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An Unsung Hero of Modern History: Gen Akhtar Abdur Rehman

Submitted by on August 17, 2012 – 7:40 pm30 Comments

PKKH Exclusive | by Mariam Shah

“General Akhtar was the architect of the Afghan Jihad. It was he who advocated Pakistani participation, it was he who devised the overall military strategy, and it was he who supervised its implementation so skillfully that the Mujahedeen defeated a superpower” (Brig Retd Muhammad Yusaf)

Buried in the Army graveyard in Rawalpindi, this unsung brave man is one of the true heroes of this land, who defeated a world super power in the Afghan jihad. He was a silent soldier who crafted the destruction plan of the Soviet Union at the hands of the Mujahedeen. He showed passion, commitment, intelligence and the warrior spirit of the great Islamic conquerors.  He gave a spark to and ignited the lifeless intelligence agency of Pakistan and made it one of the finest and a dynamic spy agency of the world. Through his tireless and tacit efforts, ISI played an important part in the destruction of the Soviet Union. He was the real architect of the Soviet defeat and worked as a mason, building day and night, to turn the tables on the enemies of Islam. With his foresight, commitment and dedication he increased the power and effect of the ISI as an intelligence agency. He was a background player and executed his plans from behind the curtain.

The anecdote of General Akhtar Abdul Rahman’s life, who is one of the finest generals of Pakistan army, is that being a child he would never have know that he will become a mastermind for the devastation of a world super power. He was born on 11 June 1924 and his father, Dr. Abdul Rehman died when he was three and a half years old. He completed his high school education from the Ajnala High school and after that he entered the Islamia College Amritsar. Then he joined Government College Lahore and did his masters in economics in 1945. Soon after completing his education he joined the Army and was commissioned in 1946. He led the journey of his life without a father, not knowing that he is going to even the scores with a super power in the near future; he was raised and educated by his mother.

He joined the Indian army in 1945 and was commissioned in 1946. Akhtar was a very junior artillery officer at the time of the partition of India and the birth of Pakistan. He witnessed the unspeakable horrors of the partition and was dismayed by the brutalities committed by Hindus and Sikhs against Muslims during the course. The whole traumatic episode left a deep mark inside him and it was never forgotten nor forgiven by him. After this, for the rest of his life he considered India as a relentless enemy both for his country and his religion. He fought in three wars (1948, 1965, and 1971) with India and defended the beloved land. He had several appointments before he was offered the position of DG ISI.

In 1979, General Akhtar was offered a very important and coveted position of Director General Inter Services Intelligence. He headed the intelligence agency and built it as a very effective military institution which impacted both national and international affairs. Within the span off seven years he, along with his potential and loyal team, gave life to ISI and made it one of the most vibrant and effective institution. He conceived and crafted the plans to deal with the Soviet Union through the Afghan Mujahedeen and covert guerilla fighters from Pakistan.

In the wake of Soviet invasion in Afghanistan there were apprehensions that they might attack Pakistan too, so there were many potential threats to the security of Pakistan at that time. After the initial years of Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the military leadership under General Zia decided to fight with soviets and to teach them a lesson, even before the American assistance initiated through CIA. At that time US President Jimmy Carter was entangled in the internal dilemmas and threats which emerged after the hostage crisis in Iran, so no considerable assistance was provided. In the beginning Gen Akhtar was alone in considering that he can force the Soviet forces out of Afghanistan, he was way too optimistic. He was of the view that Pakistan should support the Jihad covertly.

America followed the “wait and see” policy as they believed that Soviet troops would take over Afghanistan in few weeks. So they did not offer any support as they thought of Afghanistan as a lost case; so why throw good money and provoke the Soviets by supporting the Mujahedeen. The US also thought that Afghan resistance cannot go more than six months, so they didn’t bothered to assist, but once they witnessed the slaughter of soviet troops at the hands of Afghan Mujahedeen, they changed their plan and fueled the money inside. It should be very clear that when USA sensed the victory in Afghanistan at the hands of Mujahedeen then they initiated the aid and assistance. When Reagan came in the White House he announced an aid package for Pakistan, which Gen Zia accepted. Although the covert operations by ISI were funded by CIA but Pakistan became a frontline state and Afghanistan a battle ground. In making Afghanistan a “graveyard of a super power”, ISI in general and General Akhtar played a central role and made the Soviet pullout inevitable. To come face to face with a super power like Russia was not a joke nor it was that simple, but Gen Akhtar was determined to wipe them out, and he never looked back once he had come to his decision.

