Zahirul Islam Abbasi
Zahirul Islam Abbasi

Major General Zahirul Islam Abbasi  (Zaheer bhai) was a former commander and officer of the Pakistan Army.He Served in the Siachen region of the disputed territory of Kashmir.He planned and executed assaults on Indian Army posts.He was also accused and convicted for a period of 7 years for being party to an attempted coup detat against the civilian government of Benazir Bhutto in 1995 while he was still a serving Major General in Pakistan Army. No political party was linked to this coup attempt as determined by the courts.He also fought many battles.

Name:Zahirul Islam Abbasi
Nickname(s) :Zaheer bhai
In Urdu:ظہیر ﺍﻹﺳﻼﻡ ﻋﺑﺎﺳﻰ
Famous As:Former Commander and Officer
Profession:Major General
Awards :Sitara-i-Jurat, Sitara-i-Basalat, Tamgha-i-Khidmat Class I ,(4)Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Military, (5)Imtiazi Sanad (2)
Date:12 January 1943
Place:Hazara Pakistan
Date:30 July 2009
Rest Place:Rawalpindi Pakistan
Allegiance:Pakistan Pakistan
Service/branch:Pakistan Army
Years of service:1963–1995
Rank:Major General
Unit:Infantry (Baluch Regiment)
Commands:14th Infantry Brigade, Siachen Director General, Infantry Corps (DGIC)
Battles/wars:Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Indo-Pakistani War of 1984, Soviet war in Afghanistan

Participated in the 1975 War Against IndiaFormer Commander and Officer of the PakistanParticipated in Soviet War in Afghanistan 1985

Family Background

Abbasi got married to Shahida Zaheer, daughter of A.A. Shaikh, who was one of the senior teachers at Cadet College Petaro. Abbasi has four children – two sons and two daughters.


Pakistan Army

Abbasi joined Pakistan Army around 1960. As a captain in the army, he was appointed the adjutant of Cadet College Petaro in 1966. He served in that position until 1969. In 1972.

Participated in the 1971 War

Abbasi participated in the 1971 war against India from the western front. His overall performance was rated very high and he rose up through the ranks to become a brigadier by the mid-1980s. Abbasi was deeply influenced by the program of “Islamization” carried out by President Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s. Under Zia, the religious values were promoted very highly within the government and military circles which led to a level of piety in the lives of many officers including Abbasi. Abbasi remained a part of the military establishment as long as he was in service with no links to any political or religious groups as per the tradition of the army which remained secular in nature.

Worked As

Abbasi worked as an intelligence and military officer in liaison with Afghan militas resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1980 – 1986), which was a part of the United States program supporting Pakistan. In 1987-1988, Brigadier Abbasi also served as the Military Attache at the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi, India. Both India and Pakistan have brigadiers in the position of Military Attache in their respective embassies. On December 1, 1988 New Delhi police arrested Abbasi in a meeting with an alleged Indian contact. As no information or documents could be obtained from him, the Indian government was forced to release him within hours, chose to declare him persona non grata and expelled him from India.[1] Career

Unit Commander in the Siachen

In April 1984, India occupied the high ground around the Siachen Glacier in violation of the Simla Agreement. Pakistan immediately rushed its forces to the area, which led to a war like situaton that has lasted since them. Many Pakistani and Indian soldiers were killed in high-altitude warfare involving thousands of soldiers. As a Brigadier, Abbasi was deployed as a unit commander in the Siachen area in 1991. Abbasi opposed the restraint imposed by the army under prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and planned an assault with a group of army officers. Striving to seize key posts, Abbasi’s surprise attack failed as his troops were repulsed by Indian forces with heavy casualties. Abbasi and his allies were removed from their posts by the army chief Gen. Asif Nawaz.

Director-General of Infantry Corps

Dropped from further promotion in the army command and due to dissatisfaction with the state of corruption and other affairs in the country, Major General Abbasi allegedly plotted a coup against the civilian government of prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the army chief Gen. Wahid Kakar in 1995. At the time of the attempted coup, Abbasi was holding the post of director-general of infantry corps at the army General Headquarters GHQ – a staff position where he did not command any troops. Attempting to gather a group of senior officers and military commanders, Abbasi was accused of planning to assassinate Bhutto, Kakar, senior cabinet ministers and the military chiefs and proclaim the establishment of Islamic law in Pakistan, and taking over the government.

Moved To

The plot was foiled when it was uncovered by Lt. Gen. Jehangir Karamat, then chief of general staff (CGS). The coup plotters were arrested, and following a court-martial, Abbasi was moved to the civilian central prison at Haripur in NWFP.Investigation reports revealed that Abbasi and his co-conspirators had planned to kill the entire army high command during a corps commander’s conference in Islamabad on September 30, 1995.

Diplomats and Politicians

According to one of the earliest reports, “Diplomats and politicians in Islamabad tell a different story. They say the arrested officers were not planning a coup, but were supplying arms to separatists fighting in Indian Kashmir. Bhutto, these sources say, was responding to pressure from Washington to crack down on military support to the rebels in violation of official policy. The U.S. has been seeking a solution to the Kashmir dispute and is eager to see an end to tensions between Islamabad and New Delhi.” 

Co Conspirators Qari Saifullah

With one of the co-conspirators Qari Saifullah turning an “approver” (government witness), the military court determined that Abbasi was not the main plotter in the attempted coup and was therefore given a lighter sentence of only 7 years as compared to the other army officers like Brigadier Mustansir Billah who were convicted for terms up to 14 years. The coup was not considered serious enough to grant a death sentence to any of the plotters. Qari Saifullah was not convicted as a part of the deal with the government for his becoming a witness.


Abbasi’s imprisonment started in 1995 and he was to remain in prison for 7 years, i.e. until 2002. During his period of imprisonment, Abbasi lodged an appeal to Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1997 for a review of his case. This was refused since he had been convicted by a military court, and it was outside the purview of civilian courts. He was not granted release. However based on good conduct during his prison term, Abbasi was given early release from prison by General Pervez Musharraf in October, 1999, i.e. within four years. With his military career over, Abbasi moved to organise a political party with the aim of creating awareness and establishing the rule of Islamic law through constitutional change. Abbasi recently formed another political party called the Azmat-e-Islam party with the same objectives. He leads a quiet life in Rawalpindi, and delivers lectures to audiences on the values of religious life.

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