Special Service Group

The Pakistan Army Special Service Group (SSG),[1][2] colloquially known as the Black Storks or Maroon Berets:173[3][4] due to their distinctive service headgear, is the special operations force mandated and tasked with their five primary missions: foreign internal defense, reconnaissance, direct actions, counter-terrorism, and the unconventional warfare– their most important mission.[1]

The Special Service Group's other roles included the combat search and rescue, seek and destroy, counter-proliferation, military hostage rescue, information operations, peacekeeping missions, psychological operations, security assistance, and enemy manhunts.[5]

The command and control of the special forces fall in the domain of the Pakistan Army's Strategic Forces Command (ASFC), and its personnel are directly recruited into ISI's Covert Action Division (CAD) upon their retirements.[5] Many of their operational work and war techniques are kept in secrecy and knowledge of their work became known in public through the published literary work by the army veterans or authorized documentaries in the news media.[5]

Special Services Group
The Special Service Group Insignia
Active23 March 1956–Present
Country Pakistan
Branch Pakistan Army
TypeSpecial Operations Forces
RolePrimary missions:
Size8 Battalions
Part ofArmy Strategic Forces Command
Garrison/HQTarbela, KPK in Pakistan
Nickname(s)Black Storks, SSG(A)
Motto(s)Urdu: من جاں بازم (Man Janbazam) English: I am valiant
ColorsMaroon and Sky blue
Websitearmy special operations
Current CommanderMajor General Tahir Masood Bhutta
Colonel CommandantMajor General Abid Rafiq
The Army Service Group member performing combat airborne landing in Northern Pakistan.


Roots of establishment

The vintage and classical Arm's SSG Insignia.

In 1950, the Pakistan Army established the school, Close Quarter Battle School, dedicated for teaching the methods of close quarters combat under Colonel Grant Taylor of the British Army in Quetta, Balochistan in Pakistan– the school was later moved to Attock under Colonel Kahoon, also an officer in the British Army.[6] Citing unknown and unspecified reasons, the Close Quarter Battle School under Col. Kahoon was permanently closed and its passed out personnel who had earlier formed the 312th Garrison Company (312 Gar Coy (FF)), a light infantry, initially attached the military unit to the Frontier Force Regiment (FF Regiment) in 1952— the 312 Gar Coy (FF) still remains to be a part of the Frontier Force Regiment.[6]

Creation from the 19th Regiment

Первая совместная тренировка по горной подготовке в рамках российско-пакистанского тактического учения «Дружба-2016» (7)
The SSG soldier, in U.S. Woodland uniform, performing the Mountain warfare course in a demonstration being performed for the Russian Spetnaz in 2016.

In 1953–54, the United States Army raised a special forces unit within the Pakistan Army to provide intelligence and combat defense against Soviet Union's expanding sphere of influence in the Central Asia.:contents[7] The U.S. assistance helped raise the special forces unit from the simple infantry regiment, the 19th Baloch, that provided an ideal cover from its covert nature of works.:contents[7] In 1955, the 17th Baloch infantry was incorporated with the 19th Baloch, followed by the special forces training began to conduct under Lt Col. Dean F. Bundy from the Special Forces of the United States Army.[6]

On 23 March 1956, the Special Service Group (SSG) was established as a Battalion under the command of its first commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel A. O. Mitha, after founding the School of Special Operations (SSO) under the advisement of army officers from the U.S. Army's Special Forces.:contents[7][8][9][10][11] The Special Service Group's institution and the physical training remained under the command of Lt-Col. Mitha until 1961–62.[12] The headquarter of the Army Special Services Group was then based out in Cherat, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan.[6]

Initially, the SSG were popular as the Green Berets with Baloch insignia in 1950s, but SSG dropped their green berets in favor of adopting the Baloch Regiment's maroon berets– hence giving them the nickname the Maroon Berets. In 1964, the Parachute Training School (PTS) was established under the watchful guidance of 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, and training on the desert warfare with U.S. Special Forces' Mobile Training Team begin, followed by the Navy SSG established by the U.S. Navy SEALs as a deep diving team, which was known for its physical training in Karachi in 1966–70.:70[13]

In 1970, the Musa Company was established that solely specialized in anti-terrorist operations, receiving training from the British SAS advisers after U.S. had suspended the IMET program with Pakistan in 1981.:70

The Army SSG initially had six initially battalions and each battalion had specialization units, specialized in the different war spectrum: desert, mountain, long-distance ranger, and deep diving warfare.[11] In August 1965, the operational scope of the Army SSG was expanded from a battalion-size to larger special operation outfit.[11] In 1968–70, the Pakistan Army integrated the Chinese introduced physical training, tactics, weapons, and equipments.[11]

Deployments and covert operations

Covert actions, Indo-Pakistani wars, and overseas missions

Kashmir 1965
The Kashmir Valley in 1965: The Army Special Service Group teams were successful in their infiltration mission in 1964 but the plan failed when the Indian Spies alerted the Indian Police Service (IPS) of this expedition, resulting India mounting an invasion on Pakistan in 1965.:53[14]

The first war time deployment of the Army Special Service Group took place in 1960 with their first special reconnaissance mission in the former tribal belt near the porous Durand Line– the Afghanistan-Pakistan's line of international border.[12] In 1960–61, the Army Special Forces team under Major Mirza Aslam Beg had successfully inserted in Dir and took control of the law and order situation be removing the instigating Nawab of Dir in Chitral in North-West Frontier Province.[15]

In 1964–65, the teams of Special Service Group successfully executed the covert operation in Indian-administered Kashmir but the operation failed from the very beginning due to lack of understanding of the local culture and language, eventually met with hostility with locals who alerted the Indian government authorities.:53[14][16]

