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Not to be confused with Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, the Inter-Services Intelligence director-general.
Zahirul Islam Abbasi
Native name Urdu language: ﻇﻬﻴﺮ ﺍﻹﺳﻼﻡ ﻋﺑﺎﺳﻰ
Nickname Zaheer bhai
Born 1943
Place of birth Hazara, British India
Place of death Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Allegiance Pakistan Pakistan
Service/branch Pakistan Army
Years of service 1963–1995
Rank Major General
Unit Infantry (Baluch Regiment)
Commands held 14th Infantry Brigade, Siachen
Director General, Infantry Corps (DGIC)
Defence Attaché, India
Battles/wars Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistan War of 1971
Indo-Pakistani War of 1984
Soviet war in Afghanistan
Awards Sitara-i-Jurat
Tamgha-i-Khidmat Class I
)(4)Hilal-e-Imtiaz Military
(5)Imtiazi Sanad (2)
Major General Zahirul Islam Abbasi (12 January 1943 – 30 July 2009), was a former commander and officer of the Pakistani Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence agency of the Pakistani Armed Forces. Serving in the Siachen region of the disputed territory of Kashmir, Abbasi planned and executed assaults on posts occupied by the Indian Army. Abbasi was accused and convicted for a period of 7 years for being party to a coup d'état 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.

Military and intelligence careerEdit

Abbasi was commissioned into the Baloch Regiment of the Pakistan Army around 1963. 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, he 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.

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-general by the mid-1980s.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 against the will of the people of Pakistan.

Abbasi worked as an intelligence and military officer in liaison with Afghan Mujahideen resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1980–1986). In 1987–1988, Brigadier Abbasi also served as the Military Attaché at the Pakistani embassy in New Delhi, India. Both India and Pakistan have brigadiers in the position of Military Attaché 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.

Siachen assaultEdit

In April 1984, India occupied the high ground around the Siachen Glacier, whose status was left unclear by the Simla Agreement. Pakistan immediately rushed its forces to the area, which led to a war-like situation that has lasted since then. 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 and his allies were removed from their posts by the army chief Gen. Asif Nawaz.

Coup attemptEdit

Dropped from further promotion in the army command and due to dissatisfaction with the 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. Abdul Waheed 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.

The plot was foiled when it was uncovered by Lt. Gen. Ali Kuli Khan, then Director General Military Intelligence (DGMI). The coup plotters were arrested, and following a court-martial, Abbasi was moved to the civilian central prison at Haripur in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.[1]

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."[2]

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. 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.


  1. Death squad sent to London to kill Altaf. DAWN / NEWS International, Karachi (23 September 1997)
  2. AN ABORTED COUP?. ASIANOW – Asiaweek (11 March 1995). Retrieved on 2012-11-13.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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