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GHULAM ISHAQ KHAN (1915

GHULAM ISHAQ KHAN (1915- ) Ghulam Ishaq Khan was born in Bannu, then a small town in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) He was educated at Peshawar’s Islamia College He joined the Provincial Civil Service in 1938, and after the birth of Pakistan, he was inducted into the Civil Service of Pakistan In 1958, President Muhammad Ayub Khan nominated him as a member of the Land Reform Commission Ishaq Khan opted for fairly radical land reforms, but the majority of the commission chose to go for generous ceilings on ownership: 1,000 acres for non-irrigated and 500 acres for irrigated land In 1962, President Muhammad Ayub Khan launched Ghulam Ishaq Khan on a career path that eventually led to his becoming the country’s economic czar He was appointed chairman of the West Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) The WAPDA, under his chairmanship and that of Aftab Kazi, his successor, accomplished a great deal It was particularly successful in implementing the gigantic Indus Water Replacement Works to bring water from the western rivers in compensation for that lost to India from the eastern rivers One of Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s proudest achievements of this period was to persuade the international community that without the Tarbela dam on the Indus River, the objective of the replacement works would not be achieved



In 1966, Ghulam Ishaq Khan was put in charge of the Ministry of Finance as its secretary In 1971, he went to Karachi as governor of the State Bank of Pakistan; and in 1975, he was back in Islamabad as secretary-general of the Ministry of Defense Within the space of a decade, Ishaq Khan was able to see the working of the central government from three very different perspectives: finance, development, and defense The Ministry of Finance in Pakistan was always a very conservative institution inclined to keep in strict check public expenditure on both development and current (non-developmental) activities Under Ishaq Khan’s management, it kept to its original mandate and tradition The State Bank of Pakistan, although not able to exercise much control over money supply, was nevertheless concerned about maintaining a watchful eye on the macroeconomic situation While at the State Bank, Ishaq Khan became concerned about the free-wheeling ways of the government of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto He used the opportunity presented by the issuance of the State Bank’s annual report on the health of the economy to question the wisdom of a number of policies that were being pursued by the Bhutto government at that time The publication of the report did not endear him to the government, and Ghulam Ishaq Khan was moved from the State Bank and was appointed secretary-general in charge of the Ministry of Defense This was an unusual but fortuitous appointment for a person who had spent most of his career in the government dealing with economic matters It was while in this job that he was thrown into close contact with General Zia ul-Haq, the chief of staff of the army

General Zia, after removing Bhutto from office on 5 July 1977, appointed Ishaq Khan secretary-general in charge of the entire civil establishment Ghulam Ishaq Khan held several different jobs in the government under President Zia ul-Haq Although his titles changed, he functioned virtually as the prime minister and the economic czar from 1977 to 1985 In March 1985, Ishaq Khan was elected to the Senate from a seat in the NWFP, and the Senate went on to elect him as its chairman The portfolio of finance was given by President Zia ul-Haq to Mahbubul Haq On 17 August 1988, President Zia ul-Haq was killed in a plane crash near the town of Bahawalpur in southern Punjab General Aslam Beg, the vice-chief of the Army Staff, and his senior colleagues met in Rawalpindi that same evening, before announcing to the public the news of the president’s death General Beg revealed later that the attendees at the meeting decided that it would be prudent to adopt the constitutional course and invite the chairman of the Senate to assume the presidency Had the Senate chair been occupied by a person with less experience and prestige than Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the military might well have decided to take over the reins of government once againGhulam Ishaq Khan’s presidency lasted for a little less than five years During this time, he performed two very different functions

On three occasions-from 17 August to 2 December 1988, from 6August to 6 November 1990, and from 17 April to 28 May 1993-he supervised the working of caretaker administrations appointed to hold general elections During these periods, Ishaq Khan was the country’s de facto chief executive For the rest of the time, he kept a careful watch over the workings of the government It was this watch that persuaded him to dismiss first the administration of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in August 1990 and then the administration of Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif in April 1993 It was the second dismissal-that of Nawaz Sharif and the way he handled the circumstances created by the decision of the Supreme Court to declare the dismissal unconstitutional-that left a cloud over a career that was remarkable not only for its longevity but also for its dedication to the cause of Pakistan It was clear that the decision to remove Nawaz Sharif was taken out of personal pique rather than on the basis of the prime minister’s incompetence Once the Supreme Court restored the prime minister, Ishaq Khan went on to subvert the functioning of the government by attempting to create a difficult environment for the prime minister This was done with the help of a group of loyal civil servants who made it impossible for the prime minister to function effectively The result was a political and constitutional crisis that was resolved by the intervention of the military General Abdul Waheed Kakar, the chief of the Army Staff, forced both Ishaq Khan and Nawaz Sharif to resign A caretaker administration was appointed, and elections were held in October 1993 (see ELECTIONS OF 1993)

The elections brought Benazir Bhutto back to power, and Ishaq Khan went into retirement After making a halfhearted attempt to contest the presidential election held in December 1993, he left Islamabad and settled in Peshawar

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