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This article is about the Pakistan Air Force officer, for the Indian politician and Indian army officer see Zulfikar Ali Khan.

Air Chief Marshal Zulfiqar Ali Khan (Urdu: ذوالفقار علی خان; December 10, 1930 – March 8, 2005) NI(M), was a four-star air officer in the Pakistan Air Force and a diplomat.[1]:contents

Air Chief Marshal

Zulfiqar Ali Khan
ACM.Zulfiqar Ali Khan.jpg
ACM Zulfiqar Ali Khan (1930–2005)
Pakistan Ambassador to the United States
In office
12 July 1989 – 15 September 1990
PresidentGhulam Ishaq Khan
Prime MinisterBenazir Bhutto
Preceded byJamsheed Marker
Succeeded byNajmuddin Shaikh
Pakistan Ambassador to Switzerland
In office
Chief of Air Staff
In office
16 April 1974 – 22 July 1978
Preceded byAir Mshl Zafar Chaudhry
Succeeded byACM Anwar Shamim
Personal details
Born(1930-12-10)December 10, 1930
Lahore, Punjab, India
(Present-day Lahore, Punjab in Pakistan)
DiedMarch 8, 2005(2005-03-08) (aged 74)
PAF Hospital Islamabad
Cause of deathCardiac arrest
Resting placeMilitary Cemetery in Islamabad
CitizenshipBritish RajBritish India (1930–47)
 Pakistan (1947–2005)
Nationality Pakistan
Spouse(s)Begum Sajida Zulfiqar
(1965–2005; d. 2012 )
RelationsBrig. Agha Ali Hassan
Alma materPAF Academy
Air War College
Military service
Allegiance Pakistan
Branch/service Pakistan Air Force
Years of service1948–78
RankACM Pakistan Air Force.png US-O10 insignia.svg Air Chief Marshal
CommandsDG Air Operations (DGAO)
DCAS (Planning), Air AHQ
Pakistan Air Force Academy
Officer Commanding, Operations Wing, PAF Base Dacca
Mushaf Air Force Base in Sargodha
Battles/warsIndo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Bangladesh Liberation War
AwardsOrder of Excellence Nishan-e-Imtiaz.png Nishan-e-Imtiaz (military)

He is noted as a first four-star air officer who commanded the Pakistan Air Force as its second Chief of Air Staff from 15 April 1974 to 22 July 1978.[2] Upon retirement, he served on the defence diplomatic assignment, first headed the diplomatic missions in the United States as a Pakistan Ambassador from 1989 until 1990.



Zulfikar Ali Khan was in Lahore, Punjab, British India, on 10 December 1930.[3] His family was of Punjabi-Pathan descent and attended a local school in Lahore where he did his matriculation.[4]:100–103

From 1947, he attended the Military College Jhelum but joined the Pakistan Air Force in 1948 when he made a transfer to the Pakistan Air Force Academy in Risalpur, NWFP in Pakistan.[5][3] He gained commissioned in the Air Force as a P/Off. and passed out from the PAF Academy in 1950 in the class of 7th GD pilot course (GD(P) Course) on 21 December 1950.[3] IN 1956, Flt-Lt. Khan first command assignment was to No. 20 Squadron Eagles.[6]

In the 1960s, Squadron-Leader Khan was educated at the Air War College where he gained a degree in staff course. In 1965, Sq-Ldr. Zulfikar Ali Khan participated in the second war with India in 1965 where he commanded No. 9 Squadron Griffins against the Indian Air Force.[4]:76–80 From 1966–68, Wg-Cdr. Zulfiqar Ali Khan was posted in the Foreign ministry and briefly tenured as air attaché at the High Commission of Pakistan in New Delhi led by H.E. Arshad Hussain.[7]

In 1968–71, he was promoted as Group-Captain in the Air Force and was posted in East Pakistan where he was appointed as officer commanding of operations wing of Dacca Air Base under its Air Officer Commanding Air Cdre. Inamul Haq.[4]:101–102 Air Cdre. Khan participated in liberation war that took place in East Pakistan, serving against the Indian Air Force.[4]:101–102

Gp-Capt. Khan was taken war prisoner by the Indian Army after the Eastern Command was surrendered by its GOC-in-C Lieutenant-General A.A.K. Niazi.[4]:103–104 In 1973, he was repatriation to Pakistan and was allowed to continue his military service and was promoted to a one-star rank, Air-Commodore, and took over the Air Force Academy as its Commandant in 1973, but later posted as commandant of the Air War College for a short brief of time.[4]:101–102

His command assignment included the command as an Officer commanding of No. 11 Squadron Arrows,[8] No. 9 Sq. Griffins,[9] and AOC of the Sargodha Air Force Base.[3]

Chief of Air StaffEdit

In 1974, Air-Cdre. Zulfiqar Ali Khan was promoted as Air Vice Marshal in the Air Force, and was appointed as Deputy Chief of Air Staff of Aerial Planning (DCAS(P)) at the Air AHQ in Islamabad but was later posted as Director-General of Air Operations (DGAO).[3]

On 14 April 1974, AVM Zulfiqar Ali Khan was surprisingly appointed second Chief of Air Staff to take over the command of the Air Force as an Air-Marshal.[10]:199 The appointment was controversial since Air-Marshal Zafar Chaudhry was dismissed from his service, and Air-Mshl. Khan had succeeded seven senior air officers in the Air Force.[11]:144

In 1975, he helped established the Northern Air Command based in PAF Base Kalabagh, oversaw the induction of MiG-15 as jet trainer, establishment of the Air Defence Command, and provided his support to rebuilt Mirage III aircraft at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex.

