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Farooq Ahmad Khan: Bhutto's pick, until he sacked her

Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari, who died on October 21, was Pakistan's eighth president, from 1993 to 1997.

Benazir Bhutto, the then prime minister, with Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari during his swearing-in ceremony as president.
Benazir Bhutto, the then prime minister, with Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari during his swearing-in ceremony as president.

Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari was Pakistan's eighth president, from 1993 to 1997. The country's first leader drawn from the ethnic Baloch group, he rose with comparative ease from the position of civil servant through politician to president.

Leghari is perhaps best remembered for having dismissed his previous champion, Benazir Bhutto, as prime minister. Bhutto had hand-picked him as president, but by 1996 chaos ruled her cabinet and Leghari, using the now defunct Article 58-2(b) of the Pakistani constitution, and citing instances of corruption, lawlessness and extrajudicial killings, dissolved the cabinet and fired Bhutto.

Many saw his dismissal of Bhutto as a grave betrayal, especially since he had been appointed based on the loyalty to her Pakistan People's Party that he had exhibited since 1977. Leghari's appointment had been seen as lending a considerable degree of stability to her coalition government. Newly elected, he promised to strengthen democracy and social cohesion. But, the relationship soon soured: "She made the mistake of not seeing any difference between her personal interest and the interest of the state," Leghari said, in justification of his decision. "She thought she was too clever and too wise."

Relations with her successor as prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, fared little better, however, and Leghari resigned before completing his five-year term of office after the two failed to reconcile their differences, essentially, Mr Sharif's desire to assume absolute power through the controversial Eighth Amendment. When Leghari sought the help of the chief justice, Sajjad Ali Shah, in the affair, the prime minister made it clear the president's time in office was over.

Instead of retiring from politics, however, Leghari went on to create his own political party, the Millat Party, but it was a lacklustre end to a life in politics. The party joined a coalition of seven others, known as the National Alliance, to participate in the general elections of 2002, standing against Pervez Musharraf, the former army general who had seized control of the government in 1997. Emerging as the third largest group in parliament, the alliance won 13 seats in the National Assembly. Later, Leghari joined the Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

Politics was in Leghari's blood, and his family was one of Pakistan's most powerful. In the Dera Ghazi Khan district of southern Punjab province, their lands covered more than 40,500 hectares.

Leghari's father, Nawab Muhammad Khan Leghari, played a prominent part in the independence movement and was imprisoned as a political prisoner in 1946. After independence, he served as minister in the Punjab government from 1949 to 1955.

At his school in Lahore, the renowned Aitchinson College, Leghari was appointed head boy and declared the Best Leaving Student of 1957. Subsequently, he studied PPE (philosophy, politics and economics) at Oxford University. Away from lectures, he perfected his tennis backhand and became a regular on the polo field.

On returning to Pakistan, he joined the civil service, serving for a period in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), but on his father's death he resigned from service and returned to the ancestral home.

By the time Leghari's grandfather and father had died, passing on the role of feudal sardar, or chief of the estate, to the eldest son, the estate had been reduced in scale somewhat, though it was still considerable.

In 1973, on the invitation of the prime minister, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, he joined the PPP, and two years later was elected to the Senate. As a minister in the first PPP government, he held several portfolios, including those of finance and, briefly, foreign affairs. In all, he won National Assembly seats on the PPP ticket three times - in 1988, 1990 and 1993.

When Bhutto was arrested, Leghari became leader of the party. The PPP was persecuted relentlessly during the military regime of Gen Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq and Leghari was placed under house arrest on several occasions.

Leghari's two sons, Awais Ahmed and Jamal, are regarded as two of Pakistan's most influential politicians. He is also survived by his wife and two daughters.

Born May 29, 1940. Died October 21, 2010.