Vice-Admiral Haji Mohammad Siddiq Choudri (1912-2004)
|Vice-Admiral Mohammad Siddiq Choudri (b. 1912—27 February 2004), HPk, MBE, HI(M) was a three-star rank admiral in the Pakistan Navy who was the first native chief of staff of Pakistan Navy. In 1953, he was appointed as second Commander-in-Chief after taking over the command from Royal Navy’s Rear Admiral J.W. Jefford, and served under two Governor-Generals from 1953–56, and then under President Iskander Mirza from 1956 until 1959.|
He resigned from his command due to differences regarding the navy’s plans of modernization and to end the interservice rivalry with Army GHQ, Pakistan MoD, and the Presidency on 26 January 1959. He was one of the only few military officials who resigned from their commission over the disagreement with the civilian government and was eventually succeeded by Vice-Admiral A. R. Khan on 28 February 1959. He died on 27 February 2004 and was buried in military graveyard in Karachi with full military honors.
Early years and World War II
Haji Mohammad Choudhri was born in Batala, Punjab, British India in 1912 in an Arain family. Very little is known about his early life which based on combined military history of India and Pakistan. As many of contemporaries in the British Indian military, he was educated at the Rashtriya Indian Military College and later joined the Britannia Royal Naval College in the United Kingdom.
He was among one of the first Indians and first Indian Muslim to have gained commissioned as Midshipman in Royal Indian Navy’s Executive Branch in 1931.
He was trained as torpedo and anti-submarine specialist and held various officer’s appointments both at sea and with land-based naval formations before and after the World War II. He participated in World War II’s Pacific theatre as part of Royal Indian Navy on the side the United Kingdom against the Imperial Japanese Navy. He witnessed the Japanese surrender in 1945 and commanded a naval division that consisted of the two-ship formation that represented the Royal Indian Navy.
At the time of the partition of British India in 1947, Captain Choudhri was one of the senior-most Indian officer and decided to opt for Pakistan in 1947. He was among the first twenty naval officers who joined the Royal Pakistan Navy (RPN) as a Captain with a service number PN. 0001. He was the first most senior and the only Captain in the navy in terms of seniority list provided by the Royal Indian Navy to the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in 1947. He served on the committee that was involved in the division of the RIN’s assets between India and Pakistan. He did not actively participate in first war with India in 1947, instead he commanded a destroyer from Karachi to Mumbai to oversee the evacuation of Indian emigrants to Pakistan. In 1950, he was promoted to one-star rank, Commodore, and appointed to serve as deputy commander in chief under Rear-Admiral J.W. Jefford. Admiral Rear-Admiral Jeffords’s retirement was due in 1951 and favoured continuously appointing the British officers in the armed forces.
Commander-in-Chief and resignation
The Pakistan government called for appointing a native chief of staff of army, air force, navy, and marines, and dismissed deputation appointments from the British military. In terms of seniority, he was the most senior officer to be appointed as an admiral in the navy but the British Admiralty and Commodore Choudhri himself was in doubt to be appointed as commander of navy mainly because of his youth and lack of experience in military staffing. Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan approved his nomination papers as navy’s commander in chief on the condition that he would spend a year in commanding a squadron in sea, and then attend the Imperial Defence College. Upon returning to Pakistan in 1952 after he gained staff officer degree, he was appointed as Deputy Commander-in-Chief at the NHQ where he established staff corps and administration.
Although, the Pakistani government announced the appointment of navy’s first native commander in chief in 1951 and Commodore Choudhri’s nomination papers being approved by Prime Minister Ali Khan also in 1951, his appointment as navy’s first native commander in chief came only in effect in 1953 with the crucial help provided from the army’s Commander in Chief Lieutenant-General Ayub Khan. He was promoted as Vice-Admiral and assumed the command of the navy with an objective of expanding navy’s resources and infrastructure.
In 1951, Admiral Choudri decided to build the submarines and warships at the Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works, relaying his plans to the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Finance, but was told by the civilian planners that the “second-hand ships from the United Kingdom would be better off for Pakistan“, that eventually led the Navy to relay on the obsolete vessels that had to be acquire from the United Kingdom.
From 1953–56, he bitterly negotiated with the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy over the acquisition of warship and made several unsuccessful attempts for the procurement of submarines imported from the United States. In 1954, he convinced the U.S. government to provide monetary support for modernization of aging O–class destroyers and minesweepers, while commissioning the Ch–class destroyers from British Navy.
