A high-profile figure and high-ranking general, Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqub Ali Khan, who held the most senior and prestigious military and government assignments was the primary face of Pakistan in international affairs for three
Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan
A high-profile figure and high-ranking general, Sahibzada Muhammad Yaqub Ali Khan, who held the most senior and prestigious military and government assignments 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.
He was born on 23 December 1920 to an Afghan-Pashtun royal family of the erstwhile Indian princely state of Rampur. 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.
Sahibzada Yaqub 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 Yaqub Ali Khan was taken prisoner 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. As Major-General, he commanded the combatant 1st Armoured Division during the 1965 September war against India and was posted in East-Pakistan shortly after the war 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.
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.
Sahibzada Yaqub Ali 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.
Yaqub Ali 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. He was a commissioner in the now retired Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict.
As a result of 1997 parliamentary elections, Sahibzada Yaqub Khan took retirement from the Foreign Service and settled in Islamabad. He died on 26 Jan 2016, at the age of 95 years. He was married to Begum Tuba Khaleeli, of the Iranian Khaleeli family of Calcutta from whom he had two sons, Samad and Najib.