ASGHAR KHAN, AIR MARSHAL (RETIRED) (1928- ) Asghar Khan entered politics after two successful careers in government: as the first commander in chief of the Pakistan air force and then as chairman of Pakistan International Airlines He left the air force soon after Pakistan’s 1965 war with India convinced him that Muhammad Ayub Khan had failed the country and that Pakistan needed a new type of leaderAsghar Khan began his political career by joining, in 1969, the Justice Party, but then decided to form his own political organization, the Tehrik-e-Istiqlal He played an active role in the agitation that led to the resignation of President Muhammad Ayub Khan in March 1969 and the demise of the political system founded by the discredited president The political agitation against the government of Muhammad Ayub Khan, proved to be the high point of Asghar Khan’s political career During the peak of the campaign, in the early part of 1969, Asghar Khan shared the limelight with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto This fact was recognized by the Ayub regime, and both Asghar Khan and Bhutto had to spend several months in prisonAsghar Khan ran for a seat in the National Assembly in the general elections of 1970, the first election to be held in Pakistan since independence He chose Rawalpindi as his constituency in the belief that the city, with a large voting population associated in one way or the other with the armed forces, would appreciate the contributions that could be made by a retired air marshal However, he lost the election to Khurshid Hasan Mir, a close associate of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and a prominent member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)

The success of Bhutto’s PPP in the 1970 elections and Bhutto’s quick ascent to power after the election diminished the political stature of Asghar Khan He remained in opposition during the Bhutto years, ignored by both the government and the middle-class constituency that he sought to cultivate Asghar Khan took part in the elections of 1977, the first to be held after the breakup of West Pakistan into four provinces-Balochistan, the Northwest Frontier, Punjab, and Sindh, and the first to be conducted under the constitution of 1973 He was instrumental in organizing the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), a coalition of political parties opposed to Bhutto The results of the elections, as announced by the government, surprised Asghar Khan and other leaders of the PNA The opposition had expected to perform much better than indicated by official results Asghar Khan and several other important members of the opposition, failed to win seats in the National Assembly They refused to accept the outcome of the elections and launched a movement against the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto As had happened in 1969, Asghar Khan did not reap the fruits of his endeavors The agitation against the regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, brought the army back to power, this time under General Zia ul-Haq Asghar Khan spent the early years of Zia ul-Haq’s martial law under house arrest

Although the military government was prepared to work with a number of political parties that had come together under the umbrella of the PNA, it ignored Asghar Khan’s Tehrik-e-Istiqlal The Tehrik joined the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) in 1981, participated in the agitation launched by the MRD in 1983 against the government of Zia ul-Haq, but left the movement in 1986The confrontation between Mian Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto that was to dominate Pakistan’s politics so completely after the death of President Zia ul-Haq in August 1988 left little space for any other politician not aligned with the two main parties Asghar Khan saw the handwriting on the wall and retired from politics in early 1996 after dissolving his political party

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