The second war with India saw the testing and shaping of the Army Special Service Group when the Indian Army charged and invaded the Pakistan-side of Punjab in response to the covert actions took place in Indian Kashmir. The airborne missions of the Army Special Service Group included performing the combat parachuting at the Indian airbases with an intention of launching a ground assaults in the Indian Air Force's air stations in Pathankot, Adampur, and the Halwara.:contents[17] Boarded on a Pakistan Air Force's C-130 Hercules, the three airborne formations were flown detected on the night of 7 September 1965, first performing combat jumping at Pathankot at 02:30 hours but the wind velocity led the scattered of the team and caused them to launch an unorganized attacks on the Pathankot Air Force Station, failing to destroy any Indian Air Force's aircraft.:contents[17] At Adampur, the airborne formation was detected and were captured by the civilian Punjab Police while at the Halwara, the attack also failed due to high wind velocity.:contents[17] By 10–11 September 1965, the Indian Army had captured nearly all airborne formations originally involved in launching the ground attacks in the Indian Air Force's bases.[18]:contents[17]

By 1970–71, the Pakistan Army had permanently posted one Army Special Service Group 3rd Commando Battalion in East-Pakistan under Lt-Col. Tariq Mehmood, begin working with local authorities in maintaining security situation in the East-Pakistan, near the border of Eastern India.:244[19] The performance of the Army Special Service Group was reported to be much better than their performance in 1965, with 1st Command Battalion (Yaldram) and 2nd Commando Battalion (Rahber) engaged in several of their successful sabotage missions against the Indian Army's artillery and infantry regiments, while the 3rd Command Battalion in East oriented towards successfully engaging in the seek and destroy missions.:contentes[7][11] Their final mission included the mounting of the successful defense of the Shahjalal International Airport against the Indian Army-backed Mukti Bahini, and were the last army special forces formation that had departed from the airport before the Dacca fall to India on 16 December 1971.:78:130[20]

From 1972–77, the Pakistan Army went into reorganization and major restructuring of its combat services but the Army Special Service Group remained active in successfully tackling the armed insurgency in Balochistan in Pakistan.:10[21]

In 1979, the overseas deployment of Army Special Service Group saw their combat involvement in Saudi Arabia when the Islamist insurgents engaged in a siege of Grand Mosque in Mecca.[22][23][24] Working in close coordination with French GIGN, the Army Special Service Group engaged in battling the insurgents with the Saudi Forces, eventually taking over the control of the Grand Mosque in 1979.:12[25]:contents[26] After the incident, the Pakistani government approved the permanent deployment of the Pakistani military and special forces in Saudi Arabia for security and assistance purposes.[25]

War in Afghanistan and Sri Lankan civil war

In 1979–89, the Army Special Service Group had been seconded in covert actions in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union's armed intervention.:70[27] There have been unconfirmed reports of the Army Special Service Group engaging in armed battles with the Soviet paratroopers in incidents including the Battle for Hill 3234 and the Operation Magistral.[28][29]

When the Battle for Hill 3234 concluded, the Soviet paratroopers founded that the Afghan mujaheddin actually wore the black uniforms with rectangular black-yellow-red stripes, and suspected to be Army Special Service Group personnel; Pakistan's government has officially denied their involvement. The American author, Aukai Collins, identified the elements as "Black Storks" who crossed the border to join the Afghan mujahideen – a claim also backed by American author, David Campbell.:60–61[30] Another battle was taken place between the Soviet paratroopers and the Afghan mujahideen in Kunar in 1986 that suspected the Army Special Service Group's involvement but the Russians dismissed the claim and noted that the battle was fought between the GRU's 15th Spetsnaz Brigade and Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf's group.[31]

In 1980s, the Pakistani government had dispatched the units of the Army Special Service Group to the Sri Lankan Army to advise in the Sri Lankan civil war with the LTTE group in Sri Lanka.:70[27] During their deployment in the Sri Lankan civil war, The Army Special Service Group provided extensive training to Sri Lanka Army Special Forces and the Sri Lanka Army Commando Regiment on Jungle warfare and provided them the airborne training.:70[27]

Siachen, Kargil, and War on Terror in Afghanistan

Siachen Glacier
The Siachen Glacier in Pakistan. According to the medical reports by Medical Corps, the death ratio of Pakistan Army soldiers is mostly due to the zero temperature and lack of oxygen than then enemy contact with India's Para Commandos, which is mostly deployed at the much warmer areas nearing Leh district.[32]

When the Indian Army's successful expedition took control of the Siachen glacier from Pakistan, the ISI's Covert Action Division (CAD) inserted in the region, confirming the intrusion and movement of Indian Army soldiers in 1983.:75[33] The Army Special Service Group was immediately deployed to engage in the armed battle with the Indian Army at 20,000 feet (6,100 m) above sea level.[34] Led by Captain Muhammad Iqbal, the only 12-men Army Special Service team had to hiked at the 19,000 feet (5,800 m) to reach the Indian Army's resting camp, eventually taking out the entire company.:83[35] After this expedition, the Army Special Service Group teams had to chased off the Indian Army's Para Commandos from the Glaciers, developing expertise in living in winter conditions in Siachen.:85[36]

Over the years, the Army Special Service Group earned their renown for its expertise developed in high altitude warfare and are regularly deployed in Siachen.:18[37] Another successful expedition of the Army Special Service Group included the hiked towards the mountains in Kargil in 1999 but the Indian Army soon discovered Infantry regiments movements resulting in another massive assault on Pakistan that resulted in humiliating defeat of Pakistani forces.:78–79[33]

Since 2001, the Army Special Forces have been engaged in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and remote areas in areas adjacent to Afghanistan—their notable antiterror operation included the successful clearance of the Red Mosque in Islamabad from al-Qaeda sympathizers.[38] The Army Special Forces teams also taken parts in raiding and attacking the terrorists elements in near border with Afghanistan, working often with U.S. Army's Special Forces in Afghanistan.[39]

In 2014, the Army Special Service Group reportedly successful in their manhunt operation after targeting and killing Adnan Gulshair, a Saudi citizen known as the Global Operations Chief of al-Qaeda. In January 2013, India accused Pakistan that Army Special Service Group led an attack across the Line of Control in which Indian soldiers were killed and beheaded.[40][41]

Later in August 2013, a patrol of five Indian soldiers were killed 450 metres inside Indian territory, which India also believes was an sniper action by the Army Special Service Group.[42][43] These raids are part of cross border raids launched by both sides. Pakistan has accused India of beheading 12 Pakistani soldiers between 1999-2013.[44]

Organizational structure

Special Service Group
The Army's SSG Insignia outside SSG garrison and former headquarters at Cherat.

