Pakistan through the decades: Governor Generals and Presidents of Pakistan

First governor general of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Although Pakistan had become independent in 1947, it continued to follow the Government of India Act 1935 according to which the Governor General being the head of the state was the resident representative of  the monarch of Great Britain. The Governor General was recommended by the Prime Minister and appointed by the Monarch.

Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was the first governor general of Pakistan and after him came Khawaja Nazimuddin (14th September 1948-17th October 1951), Ghulam Mohammed (17th October 1951 to 6th October 1955) and Iskander Mirza (6th October  1955 to 23rd March 1956).  

 In 1956, Pakistan became a republic and formed its own constitution in which the post of the governor general was replaced by that of the President and Iskander Mirza was appointed as the first President of Pakistan.  Since then the list of people who have served as the president of Pakistan is as follows:

Iskander Mirza (23rd March 1956 to 27th October 1958)

General Ayub Khan (27th October 1958 to 25th March 1969)

 Yahya Khan (25th March 1969 to 20th Dec 1971)

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (20th Dec 1971 to 13th Aug 1973)

Fazal Illahi Chaudhry (13th Aug 1973 to 16th Sept 1978)

Gen Zia ul Haq (16th Sept 1978 to 17th Aug 1988)

Ghulam Ishaq Khan (17th Aug 1988 to 18th Julsy 1993)

Wasim Sajjad (18th July 1993 to 14th November 1993) First Term

Farooq Leghari (14th November 1993 to 2nd December 1997)

Wasim Sajjad (2nd December 1997 to 1st January 1998) Second Term

Mohammad Rafiq Tarrar (1st January 1998 to 20th June 2001)

Pervaiz Musharraf (20th June 2001 to 18th August 2008)

Asif Ali Zardari (6th September 2008-present)

The President in Pakistan enjoyed more power than the prime minister and on a couple of occasions exercised this power by dismissing the elected prime ministers on various charges such as corruption, incompetence etc. Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed Benazir Bhutto’s and Nawaz Sharif’s government and Farooq Leghari dismissed Benazir’s government. Zia ul Haq and President Musharraf also used their powers excessively.  In 2010 however  the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan gave more power to the prime minister making him the most powerful man in Pakistan.

The third Governor General of Pakistan: Malik Ghulam Muhammad

Pakistan's governor general Malik Ghulam Muhammad


Birth: 20th April 1895

Tenure: 17th October 1951 – 7th August 1955

Death: 12th September 1956

Malik Ghulam Muhammad as Governor General:

Ghulam Muhammad was the Finance Minister of Pakistan in 1947. After Liaqat Ali Khan’s death he became the Governor General of Pakistan because Khawaja Nazimuddin was made the Prime Minister. As the governor general of Pakistan, Ghulam Muhammad’s first major duty was to represent Pakistan at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II held in 1953 in London. He was present in Westminster Abby along with Governor Generals of other nations such as New Zealand, Ceylon, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Challenges faced by Malik Ghulam Muhammad:

The Assembly of Pakistan made efforts to change the constitution in 1954 in order to maintain a check over the Governor General’s powers in response to this Malik Ghulam Muhammad dismissed the Assembly itself. The Supreme Court challenged this action. However, Malik Ghulam Muhammad was successful despite a rebellious letter written by the Chief Justice. In later years this action was seen as the start of the so called royal politics in Pakistan in which non-elected officials get to govern the country and have extensive influence over the society and the provinces.


Malik Ghulam Muhammad had to take a leave of absence in 1955 due to his deteriorating health. Iskander Mirza, the acting governor general dismissed Malik Ghulam Muhammad and he died a year later in 1956.