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Lt Col Imran Hassan Khan Niazi (R)

The author is a retired mechanized infantry officer. Presently he is Director Research at Army Institute of Military History, Rawalpindi. E-mail: [email protected]


Hilal English

The Last Post: Eulogy of a Hero

March 2024

Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Rabb Niazi, a decorated war hero commissioned in 1949, passed away on December 1, 2023. Notable for his achievements during the 1965 War, including a significant role in the reclaiming of Patharia Forest, he became the only individual to receive the Sitara-i-Jurat while serving with Frontier Force Regiment. 

On December 2, 2023, PTC-3033 Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Rabb Niazi, Sitara-i-Jurat (R), was laid to rest at Bahria Town Graveyard Rawalpindi. He passed away in his sleep on December 1, exactly at the time of the Fajar prayer call. 
On October 10, 1949, he was commissioned from the 1st Course of Officers’ Training School (OTS) Kohat, commissioned in the Frontier Force (FF) Regiment. He had an eventful career for 26 years. He was posted to East Pakistan Rifles at Sylhet in erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), where the reclaiming of Patharia Forest from illegal occupation by the Indian Border Security Force was his significant achievement. The area is still part of Bangladesh. He became Sub Martial Law Administrator at Sylhet from 1958-1961. He exercised absolute power but was loved by the locals for his magnanimity and justice. He made some life-long friends during that stint. 

His finest hour, however, came during the 1965 War while serving with the FF Regiment, where he actively participated on three fronts; Khem Karan, Lahore, and Sialkot, traveling over 200 miles in 17 days of the war. He was Second-in-Command (2IC) but performed the additional duties as Commander of the Company. The Company had just one Second Lieutenant officer then. On the night of September 10-11, 1965, while the battalion was on the move towards Sialkot from Khem Karan, his company was asked to reinforce defenses at the Bambawali-Ravi-Bedian Link Canal (famously known as BRBL) at the last moment when the situation was critical. Without any maps or reconnaissance, the company under his guidance reached the location. All night's battle with the .50 browning heavy machine guns of the Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) of the Company under the powerful illumination of the carrier's headlamps created havoc among the enemy troops attempting to cross the canal. The attack was repulsed when the enemy mistook APCs for tanks, believing the position was reinforced with armor. Later, they were directed to reinforce the defense at Lahore Syphon. The Company under him had saved a situation which otherwise could have resulted in grave consequences. He was recommended for a gallantry award. The battalion was granted the Battle Honour and singular distinction to celebrate Lahore Day on September 10 every year. An oil painting collage (below) was made during the unit's sesquicentennial in 1999, highlighting the major historical events during the unit's 150 years. It features him in the below-left frame, depicting War 1965 action (courtesy: FF Regiment).

His finest hour, however, came during the 1965 War while serving with the FF Regiment, where he actively participated on three fronts; Khem Karan, Lahore, and Sialkot, traveling over 200 miles in 17 days of the war. 

In the Sialkot Sector, his Company was once again summoned on September 19 to lead the assault on Jassoran, a village near Chawinda Railway Station. Despite facing a well-fortified position defended by a company-plus force, the Company launched the attack. Early in the assault, the tanks encountered resistance, and another company landed in front of an additional enemy platoon. This led to a fierce company-versus-company confrontation. Despite heavy fire from the Indian medium machine gun (MMG), his Company reached the target almost unscathed, causing the enemy troops to panic and abandon their entrenched defenses. The same MMG was turned on the fleeing enemy, who were taken for a duck shoot at dusk. The operation concluded with heavy losses for the Indians, including two hit tanks and nearly 200 casualties (dead and wounded). His Company alone achieved the capture of one tank, one MMG, two machine guns, one jeep, 35 prisoners, and a substantial cache of small arms and ammunition. For this remarkable feat, he was promptly awarded the Sitara-i-Jurat (SJ), making him the first and, to date, the only individual to receive the SJ while serving with the battalion. The MMG remains a war trophy in FF Regiment. His leadership during this intense conflict established him as a symbol of courage and professionalism, earning him the honor of an uninterrupted command of the FF Regiment for an unprecedented three years, from 1968 to 1971. Later, he also commanded two FF Regiments.

