Outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari, the guest of honour at Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s farewell reception hosted for him on Thursday afternoon, becomes the only Pakistani head of state who is due to depart ceremoniously from the Presidency on September 8, 2013 after completing his five-year constitutional term.
He is the first Pakistani President to have been accorded a formal farewell reception by an incumbent prime minister, otherwise many of his predecessors were either literally shown the door by more powerful individuals at the helm of affairs or had to meet unnatural death.
Dubbed the most controversial President, Asif Ali Zardari will thus be handing over his prestigious office to a democratically elected successor Mamnoon Hussain.
A widower of late Benazir Bhutto, who had served two non-consecutive terms as Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Zardari was arrested on charges of corruption in late 1996, following the collapse of the Bhutto government. Released from jail in 2004, Zardari is unfortunate enough to have spent 52 per cent of his married life behind bars.
Elected President on September 6, 2008, Zardari is credited with the passage of the 18th Amendment in 2010, which had reduced his vast presidential powers to that of a ceremonial figurehead and will be going home as the first and only Pakistani President to have addressed the joint session of parliament for a record six times.
Here follows a list of Zardari’s 10 predecessors, all of whom had unceremonious exit from office:
1. Iskander Mirza (1899-1969) was the first President of Pakistan, serving from 1956 until being forced out from the Presidency in 1958. Prior to that, Mirza was the last Governor-General of Pakistan from 1955 until 1956.
Imposition of martial law in the country only had led to unrest in the country and after just 20 days, Mirza was forced out of the Presidency by his Chief Martial Law Administrator Ayub Khan.
A great-grandson of the last Nawab of Bengal Mir Jafar, President Mirza was exiled in 1958 to London, where he resided until his death in 1969.
When he died in 1969 after a long illness, President Yahya Khan had denied him a burial in Pakistan. Out of respect, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi of Iran had accorded him a state funeral in Tehran.
2. Ayub Khan (1907-74) was the only five-star general of Pakistan, who had served as the second President of Pakistan and its first military dictator from 1958 until his forced resignation in 1969.
Having become controversial after the allegedly rigged presidential elections of 1965 and the conclusion of war with India with the much-slated Tashkent Agreement during the same year, Ayub Khan was soon haunted by countrywide protests over surging prices.
As Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s popularity was on the rise, Ayub had no other option but to tender his resignation in 1969 and hand over power to General Yahya Khan, who had declared martial law for the second time.
3. General Agha Yahya Khan (1917-1980) served as the third President of Pakistan from 1969 until East Pakistan’s secession and birth of Bangladesh in 1971.
The East Pakistan tragedy of December 16, 1971 had dented Yahya’s political and social standing to a great extent, compelling him to hand over the keys of the Presidency to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and also relinquish charge as Army Chief in sheer disgrace. Yahya’s successor, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had then stripped his outgoing predecessor of all military decorations and had kept him under house arrest for most of the 1970s. When Bhutto was overthrown in a military coup in 1977, Yahya was released by the late General Fazle Haq.
4. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (1928-79) was the fourth President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973 and country’s 9th Prime Minister from August 14, 1973 to July 5, 1977.
After his Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)had won the controversial 1977 elections, his opponents launched a violent countrywide movement against him, giving Army Chief General Ziaul Haq an excuse to oust him in a coup.
Bhutto was arrested and charged in a murder case. He was sentenced to death by the LHC. On March 24, 1979, the Supreme Court of Pakistan dismissed his appeal and Bhutto was hanged at Rawalpindi’s Central jail on April 4, 1979.
5. Fazal Elahi Chaudhry (1904-1982) was the fifth President of Pakistan, serving from 1973 until 1978. Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq imposed imprisoned Bhutto in a coup on July 4, 1977, however he let Fazal Elahi Chaudhry continue as a figurehead president. He continued in the capacity till September 16, 1978 when he was asked to resign by Ziaul Haq who himself assumed the office.
6. General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq (1924-1988) was the sixth President of Pakistan from 1978 until his death in a plane crash in 1988. Having declared martial law for the third time in the country’s history in 1977, General Zia remains Pakistan’s longest-serving head of state, with a tenure spanning nearly 11 years. He was killed along with several of his top generals and two American diplomats in a mysterious air crash near Bahawalpur on August 17, 1988.
7. Ghulam Ishaq Khan (GIK)(1915-2006) was the 7th President of Pakistan from 1988 until his resignation in 1993. He remains the only bureaucrat-turned-President in country’s history. Using the now defunct Article 58-2 (B) under the 18th Amendment of the Constitution, Ishaq Khan, dismissed the governments of both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif on charges of corruption and bad governance.
Nawaz Sharif, however, moved the Supreme Court and managed to get himself reinstated. The GIK-Nawaz Sharif gridlock however ultimately led to the resignation of both the gentlemen in 1993, in an agreement brokered by the military.
8. Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari (1940-2010) is known as PPP’s “Brutus.” He was the eighth President of Pakistan, serving from November 14, 1993 until December 2, 1997 when he resigned after falling out with the then Premier Nawaz Sharif for lending support to Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah—-who was having a tiff with the country’s chief executive at that time.
Earlier, the late Leghari had ousted the government of his mentor—-Benazir Bhutto in November 1996.
9. Justice (R) Muhammad Rafiq Tarar had served as the ninth President of Pakistan from January 1, 1998 until resigning from the presidency during General Pervez Musharraf’s reign on June 20, 2001, visibly upset over Nawaz Sharif’s ouster in a military-led coup.
President Tarar was merely a constitutional and ceremonial figure, appointed by the then Premier Nawaz Sharif. He is the only judge to have headed the country.
10. Pakistan’s 13th Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf (born August 11, 1943) had seized power through a military coup on October 12, 1999. He had served as the 10th President of Pakistan from 2001 until his resignation in 2008, following Opposition’s impeachment threat. He is now facing courts, while under house arrest in Islamabad, trying to defend himself in several cases, including his alleged involvement in the assassinations of Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti