This post will just be a brief list of the men (and one woman) who ruled Pakistan and their fates. My list won’t include all of the people who held high office just those who were the dominant figure of their time. Not all of these leaders will get a Good, the Bad, and the Ugly biography but I think it’s important to show the terrible price so many of them paid to wield power and expose some of the recurring themes of Pakistani history.
Also I’d just like to mention as an aside that I welcome all constructive comments on my blog posts and encourage readers to comment and ask questions about anything they read on this blog.
Muhammad Ali Jinnah: The founder of Pakistan. He served as Governor-General (head of State) for Pakistan from Independence in August 1947 until his death on September 11th 1948. He had been suffering from Tuberculosis for many years and it is believed that the great stress he endured while trying to create Pakistan contributed to his death. His last words were reputed to be, ”Pakistan was my greatest blunder”.
Liaquat Ali Khan: Jinnah’s right hand man, Liaquat Ali Khan served as Pakistan’s first Prime Minster (head of Government) from 1947 to 1951; after Jinnah’s death Khan emerged as the undisputed ruler of Pakistan. Liaquat was gunned down by an assassin in 1951 while addressing a public rally in the city of Rawalpindi. The gunman was killed by security forces moments later and Liaquat’s assassination remains unsolved to this day.
Iskander Mirza: served as Pakistan’s last governor general from 1955 -56 and as Pakistan’s first President from 1956-58. Mirza used his power to dismiss Prime Ministers quite often and increasingly involved the military in politics. In 1958 Mirza declared martial law but was deposed shortly afterwards by his co-conspirator Ayub Khan who was the Chief of Staff of the Army. Mirza was arrested and exiled to Britain where he struggled financially until his death in 1969. He was denied a burial in Pakistan.
Ayub Khan: Khan was Pakistan’s first dictator and ruled from 1958 to 1969. Khan faced increasing dissent within the then East Pakistan (modern Bangladesh), a disastrous and self-made war with India as well as rising inequality. Ayub was forced from power by mass public protests amid rumours of a coup by lower ranking officers that were secretly being orchestrated by Ayub’s right hand man Yahya Khan (no relation to Ayub). Khan resigned in 1969 and handed over power to his Army Chief Yahya Khan. Ayub Khan died in disgrace in 1974.
Yahya Khan: Served as Army Chief under Ayub before being appointed President after Ayub left office to avoid facing a coup that was unbeknownst to him being organized by Yahya himself. His martial law regime held Pakistan’s first free and fair elections Khan then refused to hand over power to the elections winner, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was a prominent Bengali leader. This led to Rahman declaring the independence of Bangladesh in March 1971 shortly before Khan launched a brutal military crackdown against the Bengali people. The atrocities committed by the Pakistan Army combined with the huge flow of refugees, spurred India to invade East Pakistan. With the Pakistan Army soundly defeated, Khan was forced to hand over power to foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who promptly placed Khan under house arrest where he was to die in 1980.
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto: Bhutto was a prominent politician who had worked with Iskander Mirza and both Ayub and Yahya Khan. Bhutto founded the socialist Pakistan People’s Party and assumed power in December 1971. Bhutto served first as President and then as Prime Minister from 1971-1977. Bhutto proved increasingly authoritarian and his economic policies were disastrous for Pakistan; after Bhutto rigged the 1977 elections mass protests erupted against his regime. Bhutto’s handpicked Army Chief Zia ul Haq then overthrew Bhutto and had him convicted of murder after a sham trial. Zia sent Bhutto to the Gallows in 1979.
*Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: Rahman won the 1971 elections but never served as prime minister of Pakistan. After declaring the independence of Bangladesh in March 1971, Rahman was arrested by the army and flown to West Pakistan (modern Pakistan) where he was sentenced to death by a military court. Yahya Khan held this sentence in abeyance and after Khan’s fall Bhutto released Rahman who flew to Bangladesh as it’s first President. Had Pakistan defeated the Bengali’s, Rahman would have been killed and had he been allowed to serve as Prime Minister it is likely that he would have faced assassination during his term. As it turned out though, Rahman proved, like Bhutto, to be increasingly authoritarian and was murdered by the Bangladesh Army in 1975.
Zia ul Haq: Zia was Bhutto’s handpicked Army Chief who betrayed Bhutto and later killed him. Zia ruled from 1977-1988. Zia was a religious zealot who sowed the seeds of the bloody harvest that Pakistan is now reaping. Zia was assassinated in an act of plane sabotage in 1988; sabotage that was most likely orchestrated by his vice chief of army staff General Beg.
Benazir Bhutto: Benazir Bhutto was Zulfikar Bhutto’s daughter and heir. She led the Pakistan People’s party to victory in the 1988 elections and served as Prime minister from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993-96. Benazir was campaigning for a third term as Prime minister in December 2007 when she was assassinated in a suicide bombing and gun attack in the same Rawalpindi park as Liaquat Ali Khan had been killed in. Her murder remains unsolved, but was likely carried out by members of the Pakistani Taliban who were backed by elements of the Army.
Nawaz Sharif: Nawaz Sharif was a former Zia loyalist who served as Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1990-93, and 1997-99. In 1999 Sharif was overthrown by his handpicked Army Chief Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf was going to have Sharif hanged but relented because of intense U.S. pressure and instead sent Sharif into exile in 2000. Sharif returned in 2007 and is currently leader of the opposition and stands a good chance of becoming Prime Minister after the 2013 elections.
Pervez Musharraf: Pervez Musharraf was the handpicked Army Chief of Nawaz Sharif who went on to betray Sharif. Musharraf ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008. Musharraf attempted to fire Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, which resulted in massive protests that brought down his regime. Although initially protected by the Army, Musharraf left Pakistan in late 2008 and has not returned. He faces arrest in numerous court cases if he does return and it is probable that he will die in exile.
Asif Ali Zardari: Asif Ali Zardari is Benazir Bhutto’s widower and has been the President of Pakistan from 2008-present. His nickname is ”Mr.10%”, which signifies the cut of government contracts he took while his wife was Prime Minister. He has immunity from criminal charges for as long as he is President. If he fails to secure re-election next year then Zardari will surely go into exile before being arrested in Pakistan.