Due to their selection competitiveness, demanding military physicals, and commitment required per standard of the Army's Special Forces, the Special Service Group was restricted to the Brigade level until June 2003.[1] On 14 June 2003, the major reorganization in the structure of the Army Special Service Group took place when the special forces were moved as a military division with Major-General A. F. Alvi becoming the first general officer commanding (GOC).[1]

In an official documentary recognized and known structure of the Army Special Service Group given in YouTube is given below:

Army SSG Divisional Headquarters
Iqbal Buland  Company
Musa Company
Parachute Training School
Special Operation School
Tarbela Brigade

3 Commando Battalion Powindahs

Zarrar Company

8 Commando Battalion (Al-Azb)

Special Operation Task Force (SOTF)
Brigade HQ in Cherat

5 Commando Battalion (Zilzaal)

6 Commando Battalion (Al-Samsaam)

7 Commando Battalion (Babrum)

Name not given in Documentary
11 SS Brigade HQ in Attock

1 Commando Battalion (Yaldram)

2 Commando Battalion (Rahber)

4 Commando Battalion (Yalghar)

Official Source only available in Urdu

Notes: Source of officially recognized and known structure of the Army Special Service Group given in YouTube.[1]

The early organizational structure of the Army's Special Service Group was initially based on the regimental system, with three battalions specialized in the military diving, airborne, mountain warfare techniques.:70[27]:100:100[1][45] After the third war with India in 1971, the Army Special Service Group was expanded with the eight battalions that specialized in their own set of war course of actions–each battalions is specialized in their criterion of war and are considered specialists in their fields.[1]

The headquarter of the Army Special Service Group was based in Cherat where the special forces schools are located but this changed with the brigade combat teams (BCTs) being deployed in different parts of the country.[46] The operational responsibility of the special operations conducted by the Army Special Service Group, nonetheless, falls under the command of the Army Strategic Forces Command (ASFC) operating from the Army GHQ in Rawalpindi, along with the Army Rangers and Strategic Plans Division Force–the CBRN defense team.[1]

Battalions in the Special Forces

Russian-Pakistani tactic exercise Friendship-2017 (2)
The Pakistan Army soldiers saluting during the tactical exercise with Russian Ground Forces, wearing their maroon berets for which they are popular for.

The Special Service Group is organized in eight battalions and three companies– all trained and specialists in the specific type of war operations.[1] In common practice and military formation, the Battalions typically consists of between ~300–800 personnel, but the department of army has never issued an actual strength number of its personnel serving in the battalions in the special forces.:contents[17] The official strength number of serving personnel in each battalions is subjected to the classified information.[47]

In Pakistan Army, the Special Forces battalions are typically commanded by the lieutenant-colonels (varies, and depends on availability), and the battalions are organized into the groups under the command of the serving colonels.:70[48]

The command of the Army's Special Service Group (Army SSG) is under the command of the Major-General whose identity is also kept in secrecy, alongside with other army personnel, citing security.[47]

Pak Army SSG Battalions Call Sign HQ Details
1st Commando Battalion Yaldram Attock Headquartered with the 11 SS Brigade HQ in Attock, Punjab in Pakistan, along with 2nd and 4th Commando Battalions. The 1st Commando Battalion (Yaldram) is an airborne unit and its known for its ability and capability of remarkably performing the HAHO/HALO parachuting techniques.:77[49]
2nd Commando Battalion Rahber Attock Headquartered with the 11 SS Brigade HQ in Attock, Punjab in Pakistan, along with 2nd and 4th Commando Battalions. The 2 Commando Battalion (Rahber) is known for its theoretically oriented in the desert warfare.:77[49]
3rd Commando Battalion Powindahs Tarbela Headquartered in Tarbela, along with 8th Commando Battalion and Zarrar Company. The 3 Commando Battlaion (Powindas) are oriented towards the high-altitude mountain warfare in Kashmir.:77[49]
4th Commando Battalion ' Yalghar
5th Commando Battalion ' Zilzaal
6th Commando Battalion' al-Samsaam
7th Commando Battalion' Babrum
8th Commando Battalion' al-Azb
Other Groups Call Sign HQ Notes
Zarrar Company Seek and Destroy Dedicated and oriented towards the counter-terrorism tactics and seek and destroy methods[50]
Iqbal Buland Company Highly Praised Oriented towards the SIGNIT and ELINT in signals and telecommunications.[50]}}
Musa Company Moses 'Oriented towards the army's frogman to perform underwater demolition–secondary role in counterterrorism on seaborne actions with Navy.[11]
Rangers Anti-Terrorist Force RATF The Army Rangers Oriented towards its primary role in counterterrorism and high risk hostage rescue.[51]

Sources:Sharma, Rajeev (1999). Pakistan's Proxy War: A Story of ISI, Bin Laden and Kargil. New Delhi, India: Kaveri Book Service. p. 223. ISBN 9788174790354.. For a description of the modern special forces, see: global context of the Special forces.

Selection and training

Qualifications and physicals

Первая совместная тренировка по горной подготовке в рамках российско-пакистанского тактического учения «Дружба-2016» (6)
An Army SSG soldier performing descent during the mountain warfare course demonstrated for the Russian Ground Forces in 2016.

The Army specialist recruiter teams usually visits the different headquarters of the army's formation, distributing the pamphlets to the officers at OF-1 rank and enlisted personnel.[6] The military physical standards, examinations, and criteria is same for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines' special forces selections and training, often training in close coordination.[52]

The Navy Special Service Group (SSGN) plays an important role in the overall architecture of the special operations forces, their qualification standards, fitness at all levels, and eligibility required for the security clearances.:100[45]

There are three schools that the overall basic eligibility requirements to be considered for entry into the schools of the Special Forces are:

  • Special Operations School (Spec Ops.)
    • Be age of 25–39.[6]
    • Be a citizen of Pakistan.[6]
    • Must be Volunteered, not coerced.[52]
    • Minimum of 5 Years of military service.[52]
    • Must pass the Physical Fitness Assessment with at least 40 push-ups in one minute, 40 sit-ups in one minute, 15 pull-ups, and be able to run 1.6 mile in a minimum of 7:30.[52]
    • Meet medical fitness standards as outlined in Medical Category TV.[52]
    • Eligible for a secret security clearance.[52]
    • Must have 20/20 or corrected to 20/20 in both near and distant vision in both eyes.[6]
    • Should be able to swim 30 meters in full service uniform with weapon, the standard rifle, Koch G3A3.[52]
  • Sniper School
    • Must have 20/20 or corrected to 20/20 in both near and distant vision in both eyes.[6]
    • Medical Category "A".[52]
  • Frogman School
    • Medical Category "A".[52]
    • Must have qualification in Chamber test up to 180 feet sea water.[52]
  • Swimming Standards
    • Should be able to swim 200 meters in 7 minutes (breast stroke).[52]
    • Should be able to swim 25 meters Underwater.[52]

Selection and training

Первая совместная тренировка по горной подготовке в рамках российско-пакистанского тактического учения «Дружба-2016» (1)
The Army SSG personnel preparing the mountain hike and survival skill sets in a demonstration being performed to the Russian Ground Forces's Spetsnaz in 2016.

The medical standards in various physical courses into the entrance in the Special Forces in Pakistan maintained to be very high and extremely competitive, resulting in a major dropouts at the very early stage of selection, according to the Pakistan Army's official report in 2013.:85[52][53] The Pakistan Army's Medical Corps keeps the qualification and selections standards difficult and competitive in the Pakistani military to only ensure that the suitable and qualified intakes in the Special Forces in the Pakistan military as the special forces cannot be mass-produced nor it can arise in the extenuating situations.[52]

Prior to joining the Special Service Group, the interested junior army officers (usually at OF-1 and OF-2) and enlisted personnel must have spent their committed military careers for at least five years and must be volunteered to join the Special Service Group.[52] Once selected through successfully undergoing through the medical evaluation, the interested personnel must report to the Parachute Training School in Peshawar to volunteer for the airborne training, and must get the airborne qualification badge from the airborne training school.[6] The airborne training course held for four weeks where the interested personnel must excelled the HALO/HAHO methods with five-day jumps and three-night military free fall.:70[27]

After gaining their airborne qualification badge, the army personnel then reports to Cherat from Peshawar– a nominal distance between two cities is approximated between 62.9 kilometres (39.1 mi)[54]– engage through this journey by the foot while wearing their full military gear (30 kilograms).[6] The interested individual must undergoes a 24-week of military training and training process once reported to Cherat.:85–86[53]

The training courses in the Special Service Group emphasis strong physical conditioning and mental fitness, including the everyday based surprised strategic thinking quiz[6] and a 36-mile march in 12 hours.[55] Violation of the military code and ethics by the trainee soldier resulted in including the 9.3 kilometres (5.8 mi) march from Cherat to Chapri with full 36 pounds (16 kg) military gear.[6]

The curriculum of the basic military training course included the mastery in Judo and Karateka, special weapons training, military navigation, and handling and disarming of the chemical explosives, survival skill training.[6] There are schools of special warfare that the trainee soldier chooses: Snow and High Altitude School, Mountain Warfare School, Airborne Warfare School, Desert Warfare School, Sniper School, and Frogman School.:70[27] These schools offers the advanced training courses which runs for additional 25–30 weeks (depending on student's choosing of his career), and only successfully passed out personnel are awarded with badges of their specialized fields by their specialized school faculty.[6] The dropout rates of Special Service Group(Army) is 85 to 90 Percent because of extremely tough training process. Every year, thousands of Applicants apply to join the SSG but at the end, maximum of 100 to 120 cadets get their recommendation letter for Special Service Group. The army personnel interested in the underwater demolition must be trained with their Navy counterparts in Manora Island in the Karachi coast including being qualified to get their long-range swimming qualification badge from the Naval authorities.:70[27][56]

The Special Service Group criteria meets special forces training and selection criteria of the United States Army, and Special Service Group's personnel are regularly send to the United States to collaborate with the American Special Forces personnel for further training in special warfare and tactics.:71[27]

Interaction with other special forces

US Army 52452 091006-A-8278F-016
A U.S. Army's airborne specialist interacting with the Army SSG airborne trooper for the airborne mission training in Egypt in 2009.

Since its establishment in 1956, the Army Special Service Group have been regularly interacted and trained together with the United States Army Special Forces–though the Pakistan Army's infantry branch had first participated in Exercise Vulcan and Exercise Handicap in 1954.[6]:14[57] Besides training and the interaction with the United States Army, Pakistan Army Special Service Group have held joint special warfare training exercises with the Special Air Service (SAS) of the British Army, Special Forces Command of the Turkish Land Forces, Special Operation Forces of the Royal Jordanian Army, the Special Operation Forces of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Ground Forces, and the Spetsnaz of the Russian Ground Forces.[56]

For their overseas deployment for the purpose of the education and training, the Special Service Group have been deployed in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Maldives, United Arab Emirates, Turkmenistan, Egypt, Japan, and Iraq where its operatives have overseen the friendly nations special forces programs.[56]

Since 1998, the Army Special Service Group biannually conducts the military exercise with the Turkish Land Forces's Special Forces, which have been designated as the "Jinnah–Ataturk Series."[58] The military exercise held in Pakistan is known as "Ataturk Exercise" while in Turkey, it is known as "Jinnah Exercise."[58] The first of these series of exercise were held in Pakistan, with twenty-one Turkish Land Forces officers and fourteen enlists coming to Pakistan for the exercise– Pakistan reciprocated the visit in 2000.[58] The Jinnah-Ataturk Series are oriented and focused towards the snow, high-altitude, and mountain warfare."[58]

With renewed military relations with the United States Army in 1990s, the Army Special Service Group conducted several military exercises with the United States Army Special Forces (SF), known as the "Exercise Inspired Venture/Gambit", with first being held in 1993.[59] The Exercise Inspired Venture/Gambit is oriented and directed towards focusing on special weapon familiarization, mountain warfare, night time assaults, air assault techniques in counter-terrorism measures.[59]

