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In January 1951, Ayub Khan succeeded General Sir Douglas Gracey as commander in chief of the Pakistan Army, becoming the first Pakistani in that position. Although Ayub Khan's military career was not particularly brilliant and although he had not previously held a combat command, he was promoted over several senior officers with distinguished careers. Ayub Khan probably was selected because of his reputation as an able administrator, his presumed lack of political ambition, and his lack of powerful group backing. Coming from a humble family of an obscure Pakhtun tribe, Ayub Khan also lacked affiliation with major internal power blocks and was, therefore, acceptable to all elements.

Within a short time of his promotion, however, Ayub Khan had become a powerful political figure. Perhaps more than any other Pakistani, Ayub Khan was responsible for seeking and securing military and economic assistance from the United States and for aligning Pakistan with it in international affairs. As army commander in chief and for a time as minister of defense in 1954, Ayub Khan was empowered to veto virtually any government policy that he felt was inimical to the interests of the armed forces.

By 1958 Ayub Khan and his fellow officers decided to turn out the "inefficient and rascally" politicians--a task easily accomplished without bloodshed. Ayub Khan's philosophy was indebted to the Mughal and viceregal traditions; his rule was similarly highly personalized. Ayub Khan justified his assumption of power by citing the nation's need for stability and the necessity for the army to play a central role. When internal stability broke down in the 1960s, he remained contemptuous of lawyer-politicians and handed over power to his fellow army officers.

Ayub Khan used two main approaches to governing in his first few years. He concentrated on consolidating power and intimidating the opposition. He also aimed to establish the groundwork for future stability through altering the economic, legal, and constitutional institutions.

The imposition of martial law in 1958 targeted "antisocial" practices such as abducting women and children, black marketeering, smuggling, and hoarding. Many in the Civil Service of Pakistan and Police Service of Pakistan were investigated and punished for corruption, misconduct, inefficiency, or subversive activities. Ayub Khan's message was clear: he, not the civil servants, was in control.

Sterner measures were used against the politicians. The PRODA prescribed fifteen years' exclusion from public office for those found guilty of corruption. The Elective Bodies Disqualification Order (EBDO) authorized special tribunals to try former politicians for "misconduct," an infraction not clearly defined. Prosecution could be avoided if the accused agreed not to be a candidate for any elective body for a period of seven years. About 7,000 individuals were "EBDOed." Some people, including Suhrawardy, who was arrested, fought prosecution.

The Press and Publications Ordinance was amended in 1960 to specify broad conditions under which newspapers and other publications could be commandeered or closed down. Trade organizations, unions, and student groups were closely monitored and cautioned to avoid political activity, and imams (see Glossary) at mosques were warned against including political matters in sermons.

On the whole, however, the martial law years were not severe. The army maintained low visibility and was content to uphold the traditional social order. By early 1959, most army units had resumed their regular duties. Ayub Khan generally left administration in the hands of the civil bureaucracy, with some exceptions.

Efforts were made to popularize the regime while the opposition was muzzled. Ayub Khan maintained a high public profile, often taking trips expressly to "meet the people." He was also aware of the need to address some of the acute grievances of East Pakistan. To the extent possible, only Bengali members of the civil service were posted in the East Wing; previously, many of the officers had been from the West Wing and knew neither the region nor the language. Dhaka was designated the legislative capital of Pakistan, while the newly created Islamabad became the administrative capital. Central government bodies, such as the Planning Commission, were now instructed to hold regular sessions in Dhaka. Public investment in East Pakistan increased, although private investment remained heavily skewed in favor of West Pakistan. The Ayub Khan regime was so highly centralized, however, that, in the absence of democratic institutions, densely populated and politicized Bengal continued to feel it was being slighted.

Between 1958 and 1962, Ayub Khan used martial law to initiate a number of reforms that reduced the power of groups opposing him. One such group was the landed aristocracy. The Land Reform Commission was set up in 1958, and in 1959 the government imposed a ceiling of 200 hectares of irrigated land and 400 hectares of unirrigated land in the West Wing for a single holding. In the East Wing, the landholding ceiling was raised from thirty-three hectares to forty-eight hectares (see Farm Ownership and Land Reform , ch. 3). Landholders retained their dominant positions in the social hierarchy and their political influence but heeded Ayub Khan's warnings against political assertiveness. Moreover, some 4 million hectares of land in West Pakistan, much of it in Sindh, was released for public acquisition between 1959 and 1969 and sold mainly to civil and military officers, thus creating a new class of farmers having medium-sized holdings. These farms became immensely important for future agricultural development, but the peasants benefited scarcely at all.

In 1955 a legal commission was set up to suggest reforms of the family and marriage laws. Ayub Khan examined its report and in 1961 issued the Family Laws Ordinance. Among other things, it restricted polygyny and "regulated" marriage and divorce, giving women more equal treatment under the law than they had had before. It was a humane measure supported by women's organizations in Pakistan, but the ordinance could not have been promulgated if the vehement opposition to it from the ulama and the fundamentalist Muslim groups had been allowed free expression. However, this law which was similar to the one passed on family planning, was relatively mild and did not seriously transform the patriarchal pattern of society.

Ayub Khan adopted an energetic approach toward economic development that soon bore fruit in a rising rate of economic growth. Land reform, consolidation of holdings, and stern measures against hoarding were combined with rural credit programs and work programs, higher procurement prices, augmented allocations for agriculture, and, especially, improved seeds to put the country on the road to self-sufficiency in food grains in the process described as the Green Revolution.

The Export Bonus Vouchers Scheme (1959) and tax incentives stimulated new industrial entrepreneurs and exporters. Bonus vouchers facilitated access to foreign exchange for imports of industrial machinery and raw materials. Tax concessions were offered for investment in less-developed areas. These measures had important consequences in bringing industry to Punjab and gave rise to a new class of small industrialists.

Data as of April 1994

Country Listing

Pakistan Table of Contents