Tribute to Brig Zafar Habib – A Great Man

By Lt Col Zafar Mustafa (Abdali Coy Comd)

Zafar Mustafa, Lt ColMaj Mujib Aftab recently shared a photograph of Brig Zafar Habib (Sher Shah Coy Comd) and Brig Zaheer Malik (SSH-2 Pl Comd) in 2nd SSC Forum. That photo brought back memories of two distinguished officers who are no more with us. May Allah bless their souls,  آمین.

I had long association with Brig Zafar Habib. He was from 20 PMA Long Course (Passed out in Oct 1959). Myself and Brig Zafar Habib served in neighbouring units at Kharian as subalterns. He was in Probyn’s Horse and I was in 1 SP. We did the OWJTC-1 together in 1962. On return from the Course he was posted to 22 Cav. Later we did 1968 Staff Course as bachelors and in 1971 got posted to PMA. Apart from being a very intelligent person, he was extremely sharp and impressive as a conversationalist.

Maj Zafar Habib and Maj Zaheer Malik, PMA, 1972We lived in opposite houses outside Tobe Camp. He got married accommodation on compassionate grounds to keep his long widowed mother with him (by the grace of Allah, she is still alive). I never saw Zafar Habib miss his prayers. Once my late father stayed with me for a few days. As per routine, after Fajar prayers, he would go for his morning walk and meet Zafar Habib everyday on the road. At the breakfast table he would ask me why I could not copy Zafar Habib, get up early, say prayers and go for a walk.

He did the 1977-78 National Defence Course. He had the singular distinction of doing NDC as the first Lt Col. On the next NDC, Lt Col Ghulam Mohammad Malik (later Lt Gen) was detailed. However, GM Malik attended the course as a Brig. He had been approved by the Board and was promoted Brig and appointed as a Director in GHQ for a couple of days before attending the course. Zafar Habib was GSO-1 in PMA when he was detailed on 1977-78 NDC and Ghulam Mohammad Malik was Bn Comd 1st Pak Bn, PMA when he was detailed on 1978-79 NDC.

As luck would have it, Zafar Habib was superseded for promotion in 1978. He walked into COAS’s (Gen Zia-ul-Haq) office and asked him “We have served together in the same unit (22 Cav) and you also know about my career outside the unit. Do you really think I am unfit for promotion?”

Those who have some idea of late Zia’s personality would understand the outcome of this meeting. Lt Col Zafar Habib was promised Foreign Service and till the completion of formalities, to become officiating Director Armoured Corps. For one year Zafar Habib kept reminding Zia about Foreign Service but due to the resistance of civilians, Zia could only manage transfer on deputation from Ministry of Defence to Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Zafar Habib served as Deputy Chief of Protocol. During the next two years Zia consolidated his position and opened the flood-gates of military officers to Civil Services and Zafar Habib again had the distinction of being first military officer to be inducted permanently in Civil Services.

He was now posted as Counsellor in Jeddah Counselate and simultaneously retired from the Army as an Honorary Brigadier. When he was leaving for Jeddah, he knew that after leaving the Army I had been jobless for one and a half years. On reaching Jeddah, he sent me a visit visa and during my stay with him at Jeddah, he arranged a job for me. To go through the formalities, I came back to Lahore and after sometime went to Jeddah on a work visa. It was Allah’s mercy and Zafar Habib’s humane nature that I worked there for four years and was enabled to partially meet the educational expenses of both my sons in USA. I can never be grateful enough for Allah’s benevolence and Zafar Habib’s help.

From Jeddah Zafar Habib went to London on promotion as Consul General. After two years he was moved to North Korea as Ambassador. After completing his tenure and doing wonderful work there, he was posted as Additional Secretary (Admin) in Foreign Office. His last assignment before retiring was 5 years stint as Ambassador to Argentine.

He never smoked or drank but Allah’s sweet will that he died of lung cancer within 3 months of diagnosis. He died in early 2010. His daughter and son were married after his demise.

Let us all pray for the ‘Bakhshish’ (بخشش) of this great man.

Related Articles:
Tribute to Pl/Coy Comds 

Tribute to Course Mates

Editor’s Note: Please do write a very brief comment at the end of this page under the heading “Leave a Reply here”.  


  1. Lt Col Qadeer Ahmed Ch. (SSH-2) says:

    Sir, an excellent and wonderful tribute to Brig Zafar Habib (late). He was our Coy Comd. We are proud of him. I pray to Allah to bless him in Junnat-ul-Firdaus. Aameen.

  2. Maj Mustafa Ashraf (ABD-1) says:

    My dear Col Zafar Mustafa,
    There can be no better expression of Brig Zafar Habib personality as mentioned by you in this article. May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace, Ameen.
    Besides, sir, I salute your acknowledging and expressing gratitude for the favour he did to you as very few great persons like you have the courtesy to remember the departed souls with such high tribute.
    While appreciating your memory, I sincerely hope you will recall my image also being your cadet from Abdali-1 and your name sake also. I went to Armoured Corps. God bless you. Regards.

