1915-2006: Ghulam Ishaq Khan Dead

Posted on October 27, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, People
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Adil Najam

Just got an email from reader Adnan Ahmad (thanks) informing me that former President of Pakistan and veteran civil servant Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK), died today after a bout of pneumonia. (Historic pictures of GIK’s career in Pakistan politics, here).
According to an AP Report:

Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Pakistan’s president from 1988 to 1993, died Friday following a bout of pneumonia, his son-in-law said. Khan was 91. Khan’s son-in-law, Arfan Ullah Murwat, said the former Pakistan president, who won power following the 1988 death of military dictator Gen. Zia-ul Haq in a mysterious plane crash, had been ill for the past three months.

Khan died in the northern city of Peshawar, where he spent most of his life, Murwat said. His funeral will be held later Friday in Peshawar. “He was suffering form pneumonia, and it was the cause of his death,” Murwat told The Associated Press in Peshawar.

Khan, a career bureaucrat, was a close ally of Haq and held the post of chairman of Pakistan’s Senate when Haq was killed in a plane crash in eastern Pakistan along with then U.S. Ambassador Arnold L. Raphel and several top Pakistani generals. Regarded as a strong-willed figure, Khan worked alongside former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif but dismissed the governments led by both in 1990 and 1993 respectively on charges of corruption and mismanagement. “He (Khan) was a man of integrity,” said another son-in-law, Anwar Saifullah. “He was an honest person, and he never gave any undue favor to any one.”

The row between Khan and Sharif continued following a subsequent Supreme Court decision that reinstated Sharif’s government. Eventually, Pakistan’s powerful military intervened in the conflict and forced Kahn to reign. Khan, an ethnic-Pashtun born in northwestern Pakistan’s Bannu district, is survived by his wife, four daughters and one son. – AP

I met him first when he was the Minister of Finance and then Chairman of Gen. Zia’s Senate and later a few times during his presidency. I was always amazed at his photographic memory and immense knowledge of issues. However, his was a tragic career of a brilliant civil servant and remarkably bright technocrat who lost much of the good will he had acccumulated by being thrust into the presidency. His political legacy was scared, at best. First credited with ensuring elections after Zia’s death and then being part of two successive dismissals of elected governments. However, he was till the end known for his honesty and his technical brilliance. I have always wondered how he saw his own legacy.
The News has more details on him:

Ghulam Ishaq Khan was born on January 20, 1915, in Ismail Khel Bannu District, N.W.F.P. He did his graduation in Chemistry and Botany and joined NWFP Civil Service in 1940. After the unification of West Pakistan into One Unit in 1955, Ishaq Khan was appointed Provincial Secretary of West Pakistan for Irrigation Development. In this capacity he represented the Provincial Government in the Federal Planning Commission. In 1958, he became Member WAPDA. In 1966, he was appointed Federal Finance Secretary and promoted to Secretary General Defense during Bhutto’s tenure. General Zia appointed him Advisor on Finance and later on as Federal Finance Minister. Ishaq Khan represented his country in various international conferences, which include U. N. Conferences on Finance, IMF, OIC and Asian Development Bank.

In February 1985, Ishaq Khan was elected as Chairman of the Senate. After the death of General Zia, Ishaq Khan took over as acting President of the country on August 17, 1988. He was elected President on December 13, 1988, as the consensus candidate of PPP and IJI. During his tenure, Ishaq Khan dismissed the Governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif using discretionary powers given to the President under the controversial Eighth Constitutional Amendment.

Khan reportedly vetoed the appointment of former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Chief Hamid Gul as Army Chief, appointing the moderately reformist general Asif Nawaz Khan Janjua instead. Khan’s presidency also saw the resignation of General Rahimuddin Khan from the post of Governor of Sindh, due to differences between the two after Khan started restricting Rahimuddin’s vast amount of legislative power.

Khan’s presidency was also marked by his use of Eighth Amendment reserve powers to check the government. While the Prime Minister is the Head of Government, Khan was able to dismiss the governments of both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif on charges of corruption, mismanagement, and nepotism, thereby triggering new elections, which the incumbent parties lost. The second dismissal of government exacerbated institutional and political opposition to Khan, leading to his resignation in 1993, and later to a constitutional amendment that reduced the Presidency to a figurehead. Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences was set by him and it is located in Topi, North-West Frontier Province.

