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Farooq Leghari

October 21, 2010

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Even though he was put in President House by the PPP he developed differences with Benazir Bhutto and dismissed her government under the now defunct Article 58-2(b). -Photo by AFP

Farooq Leghari's death on Wednesday brings to an end a public career that saw him rise from a civil servant to a politician who ultimately became president. Mr Leghari remained loyal to the PPP it even during the Zia regime when the party was persecuted unabashedly.

When Mr Bhutto was arrested Mr Leghari became head of the party, with Gen Zia putting him under house arrest several times. However, he did not succumb to the pressure. Elected senator in 1975 during the first PPP tenure, he later won National Assembly seats on the PPP ticket thrice — 1988, 1990 and 1993. He was the man behind the PPP's 'long march' during the Nawaz regime and was beaten by the police. His elevation to the presidency in 1993 was the culmination of a cabinet career that began in 1975 when he became a minister in the first PPP government, later holding several portfolios, including those of finance and, briefly, foreign affairs.

Even though he was put in President House by the PPP he developed differences with Benazir Bhutto and dismissed her government under the now defunct Article 58-2(b). He tried to strike a working relationship with Nawaz Sharif but was alarmed by his plans to assume absolute power through the Eighth Amendment. Mr Leghari then sought Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah's help in resisting Nawaz Sharif's ambition, but Mr Sharif made them both go.

In his post-presidency period, Mr Leghari's career was lacklustre, marked by stupefying changes in loyalties. Like Ghulam Ishaq Khan he could have retired from politics. Instead, he formed the Millat Party and merged it with the seven-party National Alliance to oppose Gen Musharraf, but later joined the PML-Q, with his son becoming a minister in the Musharraf government. The post-presidency period hardly added to his stature.