Since 2006, the Army Special Service Group also conducts training with the People's Liberation Army Ground Forces Special Operation Forces, which is known as the Pakistan-China Joint Exercise Friendship– this exercise is oriented towards tackling insurgencies and improving methods in counterterrorism.[60] In 2008–09, the Army Special Services Group, together with the United States Army Special Forces, participated in the multinational security exercise, the Operation Bright Star, held in Alexandria in Egypt in 2009 to train with the Thunderbolt Forces of the Egyptian Army.[6]

In 2016, the Army Special Service Group conducted the annual military exercise with the Russian Ground Forces' Spetsnaz–the Russo-Pakistani military exercise is known as Druzhba (lit. Friendship).[61] The Druzhba with Russian Spetsnaz are oriented and focused towards mountain warfare and tactics in counterterrorism in taking out and eliminating the terrorist organizations with first being held in 2016 and the recent being held in 2018.[62]


Counterterrorism operations timeline

Тренировка по десантированию из вертолетов военнослужащих России и Пакистана на учении «Дружба-2016» (4)
The Special Operation Forces School in Cherat with the Russian Flag waving.
  • In September 1986, Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by terrorists while it was refueling in Karachi. As negotiations stalled and the terrorists started to kill passengers, SSG stormed the plane. The SSG killed one hijacker and captured the rest.
  • In February 1994, Afghan hijackers took over a school bus with 74 children and 8 teachers. They drove to the Afghan mission in Islamabad where they released 57 students but kept 16 boys and the teachers. The negotiations led nowhere and it was decided to free the hostages by force. The Pakistani authorities had somehow managed to inform the children of the impending raid.[63] The SSG commandos used a secondary explosion as a distraction and entered the room at the Afghan embassy where the hostages were being held, killing the three hijackers. The operation lasted about 20 seconds.[64]
  • In May 1998, three members of the Baloch terrorists took over a PIA Fokker plane because they were angry at the government for conducting nuclear tests in Balochistan. As negotiations dragged, SSG commandos rushed the plane and apprehended all 3 hijackers. None of the passengers were harmed during the assault.[65][66]
  • On 30 March 2009, SSG successfully participated in thwarting the 2009 Lahore police academy attacks.[67][68]
  • On 10 October 2009, militants attacked the Pakistan Military Headquarters, taking hostage 42 civil and military officials. SSG commandos rescued 39 hostages and killed 9 militants, capturing one. The militants have been linked to Ilyas Kashmiri being a leading Al Qaeda commander operating alongside Tehrik-e-Taliban. A total of six SSG commandos and three hostages were killed in the operation. As reported by ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations) [1]. The operation was undertaken by SSG's Counter Terrorism Force.[69] Three more SSG commandos, injured during the operation, died in the hospital on 12 October.[70]
  • On 16 December 2014, SSG Commandos from the Zarrar Company were tasked with clearing an Army Public School which was raided by seven [71] Tahreek-e-Taliban (TTP) Terrorists in Peshawar. All Terrorists were eliminated and the school was cleared. Around 149 people, mostly Students aged between 12-16 were killed by the Terrorists. The school had a strength of about 1000, and due to SSG timely arrival, they were able to rescue about 840 peoples.[72]

Appearance and equipment

Uniforms and insignia

Russian-Pakistani tactic exercise Friendship-2017
The U.S. M81 colors with Maroon berets is the standard uniform for the Army Special Service Group's Battle Dress Uniform as seen wore by the officers in 2017.

In 1970s, the Army Special Service Group Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) was standard Khaki but this was changed with British-styled DPM.[1] In 1990s, the Battle Dress Uniform was changed in favor of adopting the U.S. woodland (or M81) with a maroon berets, a common color for the airborne forces, with a silver metal tab on a light blue felt square with a dagger and lightning bolts, and a wing on the right side of the chest.:100[45]

The counterterrorism teams, on the other hand, include camouflage and black dungarees (for the CT team).[1]

SSGN (SSG Navy) is distinguished by a dark blue beret with three versions of the "fouled anchor" navy badge for officers, NCOs and enlisted men. A metal SSGN qualification badge featuring a vertical dagger superimposed over a midget submarine is worn over the left pocket on dress uniforms. Parachute wings are worn over the right pocket.

The SSW (Special Service Wing) is distinguished by maroon berets with PAF Officer, JCO or Airmen insignia on the beret, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of SSW is olive drab camouflage. They also wear their special service wing insignia on the left shoulder "Winged Dragons and lightning bolts" .


SSG troop with an M4 carbine.
The U.S.-built M4 carbine rifle— This is the standard issued rifle for the Army Special Service Group.
Steyr AUG A3
The Austrian-designed Steyr AUG assault rifle is a standard issue for the counterterrorism teams.
M82A1 barrett.jpeg
The standard issue for the Army SSG snipers the U.S.-built Barrett M82 sniper rifle. Often in competition with the POF PSR-90M uses by the Navy snipers in SEAL Team of the Navy SSG.


Standard Rifles

Assault rifles

Sniper rifles

Heavy Armament


Influence on the Inter-services branches

Pakistan Navy Special Service Group Badge

The Navy Special Service Group badge.
Pakistan Air Force Special Service Wing Badge

The Air Force Special Service Wing badge.
Official logo of the Pakistan Marines
The Marines Special Service Group badge.

After the second war with India in 1965, the Army Special Service Group had established its personnel physical fitness leading the Pakistan Navy to recognize the need of the special operation force but it had little experience and tradition in the military scuba diving as well as had little understanding towards the nature of the seaborne special operations.:contents[2] In 1966, the Army Special Service Group helped raise the military diving division within the Navy from its frogman team— the Musa Company that remains to be part the Army Special Service Group for inland riverine operations.:contents[2]

Introduction and instructions on combat scuba diving and basic training were provided by the personnel from the Musa Company before the Navy Special Service Group moved towards getting trained with the U.S. Navy's United States Navy SEALs.:contents[2] Over the several years, the Navy dependent on the Army to provide training to their Navy SEAL Teams in the Navy Special Service Group on education and training on the combat parachuting, sniper marksmanship, counterterrorism, and counterinsurgency.:contents[2]

Eventually, the Navy established their own schools on combat parachuting, sniping, counterterrorism, and the counterinsurgency but these schools are influenced and modeled after the Army's Special Service Group training methods whose instructors are the alumnus of the Army schools of special operation forces who tightly followed the army's philosophy, physical standards, and education.:contents[2]