I was born while he served as a major in FF Regiment at Kharian Cantonment. After retirement, he settled in Lahore in 1975. Due to his business commitments, he often traveled to Rawalpindi and Islamabad. The battalion was stationed at Kharian Cantonment, and being midway, he was a frequent visitor. I invariably accompanied him, and he was the center of discussion on almost every visit. He was considered an icon within the unit, where officers and Junior Commissioned Officers of his time were still serving. I grew from boyhood to manhood listening to the tales of his feats. His portrait was hung inside the Battalion Mess (now in the unit tea bar, as unit messes no longer exist). In the mid-1980s, the unit was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Munir Hafiez, who was commissioned in FF Regiment during my father's command in 1968. During his tenure, my father held a revered status within the battalion, almost like a demi-god. This bewildered me, and I felt an unexplainable sense of pride. Before joining the Army, FF Regiment had already become my second home. When I joined the battalion in 1987, it was under the command of Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Muhammad Iqbal Akbar Khan, another officer commissioned in 1969 during my father's command. "I am placing you in B Company," he said after the formalities during my initial interview. "Do you know what your father did while serving with this company?" he snapped. "Yes, Sir," I replied (thanks to my pre-Army days in the unit and my basic interest in the military life of my father). “Good, I hope that you live up to his name. Best of luck." The culmination remarks ended the interview and marked the beginning of my career as a second-generation officer in the unit.

The operation concluded with heavy losses for the Indians, including two hit tanks and nearly 200 casualties (dead and wounded). His Company alone achieved the capture of one tank, one MMG, two machine guns, one jeep, 35 prisoners, and a substantial cache of small arms and ammunition. For this remarkable feat, he was promptly awarded the Sitara-i-Jurat (SJ), making him the first and, to date, the only individual to receive the SJ while serving with the battalion.  

My father was a man with a very strong personality. Unfortunately, my mother passed away from cancer in 1976, shortly after his retirement. At that time, I was about 11 years old. Despite us being just two brothers as siblings, he never remarried. He always carried himself with great dignity and perseverance. The concept of giving up was not a part of his vocabulary.
He was also a man of faith. I grew up watching him punctually offering his prayers five times a day, no matter the circumstances. I observed him reciting the Quran daily and offering the midnight prayers (Tahajud) from as far back as I can remember. An excellent football and hockey player during his heyday, he battled arthritis and spinal disc problems during his later years.
Despite using a walker, he disliked dependency and always performed his tasks with his own hands. I have seldom seen an individual with such strong determination and courage. He was outstandingly resolute and had a dominating personality with a commanding aura. Commensurate with his physical appearance of being tall and strongly built, he was rock solid in handling the ups and downs of life. He bravely owned his decisions and gracefully confronted his failures.

Having outlived almost all of his contemporaries, siblings, closest friends, and relatives, and dealing with physical discomfort, he seldom exposed the grief and pain that he probably felt.
He also enjoyed the delight of a nice social circle within the Army, some very sincere and life-long friends. Almost all the officers of the three units he commanded remained inexplicably respectful and forthcoming to him until the end. If I start naming, it will be a long list, but to encapsulate, such loyalty is seldom seen or heard of.

He was bid farewell with full military honors. As I made the presentation at the end of the funeral, I couldn't help but think that the life he had lived, Allah Almighty had called him with a grand fanfare befitting the dignity that he was so conscious of during his lifetime. There could be no better end to this mortal life. The sound of ‘The Last Post’ by the buglers marked the conclusion of an era, that of a decorated war hero, a defender, and a victor; a ghazi, a heritage. He holds a distinguished place in the Army and regimental roll of honors, for he shall be part of the military history of Pakistan for as long as the world lasts. He shall always be missed.

The author is a retired mechanized infantry officer. Presently he is Director Research at Army Institute of Military History, Rawalpindi.
E-mail: [email protected]

Lt Col Imran Hassan Khan Niazi (R)

The author is a retired mechanized infantry officer. Presently he is Director Research at Army Institute of Military History, Rawalpindi. E-mail: [email protected]