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Ghulam Ishaq Khan

Ghulam Ishaq Khan (Urdu: غلام اسحاق خان ‎; 20 January 1915 – 27 October 2006), sometimes abbreviated to GIK, was the 7th President of Pakistan from 1988 until his resignation in 1993, the only President to have come from the civil bureaucracy.[1]
Born in Bannu District, Frontier Province of the British Indian Empire, Ghulam Ishaq was educated at Islamia College and graduated from the Peshawar University, before embarking his statesmanship as a junior bureaucrat in the Pakistan Government. Securing the appointment as the first chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority by President Ayub Khan in 1961, Ghulam Ishaq would also tenured as the Finance Secretary from 1966 to 1970. A year later, he was elevated as the Governor of the State Bank by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, before being made Defence Secretary in 1975, assisting with Pakistan's clandestine atomic bomb project. He was retained by President Zia-ul-Haq as Finance Minister in 1977, overseeing high rates of economic growth and social changes. Having been elected Chairman of the Senate in 1985, Ghulam Ishaq was elevated to the presidency after Zia's death in an air crash on 17 August 1988.
As president, Ghulam Ishaq escalated his role in neighboring Afghanistan, he subsequently witnessed the end of the Soviet occupation, but his personal relations with the Soviet Union and the United States deteriorated. Domestically, Ghulam Ishaq's term faced challenging problems; ethnic riots flared in Karachi, currency crises weakened the national economy, and the power struggle with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who came to power after being elected in 1988. After Benazir Bhutto accused him of frustrating her government as part of an alliance with conservative opposition leader Nawaz Sharif; Ghulam Ishaq invoked the Eight Amendment and dismissed Benazir's government after just 20 months, on charges of corruption and misgovernance. But when Sharif was elected Prime Minister in 1990, the tussle between presidency and premiership grew worse. Ghulam Ishaq attempted to dismiss his government on similar charges but Sharif resisted, appealing to the Supreme Court and having the President's decision overturned.
The gridlock ultimately led to the resignation of both individuals in 1993 in an agreement brokered by the military. Retiring from public service, Ghulam Ishaq served as the founding rector of the GIK Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology in his native province.
Early life and education
Ghulam Ishaq Khan was born in a small village, located in Ismail Khel to an ethnic Bangash-Pashtun family, in the suburbs of the Bannu District located in the North-West Frontier Province of British Indian Empire, now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of State of Pakistan.[2][3] After matriculating from local high school, Ghulam Ishaq attended the Islamia College Peshawar in 1933, entering to attend the basic science courses.[2] After attending the first semester, Ghulam Ishaq made a transfer to University of Peshawar where he enrolled in the department of science after declaring his major in chemistry.[3] In 1938, Ghulam Ishaq Khan earned bachelor of science degree, in Chemistry[2] and Botany;[2] he would later go on to attend the post graduate school at the same institution in 1938. In 1940, he submitted his master's thesis and earned M.Sc in Nuclear chemistry, where he did fundamental research in atomic nucleus.[2][3]


