The Pakistan Coup d’Etat of 1958: Part I

Naveed Yajammal

A Pakpotpourri Exclusive

Naveed PicOne does not find much written on this aspect, but this much is evident that the Gang which took over from within the old Gang hierarchy-did so for personal survival instincts and not for any nationalistic motivation or such like  a noble cause.  Should one read the ‘British Papers’ declassified  & published by Oxford Press, covering unfortunately only the selective period as compiled by  Roedad Khan[[retired former  senior-civil servant]who for reasons best known to him chose selected demi-official letters; from this treasure trove of hidden knowledge. Even than one can get the drift of the gist of the manipulations which led to final exile of Iskandar Mirza & Nahid Mirza from the power corridors. Most of this information which will be highlighted in the parts of this article is that, which Sir Alexander Symons’s Karachi sent to the Whitehall, as one reads one finds that Alexander Symons had full confidence of both Iskander and Ayub, an art by itself or that of a seasoned diplomat, and perhaps it was because both were products of Sandhurst and trained or indoctrinated to a system created by the British. So one finds the Whitehall at ease with them. As one can glean if not from before but definitely from 1947 onward Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan were soul mates.

Each one covered the other-both were master manipulators, The only third person who remains in background  & yet plays his role is  the chief justice Mohammad Munir. He gave legitimacy to the Byzantine intriguers reborn. Ghulam Mohammad as Governor-General outwardly a strong man remained the front man after the assassination of Liaqat Ali Khan. The puppet masters were both Iskander and Ayub. Both  are seen moving in the directions as given to them by their mentors, as without their tact approval they did not move-as will be explained subsequently in this article.

One fails to find any logical cogent grounds for the coup d’état of 1958, there were no imminent National crisis which had asked for such a drastic action. The later claim by Ayub khan’s junta that the coup d’état was a logical conclusion, as the country was on brink of disintegration is false and utter rubbish, and has no factual basis, other than a  rhetoric. Ayub and Iskander became a lethal team, and had not Iskander Mirza taken Ayub under his tutelage, Ayub would never have become what he became.

As is evident by these dispatches  referred above, if read closely, It was always Iskander a shrewd man and not a plaything in the hands of the Army. It was Ayub who had always sought cover behind Iskander Mirza. Do keep in mind that it was Iskander Mirza and Not Ayub who had abrogated the Constitution on the night 7/8 Oct 1958 earlier, in the phase one of the later 1958 coup d’état, which came 20 days hence on night 27/28 Oct 1958.It was Iskander Mirza who had nominated Ayub as the new designate Commander in Chief after the Death of Maj. Gen Iftikhar Ali and Brig Sher khan in the air crash.

This meteoric rise of an unknown Officer with no war laurels to support nor any worthwhile achievements, to show was indeed hand-picked, & in almost 5 years from a Major he arose to become a full General-[1945-1950].As per the Press Communiqué issued by the Defense Ministry under Iskander Mirza on 06 Sept.1950, which announced the selection of by the Governor-General. Kh. Nazimuddin of Maj. Gen Ayub Khan as the First Pakistani C in C to replace General Sir Douglas Gracie on his retirement.

The British held Iskander Mirza in high esteem till his end, as is evident by the courtesies extended to him by the British Government, these contrast very sharply with the Shabby treatment shown to Iskander Mirza by Ayub Khan who was in reality was, his created protégé.

But like it is said, ‘There are No permanent friends. Only permanent interests”.

And it is ironic that London and its Whitehall was every ready to do business as usual with Ayub Khan, after Iskander Mirza was exiled, later when the time came & the cycle took its full turn, after 25 March 1969,a tactful oral message was sent to Ayub Khan in the aftermath, by the British Govt, but it was business as usual with Yahya Khan. Here it maybe pertinent to remind the reader that Ayub by handing the power to Yahya khan had violated his own 1962 constitution, the power should have been transferred to Civil & not Military.

Soon after in Jan 1951 when Ayub Khan took over the Command of the Army, in a month, the Rawalpindi Conspiracy case was detected. Both Iskander and Ayub were tasked to interrogate the informer and so followed by a witch hunt, Army came under the yoke of both these two; Police under Qurban ali Khan the I G of Punjab was given a full mandate to cover the whole country and locate any one they found needed. The CID Punjab with Maj Gen Hayauddin as the chief liaison officer from the Army having his own axe to grind did the needful, to remove from the Army unwanted elements or subdue others. Yes men were encouraged later to rise and strong men retired. The precedence set by Ayub Khan created the great divide within the Army of the Uniformed Babus’ who rose to higher ranks and the Field Officers who fought wars, but were sent home later. In late 1952,Iskander Mirza led a military delegation to Turkey, Ayub was part of the entourage here as per pre-arranged plans both jointly met the American Under-Secretary for Defense. Finding Americans receptive Iskander Mirza sent Ayub khan to USA. This followed a return fact finding visit by a U.S. mission. Ayub Khan cunningly was developing his own personal relations with the Americans, as subsequent events speak by themselves.