    • Lt Col Zafar Mustafa (Abdali Coy Comd) says:

      Dear Mustafa, I admit frankly that your image is missing from my memory, but I shall InshaAllah recognize you whenever we meet, just as I recognized Jamil Haider instantly when I met him during Haj 2009.
      Best wishes for you and your family.

  3. Lt Col Zafar Mustafa (Abdali Coy Comd) says:

    Just a clarification, when I mention about transfer of armed forces officers to Civil Services, I am only talking about Zia era and later.

  4. Maj Farooq Rana (ABD-4) says:

    What else could have been better than one great man portraying another great man. No doubt Brig Zafar Habib was an outstanding Coy Comd in Tobe Camp. He equally excelled in all other walks of life too. I had the privilege of having him as my squash partner in early 70s in Multan. A tough opponent in the squash court but outside a nice friend and a lovable senior and was always ready to extend his help whenever I required it. Thanks to Col Zafar Mustafa for throwing light on other aspects of his life.

  5. Maj Muhammad Javaid-ul-Hussan (SSH-4), Australia says:

    As a cadet of SSH-4 Platoon I had lot of affiliations with him. I kept on meeting him when he was Director AC. When I heard about his death I could not control myself. His attitude as Coy Comd with us was like a father. He was such a great man, nobody can mention in words, specially me. I pray health for his mother and request all the Course mates to pray for him also during this Holly month that may Allah Pak award him a great place in Janat-ul-Firdous, Aameen. I am also grateful to you Col Zafar Mustafa by providing such a great information about him, Thanks Sir.

  6. Col Qaisar Rashid (SSH-4) says:

    Three greats of 2nd SSC are involved in this article. Sir Lt Col Zafar Mustafa whom we can’t thank enough for sharing his tribute to another great Brig Zafar Habib. I have been meeting him in Def Club Lahore where he used to come for tennis. He was very loving and caring. I couldn’t stop my tears during his Jannaza prayer and burial. Brig Zaheer Malik was the one who “took” me to his unit 14 Baloch. Details later. My sincere prayers for both of them.

  7. Lt Col Zafar Mustafa (Abdali Coy Comd) says:

    I am over-whelmed with all the kind responses and your prayers for Brig Zafar Habib [late].
    I only want to add that in our school days, we learnt a proverb “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. He was personification of this adage at a crucial time in my life.
    My affectionate regards to all of you.

  8. Maj Ali Malik (HDR-1) says:

    A great account of memories shared by friends but it is more for our realization that why not be written in life time so that we can get the share of response by the departing one. May God bless his soul, Ameen.

  9. Major Munir Ahmed ( HDR-3 ) says:

    Dear sir, Thank you very much for bringing your heart out for such a Great man. Lucky & blessed are those who are remembered with nice words after thier departure. This is the best earning one can think of. May Allah bless the departed soul with His infinite mercy & grant him best place in Jannat. Once again accept my heartfelt gratitude for sharing this. May Allah bless you with perfect health (Aameen).

  10. Brig Arshad Abbasi (ABD-1) says:

    We were lucky cadets to have company commanders like ‘Daddy'(Zafar Mustafa) and ‘Dandy’ (Zafar Habib). A really heartfelt article and nostalgic feelings but it is revealing about his nature as we could not know such details then.
    God bless his soul and protect his family. Aameen.

  11. Maj Inam Ullah Khan (ABD-2) says:

    It is indeed a pleasure to read such a detailed account about Brig Zafar Habib (May Allah bless his soul in peace) and so very beautifully worded by a noble and great person, our very own Coy Comd, Col Zafar Mustafa. May Allah bless you Sir, with a long and happy life. I am one of your students from Abdali-2. With best regards.

    • Lt Col Zafar Mustafa (Abdali Coy Comd) says:

      Yes, Inam Ullah, I remember, you parachuted into 3rd Pak after enjoying a week-end in 1st Pak and you passed out as A-2 Sergeant. Others who came to Abdali were Nadeem Taj, Khalid Jaffery and later Syed Liaqat Ali Shah[late]. Hope I am not far wrong.

      • Editor: Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (ABD-1) says:

        Dear Col Zafar Mustafa,
        Liaquat Ali Shah didn’t come from 1st Pak. He was in Haider Coy and at the time of adjustment of appointments he was shifted to Abdali Coy as JUO, while Faiz Afridi from Abdali Coy went to Sher Shah Coy as SUO.
        Some more who came from 1st Pak were Panah Nomani (ABD-3), Zahid Ali Khan (ABD-2), Khalique Akram (ABD-3) and Zaheer Ibn Yacoob (ABD-1).

        • Lt Col Zafar Mustafa (Abdali Coy Comd) says:

          Dear Cheema,
          Please re-check. I still think that Liaquat and his twin brother Sadaqat (Late) joined PMA in 1st Special. After relegation, he came to Haider Coy and was later adjusted as CJUO in Abdali.
          In my reply to Inam, I mentioned only those who joined ABD-2 from 1st Pak along with Inam. I definitely missed Zahid Ali Khan if he also joined ABD-2.
          Full name of Jeff is Syed Khalid Amir Jaffery.