Initially looking for a university job, Ghulam Ishaq instead applied for the prestigious Indian Civil Service and took an ICS exam with high marks.[2] In 1941, he took his first civil service assignment in the Government of British Indian Empire.[2] After the Indian partition, he was opted the citizenship of newly created, State of Pakistan, and accepted the civil service appointment for the provisional government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province in 1947. He took over the provisional secretariat as the secretary of the irrigation department which he held until 1955.[2]
His son-in-law is senior politician Anwar Saifullah Khan. A grand-daughter of his is married to Omar Ayub Khan, who is the grandson of former Pakistani President Ayub Khan and son of Gohar Ayub Khan. In 1956, he settled in Sindh Province and appointed as "secretary general-in-chief" in the provisional government.[4]
In 1956, he became Home secretary of Sindh Province, but was later posted as the secretary of department of Development and Irrigation (D&I).[5] In 1958, he was called at the federal government level after being promoted to higher grade, and took the secretariat control of the Ministry of Agriculture, an appointment approved by the President Ayub Khan.[5] In 1961, he was appointed as the first chairman of Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) in 1961 by President Field Marshal Ayub Khan. During his capacity as chairman, he played a vital and influential role in the construction and financial development of Mangla Dam and the Warsak Dam.[5]
In 1966, Ishaq Khan was relieved from his position and ascended was the Finance Secretary of the Finance ministry until 1970 when he resigned from his position in favor of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.[5] After witnessing the disastrous Indo-Pakistani Winter War of 1971, Ghulam Ishaq was tasked with to administer the retail and commercial services, since the national economy was in the fragile state.[6] This task was considered quiet difficult and challenging for a country that was dismembered as a result of this war.[6] In 1971, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto appointed him as the Governor of State Bank of Pakistan when he was tasked to carry out monetary and credit policy in accordance to Government policy with influence of socialism.[7] In the latter position, he questioned the wisdom of a number of the economic policies of then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who was keen to intensify his nationalization and socialist influence in the financial institutions that marked the slow down of the economy.[7][8]

  Secretary of Defence

In 1977, Bhutto subsequently removed Ghulam Ishaq from the State Bank services, instead approving the appointment as the Defence Secretariat of Ministry of Defence (MoD), a prestigious post for the statesman and stateswoman in the Government.[7] 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.[8] That appointment proved be very helpful for Ghulam Ishaq' career, and bought him it put him in direct contact with the Pakistan Army.[7] At that time, he was most senior ranking civilian in the army and had the control over the major defence formation of the army.[8] It was in the army, he became closer to chief of army staff general Zia-ul-Haq.[8]

  Role in the atomic bomb project

Ghulam Ishaq Khan was one of the vital administrator of Pakistan's integrated atomic bomb project, and was one directly associated statesman of the program.[9] As Defense secretary, asserted his role in Pakistan's integrated atomic bomb project and had been in every meeting with Bhutto in approving the national nuclear policy.[9] On August 1976, he first met with nuclear theorist dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and helped him establishing the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL).[9] Later that day, he established the committee, responsible for evaluation of the site in which, where the ERL was had to be established. This top policy committee had AGN Kazi, Munir Khan, and Agha Shahi, chaired by Ghulam Ishaq.[9] During the time of ERL established, Ghulam Ishaq consolidated the military control of the atomic project under general Zahid Ali Akbar and the Corps of Engineers.[9]
By the end of 1976, Ishaq Khan was appointed as the defence administrator of the Uranium Coordination Board (UCB) that overlooks the scientific aspects of the uranium enrichment, as part of this, Brigadier-General Zahid Ali Akbar submitted a survey and map of Kahuta and the Engineering Research Laboratories (ERL) to Ghulam Ishaq's secretariat.[9] Ghulam Ishaq played a major role in the military career of general Zahid Ali Akbar and supported Akbar's three-star rank and appointment, Engineer-in-Chief.[9] Meanwhile, he became closer and maintained extremely closed relationship with Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan and Munir Ahmad Khan, and remained Qadeer Khan's staunch loyal.[9]
Ghulam Ishaq Khan, as President of Pakistan, established Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology (GIKI) that offers world-class programmes in engineering, and science and technology in the country. In 1990, he invited Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan to become institute's executive member, and with his support, Abdul Qadeer Khan became the took the professorship of physics. Khan also delegated Asghar Qadir, a PAEC mathematician, to become a head of Department of Mathematics as well as awarding him the professorship in mathematics. On Contrary, Ishaq Khan did not have the directorial role in the atomic bomb program until Munir Ahmad Khan retired. After Munir Ahmad Khan took retirement from Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), President Ghulam Ishaq Khan eventually consolidated the entire program under the civic-military control, and supervised the classified projects of the program.
In 1980s, Ghulam Ishaq had an extremely important and influential role in scientific and political aspects of the atomic bomb programs, that at one occasion one U.S. diplomat dubbed him as "Mr. Nuke";[2][7] domestically, he earn the title as "Atomic Baba" or "Baba Atom".[3] Earlier being as finance minister, he had the nuclear deterrence as his top priority and channeled financial funds for the development of the atomic bomb projects. In 1983, as Chairman of Senate, he was one of the invited high civil officials, who reportedly, were supposed to be present at the Cold test, along with Lieutenant-General Zahid Ali AkbarE-in-C of Corps of Engineers— General Khalid Mehmud ArifVice Chief of Army StaffAir Vice-Marshal Michael John O'BrianAOC of Sargodha Air Force Base— and Chairman of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Munir Ahmad Khan.[10]

