Muhammad Ayub Khan

(1907—1974) president of Pakistan

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(b. 14 May 1907, d. 19 Apr. 1974).

President of Pakistan 1958–69

Early career

Born in Rehana (North-West Frontier Provinces) as the son of a junior officer in the British Indian Army, he went to study at Aligarh University, and then joined the army. After spending a couple of years at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the British Indian Army in 1928. After distinguished service in World War II, he was given command of the military forces of East Bengal (later Bangladesh) in 1948 and in 1950 was appointed to become the first Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistan army. He found it difficult to gain political support to carry out the military reforms he considered necessary. As Minister of Defence 1954–6 he became further disillusioned with the political process, and concluded that Pakistan was not ripe for a full working democracy.

In office

On 7 October 1958 he forced the President, Iskandar Mirza, to impose order through martial law, with himself taking effective power as Chief Martial Law Administrator. He then assumed the presidency shortly afterwards, on 27 October 1958. With considerable public support, he instituted a system of ‘basic democracies’ through the 1962 constitution, whereby political activity was encouraged at the local level through the creation of union councils in the villages, while democracy in national politics was largely abolished. Thriving on large amounts of US aid, the stability which he created for a decade spurred economic growth. However, his popularity was shattered by the country's failure to win a costly Indo-Pakistan War in 1965. Increasingly confronted by demonstrations and an opposition movement led by Zulfikar Bhutto, and weakened by personal illness, he was persuaded by the military to resign in favour of General Yahya Khan.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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