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Ghulam Ishaq Khan (1915-2006)
Ghulam Ishaq Khan was the former President of Pakistan who served as the President of Pakistan from 1988 to 1993. He was the only President who had come from the civil bureaucracy. He had previously served as the Chairman of the Senate, and as the Defense Secretary.
Ghulam Ishaq Khan was born on 20th January 1915 in the village Ismail Khel in the Bannu District (Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa). He joined Peshawar University in 1933 where he received his B.S. in Chemistry first and then Botany, followed by his M.S. in Nuclear chemistry in 1940. Despite his educational field, Khan joined the Indian Civil Service and became a career bureaucrat in the Government of the British Indian Empire. He was appointed to the significant Civil Service of Pakistan after independence in 1947.
Ghulam Ishaq Khan, first of all, held various local posts in the Sindh Government, and then he was selected as the Chairman of the West-Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority in 1961. In 1966, he was out and was made Finance Secretary of the Ministry of Finance until 1970 when he resigned from his position. After witnessing the terrible Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Khan was tasked to run the retail and commercial services, since the economy was in a breakable state. This task was considered quite difficult and challenging for a country that was mutilated as a result of this war. In 1971, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto appointed him as the Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan when he was tasked to carry out monetary and credit policy following Government policy with the influence of socialism. In the latter position, he asked the wisdom of a number of the economic policies of then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was keen to strengthen his nationalization and socialist influence in the financial institutions that marked the slowdown of the economy.
In 1977, Bhutto accordingly moved Khan from the bank and was appointed as the Secretary of the Ministry of Defense. Although an unusual post for a senior economics expert, it proved to be fortuitous in that it brought him into close contact with the senior officers of the Pakistan Armed Forces.
The ouster of Bhutto was notably a major event in his life. At the time Bhutto was forcefully being removed under the Fair Play, Khan was preparing to meet with Bhutto to present the valuation report. Khan came in an initial state of shock when he received a call from Pakistan Army Combatant General Headquarters (GHQ) that Bhutto has been forcefully removed by Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq. Therefore, Khan immediately went to meet General Zia-ul-Haq. At the meeting with General Zia-ul-Haq and his top military generals, Khan had told General Zia-ul-Haq that this action was going to harm the country, but since it could not be reversed, they should do their best to rescue whatever they could.
During General Zia-ul-Haq’s Martial law regime, Ishaq Khan’s titles changed, but he was responsible for all important economic decisions. Among other things, he supported the Zia government’s efforts to Islamize the economy by changes in the fiscal and banking systems.
Khan successfully electioneered and won the 1985 parliamentary elections for the Senate Secretariat. Khan was voted for Chairing the Senate Secretariat and assumed this office on 21st March 1985. After the controversial and mysterious aviation accident that occurred in Bahawalpur, Khan appeared on national television where he declared the death of General Zia-ul-Haq. In 1988, Khan became acting President per the Constitutional rules of succession and was legally elected to the position in December of that year. He held the position of President until 1993.
As President, Pakistan’s economy suffered from economic and political upheavals. During his Presidency, the economic issue was considered a national highest priority. However, after the Pressler amendment came into effect by the United States, a large military and economic embargo was forced on Pakistan, and many commercial relations with Pakistan were cut off. During his time, nuclear development, economic issues, and political stability were considered his presidency’s highest priority. But, Khan’s presidency failed to arrest the control of currency and the new currency crises hampered the Pakistan economy badly. Khan repeatedly dismissed the democratically elected governments of Benazir Bhutto and Navaz Sharif that seriously undermined Khan’s effort to improve the economy. In the end, Khan was forced to resign from the Presidency and a call for new elections was made.
Khan’s presidency was marked by his use of Eighth Amendment reserve powers to check the government. While the Prime Minister is the Head of Government, Khan, as President of Pakistan, was able to dismiss the governments of both prime ministers, 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.
Ghulam Ishaq Khan was one of the vital administrators of Pakistan’s integrated atomic bomb project and was one indirectly associated personality of the project. For Ishaq Khan, nuclear deterrence was his top priority and channeled funds for the development of the atomic bombs during his role as Treasure minister.
Despite coming to an arrangement with the PPP government to be re-elected to the presidency after the 1993 elections, he was eventually dropped as a candidate in favor of Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari. He subsequently retired from politics and avoided contact with the international and national media. He died on 27 October 2006 after a bout of pneumonia.
He has to his credit the establishment of Rs 2.2 billion Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology in Swabi, Topi, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.