THE death of Ghulam Ishaq Khan has brought to end an era. He was last of the icons that consolidated the young nation with their commitment to Pakistan and laid highest standards of probity, honesty and competence.
Born in a poor family of Bannu, one of the most backward districts of NWFP, he rose to the highest office in the country, through sheer dint of merit and efficiency.
Life story of Ghulam Ishaq Khan during last 60 years is the history of economic and industrial development of Pakistan. His contribution to the economic consolidation of Pakistan was beyond measure.
He held most important assignments in difficult times, and left his indelible mark on all these institutions.
His role and contribution to the economic development as Chairman WAPDA, and PIDC was phenomenal. The young nation needed institutions that would promote economic activity and stability.
It was the self less, honest and dedicated civil servants of last generation that laid strong foundations and durable infrastructure of economic development. Few in the country could claim to have served the country in such diverse capacities as GIK.
He served as Federal Secretary/Secretary General of important Ministries, including Cabinet, Finance, Water and Power and Defence with different Governments but remained aloof from political fray, concentrating on his duties as a true professional.
He emerged as the role model bureaucrat for young administrators with his financial rectitude and professional integrity.
Ghulam Ishaq Khan became a controversial figure after his elevation as President of Pakistan in August, 1988, after the death of General Zia-ul-Haq. In those turbulent times, It was his leadership that ensured smooth transition and eventually the reintroduction of Parliamentary, multiparty democracy in the country.
Some of his actions, such as dismissal of the Governments of Benazir and Nawaz Sharif, under Article 58 (b) of the Constitution were considered as high handed.
He can be accused of misjudgment, but none has blamed him ever for personal aggrandizement. Politics is a dirty game, Ghulam Ishaq Khan was made of sterling mettle, not used to intrigues and machinations.
No wonder his involvement and motives in political decisions become controversial.
As Federal Minister for Commerce in 1985, I had an opportunity to interact with Ghulam Ishaq Khan on number of occasions and each meeting left me wondering at the meticulous and judicious manner he analysed the problem.
The most intractable problems looked so simple. His command over developmental issues was remarkable.
Ghulam Ishaq Khan would be remembered in the history of Pakistan as a hard working, competent and honest civil servant par excellence.
His integrity and infinite capacity to work would remain a beacon to the generations of civil servants in Pakistan.
History’s, verdict on his presidential term for his political role may not be too charitable, but he will be remembered by posterity for his extra ordinary passion for Pakistan, and for the great contribution to science and technology as symbolized by Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute, a centre of excellence for scientific research and engineering sciences.
His role in making Pakistan a nuclear State, has earned him nation’s eternal gratitude. His selflessness is evident from the silence he maintained about his multi dimensional career and contribution. May Allah bless his soul.