ein, a foreign correspondent, described the scene on the plane C-130, before the crash on August 17,
1988, in the following words: Seated next to Gen Zia-ul-Haq for the flight back to Islamabad was his close friend
Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman, the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff and after Zia the second most powerful man in
Pakistan. He had headed ISI, Pakistans equivalent of the CIA, for eight years, and had been the chief architect
of the support system that Zia had set-up for the Afghan Mujahidin, the Islamic opposition to the Communist
Government in Kabul.
General Akhtar Abdul Rahman was born on June 11, 1924. His father, Dr Abdul Rahman died, when Akhtars
age was only 4. After completing his high school education from Ajnala High School, the young Akhtar came to
Amritsar and got admission in Islamia College Amritsar, and then moved to Government College Lahore.
Accounts of his college career show that he was a disciplined student. Akhtar did MA [Economics] in 1945.
Upon completing training, Akhtar received commission in 1946. As a young army officer, during the partition
days, Akhtar faced traumatic circumstances which left a lasting impact on his thought and personality.
After promotion to the rank of a captain, Akhtar was appointed an instructor at Artillery School Nowshehra. He
was selected for a training course in UK. After returning to Pakistan, he was promoted to the rank of a major. He
served in East Pakistan from April 1954 to Oct 1954. Then he was transferred to GHQ, where he worked from
April 1956 to Feb 1957. In 1965, when the war with India broke out, Akhtar was sent to Lahore war-front, where
he served as second in command. Akhtar was promoted to the rank of a Lt Colonel, and he was given
promotion as a full colonel. He was transferred to Bagh Pakistan Occupied Kashmir as Brigade commander.
On July 5, 1977, when General Zia-ul-Haq staged a military coup, and after assuming power declared Martial
Law, General Akhtar was not associated with it. It is said that General Akhtar in his private conversations had
opposed the imposition of Martial Law. However, six months later, when major changes were made in the Army,
Akhtar Abdul Rahman was appointed as Adjutant General at GHQ. But during this period, Akhtar Abdul
Rahmans promotion was blocked for two years. In the meantime, Akhtar Abdul Rahman faced dangerous
conspiracy in the Armed Forces. Lt General Faiz Ali Chishti, who was counted one of the close associates of
Gen Zia-ul-Haq, secretly became rebellious and conspired to stage a military coup in the country. One morning
Gen Akhtar received a call from Gen Chishti, who was a corps commander in Rawalpindi and had his office in
Chaklala. When Gen Akhtar visited him, he found to his great surprise that the top Army Commander in
Rawalpindi was hatching a design to topple Gen Zia-ul-Haq and was seeking help from him. Gen Chishti had
assumed that since Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman had not been promoted, he would accept this invitation,
especially when he was promised that after the design worked out successfully, he would not only be promoted
but also would become one of the pillars of the new regime. Gen Akhtar was stunned.
This was a strange experience in his long and illustrious professional career. But being an honest person, he did
everything within his means to contact Gen Zia-ul-Haq, who was on his visit to Peshawar at that time, and
communicated to him what he had heard.
On June 1979, Gen Zia called Gen Akhtar to the Army House and offered him the coveted position of Director
General Inter-Services of Intelligence. It was after the assumption of its headship by Gen Akhtar that the ISI
became one of the major organs of the Pakistans fast expanding military organisational machinery. He worked
tirelessly and collected around him colleagues who were equally dynamic and determined to make ISI an
organisation that would have great impact on the domestic and external policies of the country. President Zia
promoted Gen Akhtar to a senior rank within matter of days after assumption of the headship of the ISI.
On December 27, 1979, Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The disappearance of Afghanistan as a buffer state
increased Pakistans insecurity. Indeed, the USA was the only western state that showed any serious concern,
but because of President Carters domestic difficulties resulting from the hostage crisis in Iran, he was not
prepared to give any substantial aid. However, after an year and a half when President Reagan came to White
House, President Zia accepted his six years 3.2 billion dollar aid package. But fact remains, that even before
Reagan entered the White House, President Zia and Gen Akhtar had made their mind to resist the Soviet Union
onslaught in every possible way available to them. Both the Generals were certain if the Soviet Union ever
threatened Pakistans frontiers through Afghanistan, it would meet in the faith and determination of the people of
When Gen Akhtar, as head of the ISI, was given responsibility of organising military and material support for the
Afghans, there was no concrete plans, no defined goals, no supplies, and no organisational machinery to
accomplish the mission. Gen Akhtar was entirely responsible for the planning and the policy making of this
gigantic military operation. In addition, he was incharge of the implementation and constant monitoring of this
He built a powerful infrastructure, almost from scratch, and laid the foundations for the effective and efficient
training facilities. At the same time, Gen Akhtar was also successful on the diplomatic and political fronts. He
had to work closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan, and with the State Department, especially the
branch that interacted constantly with the CIA.
In March 1987, Gen Akhtar left ISI, and become Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the highest position
that could be offered to any General in Pakistan. His new position brought him much closer to President Zia.
Those who observed Gen Zia were fully aware that Gen Akhtar was his most trustworthy confidant. In the mind
and thought of their enemies this friendship rankled like a thorn. Their enemies were of the view that nothing
would change in the country unless Gen Zia and Gen Akhtar were removed from the scene at the same time.
Critics of Gen Zia often called Gen Akhtar, the Zia-ul-Haq-2.
Record shows that Gen Akhtar had no intention of accompanying the team. He had scheduled an important
meeting at Rawalpindi, but at the last moment a senior military officer persuaded him to be with the president
who was going to make some important decisions in which Gen Akhtars advice would carry considerable
weight with the President.
It was obvious that those who conspired wanted to hit both the Generals at the same time, at the same way, and
at the same palace. Gen. Akhtar laid to rest on 19 August 1988. His Army career ended with the Shahadat, the
greatest honour for a soldier in Islam.