By: Dr. Anjum Sarfraz
Admiral Karamat Rahman Niazi, former Chief of the Naval staff was a visionary naval officer and a dynamic leader. He was born on 30 April 1930 in Hoshiarpur, Punjab, British India, to a Pashtun noble family of the Niazi tribe. After graduating from a local high school, he joined Pakistan Navy (PN) as cadet in September 1948 and went to Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth in UK, for initial training. He got commission in December 1950. Being a smart and upright officer, he served as Flag Lt to Vice Admiral H M S Chaudhry, then CNS from July 54 to Dec 56. He commanded a Mine Sweeper and afterwards he was selected for submarine training in United States. Upon commissioning of former US Navy Submarine, USS Diablo as PNS Ghazi, he had the honour to became its first Commanding Officer. During 1965 war PNS GHAZI’s act of valor brought pride to the nation and laurels to Pakistan Navy for safeguarding the maritime frontiers with great fervor. It played very effective role of sea denial under the able command of Commander Karamat Rehman Niazi. Ghazi was deployed off Bombay area to hunt down Indian naval ships. However, all Indian heavy units did not come out from the harbor fearing attack by Ghazi. After this operation Ghazi was assigned patrol off the Indian Kutch coast. On 22 Sep she managed to get an IN frigate as target. She carried out attack with torpedoes and crippled the ship which managed to escape. The commanding officer and second in command Lt Commander Ahmad Tasnim (retired as Vice Admiral) were awarded Sitara e Jurrat for the act of bravery in 1965 war. Admiral Karamat Niazi has served on coveted command and staff appointments, including Commander Submarines during 1971 war, Commanding officer PNS Badr and Commander 25th Destroyers squadron and Commander Pakistan Fleet. The staff assignments were director submarine operations, Director General Naval Training, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff operations and Vice Chief of the Naval Staff. He was promoted to Admiral on 22 Mar 79 and took over the command of PN. During his tenure as CNS, he emphasized on overall knowledge of personnel of all specializations to make them more responsive to present and future needs. He also reorganized appointments at NHQ to delegate duties and responsibilities to expedite decisions and actions. Prior to 1978, multinational exercise MIDLINK was conducted regularly in the Arabian sea and the Persian Gulf. To keep PN abreast with the latest strategic and tactical concepts in the prevailing environments, it was decided to hold first of the series Wargame code named Hammerhead. The first was conducted in July 79 followed by practical sea exercise Sea Spark in Dec 79. This has now become a regular feature. On induction of Seaking helicopters in 1976, PN planned to establish aviation base at Ormara and Gwadar. Later on with the induction of Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (LRMP), Breguet Atlantics, the PN started acquiring land along the coast at places like Gwadar, Ormara, Pasni and other places of interest in early eighties under the Vision of Admiral Karamat Niazi for future utilization. The projects for the developments of ports and roads along the coast had always been delayed due to various reasons. The Admiral realized that PN should play its role to support government and with profound determination, Admiral personally planned and supervised the construction of a small jetty at the Gwadar head where the base ship could be secured for the patrol craft till the facilities are developed ashore. During the last quarter of 1980 the old frigate Tippu Sultan was decommissioned and berthed at Gwadar as a Base Ship for patrol craft squadron. During Admiral’s tenure as CNS, four gearing class destroyers were inducted in PN between 1980-83. Four Type 24 missile boats and two remote control inshore minesweepers were acquired from China. To enhance training facilities, PNS Bahadur which houses operation schools and PNS Jauhar, the engineering college were established. To augment sea training, HMS London, a guided missile destroyer was acquired from UK in April 1982 as cruiser PNS Babur. During early 80s Royal Saudi Navy and other Gulf state embarked upon their naval expansion program. They requested PN officers and sailors on deputation to train their naval personnel. A comprehensive deputation policy was framed, promulgated and followed in letter and spirit. The Admiral visited USA in Feb 83 where he was awarded Legion of Honour by the US government. Admiral Niazi was very keen for the welfare of naval personnel. Bahria foundation was established in Jan 1982 as a trust under the charitable Endowment Act of 1890. Its prime objective was the welfare of the serving and rehabilitation of the retired naval and civilian personnel paid from the naval budget.
The admiral was a simple soul. He used to mix up freely with junior officers and sailors. At the same time officers and sailors had no hesitation to talk to their CNS. The Admiral battled multiple illness in old age boldly and breathed his last in the wee hours on 4 May 21 at the age of 92. He has been buried in H-11 graveyard with full military honors and his funeral was attended by large number of serving and retired military officers. May ALLAH, SWT in His infinite mercies bless the departed soul to rest in eternal peace. Ameen
*Dr. Anjum Sarfraz is commodore retired of Pakistan navy. Working as Senior Research Fellow, at National Institute of Maritime Affairs (NIMA), Islamabad