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Ghulam Ishaq Khan passes away

October 28, 2006

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PESHAWAR, Oct 27: From an extra assistant commissioner to one of Pakistan’s most powerful presidents, who dismissed two democratically-elected governments, Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s eventful life spanning over 92 years came to an end here on Friday.

The former president was laid to rest after breathing his last at his University Town residence at 10:55am. He was about 92 years of age.

His death has brought to an end an important chapter of the country’s chequered political history as during his prolonged stint in the corridors of power he saw several governments being overthrown.

He was instrumental in dislodging two elected governments — one led by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the other one led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif — and in the process installed his handpicked interim governments first under a deal with Nawaz Sharif in 1990 and later with Benazir Bhutto in 1993.

However, since his departure from the President’s House in 1993 under a compromise deal brokered by former Chief of Army Staff Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar that also saw the exit of the then prime minister Mian Mohammed Nawaz Sharif, the ailing former president was leading a rather secluded life.

The former President had since his departure from the Presidency, never uttered a word about his involvement in removing either the Benazir’s or Nawaz governments.

“He would never speak about those days and happenings around him as he always chose to keep memories of those times close to his heart describing them as state’s secrets,” says Haroon Bilour, Mr Khan’s family member.

Having remained close to former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, military dictator Ziaul Haq and serving as the president of Pakistan, he is considered to have played a pivotal role in implementing the country’s nuclear programme, prompting a US diplomat to call him ‘Mr Nuke’, his long-time associate and aide, Roedad Khan said.

His family members said that since his retirement he had dedicated most of his time to reading newspapers and books, gardening and taking care of his pet dogs.

For the past six months, they said, the ageing former president had lost interest in all those hobbies and had grown so weak that he could walk only with support and felt comfortable in using a wheelchair.

His brother-in-law Shaukatullah Khan said: “He passed away as quitely as he had been throughout his life.”

Veteran politicians Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Chaudhary Shujjat Hussain, Maulana Samiul Haq, Gohar Ayub Khan, former President Farooq Laghari, Sindh Chief Minister Arbab Ghulam Rahim, NWFP Governor Lt-Gen (retd) Ali Mohammed Jan Aurakzai, federal ministers Ijazul Haq and Salim Saifullah Khan, federal minister of state Omer Ayub and political leaders and activists belonging to different political parties took part in last rituals and attended his funeral prayers at University Town Club, Park Road, here.

Later, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also visited his residence to offer condolence to his family.

Strict security measures had been taken on the occasion.

Attended by hundreds of people representing different walks of life, his funeral procession was given official protocol in his capacity as the former head of the state.

He was buried in the graveyard located in the University Town, Peshawar.

He has left behind an extended family including one son, Mamoon Ishaq Khan and five daughters Samina, Rakhsha, Nilofar, Yasmin and Nageen — with the first two married to former federal minister Anwar Saifullah and sitting provincial minister from Sindh Irfanullah Marwat, respectively.

Born on January 15, 1915 in Ismail Khel village, some eight kilometres from Bannu towards Lakki Marwat, Mr Khan performed a key role in the power game that invariably strengthened invisible forces at the cost of democracy in the country.

He has to his credit the establishment of Rs2.2 billion Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Science and Technology in Swabi.

Starting his professional career as a junior civil servant well before the sub-continent’s partition in 1947, Mr Khan made a steady journey upward to become an all-powerful president of Pakistan in 1988 — an office he held for over four years.

According to his family members, Mr Khan, who was a child when his father died, after doing his graduation in chemistry and botany joined the NWFP Civil Service in 1938.

Before rising to echelons of power in mid 1950s, during his early years in the government service he served as a treasury officer in Bannu, extra assistance commissioner in Abbottabad, assistant commissioner of Haripur and Nowshera and bursar at the Islamia Collegel in Peshawar in mid 1940s.

Brushing aside as a mere propaganda by his opponents, his son- in-law Dr Zafar Durrani said Mr Khan had never served as a ‘Naib Tehsildar’ — as the word goes about the former president’s rise to power.

“He would never hesitate to accept that he has served on minor posts as well before assuming key offices through sheer hard work,” said his brother-in-law Shakatullah Khan.

After serving as the Development Commissioner of NWFP in early 1950s, Mr Khan, according to his family members, served as the federal secretary irrigation, water and power 1954 onward before becoming member finance in the water and power development authority in 1956, Wapda chairman in 1963, secretary finance and secretary cabinet in the second half of 1960s.

In December 1971, the then prime minister Zulfikar Bhutto appointed Ghulam Ishaq Khan the governor of the State Bank — the post he occupied for slightly over three years before being made secretary defence in March 1975. From there he was elevated to the post of secretary-general-in-chief in July 1977 shortly after the then Chief of Army Staff Gen Ziaul Haq pronounced himself as the ‘Chief Martial Law Administrator’, suspended the country’s constitution and overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a successful late night military coup.

Later, he also served as federal finance minister in the Zia’s military dispensation and got elected as a member of the Senate on the NWFP’s quota of seats reserved for technocrats in early 1985 before being nominated by the military dictator as a candidate in the elections of senate’s chairman.

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