Zaheerul Islam was commissioned in the Punjab Regiment in the 55th PMA Long Course on 16 April 1977. He served as Corps Commander V Corps in Karachi before appointment of ISI Chief. Zaheer served as DG (C) in the ISI before he was promoted as a 3-star general and moved to Karachi as corps commander. He was GOC Murree for some time before coming to the ISI. He also served as Chief of Staff in the Army Strategic Force Command for 2004–2006.