Khalid Mahmud Arif

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Khalid Mahmud Arif

NI(M)  HI(M)  SI(M)  SBt  LoM
General Khalid
Native name
خالد محمود عارف
Other name(s)K.M. Arif
Born(1930-12-29)29 December 1930[1]
Jalandhar, East Punjab, British India (present-day in India)
Died6 March 2020(2020-03-06) (aged 89)[2]
Allegiance Pakistan
Service/branch Pakistan Army
Years of service1947–87
Rank General
Service numberPA–3107
Unit11th Cavalry (Frontier Force), Armoured Corps
Commands heldVice Chief of Army Staff
Ins-Gen. Training and Evaluation
DG Military Intelligence (DGMI)
OC, 111th Infantry Brigade
Battles/warsIndo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistan War of 1971

Operation Fair Play

Awards Nishan-e-Imtiaz (Military)
Hilal-e-Imtiaz (Military)
Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Military)
Legion of Merit[3]
Other workMilitary historian

General Khalid Mahmud Arif NI(M) HI(M) SI(M) SBt LoM (Urdu: خالد محمود عارف 29 December 1930 – 6 March 2020)[2] popularly known as K.M. Arif, was a senior officer of the Pakistan Army, serving as the vice-chief of army staff under President Zia-ul-Haq, who retained the command of the army since 1976.[4][5]

His career in the army was mostly spent in the military intelligence, and served in the East Pakistan Rifles, briefly fighting in the civil war aided by neighboring India.[6]: 140  Upon repatriation to Pakistan in 1973, he continued with his military service in the army and eventually ascended as director-general of military intelligence before assuming the staff appointment at the Army GHQ.[6]: 175  Appointed as vice-chief of army staff in 1984, he played crucial role in stabilizing the administration of President Zia-ul-Haq, and was succeeded by General Mirza Aslam Beg as army chief in March 1987.[7]: 701 

Upon his retirement in 1987, he authored several books on the political and military history of Pakistan, of which Working With Zia: Pakistan's Power Politics is the best known.


Khalid Mahmud Arif was born on 29 December 1930 in a Kakazai family in East Punjab, India and immigrated to Pakistan following the partition.[8][9] He attended Edwardes College in Peshawar and graduated in 1947.[10]

After passing the ISSB's examinations, he joined the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul as a cadet and graduated in 1947, where he was selected to do advance training on Infantry tactics in Kohat, North-West Frontier Province.[11]: 2–4  His family permanently moved in Kohat as he gained commissioned into the Armoured Corps.[12]: 111  In 1952, he was selected for further military training in the United States and was sent to attend the United States Army Armor School at Fort Knox, where he graduated in specializing in the armoured tactics.[13]: 27  He was further educated in Military College of Signals in Rawalpindi where he excelled in intelligence management, and graduated in the staff course degree from the Command and Staff College in Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan.[11]: 160–161 

War appointments and in East Pakistan[edit]

In 1965, Arif, as a captain, served in the armoured corps along with then-Major Zia-ul-Haq and participated in the second war with India over the disputed Kashmir.[6]: 132  Arif commanded an American M48 tank against the Indian Army.[14]: 42 

After the war, he was sent back to the military intelligence and stationed in East Pakistan (in the East Pakistan Rifles).[15]: 19–22 

In 1967, he greatly aided towards troop redeployment of the Eastern Command in formulating a battle plan, codename: "Operation X-Sunderbans-1."[6]: 140  The deployment, however, was non combative and it was only designed to form the basis for the operational combat plan.[6]: 140  In 1969, he was posted in Dhaka as a martial law officer under the Government of East Pakistan led by Governor Vice Admiral Syed Mohammad Ahsan in 1969.[15]: 23–25  During this stint, Arif reportedly relied a secretive message in his complied report in regards to the situation in East that ultimately warned off the consequences of the civil war.[16]: 57–120  In March 1971, he witnessed the meeting with President Yahya Khan who decided the launch of the military operations against the rebels in the East should take place. Arif took over the situation himself to control the law and order.[17]: 144–146 

About this meeting, Arif described the meeting as: President Yahya took matters in his hands, thus good bye to civil bureaucracy.[17]: 144–146  In East, he fought and led companies to fight the approaching Indian Army, and was captured by the Indian Army units who held him as war prisoner after the instrument of surrender was signed between Lieutenant General A.A.K. Niazi and Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, GOC-in-C of Eastern Command of Indian military in 1971.[11]: 87–90 

Command and staff appointments[edit]

His efforts and actions in the liberation war in East that accounted his bravery had earned admiration in Pakistan which led to Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto accepting recommendations to decorate Major Arif with service award, Sitara-e-Basalat.[11]: 90–91  In 1975, he was repatriated to Pakistan from the Wagha and was allowed to resume his military service, being promoted as Lieutenant-Colonel.[11]: 95–96  He testified in the War Enquiry Commission led by Chief Justice Hamoodur Rahman, giving accounts of military intelligence failures took place in East.[11]: 96 

In 1976, he was promoted as Colonel and Brigadier in 1977, of which, he assumed the command of the 111th Brigade stationed in Islamabad; this command appointment lasted only eight months.[11]: 154–156 