When Gen Akhtar took the command of ISI as DG, he started each and every task from the scratch. It was a very major task to provide assistance to Afghan Mujahedeen at every front. But there was no such strategy and plan to deal with all the emerging scenes, never dealt with by the Pak forces before. Gen Akhtar was solely responsible for devising and executing plans and organizing massive covert military operations against the Soviets. He established training centers and many army officials were made responsible to train the Afghan Mujahedeen, equipping them with warfare strategies and necessity skills so that they would be able to defend their homeland against the Soviet invasion.  ISI trained the guerilla fighters and even a few army soldiers were trained to assist, guide and fight with the Mujahedeens in Afghanistan in the covert operations. Gen Akhtar established a very close relation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan, and with the State Department, especially the branch that interacted constantly with the CIA. Gen Zia managed the diplomatic affairs and Gen Akhtar directed and led the troops in the ground. The constant nine years of training, guidance and military assistance to guerilla fighters in Afghanistan by ISI, demolished the base of the Soviets and claimed around 13000 lives of soviet troops. The world stood in surprise and shock as less trained, less equipped and sometimes illiterate guerilla fighters defeated the well trained and highly equipped army of thousands.

Gen Akhtar was on the hit list of KGB and huge prize-money was put on his head, but he fearlessly involved himself in the planning and execution of the jihad, and never bothered about the personal threats which emerged against him. He not only countered the communist threat but pushed them back in the hell. He was an inborn strategist, as the way he articulated the guerilla warfare against a conventional army is still unparalleled. He was sharp at the diplomatic end as well and dealt at all fronts with intelligence and open mindedness. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan owe a lot to him, as he fought for the cause of the Ummah. He died in a fatal plane crash on 17th August 1988 near Bahawalpur and was never able to see the dawn of the Afghan Mujahedeen and fall of the Soviet Union.

He had a complex personality, as he never showed his emotions nor ever revealed himself outside his family. As an individual he was too honest and upright as he always reported what was going on, never overlooking anybody including his own staff, but Zia never reacted. He was very straight and never accepted corruption on the other hand Zia seemed to accept corruption as a way of life in Pakistan, and would not sack individuals for this offence. He never encouraged nor was he an admirer of favors and popularity.  He was very crucial for the Afghan Jihad and he worked closely with Gen Zia on national and international matters. Based on his competence, integrity, and loyalty Zia developed a great trust and confidence in Gen Akhtar and at last promoted him to the rank of a general.

History repeats itself, first it was Ghauri and Ghaznavi and now a soldier from the green land. One interesting thing which is very rarely mentioned about Gen Akhtar is that his ancestors were from Afghanistan and were Kakazai (a tribe from the Laghman province of Afghanistan who came to South Asia during the Afghan invasion made by Mahmud of Ghazni). If we create a link between his ancestral place, love for Pakistan and Islam, it is true to say that a “son of Afghanistan fought from the soil of Pakistan, for the cause of Islam and stood for Jihad till the last”.

What ISI is today can be very much attributed to the efforts and commitment shown by General Akhtar Abdul Rahman. He very tactfully maneuvered the annihilation plan of the Soviet Union and through the ISI, gave a serious blow to it, which demolished communism as such. This role of Pakistan was acknowledged by the Germans and the ISI was presented with a piece of Berlin Wall marked with the inscription “those who struck the first blow” in appreciation to its efforts which eventuated in the demolition of the Soviet Empire. This piece of stone is one of the most valued possessions of the ISI. Gen Akhtar was the person who was very optimistic about the covert operations by Pakistan and supportive of the Afghan jihad from the start. He was the architect of the intelligence warfare in Pakistan as he molded the fragile structure into a forceful one, which ultimately proved its worth. He wrote the history with a message of hope, courage and consistent commitment to a cause. He did his job with modesty and humility, that’s why he never came into limelight and remained an unsung hero and died as a “silent soldier” with his boots on.

One year before the Bahawalpur incident, a young Pakistani man met an American journalist carrying photographs of injured Afghan children with General Akhtar Abdul Rehman. The Pakistani asked the journalist the reason for keeping these photographs and he answered that whenever he was disappointed he looked at the photographs of the general and the children, to get courage.  Today, the US and Western analysts and experts admit that the DG ISI, CJCOSC and right hand of General Zia ul Haq, General Akhtar Abdul Rehman was the man who forced the superpower ‘Soviet Union’ to be torn into pieces. For the first time in history the mason of a great victory was known by the world after his death. We owe him a lot on this day and all days to come. Rest in peace Sir and May Allah Almighty raise your levels in Janna’t, amen.

Mariam Shah is a regular contributor at PKKH and a ( Columnist @ The Fortress Magazine), She is a Human Rights, Youth and Peace Activist and doing MPhil  in ”Peace and Conflict Studies” From NDU. She Can be reached at ms.fortress@gmail.com and she tweets at @mareium and support research by Muhammad Taimur Khan Marwat.


  • NK says:

    Pakistan Awwal, Pakistan Aakhir, Saya-a-Khuda-a Zuljilaal, Amiin.

