It is rather unfortunate that Pakistan has been ruled more by army rulers and dictators than by civilians during little more than 70 years of its quite politically chequered history. It is also an established fact that the military rulers and dictators have been fewer in number than the elected heads of the government still their span of the rule has been more than the civilian rule.

If Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had lived longer even beyond his tragic demise on September 11, 1948, he would certainly have approved certain political developments taking place in the newly-born country.

It is also a fact, though very little known somehow, that prior to his death, the Quaid-i-Azam as the first Governor General of the newly-established free, independent and sovereign State in 1948 had punished a senior army officer for being more interested in politics than the army affairs. He was none else that Brigadier Muhammad Ayub Khan.

The reprimand so given in the Quaid-i-Azam’s own handwriting is still preserved in the Cabinet Division’s archives and may never see the light of the day like several other well-guarded secrets and documents that should have been published for people at large.

Muhammad Ayub Khan became army’s first Muslim Commander-in-Chief in early 1951 as a successor to General Sir Frank Messervy and General Sir Douglas David Gracey.

The office of the Governor-General ceased to exist with the enforcement of the first constitution in 1956, Pakistan became the Republic of Pakistan and Major General Iskander Mirza became the first President of Pakistan. During this period, General Muhammad Ayub Khan continued to head the Pakistan army ( perhaps there was no fixed tenure for the Army Chief then).

Malik Feroze Khan Noon was the 7th Prime Minister in little more than a decade clearly indicative of the fact that none of the preceding prime ministers had completed their full tenure in the office due to persistent political upheavals, leg pullings of each other and intrigues.

Citing the rapid deterioration in the political situation and degraded law and order as the reasons, the then President Iskander Mirza imposed martial law, dismissed the government of Prime Minister Feroze Khan Noon along with the federal cabinet and the National Assembly, abrogated hardly two and half years old 1956 Constitution on October 7, 1958 and appointed army chief General Muhammad Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator, hardly eleven years after Pakistan had come into existence.

CMLA General Muhammad Ayub Khan ousted President Iskander Mirza on October 27, 1958, in his quest for more power and also summed the office of the President himself. However, he did not retain the Army Chief office and appointed General Muhammad Musa as his successor. He had assumed the title of the Field Marshal, so far the only one in the history of Pakistan, in October 1959.

Cutting long story short, Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s eleven years long rule ended on a rather unceremonious manner on March 25, 1969, when Commander-in-Chief General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan removed him from the office, imposed martial law, abrogated 1962 Constitution and became the President while retaining the Army Chief as well.

On dismemberment of Pakistan and East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh, President General Agha Muhammad Yahya handed over power in the remaining country to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who also created history by becoming the first-ever Civilian CMLA.

Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto recommended the appointment of General Muhammad Ziaul Haq as the Chief of Army Staff on March 1, 1976, bypassing a number of senior army generals.

On July 5, 1977, General Muhammad Ziaul Haq in the wake of political upheavals, bloodshed and violence, toppled the civilian government of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, suspended 1973 Constitution, dissolved the National Assembly and assumed the office of the Chief Martial Law Administrator while retaining Fazl Elahi Chaudhry as the President till completion of his tenure thus becoming third military ruler of the country in just thirty years since August 1947. General Ziaul Haq had pledged to hold general elections in 90 days after assuming the power but he did not honour his commitment and continued to rule the country for eleven long years.

General Muhammad Ziaul Haq also assumed the office of the President when incumbent Fazal Elahi Chaudhary stepped down on September 16, 1978, while also retaining the uniform as the Chief of Army Staff. His itch did not last longer than beyond eleven years when he perished along with US Ambassador Raphael, General Akhtar Abdul Rahman and several other senior army officers when C-130 plane carrying them crashed near Bahawalpur on August 17, 1988.

Eleven years after passing away of third military ruler General Muhammad Ziaul Haq, General Pervez Musharraf took over power in October 1999 ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who had earlier tried to remove him as the Army Chief and appointed General Ziauddin Butt as the new COAS without reducing this in black and while on any file and sufficing to make the announcement through a ticker on PTV.

While taking over power and becoming the CMLA after suspending the 1973 Constitution yet another time, General Pervez Musharraf allowed incumbent President Justice (Retired), Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, to continue holding his august office till completion of his tenure. However, he ran short patient much earlier than expected and breaking his assurance ousted President Rafiq Tarar from the President House in an unceremonious manner and himself assumed the office of the President as well while the khaki uniform as the COAS in June 2001. His itch ran short of eleven years when he was forced by the circumstances to step down in October 2007.

Here, in short, is what the country had suffered during the rule of four military dictators who together ruled Pakistan for more than 26 years.

Pakistan’s first military ruler Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan had given away in silver plate three rivers to India under the US and World Bank-brokered Indus Water Treaty in September 1960 thus becoming the first-ever country which had bartered away three of its rivers that too to an ever hostile and enemy country India thus opting to go barren and waterless in decades afterwards. The country incidentally is facing acute water shortage problem now and which is getting worse with every passing day.

When the second military ruler General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan had usurped power from Field Marshal Ayub Khan, the motherland lost East Pakistan which became Bangladesh with the armed support of India in the garb of so-called Mukti Bahini who was none else but the officers and jawans of the Indian Army.

And, General Muhammad Ziaul Haq as the third military ruler had pushed the country into Afghanistan war during Soviet Union invasion there thus forcing the country to play “host” to millions of Afghan refugees who had fled their country and influx of heroin and Kalashnikov cultures. He also had the distinction of giving birth by way of patronage to Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) since baptized as the Muttahida Quami Movement apparently to break the hold of PPP and Jamaat-e-Islami in Karachi.

During the period of Fourth military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, US influence and interference in Pakistan internal affairs immensely increased and the motherland was pushed into the US-led international coalition war on terror in the wake of so-called 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington which had provided an excuse to the White House occupants one after the other to first attack Iraq and then Afghanistan.

Incidentally, first three military rulers Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan and General Muhammad Ziaul Haq are no longer alive. The first two military rulers had lived and died naturally while living quietly forced retired life whereas third military ruler had met unnatural death in a plane crash. Fourth military General Pervez Musharraf is, however, alive.

There is lot more which can be written in this regard as to what the four military rulers had done during their long and short tenures both on the positive and negative sides. That may be reduced in writing some other time, please.


n          The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News) Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.

Quaid-i-Azam had punished a senior army officer for being more interested in politics and that officer was none other than Brigadier Muhammad Ayub Khan.