          • Editor: Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (ABD-1) says:

            Dear Sir,
            I will ask Course mates from Haider Coy to confirm about Liaquat Ali Shah. However, as far as I remember, his twin brother, Sadaqat Ali Shah was not in 1st SSC. He Passed out with 48 PMA Long Course.

            • Lt Col Zafar Mustafa (Abdali Coy Comd) says:

              Dear Cheema,
              Please take your time and check-out about both brothers. May their souls rest in peace.

              • Lt Col Naeem Ahmed Khan ( HDR-4) says:

                Tender feelings & sincere prayers for a person who is no more amongst us.
                As far Liaquat Shah is concerned, I being Pl Sgt from HDR-4 confirm that surely he was from our Course right from first day. He was not at all a relegee from Ist SSC. His twin brother Sadaquat was from Ist SSC & not any other course. I even had the honour of passionately slapping Sadaquat hard at his back mixing him up with his brother Liaquat. May God bless their souls with His mercy & forgiveness. Ameen.

      • Maj Inam Ullah Khan (ABD-2) says:

        Dear Col Zafar Mustafa, ما شاء الله, you have a commendable memory. You are so very right all four of us landed up in Abdali Coy from the 1st Pak Bn. After the relegation, I guess we all suffered from the trauma of humiliation to some extent. Once again, thanks to all the encouragement and moral support that we all got from you and yet another and equally great man Col Aslam Cheema (our Pl Comd ) that helped us get through well in the end. For which, I truly am and shall always remain so indebted to you and to Col Aslam Cheema.
        With best regards.

        • Lt Col Zafar Mustafa (Abdali Coy Comd) says:

          Thank you dear Inam. May Allah bless everyone from 3rd Pak and their families.

  12. Lt Col Zubair Ahmed (ABD-3), Canada says:

    I never had the honor to interact with Brig Zafar Habib but the candid description by my Coy Comd has introduced him to me as I knew him for years. Your love and appreciation for others speaks so high of you Sir.

  13. Maj Khalid Saeed Shah (GHR-3) says:

    Col Zafar Mustafa is a very humane and great human being himself and he wrote tributes to an equally great human being. My room mate in PMA (Tobe Camp) Waseem Zia was a close relative of Late Brig Zafar Habib. We use to call him JAPPHY BHAI JAN.
    I request Col Zafar Mustafa to do us a favor and write down his memoirs, it will be a good collection for the younger generation to read and get inspiration as well. My hearty regards to Col Zafar Mustafa “ye jo in ka jisam hai woh sarey ka sara DIL hai”. May Allah Bless him with good health and prosperity, Aameen.

    • Lt Col Zafar Mustafa (Abdali Coy Comd) says:

      Dear Khalid Saeed Shah,
      I am too humble a person to consider writing memoirs. It is very kind of you to remember me with such nice feelings. Thank you.
      On a different note I am sorry for mixing you with another officer of 76 Mtn Regt named Tariq Saeed Shah who belonged to Bahawalpur. But I realized my mistake when you said you are from Sargodha. As you now live in my city, kindly let me know your phone numbers.

  14. Azam Gill (HDR-1), France says:

    Thank you, Sir, for taking the time out to share this treasured experience with us: PMA DS are always remote, overwhelming creatures with whom cadets have a love-hate relationship. Over the years, only love and respect remain. Take care, Sir.

  15. Maj Ghulam Murtaza Malik (ABD-3) says:

    Sir, Thanks a lot for very touching article about Brig Zafar Habib. It really indeed is a great pleasure to know about all those who were and part of our life.

  16. Brig Asad Hakeem (GHR-2) says:

    Really moved me, I wish some of us can emulate him as well. I think the biggest and real tribute if any comes to a person after his retirement or death. One dies but one’s acts and deeds remain with us. May he be blessed with the best place in Jannah and may Allah keep her mother in good health. May his children be a source of sadqa-e-jaria for him. Aameen.

  17. Maj Gen Nusrat Naeem (SSH-5) says:

    ما شاء الله what a wonderful man Brig Zafar Habib was, he was our Coy Comd and a very inspiring personality. May Allah bless his soul. Thank you SIR Col Zafar Mustafa for a journey down the memory lane.

  18. Maj Arshad Hussain Shah (SSH-1), USA says:

    It’s a very heart touching article. I wish you could share with us some of his pictures. He was our Company commander in PMA. Still remember him like yesterday. He was a very kind person, it’s hard to believe he is no more with us.

  19. Editor: Lt Col Rashid Zia Cheema (ABD-1) says:

    This article is about a Great man (Brig Zafar Habib), written by an equally Great man (Lt Col Zafar Mustafa). These words have come right from the heart of Col Zafar Mustafa. Sir, I appreciate your sentiments and love for Brig Zafar Habib.
    May Allah bless Brig Zafar Habib (الله تعالی انہیں جنت الفردوس میں اعلٰی مقام عطا فرمائے۔ آمین)

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