|1st President of Pakistan|
23 March 1956 – 27 October 1958
|Prime Minister||Chaudhry Muhammad Ali
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar
Feroz Khan Noon
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Ayub Khan|
|Governor-General of Pakistan|
7 August 1955 – 23 March 1956
Acting: 7 August 1955 – 6 October 1955
|Prime Minister||Chaudhry Muhammad Ali|
|Preceded by||Malik Ghulam Muhammad|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
|Minister of the Interior|
24 October 1954 – 7 August 1955
|Prime Minister||Muhammad Ali Bogra|
|Preceded by||Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani|
|Succeeded by||Fazlul Huq|
|Governor of East Bengal|
31 March 1950 – 31 March 1953
|Chief Minister||Nurul Amin|
|Preceded by||Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman|
|Succeeded by||Muhammad Shahabuddin (Acting)|
|1st Defence Secretary of Pakistan|
23 October 1947 – 6 May 1954
|Prime Minister||Liaquat Ali Khan
Muhammad Ali Bogra
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Akhter Husain|
13 November 1899|
Murshidabad, Bengal Presidency, British India
(now in West Bengal, India)
|Died||12 November 1969
London, England, United Kingdom
|Political party||Republican Party|
|Alma mater||Elphinstone College
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
|Years of service||1920–1928|
|Commands||Army Corps of Military Police|
Indo-Pakistani War of 1947
Major-General Sahibzada Sayyid Iskander Ali Mirza, CIE, OBE English IPA: ɪskɑndæɾ əɪiː mi(ə)ɹzə (Urdu: اسکندر مرزا; Bengali: ইস্কান্দার মীর্জা; 13 November 1898 – 12 November 1969), was the first President of Pakistan, serving from 1956 until being forced out from the presidency in 1958. Prior to that, Mirza was the last Governor-General of Pakistan from 1955 until 1956. A great-grandson of the last Nawab of Bengal Mir Jafar, Mirza was the first president of Bengali origin from East-Pakistan, and a retired career army officer, having reached the prestigious higher rank of major-general in Pakistan Army.
Starting his career in the government, Mirza was employed by Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan in the Ministry of Defence, being appointed as the first Defence Secretary (one of an apex bureaucratic post), overseeing the Indo-Pakistan war of 1947, and the Balochistan conflict in 1948. Serious disorder and civil unrest sparked in East Pakistan as a result of the Bengali Language Movement in 1952, prompting Prime minister Khawaja Nazimuddin to appoint him as the Governor of the province. He oversaw the success of the One Unit programme in East Pakistan in 1954, and succeeded Malik Ghulam as the Governor-General in 1955. After successfully promulgating the 1956 constitution, Mirza became the first president. But his presidency saw great political instability, challenges in foreign policy, and the ousture of four prime ministers in two years. He finally imposed martial law in 1958 after suspending the constitution and dissolving democratic institutions, including the Pakistan Parliament. Mirza has the distinction of being the first to bring in military influence in national politics after he appointed his army chief as chief martial law administrator of the country.
Problems with the Pakistan Armed Forces and the establishment escalated after relations with the United States deteriorated. Imposition of martial law only led to more civil unrest and political challenges, and also undermined Mirza's own position. After only twenty days of martial law, Mirza was forced out of the presidency by his Chief Martial Law Administrator Field Marshal Ayub Khan. He was exiled to London, where he resided until his death. When he died in 1969 after a long illness, President Yahya Khan denied him a burial in Pakistan. Out of respect, the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi gave him a state funeral in Tehran, Iran.
Iskandar Ali Mirza was the eldest child of Sahibzada Sayyid Fateh Ali Mirza (b. 1874 – d.1949) and his first wife, Dishad Begum née Tyabji (b. 1879– d.1924). Iskander Ali Mirza was born on 14 December 1898, at Murshidabad, Bengal Presidency of British Indian Empire. The Mirza family was an extremely influential and wealthy feudal family in Bengal, with close ties with British monarchy. His father, Fateh Ali Mirza belonged to the ruling house of Murshidabad, grandson of the first Nawab Mansur Ali Khan.
His paternal great-grandfather was Mir Jafar (popularly known to Indian and Pakistanis as Ghaddar-e-Abrar). Mir Jafar had played an integral role bringing down Siraj ud-Daulah of Bengal, with the British Empire serving as the informant and leading provider of intelligence to British officer Robert Clive. His family were strict follower of the Shiite Islam, as their emblem displayed the sign of the Zulfiqar, the sword of Ali (son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad).
Education and military service
Mirza grew up in Bombay, receiving his early education at Elphinstone College, of the then University of Bombay. He then joined the British Army and was educated at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, becoming the first Indian graduate of the academy, and was commissioned into the British Indian Army in 1920.
His military career was spent in the military police and he was attached to the 2nd Battalion, Cameronians 16 July 1920. His service saw extensive operations in North West Frontier Province. He went on to serve in the "Operation Khodad Khel" in 1921, and in the Waziristan war in 1920. He was transferred to the 17th Poona Horse (Queen Victoria's Own), as an army inspector. However, his career was short lived and Mirza left the army to join the Indian Political Service in 1926, being posted as the Assistant Commissioner of the North West Frontier Province. In 1931, he was appointed as district officer; his career was spent in the troubled Tribal belt. He became the Political Agent of the Tribal Belt in 1938, remaining there until 1945.
Mirza was appointed and served as the Political Agent of Odisha and North West Frontier Province from 1945 until 1946. His ability to run the colonial administrative units had brought him to a prominence that prompted the British Indian Government to appointed him as the Joint Defence Secretary of India 1946. In this position, he was responsible for dividing the British Indian Army into the future armies of Pakistan and India. In 1947, Mirza became Pakistan's first Defence Secretary in the government of Liaquat Ali Khan.
Upon the establishment of Pakistan, Mirza was one of the highest-senior ranking government officer in the nation. As Defense Secretary, Mirza oversaw the 1947 war with India, as well as the Balochistan conflict. In 1950, Prime minister Ali Khan approved the recommendation of his appointment as honorary active duty Major-General in Pakistan Army, commanding the Military Police as its second General Officer Commanding. In 1951, Prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan appointed him as the director of the Department of Kashmir and Afghanistan Affairs (DKA). His tenure also saw the redeployment of Military Police in East-Pakistan as a result of the Bengali Language Movement, during which the East Pakistan Army fatally shot four student activists. Within a short span of time, the Military Police had the control of the state and its officer commanding submitted the report of their course of action to Major-General Iskandar Mirza in 1954.
Governor of East-Pakistan
Mizra's rapid control of the province brought him to national prominence, leading to national recognition. Upon the dismissal of United Front, Governor-General Malik Ghulam Muhammad decided to declare governor's rule in the state, with the incoming Prime minister asked to appoint a governor. Appointing a new cabinet, Prime minister Muhammad Ali Bogra named him as the governor of East Pakistan. Taking the oath from the Chief Justice Muhammad Munir, Mirza arrived to East-Pakistan in May 1954. After landing at the Dhaka Airport, Mirza sharply announced in Bengali language to the Pakistan media representatives, that he would not hesitate to use force in order to establish peace in the province. On the first day of his charge, Mirza ordered the arrest of 319 persons, including Mujibur Rahman and Yousaf Ali Chaudhry.
By mid-June 1954, the number of arrests reached 1,051, including 33 Assembly Members and two Dhaka University professors. Although the peace was restored and law and order situation was improved, such actions had sown a permanent seed of hatred for the Central Government in the hearts of the people of East Pakistan.
The same year, Mizra was called to continue his service in federal government being appointed Minister of Interior and Minister of Commonwealth and Kashmir Affairs in Prime minister Muhammad Ali Bogra's cabinet. He was one of the most senior bureaucratic minister in Bogra's government, and was extremely influential at that time. Due to a long illness, Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad went on two months of leave to the United Kingdom, leaving the office of Governor-General to Interior minister Iskander Mirza. On 7 August 1955, Mirza assumed the office of Governor-General. Immediately after taking the oath from Chief Justice of Pakistan at the apex Supreme Court of Pakistan, Mirza spoke to the nation on radio. Owing to the continuing political instability, Mirza forced Prime minister Bogra to resign from his office, despatching him as Pakistan Ambassador to the United States in 1955.
Mirza was an outspoken supporter of the "One Unit Programmme"— a programme of integrating the nations of West-Pakistan and East Pakistan's Bengali nation into one single nation. This programme was a quiet a success in East-Pakistan, but met with harsh criticism led by the nationalists movements. While he forcefully integrated West Pakistan into one province, this led the West Pakistani population to fiercely oppose his schemes. The pressure from both West and East Pakistan forced him to held new general elections where the Awami Party came to power under the founding fathers of Pakistan.
On 12 August, Mirza appointed Chaudhry Muhammad Ali as the interim Prime minister and under his and Ali's close securnity the 1954 general elections were held. The Awami League under Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy came to power, and Suhrawardy was appointed as the fifth Prime minister of the country.
Prime minister Suhrawardy and his legal team drafted and imposed the 1956 Constitution of Pakistan, replacing the official title of Governor-General of Pakistan by the President of Pakistan. For almost nine years after the nation's independence, the country's political system was driven by Parliamentary democracy. The Pakistan Parliament unanimously elected Iskander Mirza as the first President of Pakistan, although the duties and powers associated with the Governor-General office did not change to a great extent.
President Mirza, an Establishment-backed president, widely lacked the parliamentary spirit, distrusting the civilians to ensure the integrity and sovereignty of country. His presidency was marked by great political instability, civil unrest, and immigration problems. The electricity problems in West Pakistan brought his government nearly to an end, prompting Prime minister Suhrawardy to establish the plan for nuclear power in the country. Relations with the United States and Soviet Union deteriorated quickly, and problems with India also mounted.
The One Unit programme collapsed after the Provinces of West Pakistan opposed integration in one provisional state. The provinces retained their current status, nationalists also forced Mirza to give state recognition of their languages as well in the constitution. Under his presidency, Mirza dismissed his elected prime ministers, including Suhrawardy, also a Bengali from East Pakistan.
The Awami League began negotiating a power sharing programme with the Muslim League, re-organizing after the 1954 elections. This attempt of the Awami League threatened Mirza and his political influence nearly bringing the Muslim League to come to its end. Therefore, on 7 October 1958, Mirza issued an executive decree and a state presidential proclamation abrogating the 1956 Constitution of Pakistan. The Pakistan Parliament, provisional assemblies were dissolved, and the civil government of Awami League was brought to end.
On 7 October, Mizra appeared on national radio declaring that he was introducing a new constitution; "more suited to the genius of the Pakistan nation", on November 1958, as he believed democracy was unsuited to Pakistan "with its 15% literacy rate". In 1958, Mirza took the nation into confidence, saying that:
Three weeks ago, I (Mirza) imposed [M]artial Law in Pakistan and appointed General Ayub Khan as Supreme Commander of the [Armed Forces] and also as Chief Martial Law Administrator.... By the grace of God... This measure which I had adopted in the interest of our beloved country has been extremely well-received by our people and by our friends and well wishers abroad... I have done best to administer in the difficult task of arresting further deterioration and bringing order out of chaos... In our efforts to evolve an effective structure for future administration of this country... Pakistan Zindabad, Pakistan Zindabad!—President Iskander Mirza, declaring Martial law in 1958, 
(However, Bhutto in 1967 countered Mirza's views after pointing out that "the same problem of low literacy also existed in India which had opted for democracy".
This martial law imposed by country's first Bengali president was a first martial law in Pakistan, which would continue until the dissolution of East Pakistan in 1971. Mirza appointed then-Army Commander of Pakistan Army, General Ayub Khan, as the Chief Martial Law Administrator (MLA), which proved his undoing in less than two weeks.
Military coup d'état
President Mirza and his Army Commander General Ayub Khan had began the new era with apparent unanimity, jointly describing it as a two-man dictatorial regime evolved under the "Establishment", and the Pakistan Armed Forces. However, the two had very different views on dealing with the new situation, even though they were responsible for bringing about the change.
|“||I did not mean to do it.... The Martial Law would be for shortest possible duration until the new elections....||”|
—President Mirza, 1958, 
President Iskander Mirza had not envisaged any change in his previous powers; he wanted to retain the ability to maneuver things according to his own whim. Judging from the situation, the things however had changed as the time and situation both were demanding the complete solution. General Ayub Khan and the CMLA of Martial Law, came to an understanding that the real political power and might rested with the Armed Forces, and the CMLA General Ayub Khan was determined to assert himself. Within a week of the proclamation of Martial Law, President Mirza realized the delicate position he had got himself into. In an interview given to Dawn, President Mirza regretted his decision and reportedly quoted that: "I did not mean to do it" while offering assurances that the Martial Law would be for the shortest possible duration.
The sharing of power soon led to the intensification of the tug of war between the two men. This deadly game produced negative results for President Mirza after the President tried to balance the power structure by illegally appointing General Ayub Khan as Prime Minister on 24 October 1958. The new cabinet that President Mirza had set up consisted entirely of non-political members, mostly technocrats, one of them being Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The new cabinet did not satisfy General Ayub Khan who had more powers as the Chief Martial Law Administrator.
In order to secure himself, President Iskander Mirza made a last move when he tried to get the support of Ayub Khan's rivals within the Army, Navy, and the PAF. This move brutally backed fire on President Mirza when the ranking officers of Armed Forces notified General Ayub Khan of his schemes. With the consensus of his military generals and admirals of the Navy, Ayub Khan ordered Military Police the arrest of President Mirza on 27 October 1958. Mirza was exiled immediately to Great Britain, and General Ayub Khan became the sole power in Pakistan.
Post-presidency and death
Mirza lived in exile in London, United Kingdom until his death. He died of a heart-attack in London on 12 November 1969, the day before his 70th birthday. It is reported that Mirza struggled financially while living in London trying to run a small Pakistan cuisine hotel. The London-based Community financially helped the former president, and one of the wealthiest Pakistani expatriates paid for his medical bills and for his children's expensive education in London.
After his death, President Yahya Khan— Ayub Khan's successor— and his military government refused to allow him to be buried in his own country, and his body was flown to Tehran where, out of respect, Shah of Iran gave him a State Funeral where the hundreds of Pakistan community in Iran bade farewell and offered their prayers.
Mirza was married twice: his first marriage took place on 24 November 1922 when he married a Bengali woman, Rifa'at Begum (1907–23 March 1967). The couple had two sons and four daughters, all of whom are currently living in Pakistan and actively participating in politics.
In October 1954, while in West Pakistan, Mirza's second marriage took place in Karachi after he fell in love with Iranian-Pakistan woman Mrs. Naheed Begum (1914–). The couple had no children. Naheed Begum was a close friend of Begum Nusrat Bhutto who she knew during her college years. It was this friendship that brought Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto into the political arena of Pakistan. During martial law, President Mirza took his Army Commander General Ayub Khan to Bhutto's residence in Karachi, where he introduced Bhutto to Ayub Khan who kept Bhutto in his cabinet after ousting Mirza.
Mirza's family palace in East-Pakistan was left in ruins, and his valuable assets, family historical memoirs, paintings, where looted by the Bengali people during the course of instability in his native province. It has been described as a "castle of ruins.
Iskander Ali Mirza is often criticized for introducing military martial law. Historians noted that Mirza held that Pakistanis "widely lacked the parliamentary spirit and because of the lack of training in the field of democracy and the low literacy rate amongst the masses, democratic institutions cannot flourish in Pakistan". Mirza wanted to have more "control in democracy in Pakistan", believing that the Judicial authorities should be given the same powers which they used to enjoy during the British Indian Empire.
Mizra's political ideology reflected secularism, and an image of internationalism, strongly advocating the religious separation in state matters. Mirza had never had a high opinion of politicians, believing that politicians should have the right to make policy but that they should not interfere in the administration. Historians also asserted that Mirza's role as the head of state led him to play an active part in power politics, building an image of being a kingmaker in the country's politics. Mirza took full advantage of the weakness of politicians and played them against each other, first offsetting the influence of the Muslim League by creating the Republican Party.
|“||His services are indispensable for Pakistan— our beloved country. Mirza is in fact— A greatest Bengali President of Pakistan...||”|
During his short span of four years as the head of state, four Prime Ministers were changed, three of them were his appointees, while the only popularly elected Bengali prime minister was dismissed. Iskander Mirza is thus widely held responsible for the instability that brought the active role of Pakistan Armed Forces in politics. Despite this criticism, Mirza remained widely respected; Mirza was also given a state honor by then-Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who called him the "greatest Bengali leader" of Pakistan.
(ribbon bar, as it would look today)
- India General Service Medal (1909)
- King George V Silver Jubilee Medal-1935
- King George VI Coronation Medal-1937
- Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)-1939
- Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE)-1945
- Pakistan Independence Medal-1948
- Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal-1953
- Grand Collar of the Order of Pahlavi of the Empire of Iran-1956
- Order of the Supreme Sun, 1st Class of the Kingdom of Afghanistan-1958
Excerpts From Major General Iskander Mirza's Letter to His Children
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2008)|
Mr. Chundrigar is now Prime Minister and I hope the present Government will continue until general election in November 1958. I am quite sure there will be a new President in the new set-up. I am tired of trying to keep the country on the rails and wish all the luck to my successor. With 15% literacy we are trying to run a Constitution which requires 70% literacy - This is the basis of all our troubles. I trusted the Army and in Military honour of General Ayub khan. This was an error of judgment, and people who got on top and misjudge as I did have no right to complain and deserve what they get. This is the end of an episode as far as I am concerned. Individuals don't count, it is the country which matters. Signed I.A.M.
Iskander Mirza wrote in his biography that Pakistan was made by M. A. Jinnah the quade azam but the real freedom won by Bacha Khan. This is his remarks when he was sitting in the house garden along with Ayub khan drinking whisky. The next day evening one major and few soldiers sent by Ayub khan and forced Askander Mirza to resign and put him in commissioner Quetta house in arrest and then flew to London.
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- Iskandar Mirza, Ayub Khan, and October 1958, by Syed Badrul Ahsan, The New Age, Bangladesh, 30 October 2005.
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- Hassan PhD (Civil Engineering), Dr. Professsor Mubashir (2000). The Mirage of Power. ford University, United Kingdom: Dr. Professor Mubashir Hassan, professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Engineering and Technology and the Oxford University Press. p. 394. ISBN 0-19-579300-5.
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- Kabita Chowdhury (29 Dec 2011). "First Pakistan president's Bengal home in a shambles". Times of India. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
- Administration Post. "ZAB calls Iskander Mirza ‘Greater Than Jinnah’". Indian Press News. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
|New office||Defence Secretary of Pakistan
|Governor of East Bengal
Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani
|Minister of the Interior
Malik Ghulam Muhammad
|Governor-General of Pakistan
|New office||President of Pakistan