32 Comments on “1915-2006: Ghulam Ishaq Khan Dead”

  1. Owais Mughal says:
    October 27th, 2006 1:07 pm

    may his soul rest in peace. your last paragraph gives a very good conclusion of his professional career. I agree with that. He was a brilliant person and a bureaucrat but lost most of the goodwill during last days of his political career.

  2. Farrukh says:
    October 27th, 2006 1:44 pm

    He was also head of the State Bank and his signature used to be on bank notes. In reading this I was surprised how he had held just about every important post in the civil service.

    His political career was sad and his dismissals of prime ministers were bad decisions that had long range negative impacts. By the end of his Presidency the slogan had become ‘Go Baba, Go’. But you are right, there was no talk of personal corruption with him.

  3. October 27th, 2006 1:58 pm

    [quote post="383"]post in the civil service.[/quote]

    graduation in Chemisty and Botany. Amazing! That’s why he was fully aware of usage of a litmus paper in political labs *grin*.

    He was also a big advocator of An Apple a day keeps a doctor away and secret of his good health is nothing but apple =)

  4. Owais Mughal says:
    October 27th, 2006 2:00 pm

    When i mentioned the last paragraph, it was the last paragraph in black color.

  5. Arif Khan says:
    October 27th, 2006 2:48 pm

    Not to mention that he was the point man chosen by PM Zulfiqar Bhutto for the Khutta (automic)project.
    I saw him couple of years ago in University Town, peshawar. He was being driven in 8-9 years old car. Another testment to his personal financial integrity, an admirable quality considering the state of pakistan bureaucracy in the last 35 years.

  6. ALVIPERVAIZ says:
    October 27th, 2006 3:24 pm

    “graduation in Chemisty and Botany. Amazing! That’s why he was fully aware of usage of a litmus paper in political labs *grin*. He was also a big advocator of An Apple a day keeps a doctor away and secret of his good health is nothing but apple =)”

    Adnan Siddiqi. Now why do you feel compelled to make these childish remarks at the death of a distinguished man and a former president of Pakistan. What makes you think that a person with a B.Sc. in Chemistry-Botany can not pass a Civil Service Examination, go to the Civil Services Collage, join the service and excel as an administrator in the fields of irrigation, finance and defence in a course of life long service. Could we assume that you did not really mean to make these disparaging remarks.

  7. Adnan Ahmad says:
    October 27th, 2006 3:43 pm

    A good detailed post, Adil. Reading through the post I think the most important decision that he might have made in terms of long term impact on Pakistan and its future was to vetoe Hamid Gul’s appointment. You could write a book on what could otherwise have been. On an unrelated note, those who knew Asif Nawaz say he was a jem.

  8. Hassan says:
    October 28th, 2006 2:49 am

    Ghulam Ishaq’s legacy is a mixed one and in fact his whole generation of bureaucrats interfered in politics more than they ever should have. My recollection of the days immediately after Zia’s death was different from what was reported earlier (in Daily Times) and I remember vividly the suspense of ‘will he, won’t he’. Even if he did so reluctantly, he presided through a return to democracy when things could have gone very differently. Benazir and Sharif gave him great reasons to dismiss them, but by then the bureaucrat in him was alreday too close to the miltary and willing to use every rule he could to his advantage. It is sad that he did that. Otherwise history might have remember him very differently.

  9. Mast Qalandar says:
    October 27th, 2006 4:28 pm

    “Innah lillahe wa innah alaihi raajeyoon.” (Quran)

    Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. (Genesis)

  10. Roshan Malik says:
    October 27th, 2006 4:49 pm

    Ishaq Khan was a matchless technocrat but as a president he took the lead in dissolving two assemblies in recent history. Following are the credentials of our presidents since Gen Zia.

    Gen.Zia-ul-Haq (Dissolved One Assembly-1988)
    Ishaq Kha (Dissolved Two Assemblies 1990, 1993)
    Farooq Leghari (Dissolved One Assembly 1995)
    Rafiq Tarar (Removed in Coup 1999)
    Gen. Musharraf (Abrogated Constitution, Terminated Assemblies & Senate and became president)

    Adnan Ahmad@
    We might have been ruined to ashes if Hameed Gul had implemented his perspective in the country.

  11. October 27th, 2006 4:59 pm


    It is a bit depressing to see what evolved during the presidencies in the recent past (as highlighted by Roshan Malik). Besides the military presidents, do the civilian presidents also aspire for more power than they really need to do good work for the nation?

