Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, a retired senior justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the ninth President of Pakistan, serving from 1998 until by virtue of the extra constitutional order in 2001, he was replaced by Pervez Musharraf
Muhammad Rafiq Tarar
Muhammad Rafiq Tarar, a retired senior justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the ninth President of Pakistan, serving from 1998 until ‘by virtue of the extra constitutional order’ in 2001, he was replaced by Pervez Musharraf after tendering resignation. He was born in village Pirkot near Ghakhar Mandi, a rural locality of Gujranwala District on 2 November 1929.
After graduating from Islamia College, Lahore, Rafiq Tarar enrolled at the Punjab University where he received BA in Islamic Studies in 1949. During his college years, he was an activist of Muslim League and an admirer of Jinnah.
During the independence of Pakistan, Rafiq Tarar performed voluntary duty as a relief worker in camps set up by Muslim Students Federation for Indian emigrants, migrating from the riot-torn India to Pakistan. He enrolled at the Law College of Punjab University and graduated with the LLB in 1951. After graduation, he enrolled as a Pleader in Lahore High Court.
In 1951, he enrolled as a Pleader in Lahore High Court. He also enrolled as an Advocate in the Lahore High Court in October 1955. In 1960s, he established his own law firm in Gujranwala, and passed the Bar exams to be elevated as judge in District Courts and session judge.
In 1971, he became Chairman of the Punjab Labour Court and appointed as a judge at Lahore High Court in October 1974 and later became the Chief Justice of the same court in 1989. Earlier, during his days as Judge of the Lahore High Court, he also served as a member of the Election Commission of Pakistan where he represented Punjab. In 1991, Rafiq Tara was appointed as Judge of the Supreme Court in January 1991, from which he retired in November 1994 on attaining the age of 65 years.
Following his retirement from the Judiciary in March 1997, Rafiq Tarar moved from a legal to a political career, joining the PML (N). After securing the party ticket, he was elected as Senator in 1997.
After Farooq Leghari's resignation in 1997, he was nominated as a candidate for the President of Pakistan. On 31 December 1997, in an indirect election, Tarar was elected by a huge margin, getting 374 of 457 votes of the Electoral College against Aftab Mirani of PPP, who got 31 votes, and Muhammad Shirani of JUI (S), who got 22 votes. This was the largest margin in such elections.
Upon becoming President, Rafiq Tarar was an unassuming and merely ceremonial figure head who kept a low profile, and avoided news media, and he remained a devoted servant and loyalist of the Sharif family. He readily signed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution of Pakistan that limited the powers of the presidency.
The President of Pakistan's powers had thus been slowly removed over the years, culminating in the 1997 Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan which removed virtually all remaining reserve powers, making the office almost entirely symbolic in nature as per the true spirit of the constitution.
Rafiq Tarar did not endorse the 1999 coup d'état by the General Pervez Musharraf, since he was an appointee of the Nawaz Sharif-regime. General Pervez Musharraf thus decided not to retain Tarar as the President for his full term of five years, given his partisan attitude.
Rafiq Tarar retired from the national politics and settled in Lahore. He retained a good friendship with Nawaz Sharif and is a close retainer of the Sharif family. His ex-daughter in law, Saira Tarar, is a member of the Nawaz Sharif government, serving in Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination.