Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari

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Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari

Chief of the Baluch Leghari tribe, one-time member of the civil service, and distinguished politician, Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari (born 1940) became the eighth president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in November 1993.

Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari was born on May 2, 1940, in the village of Choti Zerim in the Dera Ghazi Khan district, in the southern part of Pakistan's Punjab province. His father, Nawabzada Sardar Mohammad Khan Leghari, was chief of the Baluch Leghari tribe, which had settled in Dera Ghazi Khan in the sixteenth century; kindred groups are scattered across central Punjab, Baluchistan, and parts of Sindh. Nawabzada Sardar Mohammad Khan Leghari played an active role in the Pakistan Movement before the creation of the nation of Pakistan in 1947, and in the late twentieth century the Legharis were one of the most active political families of the Punjab.

As befitted the only son of a powerful feudal Sardar whose estates ranged over 115,000 acres, Farooq Ahmed Leghari attended elite Aitchison College in Lahore (1958) and went on to the Punjab University, from which he graduated in 1960, before entering Oxford University where he obtained a B.A. (Honors) in economics and an M.A. in 1963.

Upon his return to Pakistan, Farooq Ahmed Leghari, an avid sportsman and polo player, joined the civil service of Pakistan in 1964 and served in various capacities until 1973 when, on the death of his father, he succeeded as chief of the Leghari tribe. He then resigned from the civil service to take up a political career as a member of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which had been founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1966.

Starting out in June 1973 as a joint secretary of the PPP in Dera Ghazi Khan district, he moved on to become finance secretary of the provincial branch and eventually the party's secretary-general. Elected to the Pakistan Senate in August 1975, he joined the cabinet of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as minister of production in 1977.

Farooq Leghari next won a National Assembly seat in the elections of March 1977. Violent countrywide protests charging that the PPP had rigged the polls culminated in the imposition of martial law, which led to a coup headed by the chief of the army staff, General Zia ul-Haq, on the night of July 4-5, 1977. Prime Minister Bhutto was removed and afterwards executed on April 4, 1979. Farooq Leghari remained staunchly loyal to the PPP throughout Zia's reign despite being held for four years in prison for his activities with the Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD), an alliance forged by the PPP in 1981 that greatly threatened Zia's regime.

General Zia died in a plane crash on August 17, 1988, whereupon Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the chairman of the Senate now elevated to president, called for elections in November. Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar, was named prime minister on December 1. Farooq Leghari won seats in both the Punjab Assembly and the National Assembly, defeating an uncle and an aunt in the campaign. However, he lost his bid to become chief minister of the Punjab to Nawaz Sharif, the candidate of the vigorously anti-PPP Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). Leghari took his seat in the National Assembly and served as minister of water and power in Benazir Bhutto's cabinet.

As neither of the main parties had won a clear majority in the 1988 elections, the Bhutto government was beset by tenacious opposition spearheaded by Nawaz Sharif. These efforts bore fruit on August 6, 1990, when President Ghulam Ishaq Khan deposed Benazir Bhutto, citing her government for corruption and ineptitude.

Following new elections held on October 24, 1990, in which the PPP won only 45 out of 217 seats, Nawaz Sharif became prime minister. Farooq Leghari retained his seat in the National Assembly as the only PPP member from Dera Ghazi Khan. From 1990 to 1993, he assisted Benazir Bhutto as deputy leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.

By March 1993 President Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were set for a head-on collision. At issue was the allocation of power between their two offices; the argument centered on General Zia's 1985 controversial Eighth Amendment to the 1973 Constitution, which gave the presidential office sweeping arbitrary powers, including the right to dismiss Parliament and its leader, the prime minister.

By April, their differences had become intractable; on the 18th the president dissolved the National Assembly and dismissed the prime minister. Sardar Farooq Leghari was then inducted into the caretaker cabinet of Prime Minister Balkh Sher Mazari as finance minister. On May 26 the Supreme Court held the president's dissolution order illegal and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was reinstated, but the power struggle continued to paralyze the government. This conflict prompted the army to step in on July 18 to secure the resignations of both the president and the prime minister. Senate Chairman Wasim Sajjad became the acting president.

Fresh elections were called for October 6. The PPP won a plurality and on the 19th Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as prime minister; Nawaz Sharif became the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. Farooq Leghari returned to the National Assembly as a PPP candidate, having won the highest number of votes for a National Assembly seat. He was appointed foreign minister in Prime Minister Bhutto's new government.

Hectic negotiations then preceded the election of a new president. The field eventually narrowed down from ten long-standing veteran politicians to a one-on-one contest between Wasim Sajjad, representing PML (Nawaz), and Farooq Leghari, PPP candidate for the Pakistan Democratic Front, the ruling coalition. On November 13, 1993, Leghari won by a margin of 106 votes in an electoral college of 462. He was sworn in the next morning as Pakistan's eighth president for a term of five years.

In November of 1996, Leghari made a bold move and dismissed Bhutto as prime minister, accusing her of corruption. He dissolved the national assembly, ordered a new general election for February of 1997, and set up an interim government. The two candidates for the new February elections, Bhutto and Sharif, had both had terms of office abruptly ended by the president amid accusations of corruption, but as was generally expected, Sharif won the election. In April of 1997, Pakistani lawmakers stripped the President of his right to dismiss Parliament, and according to Sharif, Leghari "most democratically and graciously agreed with the proposed amendments" to Pakistan's constitution.

As a hard-core politician, Sardar Farooq Leghari was expected to strengthen democratic institutions by putting an end to the polarization between the head of state and the government's chief executive. It was also hoped that he would be able to soothe ethnic tensions between the provinces and thus bring about greater political stability.

To these tasks Farooq Leghari brought numerous personal qualifications. He spoke the major languages of all four provinces and was well-versed in their cultures. His mother and wife both came from the North-West Frontier Province. He was seen therefore as a symbol of national federation. He was respected for his honesty, as a man of principle with commitment and integrity. His life-style was appealingly simple despite his feudal background.

Leghari resigned from the PPP and pledged to be non-partisan, without bias or preference, and to revive the 1973 Constitution in its original form without the Eighth Amendment.

Further Reading

Short biographies appeared in the News International (Rawalpindi, November 12, 1993); the Frontier Post (Peshawar, November 13, 1993); the Nation (Lahore, November 14, 1993); and the Muslim (Islamabad, November 14, 1993). For general discussions on the period see P. L. Bhola, Benazir Bhutto: Opportunities and Challenges (1989); Mushahid Hussain, Pakistan's Politics: The Zia Years (1990); Sir M. James, Pakistan Chronicle (1993); Christina Lamb, Waiting for Allah: Pakistan's Struggle for Democracy (1991); Kausar Niazi, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan: The Last Days (1992); and Stanley Wolpert, Zulfi of Pakistan: His Life and Times (1993). □