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Mohammad Ayub Khan

(b. 1907)


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(b. Rehana, North-West Frontier Province, 14 May 1907; d. Islamabad, Pakistan, 20 Apr. 1974)

Pakistani; President 1958–69 Ayub came from a middling income Pakhtun family from the Hazara district of the North-West Frontier. He was educated at Aligarh College and Sandhurst from where he was commissioned in 1928. He served in Burma during the Second World War and in the Punjab Boundary Force at the time of Partition. After his promotion to major-general he commanded the forces in East Pakistan. In 1951 he became the first Pakistani Commander-in-Chief. From October 1954 to August 1955 he also served as Minister of Defence.

In the coup of 8 October 1958 he became chief martial law administrator; shortly afterwards he deposed Iskander Mirza and became President of Pakistan. Ayub sought to modernize Pakistan by introducing land reform and social reforms such as the celebrated Muslim Laws Family Ordinance of 15 July 1961 and by stressing economic development. In foreign affairs he maintained a pro-Western stance. Political parties were banned however until July 1962 and Ayub favoured the system of guided democracy known as the basic democracy scheme. The 1962 constitution created a powerful President who was to be elected by the 80,000 basic democrats.

From 1965, however, Ayub's fortunes declined as his growth-orientated strategy of channelling resources to an entrepreneurial élite generated increasing social and regional tensions. The 1965 Indo-Pakistani War following the failure of Operation Gibraltar's infiltration of armed volunteers into Kashmir was another major setback. Ayub was never comfortable with his new political role from December 1963 onwards as head of the Convention Muslim League. He had lost the campaign, although he won the tightly controlled 1965 presidential election contest with Miss Fatima Jinnah. Ayub had also created an Achilles' heel when he stood down as Commander-in-Chief of the army. The popular disturbances from November 1968 onwards lost him the support of his former army colleagues. By March 1969 he had no choice but to step down in favour of General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan.

Ayub is remembered as a hard-headed administrator whose modernizing impulses foundered because his regime never acquired political legitimacy. He wrote a well-received autobiography Friends Not Masters (1969).

Subjects: Politics.


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