The personnel of the Navy SEAL Teams in the Navy Special Service Group adopted to wear the Army Special Service Group U.S. Woodland (M81) Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) with the distinction of the dark blue beret with three versions of the "fouled anchor" with a navy badge (as shown in the footage) and a metal SSGN qualification badge featuring a vertical dagger superimposed over a midget submarine is worn over the left pocket on dress uniforms; parachute wings are worn over the right pocket.:contents[2]

In 1965, the Pakistan Air Force had a special operation force established: the Special Service Wing under Brig. Mukhtar Dogar (local rank: Air Commodore) but it was decommissioned in 1972 whose personnel went to join the Army Special Service Group. In 2003, the Pakistan Air Force recommissioned the Special Service Wing and their headgear is distinguished by maroon berets with the airmen wears insignia on the beret, and a wing on the right side of the chest. The combat uniform of SSW is olive drab camouflage. They also wear their special service wing insignia on the left shoulder "Winged Dragons and lightning bolts" .

In popular culture

Books, television series, movies and video games
  • 1991: Sunehrey Din (Lit. Golden Days), a popular television series produced by ISPR and on-aired by PTV. The main character Saleem Sheikh showed physical challenges and fitness required for becoming the Maroon Beret.[74]
  • 1998: Alpha Bravo Charlie, a popular television series produced by ISPR and on-aired by PTV.
  • 2003: Unlikely Beginnings: A Soldier's Life, a book by A O Mitha.[9]
  • 2006: In the Line of Fire: A Memoir, a book by Pervez Musharraf.
  • 2008: Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within, a book by Shuja Nawaz.
  • 2013: Waar, the main character Major Mujtaba Rizvi (played by Shaan Shahid), who is a former Maroon Beret and a Kargil war vet.
  • 2014: Retribution, the video game featuring sniping and special operation missions.
  • 2017: Yalghaar, the war film based on the Special Service Group's 4th Command Battalion (Yalghaar)'s fiction covert operations.

See also


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  3. ^ Faiz, Ashraf (2003). From First Post to Last Post: A Journey Through Army Culture (snippet view). Islamabad, Pakistan: Vanguard. p. 230. ISBN 9789694023793. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  4. ^ Khan, T. (2 February 2017). "10 SSG Moments: The Black Storks Mann Janbazam". www.shughal.com. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Ahmad, Javid (7 May 2018). "Pakistan's Secret War Machine". www.nationalinterest.org. The National Interest. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Khiyal, Cdr. Roshan (21 February 2011). "History of the Special Service Group (SSG) - Pakistan Army - Part 1" (.watch). /www.youtube.com (in Urdu). Islamabad: ISPR YouTube. Retrieved 26 January 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Bennett, Richard M. (2011). "(§Special Forces:Pakistan)". In Berry, Davis. Elite Forces: The World's Most Formidable Secret Armies (google books) (3rd. ed.). New York, United States: Penguin Random House. ISBN 9780753547649.
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  18. ^ Conboy, Kenneth (2012). Elite Forces of India and Pakistan. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781780967677.
  19. ^ Dhar, Maloy Krishna (2004). "(§Chapter 6)". Mission: Pakistan (google books). iUniverse. p. 658. ISBN 9780595304820.
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  22. ^ Miller, Flagg (2015). The Audacious Ascetic: What the Bin Laden Tapes Reveal About Al-Qa'ida. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190613396.
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  32. ^ Pervaiz, Athar (8 February 2016). "Killer Siachen — 'where a Pakistani soldier dies every four days from the cold'". Dawn. Siachen in Pakistan. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  33. ^ a b Peter R. Lavoy, Peter R. (2009). Asymmetric Warfare in South Asia. London, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139482820. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
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  35. ^ Ali, Syed Ishfaq (1991). Fangs of Ice: The Story of Siachen (snippet view). Pak American Commercial. p. 161. ISBN 9789698152000.
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Recommended reading

  • Mitha, PA, Aboobaker Osman (2003). Unlikely Beginnings: A Soldier's Life. Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan: Oxford University Press. p. 443. ISBN 9780195794137.
  • Khan, PA, Ghulam Jilani (2004). اس اس جى : تاریخ کے اینے میں (English Lit: SSG: A historical past). Cherat: ISPR Publications, pp. 358. (in Urdu)

Sources and external links

1973 raid on the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan

The 1973 discovery of arms in the Iraqi Embassy in Pakistan refers to an armed conflict between the State of Pakistan and the Iraqi Embassy situated in Islamabad. The conflict ended with a successful special military operation led by the Pakistan army's Special Service Group (SSG) and the Pakistan Paramilitary Rangers. Following the incident, the Iraqi Ambassador and his staff were expelled from Pakistan as personae non gratae.

Abbottabad Public School

Abbottabad Public School (APS), formerly Railway Public School and Abbottabad Public School and College, is a public, all boys, boarding school for 7th to 12th grade students, located in Abbottabad, Pakistan. APS follows the philosophy of the British boarding schools where academic rigour is balanced with a disciplined boarding life with activities ranging from intramural sports to debating and cultural events. Abbottabad Public School is located at an altitude of about 4500 feet.

Abdul Aziz Mirza

Abdul Aziz Mirza (Urdu: عبدالعزيز مرزا‎; b. 1943), LH,NI(M), HI(M), SI(M), SBt, is a retired four-star rank admiral in the Pakistan Navy, diplomat, and a businessman who served as the Chief of Naval Staff from 1999 until retiring in 2002, amid taking over the command of the Navy after the revolt and resignation Admiral Fasih Bokhari over the appointment of Chairman joint chiefs.After retiring from the Navy, he briefly tenured as the Pakistan Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2001–2005 and later becoming the CEO of The Centaurus in Islamabad. During his military service in the Navy, Admiral Mirza is given credit for commissioning the country's first ingeniously and locally built long-range submarine, the Agosta 90B submarine in 1999.