In 1955, Admiral Choudhri cancelled and disbanded the British military tradition in the navy when the U.S. Navy’s advisers were dispatched to the Pakistani military. British military tradition were only kept in the air force due to being under its British commander and major staff consisting of Royal Air Force officers. Despite initiatives, the Admiralty’s influence slowly vanished from the navy until the native officers were educated and promoted to flag ranks to replace the Royal Navy’s officers
In 1956, Admiral Choudhri sent recommendations for the construction of the seaport in Ormara and a naval base that would linked the Sonmiani, but it was bypassed Ministry of Shipping that cited financial constraints.
In 1957, he finalized the sale of cruiser warship from the United Kingdom and used the government’s own fund to induct the warship that caused a great ire against Admiral Choudhri by the Finance ministry in the country. In 1958, he made an unsuccessful attempt induct the imported submarines from Sweden using the American funds that was halted by the United States and the Pakistan’s own Finance ministry despite he had support from army chief General Ayub.
In 1958, his Navy NHQ staff began fighting with the Army GHQ staff and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over the plans regarding the modernization of the navy. He was in bitter conflict with General Ayub who saw the purchase of PNS Baber and his submarine procurement approaches had jeopardized the foreign military relations with the United States. The MoD did sanction to pay off the costly PNS Baber but halted the crucial funds for the operations of the navy which had been assembled since 1956.
In another Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting chaired by General Ayub in 1958, he became involved with heated debate over the financial costs for the naval operations in deep sea. General Ayub reportedly reached out to the President Iskander Mirza and lodged a complaint against Admiral Choudhri by noting the Admiral of “neither having the brain, imagination or depth of thought to understand such (defence) problems nor the vision or the ability to make any contribution.” Admiral Choudhri then was called to meet with President Mirza to resolve the interservice rivalry between the army and navy but it was ended with “stormy interview” with the President.
Upon returning to NHQ, Admiral Choudhry decided to tender his resignation in protest as result of having differences with Navy’s plans of expansion and modernization. He resigned from the command of navy on 26 January 1959 and cited to President: “major decision [which] have been taken with disagreement with the technical advice I have consistently tendered…. concerning the concept of our defence, the appointment of our available budget, and the size and shape of our Navy.”
In 1958, Vice-Admiral Afzal Rahman Khan, who was known to be confident of General Ayub Khan, was appointed as naval chief by President Mirza.
Post-retirement and death
After retiring from Navy, he went on to establish Merchant Navy and promoted civilian shipping trade throughout his life. After retiring from Navy in 1959, he founded and became director of Pakistan Institute of Maritime Affairs (PIMA) which he remained associated with until his death in 2004.
He avoided politics and provided no commentaries on conflicts and wars with neighboring India in successive years of 1965, 1971, and 1999. He died of old age on 27 February 2004 and was buried in a military graveyard in Karachi.
In his honor, the government established the “HMS Choudhri Memorial Hall” at the National Defence University in Islamabad in 2005.
In office: 31 January 1953 – 28 February 1959
President: Iskander Mirza (1956–59)
Governor General: Khawaja Nazimuddin (1948–51); Malik Ghulam Muhammad (1951-55)
Preceded by: Rear Admiral James Wilfred Jefford
Succeeded by: Vice Admiral Afzal Rahman Khan
Civilian awards: Hilal-e-Pakistan
Nickname(s): HMS Choudhir; Admiral Choudhri
Service/branch: Royal Indian Navy (1930–1947); Pakistan Navy (1947–59)
Years of service: 1930–1959
Rank: Vice-Admiral (S/No.PN-001)
Unit: Navy Executive Branch
Commands: Commander Pakistan Fleet; Deputy C-in-C (Operations)
Battles/wars: World War II ; Pacific War; Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
Hilal-e-Imtiaz (military); Order of the British Empire
Born: Mohammad Siddiq Choudri in 1912 at Batala, Gurdaspur, British Indian Empire
Died: 2004 (aged 91/92), Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
Resting place: Military Graveyard
Citizenship: British Indian Empire; Pakistan
Nationality: British Subject (1921–1947); Pakistan (1947–2005)
Alma mater: Rashtriya Indian Military College; Britannia Royal Naval College