A graduate of Joint Services Staff College, Chaklala and National Defence College, Islamabad, Admiral Afzal Tahir was born in Faisalabad on 4 January 1949. His parents migrated from Kapurthala, Indian Punjab during Partition. His father worked as an administrative officer in the Kapurthala Princely State, and later as a Central Superior Services officer in the Federal Government of Pakistan.
Afzal Tahir joined the Pakistan Navy on 11 May 1967 and attended the Pakistan Military Academy and the Naval Academy at Abbottabad and Karachi respectively prior to commissioning in December 1970 in the special operations branch. He was among one of the few naval officers who were selected for the training with Army's Special Service Group, and his naval unit was sent to United States to conduct its exercise and training with U.S. Navy SEALs in 1969.
After his training, he was transferred to the Special Service Group Navy, a Navy's special operations unit, as an elite commanding officer. He saw action in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 where he actively participated in the conflict.
Previously, Lieutenant Commander Afzal Tahir had studied special war courses in Pakistan Military Academy. He was a platoon commander of the Special Service Group Navy where he commanded a small team of Navy commandos in East Pakistan against the Indian Army. He led 3 successful ground based naval operations along with the Army and gained a respective reputation in Special Service Group Navy.
After the conflict, Lieutenant Commander Tahir left the Naval Special Forces and served on surface ships and minesweepers before opting to join Naval Aviation in March 1974. His tours of duty in Aviation Service took him twice to the United Kingdom for Basic Observer and Helicopter Warfare Instructor courses.
In July 1985 he was promoted to the rank of Commander, to Captain in July 1992 and to Commodore in 1998. In 2000, he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and then to Vice Admiral on 1 September 2004. He was promoted to the rank of Admiral on 7 October 2005 and appointed as Chief of Naval Staff of the Pakistan Navy.
His staff appointments include deputy chief of naval staff, chief staff officer to the Pakistan fleet commander and instructor at the Joint Services Staff College. His command assignments include the command of a guided missile destroyer and command of naval aviation. His last command appointment was as the commander of the Pakistan fleet.
A keen sportsman and single-handicap golfer, Admiral Muhammad Afzal Tahir retired in October 2008. He is also a recipient of the Sitara-i-Imtiaz and Hilal-i-Imtiaz. Admiral Afzal Tahir is married and has three daughters and two sons.