On 1 January 1976, Air-Mshl. Khan was elevated and promoted to four-star rank, Air Chief Marshal, becoming the first four-star rank officer in the Pakistan Air Force.[1][10]:199 ACM Zulfiqar Ali Khan was then made senior member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and honored with the NI(M) for meritorious services.[11]:144 During this same time, ACM Zulfikar Ali Khan helped establish the Combat Commanders School set up under Gp-Capt. Cecil Chaudhry.[12]

Over the issue of clandestine atomic bomb programme, ACM Zulfiqar Ali Khan reportedly advised Prime Minister Bhutto against the acquisition of the aging A-7 and F-5 military aircraft in order to stop the work on the Reprocessing plant for plutonium development, noting that "atomic bomb programme should not stop for any reason be compromised."[13]

On 5 July 1978, ACM Zulfikar Ali Khan was appointed Deputy CMLA alongside with naval chief Admiral Moh'd Sharif, army chief General Zia-ul-Haq, and Chairman joint chiefs General Muh'd Shariff after the military coup d'état against the civilian government led by Prime Minister Bhutto.[14]

On 22 July 1978, ACM Zulfiqar Ali Khan tendered his resignation from the command of the air force over the disagreement with the military take over of the civilian government, and handed over the command to newly appointed Air Chief Marshal Anwar Shamim.[15]

Foreign serviceEdit

Upon retirement, Zulfikar Ali Khan joined the Foreign Service and was appointed Pakistan Ambassador to Switzerland which he tenured from 1979 until 1981.[16] In 1989, he was appointed as chief investigator to lead investigations on possible military funding to political parties by the intelligence community.[17][18]

In 1989, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto appointed him as the Pakistan Ambassador to the United States and took over the charge shortly in Washington DC.[19]:978 However, his tenureship was marked with controversy involving the continuation of atomic deterrence which he failed to cover-up in the United States.[13] In 1990, he was removed from his post and returned to Pakistan after serving as ambassador for only a year.[13]


On 8 March 2005, Air Chief Marshal Zulfiqar Ali Khan died of cardiac arrest in Islamabad when hesuffered a heart attack at his residence and was taken to the PAF Hospital, but the doctors pronounced him dead.[3] He was given a state funeral with full honours.[20] Begum Sajida Zulifqar, wife of Air Chief Marshal Zulifqar Ali Khan, died on 30 September 2012 and her funeral prayers were attended by all former PAF Air Chiefs, politicians, bureaucrats, senior serving and retired military officials and a large number of people from all walks of life.[21]


  1. ^ a b Ramsey, Syed (2017). "Recovery from 1971 war". Pakistan and Islamic Militancy in South Asia. Vij Books India Pvt Ltd. ISBN 9789386367433. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  2. ^ Cheema, Pervaiz Iqbal (2002). "Air chiefs". The Armed Forces of Pakistan. NYU Press. p. 199. ISBN 9780814716335. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Air Chief Marshal Zulfiqar passes away". Dawn. Islamabad. 9 March 2005. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Haq, PAF, Air Cdre (retd) Inamul (1999). Memoirs of Insignificance. Islamabad: Dar-ut-Tazkeer. p. 276. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  5. ^ Alamgir, Sarai. "Alumni of the MCJ". Military College Jhelum. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  6. ^ Sehgal, Ikram ul-Majeed (2006). Defence Journal. Ikram ul-Majeed Sehgal. p. 46. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  7. ^ Diplomat's Directory. M. H. Samuel. 1966. p. 46. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  8. ^ Pike, John. "No. 11 Squadron". Global Security. Global Security, No. 11. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  9. ^ Pike, John. "9 Squadron". Global Security. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  10. ^ a b Cheema, Pervaiz Iqbal (2002). "Air Chiefs". The Armed Forces of Pakistan. NYU Press. p. 210. ISBN 9780814716335. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  11. ^ a b Rizvi, H. (2000). "Civilian Interlude". Military, State and Society in Pakistan. Springer. p. 300. ISBN 9780230599048. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  12. ^ Amin, A.H. (June 2001). "Remembering our warriors - Group Captain Cecil Chaudhry, SJ". Defence Journal. Lahore. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  13. ^ a b c Hassan, PA, Brigadier Agha Ali (25 September 2009). "In defence of a former Air Chief". Dawn. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  14. ^ Mansuri, M.A. (17 August 2016). "Martial law proclaimed". Dawn. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  15. ^ Arif, General K. M. author-link=Khalid Mahmud Arif (2001). Khaki Shadows: The Pakistan Army, 1947-1997. Oxford University Press. p. 190. ISBN 9780195793963.
  16. ^ The Gazette of Pakistan. 1979. p. 362. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  17. ^ Gul, Imtiaz (2010). The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan's Lawless Frontier. Penguin. p. contents. ISBN 9781101434765. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  18. ^ Levy, Adrian; Scott-Clark, Catherine (2010). Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. p. 188. ISBN 9780802718600. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  19. ^ NA, NA (2016). The Statesman's Yearbook: 1991-92. Springer. ISBN 9780230271203. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  21. ^ "Laid to rest". The News. Retrieved 7 January 2013.

External linksEdit