After receiving confirmation from Prime minister Benazir Bhutto
, Beg continued to hold the powerful and four-star assignment of chief of army staff until 1991, when his political ambitions forced the then-President Ghulam Ishaq Khan
to nominate General Asif Navaz
as the new chief of army staff three months prior to his retirement.
As chief of army staff, Beg is credited for improving the fighting and combat operational capabilities of the Pakistan Army.
Apart from his military career, Beg briefly tenured as professor at the National Defence University
(NDU) and regularly writes columns in The Nation
Early life in India and education
During his college years, Mirza played collegiate field hockey
and was vital member of his hockey team which consisted mainly Muslims.
According to his memoirs, Beg sought revenge on a Hindu politician belonging to Congress Party
after the politician had beaten up a member of his hockey team.
Egged on by a mob of students, Beg used his hockey stick to beat up the politician at a public meeting.
This incident came after his graduation from college in 1949, and Beg's family decided to move to Pakistan
in 1949 after the Indian partition
Career in the military
Academia and professorship
He earned Master of Science
in War studies
from NDU and published his master's thesis, entitling, "A journey of pain and fear" which provide critical analysis of state sponsored terrorism and its effects on geo-military positions of the countries.
In 1971, he was called back to the battle assignments and commanded a SSG regiment during the 1971 war
. After the war, he left special forces after being promoted to one-star rank, Brigadier
, and moved onto to accept the war studies professorship at the NDU.
From 1975-78 Brigadier Mirza Aslam BeG tenured as the professor of war studies
and remains Chief Instructor of Armed Forces War College (afwc) at the then National Defence University
until January 1978.
About the 1971 war, Beg maintained that Pakistan Armed Forces
"learned a valuable strategic lesson", and that quoted that the government also learned that "there is no point in going to war unless you are absolutely certain you have the capability to win".
From 1994-99, Beg continued his teaching at NDU and published his two books on national security, nuclear weapons development, defence diplomacy and international relations.
Senior command appointments
In 1978, Beg left the university after being promoted to two-star appointment and elevated as Major-General
in the army.
Beg became GOC
of the 14th Army Division
, stationed at the Okara Military District
of Punjab Province
On March 1979, chief of army staff, General Zia-ul-Haq
, directed the II Strike Corps
' commander "to ascertain the likely reaction of the Pakistan Armed Forces officers if Bhutto was hanged", in accordance to the Supreme Court
During this meeting with the commander of II Corps, Lieutenant-General Rahimuddin Khan
, Beg objected the hanging of Bhutto and maintained to his senior commanders that: The hanging of Bhutto would be an unwise act, as it could cause very serious "political aberrations" that will be difficult to correct."
Beg offered his opinion by proposing to exile Bhutto and maintained that army troops are trained to fight the enemy, not their own people."
According to Beg, General Rahim lost his temper and called-off the meeting. General Rahimuddin Khan quickly directed his Chief of Staff
, Brigadier Hamid Gul
, to alleviate from his command but Gul resisted marking his opinion on Beg's removing as "not be appropriate at this moment."
Chief of army staff
By March 1987, Beg was promoted to four-star assignment and was appointed as Vice Chief of Army Staff
(VCOAS) of Pakistan Army, though he remained under President General Zia-ul-Haq
, who had been the chief of army staff since 1976.
Beg succeeded General Zia-ul-Haq as the new chief of army staff when President General Zia-ul-Haq's plane crashed on 17 August 1988.
American military authors regarded Beg as "mild but bookish
general" keen to drive the country towards the tracks of democracy.
The United States military
regarded Beg as "Unpredictable General"
could not be counted on to continue close military cooperation
with the United States as Zia did in 1980s.
The Pentagon had commented on Beg as " a professional soldier" with no political ambitions, but independent-minded and unpredictable.
In 1988, one Pentagon
military official added that Beg is hard to figure out and difficult to read his mindset unlike other Pakistan army generals, he hasn't been particularly friendly with the US
Against the popular perception to take over, Beg endorsed Ghulam Ishaq Khan
as President and ultimately called for new general elections
which resulted in a peaceful democratic transfer of government to the Pakistan Peoples Party
(PPP) with Benazir Bhutto
as the Prime minister
Beg did not consult any of his corps commanders or principal staff officers (PSOs) and called on the chief of naval staff
, admiral Iftikhar Sirohey
, and chief of air staff
air chief marshal Hakimullah
, to discussed the matter briefly and within three hours of General Ziaul Haq's death, restored the Constitution and handed over power to Ghulam Ishaq Khan.
It was an unprecedented decision in favour of democracy and the rule of law.
Beg was endorsed by Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who confirmed his four-star appointment as chief of army staff until 1991, when he was replaced by General Asif Nawaz
In 1988, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto had deep respect for Beg for restoring the democracy and conferred Beg with specially designated civil award, Tamgha-e-Jamhuriat
(lit. Medal of Democracy).
In fact, Beg is the only Pakistani and four-star general officer to have been decorated with such honor.
Although Benazir Bhutto was criticized by many for decorating a four-star general with a civilian award, she used to justify her decision, saying that Beg deserved this honour because he refrained from indulging in yet another military adventure like Zia and instead helped Pakistan to a peaceful transition of power through general elections.
He retired from the army on 16 August 1991 after completing 39 years of military service. As COAS, General Beg is credited by an Australian expert for encouraging "wider thinking about tactics" within the Pakistan Army
, particularly for establishing a much improved logistics chain and "contributed immensely to the army’s warfighting capabilities."
Soviet withdrawal and Afghan war
As chief of army staff, Beg determinately remained military's control over the policies regarding the national security
, and highly tolerated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
's role in formulating the national security policies.
Beg testified that the "real causes behind the "Pressler amendment
" was significant as long as Pakistan was considered an important entity of weakening Soviet Union
's influence in South Asia
Various writers greatly questioned his idea of "Strategic depth"
, which aim to transfer of Pakistan's military science command in dense Afghanistan, against the war with India.
Beg endorsed the role of his deputy, Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul
in Afghanistan war who masterminded the Jalalabad operation
which failed brutally; Gul was deposed by Prime Minister Bhutto soon after this action.
Beg's role remained vital during and after the Soviet Union's troop withdrawal
from Afghanistan and showed no intention to coordinate joint efforts with the U.S. to end the war in the country.
In late 1989, Pakistan and U.S. propagated the message of departing of communist government in order to bring the clerical government instead.
Authors and media reporters maintained that Beg controversially proposed an intelligence contingency plan between the agencies of Afghanistan
that would grow into the "core of the Muslim world."
Such idea was met in hostility in the government
and Foreign Minister Yacob Khan
and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto were the ones who objected and opposed to this idea.
Ironically, Beg accused the Western countries for encouraging Iraq to invade Kuwait, though he kept his armed forces fighting against Iraq in support to Saudi Arabia
In 1990, he hold state dinner for United States Central Command
(SCENTCOM) commander General Norman Schwarzkopf
where, together with Chairman Joint Chiefs
Admiral Iftikhar Sirohey
, brief the USCENTCOM on Pakistan Armed Forces
battel preparations and military operational capabilities of Pakistan armed forces in Saudi contingent.
The Iraq war with Kuwait was a polarizing political issue in Pakistan and Beg carefully commanded and deployed the Pakistan Armed Forces' contingent forces during the Operation Desert Storm
Beg calculated that the popular opinion would be in favor of Iraq, as the anti-American sentiment in the Middle East began to grow at that time.
But, neither did Beg's strategic prediction come true nor he get extension.
Soon after the end of Gulf war, Beg was proceeded towards the retirement on 18 August 1991.