Aboobaker Osman Mitha

Aboobaker Osman Mitha (Urdu:ابو بكر عثمان متها; b.1923–1999), popularized as A.O. Mitha, SPk, SQA, was a two-star rank army general who is considered a legend in the Pakistan Army, and a "stay behind" conceptual founder of Special Services Group (SSG). With the help from the United States' Special Forces, he created the special forces unit in Cherat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 1956.

Alavi (surname)

Notable people with the surname Alavi include:

Ali Alavi, Theoretical chemist

Patrick Alavi, a German Musician

Abass Alavi, is Professor of Radiology and Neurology

Abrar Alvi, was an Indian film writer, director and actor

Ameer Faisal Alvi Awan, was the first General Officer Commanding of the elite Special Service Group of Pakistan Army

Arif Alvi, is president of Pakistan

Bozorg Alavi, was an influential Iranian writer, novelist, and political intellectual

Hakim ‘Alavi, was a royal Persian physician of the 18th century

Hasan Jamil Alvi, is a former Pakistani cricketer

Moniza Alvi, is a Pakistani-British poet and writer

Rashid Alvi, a politician from Indian National Congress party is presently a Member of the Parliament of India

Samroj Ajmi Alvi, is a Bangladeshi actress and model.

Sajida Alvi, is a female academic of Pakistani origin in Canada

Sattar Alvi, is a Pakistan Air Force's veteran fighter pilot and retired Air Commodore of Pakistan Air Force .

Shamsur Rehman Alvi, is a journalist with Hindustan Times

Suroosh Alvi, is a Pakistani Canadian journalist and film-maker

Shahood Alvi, is a television actor, Pakistan

Mahmoud Alavi, is the Minister of Intelligence of Iran

Mohammad Alavi (nuclear engineer), is an Iranian nuclear engineer

Mohammad Alavi Gorgani, is a leading scholar in Najaf, Iraq

Mohammad Alvi, is an Iranian footballer

Yousef Alavi, is a mathematician who specializes in combinatorics and graph theory

Ameer Faisal Alavi

Major General Ameer Faisal Alavi (28 March 1954 – 19 November 2008) was a Pakistan Army two-star general and special operations expert who was the first General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the elite Special Service Group of Pakistan Army. A former member of Special Service Group, he was credited with masterminding the Angoor Ada operation in 2004, where many Arabs and Chechens based in the tribal areas were killed or arrested and turned over to the Americans.On 19 November 2008, while driving to work in his car in Islamabad, he was shot dead by three unknown gunmen. It was alleged that Ilyas Kashmiri, the chief of Jammu & Kashmir chapter of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, was behind the murder of Maj-Gen Faisal Alavi at the behest of the Taliban in North Waziristan.

Army ranks and insignia of Pakistan

The Ranks of Pakistan Army are primarily based on British Army Ranks structure, though ranks for other ranks personnel and insignia differ.

Officers and JCOs of the Pakistan Army in khaki uniform wear their rank insignia on the shoulders, while NCOs wear them on the arm. In CCD, all army personnel wear their insignia on the chest.

Ashraf Rashid

Major General Ashraf Rashid (Punjabi, Urdu: أشرف رشيد‎) (May 23, 1948 – October 2, 2004) was a two-star general in the Pakistan Army and the colonel commandant of the Special Service Group division within the Pakistan Army from October 1995 to September 1999. A career army special forces officer, he was responsible for conducting paramilitary operations and infiltrating Kashmiri militants on the Indian side of the Line of Control, which subsequently led to the Kargil War. He resigned from his post in September 1999 following the intense pressure on Pakistan from international community to withdraw its military forces from Kargil.


Chakwal (Punjabi and Urdu: چکوال‎) is the capital and main city of Chakwal District, Punjab, Pakistan. It is located 90 kilometres south-east of the federal capital, Islamabad and 270 kilometres from the provincial capital, Lahore.

Grup Gerak Khas

The 21 Grup Gerak Khas (English: 21st Special Service Group, Jawi: ٢١ ڬروڤ ڬرق خاص) - commonly known as GGK - is a special forces regiment of the Malaysian Army which conducts special operations missions for the Malaysian government, such as direct action, unconventional warfare, sabotage, counter-terrorism, and intelligence gathering. It is the administrative and operational group to which the three regiments of the Gerak Khas and its supporting units are subordinated.

While the GGK traces its origins to 1965 and the post Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation, they gained fame and recognition worldwide after successfully pacifying a communist insurgency in the jungles of Malaysia during the Communist insurgency between 1968 and 1989.

21 Gerup Gerak Khas is commanded by a Major General and is currently located at Iskandar Camp, in Mersing, Johor comprising 11th Gerak Khas Regiment tasked to counter-terrorism, 21st Commando Regiment and 22nd Commando Regiment. The tasks of the three regiments are guerrilla/anti-guerrilla warfare, escape and evasion, subversion, sabotage, counter terrorism, asymmetric warfare and their most highly regarded expertise – jungle warfare.

Haroon Islam

Lieutenant Colonel Haroon Islam was a colonel in the Pakistan Army's Special Service Group (also known as Black Storks) who died during Operation Silence. He was a commanding officer of Operation Silence while commanding the Zarrar Anti Terrorist Unit. He was killed in fierce fighting which took place inside the Red Mosque Complex while leading a small force of 150 SSG members. The Special Service Group successfully took over the complex. On March 23, 2008, he was posthumously awarded the second highest civilian award, Hilal-e-Shujaat (Crescent of Bravery) by the President of Pakistan.

Naval Intelligence (Pakistan)

The Directorate-General for the Naval Intelligence (reporting name: DGNI), unofficially as Naval Intelligence or Nav Intel, is the military intelligence agency within the Pakistan Navy tasked with primarily the Navy's modernization efforts and advancing knowledge of protecting Nation's interests from seaborne attacks.The Naval Intelligence is tasked with primary objective of providing critical information to the Pakistani military's combat branches ranging from gather advanced knowledge on threats of terrorism and briefing on potential targets to the Marines Recon teams and the Special Service Group Navy (SSGN).

