Ayub Khan

Ayub Khan: Pakistan's Military Leader and Second President

Ayub Khan, a name deeply etched in the annals of Pakistan’s history, is considered as one of the most influential figures in the country’s post-independence era. His remarkable journey from a modest upbringing to becoming Pakistan’s second President and a leading military strategist is a testament to his extraordinary abilities and the pivotal role he played in shaping the narrative of a nation. This article by Academic Block provides a detailed examination of Ayub Khan’s life, his early years, his military career, his political ascendancy, and the legacy he left behind.

Early Life and Education

Ayub Khan was born on May 14, 1907, in Rehana, a small village in the Hazara region of British India. His family background, rooted in the military, significantly influenced his upbringing. Ayub Khan’s father, Mir Dad Khan, was a Subedar Major in the 14th Punjab Regiment. This military lineage provided him with early exposure to discipline, structure, and a strong sense of service to the nation.

Ayub Khan received his early education in his hometown and later attended Aligarh Muslim University, where he developed a foundation for his academic and personal growth. In 1926, he embarked on a pivotal journey by joining the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, where he honed his military skills and leadership abilities.

World War II Service

Ayub Khan’s career took a decisive turn during World War II, where he served in various capacities within the British Indian Army. Upon completing his training at Sandhurst, Ayub Khan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British Indian Army. This marked the beginning of his military career, which would be marked by continuous progress and achievement.

During World War II, Ayub Khan served in various theaters, including the Middle East and Italy. His diverse experiences in the war exposed him to international politics and warfare intricacies, providing valuable lessons for his future roles in Pakistan’s military and politics.

Role in the Partition of India

The Partition of India in 1947 was a pivotal moment in South Asian history, and Ayub Khan played an instrumental role during this tumultuous period. In the aftermath of partition, Ayub Khan was assigned to the Boundary Force, which was responsible for maintaining peace and order in the newly divided regions. This assignment exposed him to the horrors of communal violence and human suffering, leaving a deep impact on his outlook on governance.

The traumatic experiences during partition profoundly influenced Ayub Khan’s vision for a stable and disciplined Pakistan. It underscored the need for a strong and centralized authority to avoid the chaos and violence that accompanied the partition, even at the cost of democracy.

Rise to Prominence in Pakistan’s Military

Ayub Khan’s rise to prominence within Pakistan’s military began in the early years of the country’s existence. Ayub Khan’s ability of unite Islamist radicals, and Pakistani army regulars under the disguise of local tribals during the First Kashmir War (1947-48) showcased his military acumen. He played a pivotal role in the occupying strategic regions in the Kashmir valley, solidifying his position as a cunning military leader. Critiques argue that, use of religion in this manner was a spark that led to the fusion of hardline radicals with the Pakistan’s state security setup. The Pakistan Army’s slogan is “Iman, Taqwa, Jihad fi Sabilillah”). In English, this translates to “Faith, Piety, and Jihad in the path of Allah”.

In 1951, Ayub Khan was appointed as the first Pakistani to hold the position of Chief of Army Staff. During his tenure in this capacity, he initiated a process of modernization and professionalization within the Pakistani military, which had inherited several British military traditions and structures.

First Martial Law and the Emergence of a Presidential System

In October 1958, a political crisis in Pakistan led to Ayub Khan’s assumption of power as the Chief Martial Law Administrator (through indirect military coup). This marked the beginning of his tenure as Pakistan’s de facto head of state. Under Ayub’s leadership, political parties were banned, and the press was heavily censored. Brutal tactics were used against those who dare challenge him. These measures were justified as essential for restoring law and order within the country.

To justify his dictatorial rule, one of Ayub Khan’s political reforms was the introduction of the Basic Democracies system in 1959. This initiative aimed to decentralize power by establishing local councils and providing avenues for political participation at the grassroots level. To garner local support for his rule, Ayub Khan’s regime embarked on a series of economic policies, including land reforms, which sought to address issues of land distribution and rural development. The introduction of the Green Revolution was aimed at increasing agricultural productivity.

The Decade of Development

Ayub Khan’s presidency, often claimed by him, as the “Decade of Development” (1958-1969), was marked by both progress and criticism. During this period, Pakistan witnessed economic growth and modernization. The Gross National Product (GNP) increased, and the nation made significant strides in industrialization, education, and infrastructure development.

The regime’s successful efforts in becoming America’s ally resulted in the influx of aid dollars. Projects like the construction of the Mangla Dam and the Indus Highway transformed the nation’s infrastructure, facilitating economic development. However, Ayub Khan’s economic policies faced criticism. Due to the superficial land reforms, significant land inequality persisted, and the rural population’s economic conditions did not substantially improve.