    May ALLAH SwT give our deceased leaders Jannatul Firdous, Aamiin. We miss you so much. May ALLAH SwT make many more like him, following into the footsteps of our beloved illustrious Sahabah RA, Aamiin.

    Pakistan Zindabaad, Paendabaad.

  • alicaan says:

    MashAllah great article and we remember all our Shaheeds.

  • Sir Dard says:

    “One year before the Bahawalpur incident, a
    young Pakistani man met an American journalist
    carrying photographs of injured Afghan children
    with General Akhtar Abdul Rehman. The Pakistani
    asked the journalist the reason for keeping these
    photographs and he answered that whenever he
    was disappointed he looked at the photographs of
    the general and the children, to get courage.”

    Most probably it was a sarcasm by American journalist which our ‘innocent’ Pakistani guy took as a compliment.

  • Harsh Word says:

    Mariam Shah never fails to be a shining star at what she does best – telling lies, half truths, widening the divide between different religions, and giving undeserving credit to the nation. A few more of her ilk in Pakistan and the country will need no more enemies.

    Keep it up Mariam, you should be up for Nobel Prize for Disinformation soon.

    • muhammad says:

      i feel something is burning pls some body check his a….s

    • alicaan says:

      @harsh idiot When accusing someone of lies and disinformation it is impertaive to have the relevenat and necesary evidence otherwise donkeys can even make noises. I bet you didnt even read this article it was a eulogy of soemones acheivement and easy to disprove if incorrect but you idiots just love talking rubbish second nature to you morons!

    • Umer says:

      The quality of this article by Mariam Shah can be judged from that fact that you resort to cheap personal attacks and denying the facts presented instead of coming up with something logical.

      If this article appears to be full of lies then re-read the history from some reliable and neutral source.

      Moreover, there is no sin in widening the divide between Pakistan and its enemies & with those religions who are hostile against Pakistan.

    • mohsin says:

      WHAT STUPIDITY, Harsh word? Mariam’s account is quite accurate. If you don’t know then shut up!

    • Hasan Qureshi says:

      Indeed as an authority on the matter and a contributor for pkkh, I can confirm that Mariam’s account is highly accurate.

      Well Done!

      • hawk says:

        thanku so much hasan :)

      • Harsh Word says:

        What makes a person an authority? That’s debatable, but not withstanding that, isn’t it disingenuous on mariam’s part to say “He witnessed the unspeakable horrors of the partition and was dismayed by the brutalities committed by Hindus and Sikhs against Muslims during the course. The whole traumatic episode left a deep mark inside him and it was never forgotten nor forgiven by him. After this, for the rest of his life he considered India as a relentless enemy both for his country and his religion.”, without acknowledging that at least an equal, if not more brutal killings of Hindus and Sikhs by Muslims occurred in Pakistan and trainloads of their dead bodies were sent to India?

        Underplaying the importance of US contribution right from the beginning without which Pakistan was in no position to provide support to Afghan militia, again portrays a journalist’s unbiased and imbalanced view.

        If these incidences don’t give you a cause for alarm why Mariam is deliberately trying to poison the minds of her Pakistani readership subliminally by withholding certain information, then I feel sorry for your naivety.

        There was no attempt to call in to question the General’s perceived contribution in the service of his adopted country. Any country would be proud to have a son like him. But is it that unrestricted access to a bottomless pit of American arms and ammunition that would literally arm each Pakistani to their teeth may not have played any role in the ouster of the Soviet Union, thus undeserving of even a passing remark in Mariam’s article.

        If the General could anticipate ill after-effects of his work such as the ISI turning into a rouge organization, or the emergence of insurgency and militancy that are now a nuisance for Pakistan as much as for the rest of the world, he may have perhaps, acted differently.

        • alicaan says:

          @harsh word again your comment has no basis ‘Muslims atrocities if not worse was committed in Pakistan’ there is no evidence of this BUT there is evidence of trains filled with dead Muslims arriving in Pakistan compliments of the “largest democracy” of the world. He had every right to be angry especially since 4 million Muslims laid down there life for Pakistan and this myth that this war was nothing without american dollars read this article again half the war was financed by the Saudis and all who fought were Muslims so were not playing down American’s role but simply explaining the reality.

          Thirdly ISI is not a rogue agent what nonsense is this? it is an integral part of the army with relevant chain of command and due process and there is an article to the effect that India wants to create an organization like the ISI. It is professional and the men and women who have served for the ISI have been upstanding members of our society. Secondly General Akhtar would have been proud with the afghan as many feel they are true freedom fighters, the TTP are definitely terrorists and he would have certainly fought against them if alive!