The general elections held in 1977 saw the victory of Pakistan Peoples Party led by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, caused the public agitation led by the conservative alliance whose politicians refused to accept the results amid alleged vote rigging. Brig. K. M. Arif ultimately leaked and informed Prime Minister Bhutto of covert coup d'état took place under his appointed-army chief General Zia-ul-Haq, but the latter refused to believe him. Acting upon warnings by Brig. Arif, Bhutto did accept all demands by the conservative alliance but the coup d'état had already took place.[18]: 3–4 [self-published source]

After receiving orders from Lieutenant-General F.A. Chishti, GoC-in-C of X Corps, Brigadier Arif rotated the 111th Brigade to take control of the civilian government in support of Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq and Chairman joint chiefs Mohammad Shariff.[6] After the coup d'état was completed, General Zia's promoted Brigadier Arif as Major-General and appointed him as Director-General of Military Intelligence (DGMI).[6]

In a views of Lieutenant-General Chishti who noted: "General Zia was lucky to have Major-General Arif as his life long confidante. He had experience as a Martial Law Officer during General's Yahya's regime and handled matters efficiently."[19]

In 1979, he helped and aided in preparing a national security strategy against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, after a meeting with President Zia-ul-Haq upon the latter's request.[20]

Vice Chief of Army Staff (1984–87)[edit]

A quintessential staff officer, Major-General Arif's career accelerated and gained reputation as an effective commander in the military intelligence.[21] Major-General Arif served in the military intelligence until 1983 when he promoted as Lieutenant-General and posted in a staff assignment in the Army GHQ.[21] At the Army GHQ, he brought most qualified officers who had worked with him in the past assignments, and built up his reputation in army as an effective leader.[21] On 11 March 1983, Lieutenant-General Arif, along with Chairman Senate Ghulam Ishaq Khan, was invited by Munir Ahmad Khan, then-Chairman of PAEC, to witnessed the subcritical testing of an atomic device that took place in a hidden weapons-testing sites.[22]: 251–252 

Despite never effectively commanding the field assignments, he was named and appointed as Vice Chief of Army Staff under President Zia in 1984.[21] Upon being promoted to four-star rank army general, he assumed the command of Pakistan Army as its Vice-Chief of Army Staff under President Zia.[21]

To many observers, this promotion, in fact, made General Arif the chief of army staff of the Pakistan Army with the entire commanding staff reporting to him.[21]

As an army chief, General Arif played a crucial role towards the successful implementation of the secretive atomic bomb programme after removing the civilian administrator, Mubashir Hassan.[23] Towards diplomacy with the United States, General Arif made frequent trips with United States, successfully convincing the Reagan administration to allow the secretive atomic bomb development by making it very clear to the United States that "[Pakistan] won't compromise on its nuclear weapons programme, but won't conduct a test to harm to relationship between two nations."[24]: 169–170  In 1983, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) placed a mole near the Kahuta Research Laboratories but was thwarted by the ISI, which according to General Arif, the ISI took the mole to its secret museum to train its own spies in espionage operations.[23] He was described as a very uptight and strict army officer by civilian scientists, specifically dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan in his memoirs, did not compromise on his morals and disciplines throughout his career.[23]

In 1984, General Arif's tenure also saw the commissioning of the Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack helicopters in the aviation corps.[25]

In 1986–87, he deployed and rotated the V Corps, with support from the Southern Air Command to deter the Indian Army's major military exercise that took place near Pakistan's border under supervision of General Sundarji, then-army chief of Indian Army.[26]: 157  During this time, he refuted the claims made by dr. A.Q. Khan and immediately issued directives towards the policy of deliberate ambiguity over the clandestine atomic bomb programme.[27]: 151 

Post retirement[edit]

In 1987, General Arif sought retirement from his military service and did not seek extension and handed over the army command to Lieutenant-General Mirza Aslam Beg who was promoted to the four-star rank and as an army chief.[7]: 701 

Upon retiring, he focused towards poetry and became a military historian when he authored the notable eyewitnessed and famed text on the military interference led General Zia-ul-Haq, Working with Zia, published in 1995.[28] In 2001, he published Khaki Shadows: Pakistan 1947–1997, about the politics, government, and armed forces of Pakistan during and shortly after the Cold War.[citation needed]

In 2010, he authored another book, Estranged Neighbours: India, Pakistan (1947-2010) on the foreign relations of India and Pakistan.[29] Gen (Retd) K M Arif died on 6 March 2020 in ICU CMH Lahore due to Kidney disease.[citation needed]

Awards and decorations[edit]



(Order of Excellence)



(Crescent of Excellence)



(Star of Excellence)


(Star of Good Conduct)

Sitara-e-Harb 1965 War

(War Star 1965)

Sitara-e-Harb 1971 War

(War Star 1971)

Tamgha-e-Jang 1965 War

(War Medal 1965)

Tamgha-e-Jang 1971 War

(War Medal 1971)

Pakistan Tamgha

(Pakistan Medal)