PNS Iqbal

The PNS Iqbal (Urdu: پایگاه بحریہ اقبال‎) is the naval base that serves as the training and operating headquarters of the Navy Special Service Group, having being established in 1966 at the Karachi coast in Sindh in Pakistan.Besides serving as the headquarter of the Navy Special Service Group, the PNS Iqbal is a submarine base for the Cosmos-class submarine, and served as a submarine base since its establishment in 1968.In 1991, the PNS Iqbal served as the operation base for the Pakistan Marines when the 1st Marines Battalion was established before the Marines were relocated at Qasim Fort located in the Qasim Marines Base in Karachi coast.

PNS Mehran attack

The PNS Mehran attack was an attack/shooting by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Al Qaeda which took place on 22 May 2011, at PNS Mehran, the headquarters of the Pakistan Navy's Naval Air Arm and the most populous Pakistani military installation. It is located near the PAF's Faisal Air Force Base of Karachi, Sindh. In the course of the event, 15 attackers killed 18 military personnel and wounded 16 in a sophisticated terrorist attack. Two American-built P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft were destroyed.

According to the United States and Western intelligence sources, the attack was far more dangerous than the 2009 Pakistan Army General Headquarters attack, and was better planned and more rehearsed than the previous attack. It was the biggest attack on the Navy and its assets since 1971, and is believed to be the last major attack of militant mastermind Ilyas Kashmiri. The Special Service Group Navy (SSG(N)), carried out the counter-attack, which was the largest operation led by SSG(N).

Pakistan Navy

The Pakistan Navy (PN; Urdu: پاکستان بحریہ‎; Pɑkistan Bahri'a) is the naval warfare uniform service branch of the Pakistan Armed Forces. It came into its modern existence from the Royal Indian Navy that ceased to exist following the partition of British India through a parliamentary act that established the independence of Pakistan from the United Kingdom on 14 August 1947.Its primary objective and mission statement is to ensure the defense of sealines of communications of Pakistan and safeguarding the maritime interests by executing national policies through the exercise of military effect, diplomatic and humanitarian activities in support of these objectives. In addition to its war service, the Navy has mobilized its war assets to oversee to conduct the humanitarian rescue operations at home as well as taking participation in multinational task forces mandated by the United Nations to prevent seaborne terrorism and privacy off the coasts.The Pakistan Navy is a volunteer force which has been in mainly in conflict with neighboring India twice on its sea borders, and has been repeatedly deployed in Indian Ocean to act as a military advisory in the Arab states and other friendly nations during the events of multinational conflict as part of its commitment to the United Nations. Overall manpower strength in the Navy is supported by the various branches within the Navy, including the Aviation, Marines, and the Maritime Security Agency– the coast guard branch within the Navy. Since its commencement on 14 August 1947, the defensive role of the Navy has expanded from securing the sealines and becoming the custodian of Pakistan's second strike capability with an ability to launch underwater missile system to target enemy positions.The Constitution of Pakistan establishes the role of the President of Pakistan as an elected civilian Commander-in-Chief, and the Navy is commanded by the appointed Chief of Naval Staff, by statue a four-star rank admiral, who is a senior member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee is appointed by the Prime Minister and confirmed by the President of Pakistan. The Pakistan Navy is currently in command under Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi who was in this command position on appointed on 7 October 2017.

Siege of Lal Masjid

The Siege of Lal Masjid (Urdu: لال مسجد محاصرہ‎, code-named Operation Sunrise) was a confrontation in July 2007 between Islamic fundamentalist and the Government of Pakistan, led by President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. The focal points of the operation were the Lal Masjid ("Red Mosque") and the Jamia Hafsa madrasah complex in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Since January 2006, Lal Masjid and the adjacent Jamia Hafsa madrasah had been operated by Islamic militants led by two brothers, Abdul Aziz and Abdul Rashid. This organisation advocated the imposition of Sharia (Islamic religious law) in Pakistan and openly called for the overthrow of the Pakistani government. Lal Masjid was in constant conflict with authorities in Islamabad for 18 months prior to the military operation. They engaged in violent demonstrations, destruction of property, kidnapping, arson and armed clashes with the authorities. After Lal Masjid militants set fire to the Ministry of Environment building and attacked the Army Rangers who guarded it, the military responded, and the siege of the Lal Masjid complex began.

The complex was besieged from 3 to 11 July 2007, while negotiations were attempted between the militants and the state's Shujaat Hussain and Ijaz-ul-Haq. Once negotiations failed, the complex was stormed and captured by the Pakistan Army's Special Service Group. The government reported that the operation resulted in 154 deaths, and 50 militants were captured (other estimates were higher). It also prompted pro-Taliban rebels along the Afghan border to nullify a 10-month-old peace agreement with the Pakistani Government. This event triggered the Third Waziristan War, which marked another surge in militancy and violence in Pakistan and has resulted in more than 3,000 casualties.

Special Service Group (Navy)

The Pakistan Navy Special Service Group abbreviated SSGN, is the special operations force tasked with the conducting the small-unit based military operations in all environmental formats of the sea, air, and land by adopting to the tactics of the unconventional warfare.The command and control of the Special Service Group (Navy) falls under the responsibility of the Naval Strategic Forces Command and its personnel are directly recruited into ISI's Covert Action Division (CAD) upon their retirements from their military service.There is no official report on the actual strength or their military missions since their operational works are subjected to the secrecy by the federal government of Pakistan; knowledge of their works and tactics known in public through the only authorized media works and nonfiction works by the navy veteran.

Special Services Wing

The Special Service Wing (SSW), codename the SS Wing, or previously known as 312th Special Service Wing or Maroon berets, is a special operations aerospace unit of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The SS Wing or Maroon Berets are an elite, special operations force based on the United States Air Force's Special Tactics Squadrons and the United States Army Rangers. The SSW is a new military division of the Special Forces Command of the Pakistan Armed Forces. The division has recently been revived and is fielding between 800 and 1,200 troops.

Tariq Mehmood

Brigadier Tariq Mehmood also Brigadier TM and TM Shaheed, (8 Oct 1938 – 29 May 1989), SJ (Bar), SBt, SI(M) was an officer of Pakistan Army. He was serving as the Commander of Pakistan Army's Special Service Group (SSG), when he died in an accident in 1989 due to malfunctioning of his parachute during a free fall display at Rahwali, near Gujranwala. Mehmood was one of the most decorated Army officers who served with the SSG in two wars and various special operations.

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