    • hawk says:

      @harsh word : so when you are recommending my name for the Nobel prize :D;)

  • Ben says:

    His boss, General Zia may be the most unpopular military dictator, if viewed from the prism of Pakistani democracy but historians can not deny the fact that he has left most indelible marks on Pakistan’s political, social and religious landscape. He fought Soviets, using Afghans, of course with American dollars and Wahhabi mercenaries and pushed the world into dreadful unipolar era. He gifts are drugs, Kalashnikovs, Wahhabi extremism and Afghan refugees, if we assess his achievements from the present-day standards. But those living in the world of 70s and 80s would shrug off this criticism saying he achieved a feat even the Americans could not dream of with their money and military might. Leaving aside the deeds or misdeeds of Zia, it is very unfortunate that he was killed in a mysterious air-crash along with 31 other passengers including members of his top-brass, air crew and American diplomats, right in a garrison town which he was visiting under the arrangements of the army he was commanding at that time. It was a clear case of killing by powerful political players in connivance with Zia’s own comrades. Read more at: http://passivevoices.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/bahawalpur-air-crash-who-killed-the-most-powerful-military-dictator/

  • khan says:

    Gen Akhtar Abdur Rehman:

    it would not be wrong if I say US planned to kill him instead of Zia in Bahawalpur incident. The only man today Pak Army would be missing a lot while handling these taliban Gen Akhtar. I pray to GOD to give us atleast one such person to handle the crises of today indian supported TTP.

    Mariam Shah. you are good job. Keep it up. don’t worry about barking ddogs like one above. I would be expecting more from you on TTP. explore and write more on this indian pet.

  • Zecchetti says:

    MashaAllah. Do also do a piece on key mujahideen leaders, especially Sheikh Abdullah Azzam Shaheed (RA).

  • Mohammad Ali says:

    He was indeed a great man. The 1988 General was one of the most unfortunate incidents ever which Pakistan came across. We lost one of our greatest military minds in that war, who could have lead this nation to greater heights. General Akhter was indeed a great strategist, and I hope that his legacy continues now days as we badly needed it.

  • Usman says:

    HERO? Shame on us if we think he is hero… Agar Pak AMERICAN PAID AFGHAN JIHAD mei involve na hota to aaj Pakistan mei 3500 foji and 35000 civilian zinda hoty ya kam az kam is mot se na marty……….. SHAME ON U MARIUM SHAH… jouranalist like are indirectly responsible for 3500 army men and 35000 civilian’s death…

    • 321 says:

      participating in the afghan war was a must. although i wish it could have been done ONLY with muslim support and funding, what has happened cannot be changed. and btw that would not have affected us if the zionists didnt have imperialistic plans. it was fine until US,israel and india started supporting terrorism against us so stop being an idiot. the fact remains that without their support and funding for terrorists, pakistan would still be peaceful and prospering. tell me why is it that only with the support of US,india and israel did the terrorists attack us? why did they wait so long? could it be that there werent any terrorists here b4 and only with RAW,CIA,Mossad brainwashing,funding and support did these criminals arise? idiots like u fail to understand this and shoot of ur disgusting mouths.

  • Usman says:

    grave yard of super power??? now whos the super power? now where is the graveyard with 3500 army men and 35000 civilians????

  • Crusher says:

    This guy was a thug. He made fortune of the Afghan war. His family owns Pepsi, spinning mills, sugar mills etc. How come an army officer amassed such a fortune. His alikse are an embarrassment for the army.

    • alicaan says:

      @crusher what a stupid argument so your argument is that no family of a military dictator can do business unless there was some double dealing involved? you need your brains checked if thats what you believe.

      • 321 says:

        actually ure the idiot for thinking that the military generals sent down from heaven. the fact of the matter is that its the generals who hoard the money and of course the corrupt politicians. many of our generals are just as corrupt as the politicians. and if u dont believe that or refuse to do so then u are a lost cause.

        • 321 says:

          tell me how are the drone strikes doing? pretty good the last time i checked. in pakistan u can do little without the generals agreeing to it and the drone strikes have their stamp of approval. the MFN has their stamp of approval. theyre all just talk nothing more.

        • 321 says:

          u would have been right if it was only a few generals that were rich. im not saying that they should be poor however however every other general u see is filthy rich and ure telling me that that is not suspicious in the least? ur screws must be loose…

  • excalibur says:

    So the support for the Mujahideen against the Soviets was our war and the Americans joined in later with our approval ?

    Why is the ongoing war now is not our war as PTI and PML N claim rather naively ?

  • Surmad says:

    In my books its a nice Patriotic writing but many paragraphs need references. If we do not quote a credible source This looks like self crafted. but any how a nice contribution :)

  • asmat says:

    a great man a great soilder a great offiser n a great n leagend of pakistan Gen. Akhtar Abdur Rehman Shaheed

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