Tamgha-e-Sad Saala Jashan-e-


(100th Birth Anniversary of

Muhammad Ali Jinnah)



(Republic Commemoration Medal)


Hijri Tamgha

(Hijri Medal)


The Legion of Merit[30]

(Degree of Commander)


Foreign decorations[edit]

Foreign Awards
 USA The Legion of Merit (Degree of Commander)[30]


  • Arif, Khalid Mahmud (1995). Working with Zia: Pakistan Power Politics, 1977-1988. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-577570-9.
  • —— (2001). Khaki Shadows: Pakistan 1947–1997. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-579396-3.
  • —— (2010). Estranged Neighbours: India, Pakistan, 1947-2010. Islamabad: Dost Publications. ISBN 978-969-496-382-2.[31]


  1. ^ "The Army Quarterly and Defence Journal". 1986.
  2. ^ a b "Gen KM Arif passes away". The News International (Pakistan). Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 1 September 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Gen Khalid Mehmood Arif". Archived from the original on 12 August 2017. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  5. ^ "Khalid Mahmud Arif". Goodreads. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Haqqani, Hussain (2005). Pakistan: between mosque and military. Washington D.C. United States: Broocking Institute of Press. ISBN 978-0-87003-223-3.
  7. ^ a b IDSA News Review on South Asia/Indian Ocean. Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. 1987. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  8. ^ Sheikh, Majid (22 October 2017). "The history of Lahore's Kakayzais". DAWN.COM. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
  9. ^ Burki, Shahid Javed (October 1988). "Pakistan under Zia, 1977-1988". Asian Survey. 28 (10): 1082–1100. doi:10.2307/2644708. JSTOR 2644708.
  10. ^ Jafri, PA, Col. (retd.) Riaz. "Author/columnist details". Paktribune. Colonel (retd) Riaz Jafri. Pak Tribune. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Arif, General K. M. (2000). Khaki Shadows : the Pakistan Army, 1947-1997. Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 9780195793963. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  12. ^ IDSA News Review on South Asia/Indian Ocean. Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. 1985. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  13. ^ Mian, Dr. Zia (2009). South Asian cultures of the bomb: atomic publics and the state in India and Pakistan. Bloomington, Indiana, United States: Indiana University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-253-22032-5.
  14. ^ Sehgal, Ikram ul-Majeed (2005). Defence Journal. Ikram ul-Majeed Sehgal. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  15. ^ a b Arif, Khalid Mahmud (1995). Working with Zia : Pakistan's power politics, 1977-1988. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195775709.
  16. ^ Arif, Khalid Mahmud (1995). Working with Zia : Pakistan's power politics, 1977-1988. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195775709.
  17. ^ a b Gupta, Rakesh (2004). State in India, Pakistan, Russia and Central Asia. Delhi: Kalpaz Publications. p. 250. ISBN 9788178352633. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  18. ^ Hasanie, Ali Abbas (2013). Democracy in Pakistan: Crises, Conflicts and Hope for a Change. Author House. p. 110. ISBN 9781481791137. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  19. ^ Shahid Javed Burki. "Pakistan: Fifty Years of Nationhood (Westview Publishers, 1999)"[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Hilali, A.Z. (2005). U.S.-Pakistan Relations: Russian War in Afghanistan. Burlington, United States: Ashgat Publishing Company. p. 296. ISBN 978-0-7546-4220-6.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Abbas, Hassan (2005). Pakistan's drift to extremism: Allah, the army, and America's war on terror. New Heaven, United States: Yale University Press. p. 270. ISBN 978-0-7656-1496-4.
  22. ^ Verma, Anand K. (2001). Reassessing Pakistan: Role of Two-nation Theory. Lancer Publishers. ISBN 9788170622871. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  23. ^ a b c History Commons. "Profile: Khalid Mahmud Arif". History Commons. Archived from the original on 24 July 2021. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
  24. ^ Huntley, Wade L.; Kurosawa, Mitsuru; Mizumoto, Kazumi (2005). Nuclear Disarmament in the Twenty-first Century. ISBN 9781411622289. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  25. ^ Daily Report: South Asia. Foreign Broadcast Information Service. 1985. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  26. ^ Brown, Michael Edward (1996). "Conflict in South and Southeast Asia" (googlebooks). The International Dimensions of Internal Conflict (1 ed.). Massachusetts, U.S.: MIT Press. p. 650. ISBN 9780262522090. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  27. ^ Amin, Shahid M. (2005). Realism in politics. Karachi: Royal Book Co. ISBN 9789694073163.
  28. ^ Arif, Khalid Mahmud (14 September 1995). Working with Zia: Pakistan Power Politics, 1977-1988. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195775709.
  29. ^ Arif, K.M. (2010). Estranged Neighbours: India, Pakistan, 1947-2010 (1 ed.). Islamabad: Dost Publications. p. 344. ISBN 978-969-496-382-2. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  30. ^ a b Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 September 2015. Retrieved 24 June 2022. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. ^ "Non-Fiction: General knowledge". 19 September 2010.
Military offices
Preceded by Vice Chief of Army Staff
1984 – 1987
Succeeded by