|Biographical detail : ||Pakistan’s public face in international affairs for three decades
A former military leader, foreign minister and diplomat, Sahabzada Yaqub Khan was Pakistan’s public face in international affairs for three decades.
He had helped facilitate President Richard Nixon’s overture to China in 1972. In the late 1980s, as a United Nations-sanctioned envoy, Sahabzada helped negotiate the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan and the windup of the civil war in Nicaragua.
Skilful diplomat, and as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Sahabzada was one of several Muslim diplomats who interceded to end the so-called Hanafi siege in 1977, in which a breakaway group from the Nation of Islam seized three buildings and at least 134 hostages in Washington. A radio reporter was killed, and the remaining hostages were released after a 39-hour standoff.
Sahabzada also served as Pakistan’s envoy to the Soviet Union and France, and was Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar’s United Nations special representative for Western Sahara. He served as an ambassador from 1972 to 1982, under seven governments as foreign minister until 1991, and again briefly beginning in 1996.
Sahabzada demonstrated his savvy in the military sphere in 1970 when, as a lieutenant general and governor of East Pakistan, he refused a superior’s order to deploy troops to quell a mutiny there. His defiance ended his army career, but he was vindicated when his successor’s crackdown led to a massacre, Indian intervention on behalf of the insurgents and the partition of East Pakistan into what became Bangladesh.
He was founding chairman of Aga Khan University’s board of trustees, serving for 16 years until his retirement in 2001.
Sahabzada Muhammad Yaqub Khan was born to a royal family of Rampur in the northeast of what was then British India. He studied at the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College in Dehradun, India. He served with the British Indian Army in North Africa in World War II.
When Britain granted independence to what became India and Pakistan in 1947, Sahabzada migrated to Pakistan.
Sahabzada Yaqub Khan passed away in Islamabad.