Friday December 09, 2022

Balochistan peacemaker Rahimuddin Khan passes away

August 23, 2022

LAHORE: General Rahimuddin Khan (retd), former governor of Balochistan and Sindh, passed away here Monday. Known for declaring an amnesty in Balochistan and restoring peace to the restive province, Rahimuddin rose from Pakistan’s first cadet to its highest military office. He was 96.

Born on July 21, 1926 in Qaimganj, UP, Rahimuddin was educated at Delhi’s Jamia Milia Islamia College, founded by his uncle Zakir Husain. During Partition, Zakir’s brother, Mahmud Husain — a known figure of the Pakistan Movement — opted for Pakistan; he was followed by Rahimuddin. With the Pakistan Military Academy in its initial stages, Rahimuddin enrolled as its first cadet and was commissioned as an infantry officer in the Baloch Regiment.

As captain, he took part in the military action against Jamaat and Ahrar rioters in Lahore in 1953, arresting Majlis-e-Ahrar leader Abdus Sattar Niazi. Rahimuddin notably refused Gen Hayauddin’s orders to lay siege on Wazir Khan Mosque as unlawful and outside the chain of command. The standoff was averted when his refusal was backed by GOC Azam Khan.

As Balochistan’s longest-serving governor (1978–84), Rahimuddin moved to mend a province ravaged by insurgency and scorched-earth tactics. He announced an amnesty and ceased all military operations, famously visiting the Parari rebels, compensating affectees, and succeeding in a complete cessation of hostilities by 1980.

He also opened the Sui gas fields to provide gas directly to Quetta and other Baloch towns for the first time, despite strong resistance from the Centre. He also oversaw the construction of nuclear test sites in the Chagai hills where the Nawaz Sharif government would conduct atomic tests in 1998.

During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, Rahimuddin was opposed to hosting Afghan fighters in the province. His repatriation drives jarred against GHQ’s policy of accommodating the mujahideen during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Well-respected in the army, Rahimuddin received his fourth star as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). As CJCSC, it was Rahimuddin that shot down the Kargil plan, as revealed by journalist Nasim Zehra in her book — From Kargil to the Coup. The plan was shelved as a result until Gen Musharraf dusted it off fifteen years later to disastrous consequences.

A bitter opponent of extensions, Rahimuddin refused to continue a year in service when offered by Zia, retiring in 1987. This made a similar extension for Gen KM Arif as vice chief of the army staff less palatable to prime minister Junejo. Gen Arif was let go shortly after widening the split between the president and prime minister.

Rahimuddin’s last stint was as civilian governor of Sindh in 1988. In a brief term of governor’s rule, he cracked down on crime, focusing on the land mafia, and began reversing the Centre’s support for a rising MQM. When Ghulam Ishaq, then president, moved to reintroduce the position of chief minister, Rahimuddin abruptly resigned, while the state support for MQM was quietly restored.

He spent a mostly secluded retirement life in Rawalpindi, backing two of his former chiefs of staff, Asif Nawaz and Waheed Kakar, for army chief. In over a 40-year career, Rahimuddin was reputed for his financial honesty and restoration of peace to Balochistan. He will be laid to rest in Cavalry Ground Graveyard, Lahore Cantonment on Tuesday (today).