Sahabzada Yaqub Khan

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Sahabzada Yaqub Ali Khan
صاحبزادہ یعقوب خان;
Sahabzada Yaqub Khan (cropped).jpg
Khan in Paris, 2002
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
11 November 1996 – 24 February 1997
President Farooq Leghari
Prime Minister Moeenuddin Ahmad Qureshi
Preceded by Agha Shahi
Succeeded by Gohar Ayub Khan
In office
21 March 1982 – 20 March 1991

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq

Ghulam Ishaq Khan
Prime Minister Mohammad' Khan Juneijo
Muhammad Nawaz Sharif
Pakistan Ambassador to the United States
In office
19 December 1973 – 3 January 1979
President Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry
General Zia-ul-Haq
Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Preceded by Sultan Muhammad Khan
Succeeded by Sultan Muhammad Khan
Martial Law Administrator of East-Pakistan
In office
23 August 1969 – 1 September 1969
President General Yahya Khan
Vice President Nurul Amin
Preceded by MGen Muzaffaruddin
Succeeded by VAdm Syed Mohammad Ahsan
In office
7 March 1971 – 6 April 1971
President General Yahya Khan
Preceded by VAdm Syed Mohammad Ahsan
Succeeded by Lieutenant general Tikka Khan
Personal details
Born Mohammad Yaqub Ali Khan
(1920-12-23)23 December 1920
Rampur, UP state, British Indian Empire
Died 26 January 2016(2016-01-26) (aged 95)
Islam Abad
Citizenship British India
(1947–26 Jan 2016)
Nationality Pakistani
Alma mater Rashtriya Indian Military College
Cabinet Zia military government
Yahya military government
Benazir Bhutto Government
Military service
Nickname(s) SYAK
Allegiance  Pakistan
Service/branch  Pakistan Army (PA – 136)
Years of service 1940–1972
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant-General
Unit 18th Cavalry, Army Armoured Corps
Commands Eastern Military High Command, East Pakistan
1st Armoured Division, Army Armoured Corps
Command and Staff College
Chief of General Staff
Battles/wars Siege of Tobruk
Indo-Pakistani War of 1965
Indo-Pakistani war of 1971
Bangladesh Liberation War
Soviet war in Afghanistan

Sahabzada Yaqub Khan (in full Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqub Ali Khan) Urdu: صاحبزادہ یعقوب خان; (23 (December 23 1920 – 26 January 2016) was a high-profile figure and high-ranking general who held the most senior and prestigious military and government assignments in the Pakistan Government. He was the primary face of Pakistan in international affairs for three decades. He served as the foreign minister under President General Zia-ul-Haq from 1982 to 1991 and as the caretaker foreign minister from 1996 to 1997.

Educated and received commission in the army after attending the Rashtriya Indian Military College, Yaqub Khan served well in World War II on behalf of British Indian Army, his military career saw the actions in Operation Tobruk, and later opted for Pakistan, joining the staff of Pakistan Army. As Major-General, he commanded the combantant 1st Armoured Division during the 1965 September war against India and posted in East-Pakistan shortly after the war was ended. In 1967, he was elevated as the Chief of General Staff of the Eastern Military High Command under Vice-Admiral Syed Mohammad Ahsan and succeeded Admiral Ahsan as commander of eastern command in 1971. After failing to restore peace, Yaqub Khan was re-called to West-Pakistan where he commanded the combatant corps against India, and took voluntary retirement from the army. In 1973, he entered in foreign service assuming the diplomatic post of Pakistan Ambassador to the United States. Soviet Union and France, which he held until 1979. Upon his return, he was recalled to government service by then-Chief of Army Staff and dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in 1980, rejoining the foreign ministry in 1982.

Yaqub Khan became an international figure when he played a central role in the UN-sanctioned negotiations to end the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, and also took part to end the civil war in Nicaragua, as he was the point man of the United Nations. Since 1990, Khan associated with the United Nations, served at the special representative of U.N. for Western Sahara and was finally reappointed as Foreign Minister in 1996. As a result of 1997 parliamentary elections, Yaqub Khan took subsequent retirement from the foreign service and settled in Islamabad. He died on 26 Jan 2016, at the age of 95 years.

Origin and youth[edit]

Khan belonged to an Afghan-Pashtun Muslim royal family of the erstwhile Indian princely state of Rampur.[1] His father, Sahibzada Sir Abdus Samad Khan Bahadur, was a statesman and diplomat who at various points in his career served as chief minister of the state of Rampur, and as British India's representative to the League of Nations. Yaqub Khan's connections can be traced to Nawab Mirza Ghalib who was appointed teacher of Nawab of Rampur in 1857, who travelled to Rampur twice, in 1860 and 1865.

Khan studied at Col. Brown Cambridge School in Dehra Dun and Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College, Dehradun. He was commissioned on 22 December 1940 and attached to 18th King Edward's Own Cavalry, part of 3rd Indian Motor Brigade. He served in North Africa during World War II with the British Indian Army, taking part in action at El Mechili with A squadron and the Siege of Tobruk. He was promoted lieutenant on 3 April 1942. Acting as the regimental Signal officer he was taken prisoner in on 27 May 1942 at Point 171, and spent the next three years in an Axis prisoner-of-war camp before being released at the end of the war. After independence, he opted for Pakistan, where he went on to enjoy a distinguished career in the Pakistani Army. His elder brother, Sahibzada Younus Khan opted for India and both brothers faced each other in the battlefield in Kashmir in 1948. Rising to the rank Lieutenant General, Yaqub Khan served as Chief of General Staff, Commander Eastern Command, and briefly after the resignation of Vice Admiral S.M. Ahsan, Governor of East Pakistan.

Diplomatic career[edit]

On retiring from the Army he embarked on a career as a diplomat, serving as Ambassador to France, the United States and Soviet Union from 1972 to 1982. While posted in US, he also played a major role in the resolution of 1977 Hanafi Siege in Washington, D.C. Since 1982 he served as Foreign Minister under seven different governments. Then from 1992 until 1997 Yaqub Khan was the United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative for the Western Sahara.

Post career[edit]

Khan was the founding chairman of the Aga Khan University Board of Trustees, which he chaired for almost two decades until his retirement in 2001.[2] He was a commissioner in the now retired Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.[3]

Khan was married to Begum Tuba Khaleeli, of the Iranian Khaleeli family of Calcutta from whom he had two sons, Samad and Najib.

See also[edit]


  • Indian Army List (April 1942, April 1945)
  • Maj Gen Gurcharn Singh Sadu, I serve The Eighteenth Cavalry

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sher Bahadur
Chief of General Staff
Succeeded by
Gul Hassan Khan
Preceded by
LGen Kamal Matinuddin
Unified Commander of Eastern Military High Command
23 August 1969 – 1 September 1969
Succeeded by
MGen Muzaffaruddin
Political offices
Preceded by
Martial Law Administrator, Zone B (East Pakistan)
Succeeded by
Tikka Khan
Preceded by
Governor of East Pakistan
Succeeded by
Syed Mohammad Ahsan
Preceded by
Syed Mohammad Ahsan
Governor of East Pakistan
Succeeded by
Tikka Khan
Preceded by
Agha Shahi
Foreign Minister of Pakistan
Succeeded by
Abdul Sattar
Preceded by
Aseff Ahmad Ali
Foreign Minister of Pakistan (caretaker)
Succeeded by
Gohar Ayub Khan
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Sultan Muhammad Khan
Pakistan Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Sultan Muhammad Khan