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Muhammad Iftikhar Khan
Major General Jilani.JPG
Major General Jilani's official photo
Allegiance  Pakistan
Service/branch  Pakistan Army
British Raj British India
Years of service 1934–1973
Rank Major General
Unit Royal Scots Regiment
the 19th Hyderabad Kumaon Regiment
Frontier Force Regiment
14th Infantry Division
Commandant of the Command and Staff College
15th Infantry Division
7th Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II
Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
Indo-Pakistani War of 1971
Awards Sitara-e-Quad-e-Azam (Military)

Major General Mian Ghulam Jilani (SQA, Imtiazi Sanad) (1914 - March 1, 2004) was a World War II Japanese POW camp survivor at Singapore, who subsequently rose to help negotiate Pakistan’s membership in the Baghdad Pact and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. An ethnic Pashtun, he retired from the Pakistan Army in 1962 and was jailed 1973 for his political beliefs. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience in 1974. He escaped from custody and took political asylum in the United States in 1975.


Early life

Jilani was born in Sibi, Balochistan, when the British ruled the Indian subcontinent. He was educated at Forman Christian College in Lahore and later finished Law at Aligarh University in India. He completed his officer’s training at the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College (RIMC) in Dehra Dun in India and was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Royal Scots Regiment by King Edward VIII in 1936 and later transferred to the 19th Hyderabad Kumaon Regiment in the British Indian Army.

Captured at Singapore

During the Second World War he was transferred to Singapore with the British Indian Army and was captured and taken prisoner by the Japanese in 1942. He was a prisoner of war for nearly forty months. He was tortured and kept in solitary confinement for seven months during this period.

Shortly after World War II, the movement for independence from the British resulted in the creation of Pakistan in 1947. Jilani threw his energy and enthusiasm behind it.

Pakistan and the Kashmir Operations

He joined the newly formed Pakistan Army and was the 42nd senior most officer (PA - 42), commanding a unit of the Frontier Force Regiment. A few weeks later he took a leave of absence from the army to volunteer as a fighter in Kashmir, fighting for its independence and right to join Pakistan. In April 1948, he was appointed Commanding Officer at Gilgit where he remained until the ceasefire.

His troops played a major role in establishing what became the line of control between India and Pakistan, which has become a sort of international border for the last half-century. He fought a guerrilla war in northern Kashmir, engaged two divisions of the Indian Army and conquered the whole of Baltistan and was about to attack Leh, when the government of Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire at the behest of the United Nations.

Relations with the United States

Jilani was later posted as Defense Attaché in the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington. He was also Military Attache for Canada and Mexico. He brought about the military aid treaty between the United States and Pakistan, for which in 1955 he was awarded the Legion of Merit by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Pakistan awarded him the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam, or Star of the Quaid, named after the founder of Pakistan.

In 1952, as a Brigadier he went to Washington as Pakistan’s first Military Attaché to the USA. Details of his assignment at this crucial juncture of Pak-US relations can be found in the reference in the bibliography.

Senior Commander

On promotion to Major General, he served as GOC East Pakistan commanding 14th Infantry Division (Dhaka), Commandant of the Command and Staff College (Quetta), Master General of Ordnance (GHQ) and GOC 15th Infantry Division (Sialkot).

Mian Ghulam Jilani

As GOC 15th Div he along with (then) Brig Rakhman Gul MC Inspector General Frontier Corps served under (then) Maj Gen Attiqur Rahman MC GOC 7th Infantry Division who was the Force Commander for the Dir-Bajaur operation of October 1960. After Nawab Sir Shah Jehan Khan and his son Khan Shahabud Din Khan of Jandol were captured on 28 October, Maj Gen Attiqur Rahman MC moved back to Peshawar and Maj Gen Mian Ghulam Jilani took over as Force Commander.

Political struggle

After retiring from the army, he entered politics and became a member of the provincial assembly in the North-West Frontier Province. He was an outspoken critic of the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

On retirement from the army, he was General Manager with the Valika group in Karachi, until his entry into politics. He joined the National Awami Party, and was elected to the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) Assembly from his home constituency in Swabi (now Mardan) in the General Elections of 1970. During his National Awami Party years, he was the head of the Zalmay Pakhtun, and was arrested by the Pakistan Peoples Party government on 15 February 1973.

His wife Mrs. Nancy Habiba Jilani filed a writ petition against his detention, and the judgment of the Lahore High Court was authored by Nasim Hasan Shah, J. and is reported as: Mrs. Habiba Jilani V Federation of Pakistan (PLD 1974 Lahore 153)

A smear campaign was launched against him. In a crackdown on his party, Jilani was arrested in 1973. Bhutto then attempted to bribe Jilani with offers of high positions—all to no avail. He was frequently arrested, but all charges against him were repeatedly dismissed by the courts. Amnesty International adopted him as a “prisoner of conscience” in 1974.

In jail, Jilani managed to escape from his guards during a hospital visit in 1975 and got political asylum in the United States. He became a U.S. citizen in 1981, and died at his home in Fairfax, VA on March 1, 2004.

Member Provincial Assembly (NWFP) 1970-77


“Judgments on the Constitution, Rule of Law, and Martial Law in Pakistan” by Chief Justice Dr Nasim Hassan Shah, edited by Prof Dr M A Mannan (OUP 1993)

“Pakistan. Problems of Governance” by Mushahid Hussain & Akmal Hussain (Vanguard Books 1993) (p. 30, 87 & 90)



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