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Iskandar Mirza (1898-1969)
Iskander Mirza, the first President of Pakistan, was born on 14th December 1898 at Murshidabad a town and district of British India in the Presidency division of Bengal. He belonged to a feudal family of Bengal and was the great-grandson of the last Nawab of Bengal, Mir Jafar. He completed his early education at Elphinstone College in Bombay. Later on, he joined Sandhurst Academy in England for army training in 1918. Upon his return, he was commissioned into the British Indian Army in 1920. He served as an Assistant Commissioner in North West Frontier Province and District Officer in Tribal Areas till 1931. He also severed as Joint Sectary in the Ministry of Defense of United India. Before the partition of India, he was the senior-most Muslim Civil Servant in the Indian Ministry of Defense. During this time he gained firsthand experience in defense strategy.
After the creation of Pakistan, he served as Secretary to the Government from 1948 to 1952. He was appointed Governor of East Pakistan in 1954. Ghulam Muhammad was succeeded by Iskander Mirza so he became the last Governor-General of Pakistan. According to the 1956 Constitution, he became the first President of Pakistan. He remained in his from March 1956 to 24th October 1958. President Iskander Mirza abrogated the 1956 Constitution with the help of General Ayub Khan, the Chief Martial Law Administrator, and enforced the first martial law to crush the rebellions in East Pakistan. On 27th October 1958, Ayub Khan ordered to have President Mirza arrested, with the help of Military Police. He was then exiled to London until his death. He died of a heart attack in London on 12th November 1969.
He is criticized for facilitating the first Martial Law in the history of Pakistan. Iskander Mirza was considered a power-hungry person like Ghulam Muhammad. He also wanted to dominate the political scene of the country by any means possible. Being the Head of State, he always remained active in power politics and played the role of a kingmaker.
Iskander Mirza, who took oath as the president of Pakistan under the Constitution of 1956, did not hesitate to violate it and in his address to the nation declared, “The Constitution which was brought into being on March 23, 1956, after so many tribulations, is unworkable. It is full of dangerous compromises so that Pakistan will disintegrate internally if the inherent malaise is not removed… As head of state, my foremost duty before my God and the people in the integrity of Pakistan. It is seriously threatened… I have, therefore, decided that the constitution of March 23, 1956, will be abrogated (and) Pakistan will come under Martial Law. I hereby appoint General Ayub Khan, Commander in chief, Pakistan Army as the chief martial law administrator.”
Mirza thought that with the enforcement of Martial Law, he as the president of the country would be free to exercise his power and Ayub will provide him the necessary support. However, Ayub Khan had other intentions.
On October 27, 1958, Ayub Khan took oath as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He admitted that “I do solemnly affirm that in the office of Prime Minister, I will faithfully discharge such duties as the President may assign to me”.
The new cabinet composed of serving powerful army generals, spineless bureaucrats, and unknown technocrats took oath on October 27, 1958. Ayub was appointed as the Prime Minister. The inclusion of Muhammad Shoaib, who was imported from the World Bank and was a letter on accepted to be on the payroll of the Americans, as Finance Minister was a clear indication that the United States was behind the establishment in enforcing Martial Law.
In the evening, Ayub and General W A Burki visited the President and confirmed their loyalty. However, at around ten Gen. Azam Khan, Gen. K.M. Shaikh, and Gen. Burki alongside a platoon of soldiers woke the president up from his sleep and worn in a bath gown he was forced to sing his resignation on the gunpoint. Iskander Mirza, along with his wife and two suitcases was transferred to the airport and was boarded on a flight to London.