KHALID MERAJ (1915-2003)

KHALID, MERAJ (1915-2003) Meraj Khalid was born in Lahore into a family of modest means He chose to pursue a legal career and attended Lahore’s Law College, from where he obtained a bachelor degree His principal interest was in politics, however He pursued this interest first at the local level, taking advantage of the devolution of authority that was part of the design of the system of Basic Democracies introduced by the government of President Ayub Khan in 1962 In 1967, he joined a number of people in Lahore with socialist leanings to support Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s efforts to bring a new force into Pakistani politics The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was the consequence of these efforts The PPP was formally launched in 1969 and almost immediately after its creation the socialist bandwagon began to roll The general elections of 1970-the first to be held in Pakistan on the basis of adult franchise-brought unanticipated victory to the PPP The party’s electoral triumph-it won 81 out of the 139 seats in West Pakistan-launched a number of political careers, including that of Meraj KhalidMeraj Khalid held a number of important political positions while Bhutto was in power (December 1971-July 1977)

Bhutto’s removal by the military in July 1977 sent Meraj Khalid back to grassroots politics He remained loyal to the PPP and its new chairperson, Benazir Bhutto, during the period when Pakistan was under military rule, from July 1977 to August 1988 When Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in 1987 from self-exile in London, however, she dispensed with the “uncles”-her term for her father’s old associates-in favor of a younger group of politicians Meraj Khalid was one of the few uncles to be awarded the party’s ticket for the elections of October 1988 He won a seat in the National Assembly from Lahore and, in the first sitting of the assembly, was elected its speaker Bhutto’s dismissal in August 1990 sent Meraj Khalid back to Lahore He returned with her three years later in October 1993, when Bhutto became prime minister for the second time He was not given a political position, however Instead, he was appointed as rector of the International Islamic University in IslamabadMeraj Khalid watched Benazir Bhutto’s performance as prime minister from fairly close quarters and was terribly disappointed with the way she conducted herself He made no secret of his unhappiness with the prime minister’s performance and shared it with President Farooq Leghari, an old PPP associate

He did not hesitate when, on November 5, 1996, the president called him to take over as caretaker prime minister following the dismissal of Benazir BhuttoHe was caretaker prime minister for 104 days, from 5 November 1996 to 17 February 1997 During this time, his administration concentrated its attention on three things: promulgating the legislation and creating the institutional infrastructure to hold all public officials accountable for their actions, stabilizing the economy, and organizing another general election The elections supervised by the caretaker administration were held on 3 February 1997 and resulted in the massive defeat of Benazir Bhutto’s PPP at the hands of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League Mian Nawaz Sharif became prime minister on 17 February and brought back Meraj Khalid as rector of the Islamic University in Islamabad

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