Foreign Policy and International Relations

Ayub Khan’s tenure saw Pakistan navigate complex international relationships, often influenced by the dynamics of the Cold War. During the Cold War, Ayub Khan aligned Pakistan with the United States, which provided military and economic assistance to bolster Pakistan’s position. This alliance held significant strategic implications, especially during the Indo-Pak conflicts.

Challenges and Opposition

While Ayub Khan’s era was marked by numerous accomplishments, it was not devoid of opposition and challenges. Despite the introduction of the Basic Democracies system, political opposition remained. Leaders like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and others, who were nurtured by Ayub Khan himself, later became prominent critics of the regime, advocating for democratic reforms.

Indo-Pak conflict

The Indo-Pak War of 1965, was a significant conflict between India and Pakistan. Ayub Khan was the President of Pakistan during this war, and he played a central role in the events leading up to the war and in its aftermath. Below is the overview of Ayub Khan’s role in the Indo-Pak War of 1965:

Background: The roots of the 1965 war can be traced back to the longstanding and contentious issue of Kashmir, which had been a source of conflict between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947. The region of Jammu and Kashmir was a princely state whose ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, decided to legally accede to India in 1947, leading to a conflict between the two newly-formed countries.

Operation Gibraltar: The war was precipitated by Pakistan’s “Operation Gibraltar,” a covert mission aimed at infiltrating armed insurgents into Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. These infiltrators were meant to incite a rebellion against Indian rule. This operation was conducted with the intention of inciting the Kashmiri muslim population’s desire for merging with Pakistan.

Tensions escalated as the infiltrators, often referred to as “mujahideen” by Pakistan, began causing disturbances and killing innocent civilians in the Kashmir Valley. The situation deteriorated, and full-scale hostilities began in April 1965 when Pakistani troops crossed the cease-fire line in the Rann of Kutch in the western sector. The conflict later spread to the northern region of Jammu and Kashmir, with both India and Pakistan deploying their armies along the international border. Due to the loss of considerable territories to Indian army, in Pakistan’s part of the Punjab, Ayub Khan was forced to move his forces out of Kashmir.

International Mediation and Ceasefire: International pressure and diplomatic efforts eventually led to a ceasefire on September 23, 1965. The Tashkent Agreement was brokered by the Soviet Union and the United States, and it marked the end of the war in January 1966. The agreement was signed by Ayub Khan and Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The 1965 war did not result in any gains for Pakistan, and it ended in a ceasefire without a clear resolution to the Kashmir issue. Ayub Khan’s decision to agree to a ceasefire, often perceived as a compromise, was met with criticism in many quarters, particularly from hardline elements who wanted to continue the conflict till end, regardless of the failures in the battlefield.

Impact on Ayub Khan’s Presidency: The war had a significant impact on Ayub Khan’s presidency. While he had initially presented himself as a charismatic and capable leader, the war highlighted the limitations of military solutions to the Kashmir issue and the need for diplomatic and political resolutions. The conflict also had economic and political repercussions, contributing to a decline in Ayub Khan’s popularity and marking a turning point in his political career.

Resignation and Succession

The declining popularity of Ayub Khan due to his failure in Indo Pak war, eventually led to his resignation in March 1969. Ayub Khan under pressure, transferred power to General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who assumed the role of President. This transition marked the end of Ayub Khan’s presidency. After resigning from the presidency, Ayub Khan withdrew from active politics and public life. He spent his retirement years away from the limelight, writing his memoir, “Friends, Not Masters,” which reflected on his life and leadership. Ayub Khan died on April 19, 1974, his death was attributed to natural causes. He passed away in his home in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Legacy and Controversies

Proponents of Ayub Khan’s rule argue that his presidency laid the foundation for significant economic development and modernization in Pakistan. They contend that he was a stabilizing force during a tumultuous period in the country’s history. Critics, on the other hand, highlight the authoritarian nature of his regime, which saw restrictions on civil liberties and political dissent. They argue that his economic policies failed to alleviate rural poverty and land inequality. Ayub Khan’s influence on the mindset of the Pakistani military cannot be understated. He established critical precedents for the military’s interference in politics, a pattern that would reemerge in subsequent years.

Final Words

Ayub Khan’s leadership played a pivotal role in Pakistan’s early history as an independent nation. His presidency, marked by both achievements and controversies, had a profound impact on the country’s political, economic, and social landscape. Ayub Khan’s legacy continues to be a subject of study and debate, reflecting the complex nature of his rule as a military leader and president. His influence on Pakistan’s history is undeniable, making him an enduring figure in the nation’s unstable history. Please provide your comments below, this will help us in improving this article. Thanks for reading!

Ayub Khan
Personal Details
Date of Birth : 14th May 1907
Died : 19 th April 1974
Place of Birth : Rehana, Hazara region, Pakistan
Father : Mir Dad Khan
Mother : Nayab Khanum
Spouse/Partners : Nasim Begum
Children : Gohar Ayub, Begum Nasim Aurangzeb
Alma Mater :
Aligarh Muslim University in India
Professions : Military Officer, Politician

Famous quotes by Ayub Khan

“I have always said that democracy in Pakistan is not workable. It has to be regulated.”

