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KARACHI: Former Foreign Minister of Pakistan Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan has passed away. He was 95, according to a private news channel.

Sahibzada Yaqub Ali Khan became foreign minister during the rule of General Zia Ul Haq. He succeeded Agha Shahi in this position. He served Pakistan as ambassadors to the United States, Russia and France. Yaqub Ali Khan was born on 23 December 1920 in Rampur, India. He was a high-profile figure and high-ranking general who held the most senior and prestigious military and government assignments in Pakistan, and was also the international face of Pakistan for decades. He first served as the Foreign minister, military government of President General Zia-ul-Haq from 1982 to 1991 until the dying days of the Cold War, and then also served as the caretaker Foreign minister from 1996 to 1997.

Educated and received commission in the army after attending the Rashtriya Indian Military College, Yaqub Khan served well in the World War II on behalf of British Indian Army, and later opted for Pakistan, joining the staff of Pakistan Army. As Major-General, he commanded the combatant 1st Armoured Division during the 1965 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. Later, Yaqub Khan was recalled to West-Pakistan where he commanded the combatant corps against India, and took voluntarily retirement from the army. In 1973, he joined the foreign office, assuming the diplomatic post of Pakistan Ambassador to the United States. Soviet Union and France, which he held until 1979. Upon his return, he was recalled for his military service by the then Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq, in 1980, re-joining the ministry of foreign affairs in 1982.

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. He also took part to end the civil war in Nicaragua, as he was the point man of the United Nations. Since 1990, Khan remained associated with the United Nations, served at the special representative of the UN for Western Sahara and was finally reappointed as Foreign Minister in 1996. As a result of 1997 parliamentary elections, Yaqub Ali Khan took subsequent retirement from the Foreign Service.

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 the US, he also played a major role in the resolution of the 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.

Sahabzada Yaqub Khan is 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. Sahabzada Yaqub Khan was married to Begum Tuba Khaleeli, of the prominent Iranian Khaleeli family of Calcutta, and had two sons, Samad and Najib.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2016

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