Friday June 14, 2024

7 of 13 Pakistani presidents had to quit unceremoniously

3 of these Presidents, all of whom were Army Generals, had witnessed terrible times after leaving Presidency

By Sabir Shah
September 08, 2023
President Dr Arif Alvi. — APP/File
President Dr Arif Alvi. — APP/File

LAHORE: Although the five-year term of the 13th Pakistani President, Dr Arif Alvi, is due to end on September 8, or after midnight Friday, it remains to be seen if the renowned dentist-turned-politician stays in office even after his stipulated Constitutional tenure expires or not.

The Article 44 of the Constitution of course explicitly explains that in the absence of the National and provincial assemblies, the president cannot be shown the door despite completion of his term, unless he opts to leave the prestigious office voluntarily or goes home of his own accord.

So, with just hours to go before Arif Alvi’s stint in Presidency culminates, speculations of all sorts were rife till the filing of this report on Thursday evening because Pakistan has had quite an unenviable history when it comes to giving farewells to its heads of state, which included formidable Army Generals as well.

Research shows that of the 13 Pakistani Presidents till date, at least seven had to relinquish charge unceremoniously and abruptly, while one (General Ziaul Haq) had perished in a plane accident during August 1988 while he was still in office.

The Presidents who visibly resigned against their will and owing to circumstances beyond their control include the likes of Iskander Mirza, General Ayub Khan, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Farooq Leghari, Rafiq Tarar and General Pervez Musharraf.

Three of these Presidents, all of whom were Army Generals, had witnessed terrible times after leaving the Presidency.

While General Musharraf and Major General Iskander Mirza died in exile, General Yahya Khan was placed under house arrest in Rawalpindi from 1971 to 1979.

Yahya was released from Martial Law custody just months before his demise in 1980 and was also stripped of his service honours by the Government of Pakistan due to the East Pakistan tragedy.

Yahya Khan was the Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan Army when he had to hang his boots as head of the armed forces after the East Pakistan debacle, besides having to leave charge as country’s President on December 20, 1971.

Remember, Iskander Mirza was promoted to the two-star rank, having allegedly skipped the one-star promotion as Brigadier and upgraded his rank to Major General, courtesy the promotion papers reportedly approved by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan in 1950.

General Ayub Khan had resigned as Pakistan Army’s Commander-in-Chief on October 27, 1958 to assume charge as the country’s second President on the same day. He had appointed General Musa Khan to replace him as commander-in-chief.

This had happened just 20 days after the first Pakistani President, Iskander Mirza, had proclaimed Martial Law against the will and wishes of Premier Feroze Khan Noon.

But then there was a breakdown of civil military relations and Ayub Khan had gone on to seize the Presidency in a military coup, the first in country’s history.

Historic accounts, annals of history, numerous books and media archives reveal that military units was ordered by General Ayub to enter the Presidency on midnight of 26–27 October 1958 and Iskander Mirza was made to board a plane, only to be exiled to England, where he ran a restaurant that offered Pakistani cuisine. He died of a heart attack on November 13, 1969, his 70th birthday.

And the most heart-wrenching part of the story was that Mirza was denied a burial in Pakistan by his successors at the helm of affairs.

It is imperative to note that just months before Iskander Mirza’s death, General Ayub had to resign as President due to the countrywide uprising against him.

Coming to General Pervez Musharraf, he had finally quit as Pakistan Army Chief on November 28, 2007, trading the post for a second five-year term as President. He remained in office from June 20, 2001 to August 18, 2008.

Haunted by controversies like the Lal Masjid siege, the ongoing terrorism and suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Musharraf finally succumbed to the local and international pressures mounted by lawyers’ fraternity and his civilian rivals, late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

Though Benazir Bhutto was assassinated during his tenure as President, her spouse Asif Zardari was adamant to send Musharraf packing after assuming power in the 2008 polls. Faced with impeachment, Musharraf finally resigned on August 18, 2008 and went abroad.

On March 24, 2013, after a four-year self-imposed exile, he returned to Pakistan, a few months before the commencement of Nawaz Sharif’s reign. Courts did not allow him to contest in the 2013 polls. He was dragged in courts by adversaries in echelons of power and barely averted the embarrassment of being hand-cuffed and imprisoned on at least one occasion.

On April 18, 2013, court ordered his arrest but he somehow managed to escape to his Islamabad farmhouse. The following day, he was placed under house arrest, but was later transferred to police headquarters.

After having faced an extremely tough time on a land where he once called shots, he was allowed to travel abroad in March 2016. He subsequently lived in Dubai in self-imposed exile.

On December 17, 2019, a special court declared him a traitor and sentenced him in absentia to death for abrogating and suspending the Constitution. This verdict was later annulled by the Lahore High Court. On February 5, 2023, Musharraf died at age 79 in Dubai. His body was returned to Karachi and was laid to rest with military honours in an army graveyard.