In April 1954,general elections were held in East Pakistan, the Muslim League was totally routed and riots erupted all over the country. Admanjee Jute Mills at Naranganj under the bloodsucking new elite of industrialists with very  high level of cheap labor neglected and treated as slaves became the center of resistance,500 men alone in this jute mill died in the ensuing riots, Prime minister Mohammad Ali Bogra appointed Iskander Mirza as the new Governor of East Pakistan. Iskander Mirza it must be borne in mind was tethnically  a Bengali and spoke Bengal so he quickly got the situation under control, the centers of trouble were found to be University of Dacca, Colleges at Sylhet & Rajshahi.  Both the colleges were reformed & the Dacca University moved to a new campus 25 miles away from the main city of Dacca. In Aug 1954′ came heavy cyclonic rains and floods, 15000 square miles of coast land and riversides were flooded. Over 10 million people were left homeless. The Army & Air force moved in, as did American Agencies on the behest of Iskander Mirza move in and shortly the issues were handled-this gave huge impetus to the prestige of Iskander Mirza.

In West Pakistan the Governor General Ghulam Mohammad and the Prime Minister were on each other’s throats. On 21 Sept 1954, while Ghulam Mohammad was on the his usual northern tour a Legislative Coup took place in the Constituent Assembly which was aimed at rendering The Governor General powerless, by virtue of this new amendment the Governor General could only Act on the advice of the Prime Minister. Glulam Mohammad rushed back and started his own power politics in cahoots with Ayub Khan’s support.

Iskander Mirza’s son quotes this in his book,’From Plassey to Pakistan, ‘That earlier Ayub Khan had made his intentions known to John K.Emmerson the chargé d’affaires U.S Embassy Karachi, while the Ambassador Hildreth was away in USA for his daughter’ s wedding, and quotes a de-classified Top Secret Telegram no.474 dated Oct 06 1954.addressed to  the U.S Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, ”In conversation General Ayub today with General Sexton only other person present. Ayub Khan said he did not like present political situation …….Ayub said, If some action was necessary ‘hope you [the U.S] will understand…He reiterated ‘something would be done.”No mistake he meant Military would take over if necessary. Ayub asked that this conversation should not be mentioned to any Pakistani or Britisher.”[Reference to British deemed that in a Common wealth country the Head of State was appointed by the King/Queen of Britain and it was High Treason under the law of what he was thinking to do].

And it is fact that Ayub was under extreme threat himself as the Prime Minister Mohammad Ali Bogra had categorically-stated that No extension would be given to Ayub Khan in Jan 1955.

M.B Khalid was the Principle Assistant of Ghulam Mohammad since 23 Aug 1952 and remained in this slot for the next 16 years till 1968,having served Under Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan as well, he published his autobiography in 1988,in Urdu, Khalid in his opening chapter gives the narration of the final day of departure from the Governor-General House  by Ghulam Mohammad, by 1955 even after manipulating the law and making Chief Justice uphold his decision of dissolving the Constituent Assembly. Iskander Mirza and Ayub khan felt that he must now leave, as he had served his end, so that day- the route from the Governor General  House till Clifton house of the daughter of Ghulam Mohammad was lined up on both sides by Army contingents and bands to bid him his final farewell. Iskander Mirza was seen hovering all over  & supervising all minor details as he was to take over-as the new Governor General, and as Ghulam Mohammad was made to sit in the limousine, Iskander told  A.B Khalid and an ADC to accompany the outgoing Governor General. While Iskander followed in the limousine. On reaching the House after getting salutes throughout the journey as he entered his daughter’s house; Ghulam Mohammad broke down and started weeping seeing the small room or his eventual fate. Dr.Khan Sahib and Ch. Mohammad Ali who had reached earlier stood at a respectable distance. However a faint victorious smile lingered over the face of Iskander Mirza who was constantly assuring him that all will be well and he would remain loyal to him, and cater for all his needs, and he need not worry, and that his decision of resigning was a good decision and in the ultimate National interests.

In the continuation to all this, he narrates how  this one time powerful man had called in Khawaja Nazimuddin  the Prime minister on an immediate  notice and dismissed him, as soon as he entered his office. As Khawaja left for his car Ghulam Mohammad had watched him go. Meanwhile all his escorts had been withdrawn in a pre-arranged move and the Flag of Pakistan also removed from his official car and only a driver remained to open his car door-and Khawaja Nizamuddin had been the Prime minister just-15 minutes back.

With passage of time and declassifications and new evidence emerging in shape of books, one finds that behind all these manipulations stood Iskander and Ayub till each met his own Fate.

A B Khalid further states that it was in early afternoon of 07 Oct 1958 that the personal servant [Abdul Sattar]of Iskander Mirza came with a urgent message for him and Nusrat- ud-din, as they both shared the same office that Sahibjee says that both of you be back in office by 5 pm as some urgent matters are in offing and need to be typed. Khalid adds that on reaching at 5 pm they both had tea and discussed normal issues and at around 6.30 pm walked in Major Gen. Sher Bhadaur with a brief case which he opened and started giving out drafts of the letters to be typed by both him and Nusrat[who was the Principle secretary of Iskander Mirza]and Gen. Sher Bhadaur sat on a chair not allowing any one to enter or receive any phone calls. To the extent that even carbon papers were supplied from his brief case. Meanwhile outside in the long corridor Iskander Mirza paced to and fro and chain-smoked and it was by 9.30 pm that typing ceased. The first paper was a proclamation’ in which the constitution stood abrogated National and Provincial Assemblies stood dissolved and the Cabinet dismissed. The second paper was the appointment of General Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. The third paper dealt with personal messages to the vital Head of States. The Fourth was urgent Letters to Ambassadors of vital countries to visit on receipt of these letters immediately the President House [old Gov. Gen House].

After the typing had ceased and letters checked for any errors all three proceeded to the Military Secretary Office i.e Colonel Nawazish Ali. Shortly later walked in Iskander Mirza and checked the letters. Thereafter walked in Gen. Ayub khan accompanied by Gen. Burk and  Gen. Azam Khan all three saluted Iskander Mirza then Ayub khan said; ”Everything is okay’ Sir-Operation is complete”.

They all shook hands and congratulated each other over the flawless operation, on this note walked in five waiters each with Bottles of whiskey/soda and glasses. Iskander Mirza with a smile on his face after a few sips asked Gen. Ayub, ”Ayub, will I be alive tomorrow?”

Ayub Khan walked up to him and put his arm around his back and held him. The dinner was served at 11 pm and thereafter Gen Sher Bhadaur took Nusrat and Khalid away to their offices and shortly after this started a long queue of visitors, including the Ambassadors. Drinks flowed and cigar smoke hung heavy in the air while periodic heavy laughter rang in the hall ways till early morning hours.

[To be continued…]

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  • naveed tajammal  On May 4, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Thank you Yasmeen Aftab Ali for a prompt posting.regards

  • Ajmal  On May 4, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    Excellent start & narration based on facts and thorough research. Keep it Baba.

  • GRK  On May 5, 2014 at 10:19 am

    naveed bhai indeed greatful for this i need to read it few times to ascertain from where the train was derailed profound regards sincerely grk

  • zubair zubair  On May 5, 2014 at 11:25 am

    It is always a pleasure to read Naveed. I sincerely hope to have access to his research on Indus Valley Zubair

    • naveed tajammal  On May 5, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Thank you Zubair Sahib-The main work should be complete by end of this year.regards

  • a m malik  On May 29, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Is any of the participants/active observer to the events alive today?

  • Monir Azhar  On June 2, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    An excellent read which revealed knowledge & provided much needed insight of affairs developed prior to my birth. I recommend it as a must read for anyone who discusses or is interested in Pak politics with a belief to do something for homeland but is somehow not very sure about adopting any political affiliation!

  • Saad Zia  On May 2, 2017 at 7:13 am

    ” Pakistan was destroyed the day Liaqat refused/ ignored the invitation of Stalin … selected 90 ICS officers all úrdu speaking’ immigrants to form CSP for full control of Pakistan……” are few lines my father Ex- Lt, Col Mohammad Zia-ud-din , a part of the “Rawalpindi Conspiracy” group would occasionally relate to me. “This country was a trick played on us ….it was made for the álotmentees’ as the Burkis ( General Burki) and Asghar Khan (Air Marshal) who went on to claim 92 lakhs property during partition while Maharaja Gulab Singh had sold the entire Srinagar Valley to the British for only Rs. 75 lakh !!” Thank you so much Mr. Naveed Tajammal for writing …unearthing such gripping hard and bitter facts which do make óne’s heart bleed’ , yet are enlightening enough to show the light to a better way for all.


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