school in Murre. He requested to be deployed with his parent unit which was fighting with Indians at the Uri sector but his requests were turn down. After repeated requests he was finally sent back to join his unit.
After joining his unit at Uri sector, Captain Sarwar Khan was appointed as the Company Commander of the 2nd battalion. He led successful attacks on Indian army inflicting heavy damages to the enemy. On the fateful night of July 28, 1948, Captain Sarwar Khan launched an attack on the strongly fortified position of enemy at the Uri sector. Enemy responded with heavy machine gun and mortar fire but he and his men made their way through barbed wire barrier which was hindering their movement. In this process, Captain Muhammad Sarwar Khan received a burst of heavy machine gun in his fire and lost his life.
Captain Muhammad Sarwar Khan was posthumously awarded Nishan e Haider for the bravery shown by him
Major Tufail Muhammed Shaheed (1914 – August 7, 1958) was born in Hoshiarpur, Punjab (India). In 1943, Tufail Muhammed got commissioned in the 16 Punjab Regiment of Indian Army. After the independence of Pakistan, Tufail Muhammed was transferred to Pakistan Army. During his distinguished career he served at various command and staff appointments in the Army.
In 1958, Major Tufail Muhammed was posted to East Pakistan as the Company Commander of a battalion of East Pakistan Rifles (a Para military force for border security). During his command, Indian troops violating international borders captured a village in the area of Laskhmipur of East Pakistan. On August 7, 1958 Major Tufail launched an assault to force withdrawal of Indian troops from the village; He divided his men in to three groups and attacked Indian troops during the dark hours of August 7th. Their groups was able to reach enemy without being detected but as the firefight started, the group came under heavy fire and Major Tufail received three bullets in his stomach. Despite being shot in stomach, he kept moving and was able to silence the incoming fire from machine gun. By tactically using grenades, Major Tufail was able to destroy key enemy posts. When he saw enemy commander inflicting heavy casualties to his men he crawled towards enemy posting and engaged enemy in hand-to-hand battle which resulted in killing of commander of the Indian Army. He killed him by hitting him his steel helmet on the face. He continued the operation with his men which resulted in withdrawal of Indian forces. Despite being heavily injured, he called his junior officer “I have completed my duty; the enemy is on the run.” He was rushed to hospital but he embraced shahadat.
Major Muhammed Tufail was buried with full mitialry honors in his native city Burewala. His native town has been named after him and is now known as Tufailabad. Major Muhammed Tufail was posthumously awarded Nishan-e-Haider and he is the only person to get this award for an action outside the Indo-Pak wars.
Lieutenant Syed Yaser Abbas Shaheed (July 22, 1987 – May 22, 2011) was an aeronautical engineer of Pakistan Navy. He completed his basic education from famous Pakistani school, Army Public School & Colleges System. He joined Pakistan Navy in 2005 and embraced martyrdom on May 24, 2011 during attack on PNS Mehran. His name has been recommended for Nishan-e-Haider (Pakistan’s highest award for valor). He will be the first person from Pakistan Navy to receive this award.
Yaser was born in a Pakistani army family; his maternal grandfather and father was Colonel in the Medical branch of Pakistan Army. Yaser had three sisters. After doing intermediate from famous Pakistani college Garrison Degree College, Lahore Cantt Yaser appeared for Pakistan Air Force but he was rejected citing eye problem. He was offered education abroad by his father but he refused and appeared for entry in Pakistan Navy. He was selected for 67th CAE/EC course of Aeronautical engineering at College of Aeronautical Engineering, Pakistan Airforce Academy. After graduating from PAF academy, Lt. Yaser was posted at PNS Mehran of Pakistan Navy.
Lt. Yaser was the duty officer and incharge of Quick Reaction Force on the night of May 22, 2011 when terrorists attacked PNS Mehran. On hearing sounds of blasts he rushed to check it but was stopped by Navy guards from going their but without caring for his life and he endangered his life and went to check. He was attacked by terrorists attacking the base but Lt. Yaser kept his ground and engaged terrorists for almost half an hour. During this he received 3 bullets (1 in heart and 2 in abdomen). He was taken to PNS Rahat but embraced martyrdom in operation theatre. He was buried in his native city Lahore on May 23, 2011. Prime Minister of Pakistan Yousaf Raza Gilani has recommend Nishan-e-Haider for the gallantry shown by the young officer of Pakistan Navy.