Nishan-e-Haider (abbreviated as “NH”) is Pakistan’s highest military gallantry award. “Nishan-e-Haider” literally means “Emblem of the Lion” in the Urdu language. The word “Haider” is also the epithet of Ali, who is referred to as the ‘Lion of God’, a valiant warrior and leader.
The Nishan-e-Haider can only be awarded to members of the Pakistan Armed Forces for the highest acts of extraordinary bravery in the face of the enemy in air, land or sea. Its exclusivity can be gauged by the fact that, since Pakistan’s independence in 1947, it has been awarded only ten times (now eleven, due to Hilal-e-Kashmir being equal to Nishan-e-Haider).
The Nishan-e-Haider was established by the Government of Pakistan and named after Ali ibn Abi Talib on 16 March 1957, the year that Pakistan became a republic. It was applied retrospectively from the date of Pakistan’s independence on 14 August 1947. It is Pakistan’s highest award and takes precedence over all military and civil awards. Of the ten Nishan-e-Haider recipients to date, nine have been from the Army and one from the Air Force.
Although some consider it equivalent to the British Victoria Cross and the United States Medal of Honor, it is unique in that it has so far been awarded only posthumously.
The Nishan-e-Haider can be awarded to all ranks of the Armed Forces for showing feats of extraordinary courage in confronting the enemy. As a matter of practice and precedent, it has only been awarded where it has been established that the recipient acted despite high risks and was killed in the act.
The Nishan-e-Haider is manufactured by Pakistan Mint on order of the Ministry of Defence. It is forged from captured enemy equipment and consists of 88% copper, 10% tin and 2% zinc.