    GIK was quite an impressive individual with interesting swings in popularity in the country. I remember everyone raving about his qualificatios as technocrat when he took over, but then his dismissal of two governments, and the rule of terror brought to Karachi by the Interior Minister under Bhutto government (who I think was his nephew) placed him in a very negative light, at least amongst the Karachiites.
    GIK Institute was also supposed to become a terrific institution, one I considered going to as an undergraduate, but its fate became a bit similar to its founder. Unfortunate!

  12. Adnan Ahmad says:
    October 27th, 2006 5:23 pm

    In a village once an unloved man passed away. After the burial people were offering fateha but no one was able to think of anythin good to say about the deceased. In the end the barber of the village spoke up and said “marhoom ke baal bohot naram thay..(he had very soft hair)..” I guess many above are also at a loss of words..

  13. Bhindigosht says:
    October 27th, 2006 5:25 pm

    Is his son-in-law Marwat, the same Marwat who was implicated in the Veena Hayat case?

  14. Samdani says:
    October 27th, 2006 7:23 pm

    It is a sad news. I still want to remember him as the guy who took over as acting President after Zia. I remember no one was sure if there would be another Martial Law or some way to postpone elections. Lets give him credit for ensuring elections then. Whatever type of election it was. Let us judge him on his total life and not just those two dismissals (its not as if BB and Nawaz were blameless, although I think the dismissals were wrong). In total, I think his pluses were better than his minuses.

  15. Owais Mughal says:
    October 27th, 2006 8:51 pm

    Dear bhindigosht, yes irfanullah is the same gauy who got fame from Veena Hyat case

  16. bhindigosht says:
    October 27th, 2006 11:56 pm

    Samdani, in response to your comment:
    [quote post="383"]I still want to remember him as the guy who took over as acting President after Zia. I remember no one was sure if there would be another Martial Law or some way to postpone elections. Lets give him credit for ensuring elections then.[/quote]

    This from Daily Times today:
    >>>>Depite GIK publicly proclaiming his commitment to holding elections on Nov 16 1988, disbelief continued to prevail mainly for the reason that he was known for his contempt for politicians and as a Bhutto-hater. His declaration of a state of emergency was not well received, nor was his decision to delay appointing a caretaker prime minister and a Cabinet. The election issue was finally resolved by the Supreme Court only a month before they were held. Not only did SC order holding of elections, it also ruled that these would be held on party basis.

  17. bhindigosht says:
    October 27th, 2006 11:57 pm

    Owais, I remember that at a lecture in Islamabad, Marwat was invited as a speaker. When he got up to speak, all the women, led by Saba Gul Khattak (head of SDPI) walked out in protest.

  18. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    October 28th, 2006 1:57 am

    [quote post="383"]these childish remarks at th[/quote]

    Alipervez, how can my remarks appear childish while i was actually singing paraises of His skills and talent? If you are lacking to grasp something then it doesn’t mean it’s not credible. I certainly praised his political skills by bringing the term “Litmus Paper” as He was part of few political upsets in history of Pakistani politics.

    [quote post="383"]What makes you think that a person with a B.Sc. in Chemistry-Botany can not pass a [quote post="383"]Could we assume th[/quote]
    Civil Service Examination[/quote]

    Again, I was actually praising him.

    [quote post="383"]death of a distinguished man[/quote]

    I think I broke his death news hours before on my Blog before Adil Najam and If one bothers himself to read the content, I was not offending or celebrating his death.

    [quote post="383"]Could we assume that [/quote]

    I don’t care what you or others assume. You guys wasted your lives by making baseless assumptions about others and then finally get failed. like assumptions about mullahs, assumptions about jinnah, assumptions about _GodDamn_whatever_exists_on_this_land.

    I am not answerable to you so your assumptions would certainly not make any difference at all.

  19. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    October 28th, 2006 2:03 am

    @Alipervez: did you read Quran for Ishaq’s Esaal-e-Sawab and made few duas for him? If not then you don’t deserve to say anything to me.

  20. YLH says:
    October 28th, 2006 2:30 am

    Dear Adnan Siddiqui,

    Please recall that in many of your debates on this board and others you’ve never produced a single shred of evidence or an unbiased source on anything.

    It is you who makes all the assumptions and then abuses others.

  21. Adnan Siddiqi says:
    October 28th, 2006 5:23 am

    YLH: A person who comes up with absurd comments like “Mullah Thugs”don’t sound good to preach me tht I shouldn’t abuse. Go and preach to those who never read you.