 Minister of Finance

According to A.Q. Khan's memoir, the ouster of Zulfikar Bhutto was notably a major event in his life.[9] The time military coup, codename: Fair Play, initiated against Bhutto, Ghulam Ishaq was preparing to meet with Bhutto to present the assessment report on the enrichment project.[9] Ghulam Ishaq came in initial state of shock when he received a call from the General Headquarters (GHQ) that a coup had been initiated under chief of army staff General Zia-ul-Haq to oust Bhutto.[9] He was asked to report back to GHQ immediately to meet with chief of army staff.[9] At this meeting, Ghulam Ishaq reportedly told the chief of army staff and top military leadership, that "this action was going to harm the country, but since it could not be reversed, they should do their best to salvage whatever they could.[9]
In 1978, Zia promoted Ghulam Ishaq to Ministry of Finance and appointed him as Finance minister.[11] Zia left the economic management to a team of technocrats working under Ghulam Ishaq Khan, and during time time, Ghulam Ishaq was the chairman of Planning Commission, Economic Coordination Committee and the Executive Committee of the Space Research Council.[11] Ultimately, he was entrusted with the task of managing and controlling the national economy and the Private sector. Ghulam Ishaq supervised the successful implementation of market corporatization and remains supported economic Islamization by changes in the fiscal and banking systems.[11] He played a vital and important role in shaping and implementing the economic policy, including managing the public state enterprises.[11]
Ghulam Ishaq successfully campaigned and won the 1985 parliamentary elections for the Senate Secretariat.[12] After the controversial and mysterious aviation accident occurred in Bahawalpur, Ghulam Ishaq appeared in national television where he announced the death of General Zia-ul-Haq.[12] In 1988, Ghulam Ishaq became acting President in accordance with the Constitutional rules of succession, and was formally elected to the position in December of that year.[12]


As President, Pakistan's economy suffered with 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 to Pakistan were cut off. During his time, the nuclear development, economic issues, and political stability, was considered his presidency's highest priority. But, Khan's presidency failed to arrest the control of currency and a new currency crises hampered the Pakistan economy badly. Khan repeatedely dismissed democratically elected governments of Benazir Bhutto and Navaz Sharif that seriously undermined Khan's effort to improve the economy. At the end, Khan was forced to resigned from the Presidency and a call for new elections were made.

  Appointment of Chiefs of Armed Forces

Khan reportedly vetoed the appointment of Lieutenant-General Hamid Gull, a former Director-General of Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan Army, 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 appointed Air Chief Marshal Farooq Feroze Khan as Chief of Air Staff of Pakistan Air Force on the advice of Bhutto. Khan later promoted Vice-Admiral Yastur-ul-Haq Malik as 4-star Admiral, and appointed him as Chief of Naval Staff of Pakistan Navy. On Prime minister Benazir Bhutto's recommendation and advice, Khan approved Admiral Iftikhar Ahmed Sirohey, former Chief of Naval Staff, as Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

  Dismissing the Governments of Bhutto and Sharif

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, 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.

  Currency crisis

During the early 1990s, Khan's administration failed to arrest the 30 per cent fall in the value of the Pakistani Rupee from 21 to 30 to the US Dollar.

  Retirement and death

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 favour 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.[13]
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