Known for leading the establishment of an elite unit of the Pakistan Army – the Special Services Group (SSG) – and for vast military service to a country he opted for during the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Major General Aboobaker Osman Mitha is one of those forgotten national heroes that gave relentless service to Pakistan.
He was charged with some convictions and was forced to retire from military services after the separation of East Pakistan. Maj Gen A.O. Mitha had a brilliant career during his service with the British Indian Army as well as the Pakistan Army. Although he did not get an honorable end to his military career, he still keeps a special status in the leading servicemen of Pakistan’s armed forces.
Major General A.O. Mitha’s Personal Life
Major General Aboobaker Osman Mitha was born in 1923 in Bombay, Maharashtra, in a Memon family of wealthy merchants influential in the business and politics of India during the colonial times. He obtained social nurture from domineering grandparents who were known for their high-level business ventures and sustaining a leading class in society. It is to add that the grandfather of Maj Gen A.O. Mitha, Sir Suleiman Qasem Mitha was considered as one of the top-notch people of British India. He used to live in Malabar Hill, where his family’s residence was situated.
The major general acquired his education in Bombay from schools and institutions that were founded for the elitist citizens of Maharashtra. His schooling was done according to the Cambridge curriculum along with molding of a character that was helpful in his disciplined lifestyle. His last years of schooling were done at a military school which also helped him in achieving a good position in his military academy.
Spending such a disciplined childhood and youth was helpful in getting a well-mannered lifestyle, which also helped him in achieving much during his career in the military. Maj Gen A.O. Mitha joined the military upon inspiration from Lt. Colonel Jalal Shah, a family friend and close companion of his father who served the British Indian Army as a medical officer and worked as a doctor in one of the military hospitals of British India.
He joined the military during the times of colonialism and served with British Indian Army but had to opt for Pakistan when the British were leaving and dividing India into two states in 1947. It was during this time that A.O. Mitha met his future wife, Indu Mitha who was a Bengali Christian converted from a Brahmin background. He married Indu Mitha in Karachi in the very initial days of serving the Pakistan Army.
He spent his retirement life in Pakistan, despite the fact that he was forcefully retired in 1971 by Bhutto’s government. A.O. Mitha died at the age of 76 in December 1999 in Islamabad, Pakistan, and was buried at nearby Rawalpindi. His funeral was conducted with state recognition.
Military Career with Brilliance
After completing his education in privileged schools, Major General Aboobaker Osman Mitha chose a career in the military over business. He was selected as a cadet in the British Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, where he experienced life with both distinctions and racism from the side of British officers as well as cadets that were part of the training with him.
In his book “Unlikely Beginnings”, he mentioned the racism and “white” supremacy factor among British military officers. He explained that they would systematically target the colleagues in British Indian Army that were native to the subcontinent.
A.O. Mitha passed out from the very cradle of his military career in June 1942. He was commissioned as an officer in British Indian Army when he started serving in the 2nd Battalion of the 4th Bombay Grenadiers. A.O. Mitha started a career in a military unit that was given difficult tasks inside different parts of colonial India as well as in the missions of two world wars.
In World War II, he was assigned to the British Indian Army’s Parachute Regiment in which he served against the forces of imperial Japan inside Burma. He showed excellence on the ground even though he was a newly commissioned officer inside the British Indian Army. He was promoted to lieutenant from the rank of second lieutenant for his gallantry actions as a part of the British Indian Army.
After the creation of Pakistan, he initially served inside Karachi, the capital of the newly established Dominion of Pakistan. He qualified for the Staff College in Quetta, procuring his way for a determining position inside the Pakistan Army. He also served as the general staff officer inside General Headquarters (GHQ), Rawalpindi, and showed his keen interest in bringing innovative additions to the military units of the Pakistan Army.
There is no doubt that the Special Services Group’s formation was part of his relentless service to the Pakistan Army. It was his aim, along with the other bright thinkers of the army, to make the very existence of a special operations wing come true inside Pakistan’s army in the shape of the SSG.
Being the commandant of the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul at the end of the 1960s, and then the quartermaster-general at East Pakistan, he was also given additional civil tasks, like the appointment of the chairman of the National Police Commission, where he had proven his intellectual capacities while performing complex duties.
Major General Mitha & the SSG of Pakistan
There is no doubt that the uncompromising service of A.O. Mitha provenly helped in forming the SSG in 1956 and turned him into the Aaron Bank of Pakistan (the founder of special forces in modern armed forces). The formation of the SSG was a step that made him a respected officer in the ranks of the armed forces of Pakistan.
It was the very opinion of Major General A.O. Mitha that America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was keen to develop a special operations wing of the Pakistan Army to deter the threats in the region which existed in those times. He along with some of the American officers were allowed by then Chief of Army Staff General Yahya Khan to form such a unit.
A.O. Mitha was given space in Cherat, a town near the cities of Peshawar and Nowshera. It was his esprit de corps and integrity that led him to frame the assistance provided by America properly. His vast military skills and experience helped him to manage the military officials of both the United States and Pakistan while performing his duties during the formation process of the SSG.
Today, Pakistan’s SSG is one of the most important military units of the Pakistan Army which works in both conventional and unconventional environments. Special Services Group was assigned to conduct difficult tasks during wars with India and fighting terrorism introduced due to internal and external factors.
The SSG is a renowned unit that conducted the landmark mission of Peochar Valley of Swat/Malakand Division under codename Operation Black Thunderstorm. The operation aimed at clearing strategic areas of Swat, Lower Dir, and Shangla from terrorists of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM).
Forceful Retirement and being a Renowned Author
There is no doubt that Major General A.O. Mitha served with full devotion by serving the state of Pakistan in differing capacities. He sacrificed his wealthy background and all of his belongings in India and opted for the newly established Pakistan. Anyhow, the end to his military career was not one that happened with honor.
The major general was critical of some of the steps of the Pakistani government and armed forces while trying to maintain order in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) with coercive measures when he was serving there as the quartermaster-general and was given charge of logistical affairs.
It was a factor that led to the India-Pakistan war of 1971 and the separation of East Pakistan. During his meritorious service in the war of 1971, he also served along with General Tikka Khan and Lt. General Sahibzada Yaqub Khan. He was granted “Hilal-i-Jur’at” for his wartime duties but later stripped of it.
He was forcefully retired by the newly formed government after the national tragedy of 1971. He was blamed for several misconducts and his retirement was announced in the first speech of Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto on national television. His claims included that the reports of Pakistani intelligence agencies were overlooked by the government due to some factors in which it was clearly indicated that India may take advantage of internal instability inside East Pakistan, leading to the formation of Bangladesh.
He was also denied his pensions for a time period, which was an act of injustice towards a renowned military official who sacrificed his personal belongings and gave a meritorious service. He was also stripped of other titles and recognitions by the government of Pakistan.
With a relentless military career, Maj Gen A.O. Mitha was also a brilliant writer who published several books. One of these books included “Unlikely Beginnings: A Soldier’s Life” in which a major part of his military career and personal life has been covered. To quote this very book, “At the end of a tumultuous life, all he wanted was a room to sleep in, one to write and eat in – a space to walk, reflect and gaze across the fields to the distant hills.”
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