    [quote post="383"]then abuses others[/quote]

    Hypocrite reader – my fellow – my brother! ~St Jerome

  22. Zak says:
    October 28th, 2006 12:01 pm

    A quintessential establishment man, along with Ghulam Faruque and Roedad Khan, the most influential pashtun bureaucrats in Pakistans history.

    To me he epitomised the classic quandry of how Pakistan has not been destroyed by financial corruption but by corruption of power.

  23. YLH says:
    October 30th, 2006 5:22 am

    Adnan mian

    Anyone who forces another person to conform to a certain belief system is a “Mullah thug”… I don’t care if that person is a Muslim, Christian or a Hindu…. he is a Mullah thug.

    This is a simple distinction that you don’t get.

  24. Owais Mughal says:
    October 31st, 2006 1:16 pm

    I recently finished a book by Roedad Khan called ‘Pakistan inqalaab ke dahaanay par’ Roedad Khan a bureaucrat himself was GIK’s right man and describes in detail many aspects of GIK’s personality. Roedad was also the chief nogititator from GIK side during the confrontation with Nawaz Sharif. They went looking for BB’s support against Nawaz. BB promised it but then played double game and promised GIK continued presidency if Nawaz was removed. In the end GIK had to leave his post as the President as BB removed her support to him after Nawaz govt was dismissed. Such failures in politics plus confrontation with Nawaz brought bad name to GIK.

    Apart from that he was a brilliant bureaucrat. in 1965 war with India he was chairman of Wapda. At one stage India breached a canal deliberately to submerge the advancing Pak tanks. Pak govt called on GIK to calculate how much time Pak tanks had before the water approached and they got submerged. Using his experience with Wapda and filling of hydel dams GIK calculated the time and it made the machinery come back in time.

    In the floods of 1992 where Mangla spillway was discharged in emergency and caused a flash flood downstream, he visited the area as President and told the corp commander that he knows Mangla reaches its max capacity around Sept 17 eavery year. He remembered this from this days at Wapda some 30 years ago.

    These are some of the things that I remember about him

  25. Adnan Ahmad says:
    October 31st, 2006 2:49 pm

    Owais, We have gotten so used to expecting an utter ineptitude from people having positions of power that when we see basic things like the ones you mention above we think of them as extraordinary. If not WAPDA cief/engineer then who should know those things better. This is my observation on ourselves and not on your post.

  26. Owais Mughal says:
    October 31st, 2006 3:33 pm

    Adnan. baat to tumhari bhi sahih hai :) Just today the following news appears on Dawn’s front page, where Wapda is blamed for 1992 flash flood. Wapda engineers were working on couple of Mangla turbines downstream and therefore water flow was stopped. Rain was happening in catchment areas but Wapda ignored the fact and didn’t open the spillway gates until water level reached too high. many people lost lives as a result of flash flood. It is off topic but I still want to share the following news as last few messages were about Wapda. Some indirect connection with GIK can be made b/c he was the President when 1992 floods happened and he was also chairman Wapda in one of his past lives.


  27. November 3rd, 2006 12:36 pm

    The comments and counter are getting too far. Lets say a few Good words also for the departed soul. All of us know that he as Finance Minister and having full control on Finances during Zias tenure, and later as President didnot hesistate in providing support for the Nuclear Programme which Bhutto had started.

  28. November 4th, 2006 1:05 pm

    Having read Adnan – Owais tete-e-tete on GIK all I will do at the momnt is to recite Surae Fateha for the departed soul. May his soul rest in peace.

  29. November 8th, 2006 12:43 pm

    Ghulam Ishaq Khan – The comments from OWAIS MUGHUL dated Oct 31st at 1.16 and later on same date at 3.33 apparantly indicative of self contradiction.

  30. raja says:
    November 29th, 2006 12:32 am


  31. Owais Mughal says:
    November 29th, 2006 10:31 am

    We can have our opposition to GIK’s politics. We may also agree that his sons in law did wrong, but when a person is deceased we do pray for his ‘maghfarat’ and that God be kind on him. Atleast this is our part of culture.

  32. Ghalib says:
    December 16th, 2006 11:28 pm

    i condole his death! ina Allah..
    But truth of the matter is he was the part of the machinery that led us to this day!
    His gud thing i guess was GIK institute that he gave his land!rest we all know he was a civil servant and came into politics!
    another feat he as well looked over nuclear project with care!
    I dun rate him much as he cud have done better!

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