“If the people are not aware of the ills of democracy, then it is like a ‘sham’ democracy. You have to awaken the people to what is good for them.”

“We have to re-establish our credentials as Muslims. That’s the only way we can put it across to the world that we’re a civilized people.”

“Democracy is not about making speeches. It is about making committees work.”

“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”

“It is the safeguard of the strongest that keeps you and the rest of the world in peace.”

“One man with courage is a majority.”

“We should never threaten those in power or authority because you will be met with repression.”

“If we take the government’s money, we have to follow the government’s policy.”

Facts on Ayub Khan

Birth and Early Life: Ayub Khan was born on May 14, 1907, in Rehana, a village in the Hazara region of British India (now in Pakistan).

Military Career: He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the British Indian Army and served in various roles during World War II. His military career was marked by dedication and strategic thinking.

First Chief of Army Staff: Ayub Khan became the first native Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army in 1951, a position he held until 1958. He initiated efforts to modernize and professionalize the Pakistani military.

First Martial Law: In October 1958, Ayub Khan declared martial law and took over the government, becoming the de facto ruler of Pakistan. He cited the need to restore order and good governance.

Presidential Tenure: In 1959, Ayub Khan assumed the presidency of Pakistan after the imposition of the country’s first constitution. He was elected as President in 1960.

“Decade of Development”: Ayub Khan’s presidency is often referred to as the “Decade of Development” (1958-1969). His administration oversaw various economic and infrastructure development projects in Pakistan.

Land Reforms: Ayub Khan’s government implemented land reforms in an attempt to address issues of land distribution and rural development. These reforms aimed to reduce land inequality.

Basic Democracies System: He introduced the Basic Democracies system in 1959, which aimed to decentralize power by establishing local councils and encouraging grassroots political participation.

Indus Water Treaty: Ayub Khan played a crucial role in negotiating the Indus Water Treaty with India in 1960, which allocated water rights between the two countries for their shared river systems.

Foreign Policy: During his presidency, Pakistan aligned itself with the United States and received military and economic assistance, primarily due to Pakistan’s strategic location during the Cold War.

1965 Indo-Pak War: Ayub Khan’s government initiated “Operation Gibraltar” in Indian-administered Kashmir, leading to the 1965 Indo-Pak War. The war ended in a ceasefire, and the Tashkent Agreement in 1966 marked the ceasefire’s formal end.

Resignation: As a result of domestic and international pressures and the challenges posed by the 1965 war, Ayub Khan resigned from the presidency in March 1969.

Later Life: After stepping down from the presidency, Ayub Khan spent his later years in retirement. He wrote his memoir, “Friends, Not Masters,” in which he reflected on his life and leadership.

Death: Ayub Khan passed away on April 19, 1974, in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Ayub Khan’s family life

Marriage and Family: Ayub Khan was married to Begum Nasim Khan. Together, they had five children: three sons and two daughters. Their names were Gohar Ayub Khan, Tahir Ayub Khan, Asghar Khan, Nasim Aurangzeb, and Naseem Babar.

Death of Family Members: Ayub Khan’s family, like any other, experienced both joys and sorrows. Tragically, one of his sons, Captain Nasim Aurangzeb, was killed in action during the 1965 Indo-Pak War, which added a personal dimension to the conflict for the family.

Academic References on Ayub Khan

“Military, State, and Society in Pakistan” by Shahid Javed Burki. This book provides a detailed analysis of the role of the military, with a focus on Ayub Khan’s era and the political dynamics of Pakistan.

“The Military in Pakistan: Image and Reality” by Shahid Javed Burki. This book looks into the impact of military rule in Pakistan, examining Ayub Khan’s presidency and its implications.

“Ayub Khan: Pakistan’s First Military Ruler” by Shaukat Riza. This biography offers a comprehensive look at Ayub Khan’s life, his military career, and his presidency.

“Pakistan: A Hard Country” by Anatol Lieven. This book provides insights into the political landscape of Pakistan, including the role of leaders like Ayub Khan in shaping the nation’s history.

“Modernization in Pakistan: The Ayub Khan Era” by Craig Baxter (Asian Survey, 1967). This article offers an analysis of the modernization policies and political developments during Ayub Khan’s presidency.

“Pakistan under Ayub Khan: Modernization and Traditionalism” by Judith Brown (International Affairs, 1968). This academic article discusses the modernization policies of Ayub Khan’s regime and their impact on Pakistan’s society and politics.

“Ayub Khan and the Soviet Union” by Selig S. Harrison (Asian Survey, 1973). This article explores Ayub Khan’s foreign policy, specifically his relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

This Article will answer your questions like:

  • Why was Ayub Khan forced to resign?
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