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 responses to “1915-2006: Ghulam Ishaq Khan Dead”

  1. Roshan Malik says:

    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.

  2. Mast Qalandar says:

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

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

  3. Hassan says:

    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.

  4. Adnan Ahmad says:

    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.

  5. ALVIPERVAIZ says:

    “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.

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