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Iskander Mirza
سکندر مرزا

In office
23 March 1956 – 27 October 1958
Prime Minister Chaudhry Muhammad Ali
Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
Ibrahim Ismail Chundrigar
Feroz Khan Noon
Ayub Khan
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Ayub Khan

In office
6 October 1955 – 23 March 1956
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Chaudhry Muhammad Ali
Preceded by Ghulam Muhammad
Succeeded by Office abolished

Born 13 November 1899(1899-11-13)
Murshidabad, British India
Died 12 November 1969 (aged 69)
London, United Kingdom
Political party Republican Party
Religion Shi'a Islam

Major-General Sahibzada Sayyid Iskander Ali Mirza, CIE, OBE (Urdu: اسکندر مرزا) (November 13, 1899 – November 12, 1969) was the last Governor-General of the Dominion of Pakistan (6 October 1955 to 23 March 1956), and the first President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (23 March 1956 to 27 October 1958).


Early life

Iskander Ali Mirza was born at Murshidabad, Bengal on 13 November 1899, the eldest son of Sahibzada Sayyid Muhammad Fateh Ali Mirza (1875-1948) and his first wife, Dilshad Begum (1879-1925). Muhammad Fateh Ali Mirza was a prince of the ruling house of Murshidabad and grandson of Nawab Mansur Ali Khan, the last Nawab of Bengal. Mirza was a descendant of Mir Jafar [1] . He was a Shi'a Muslim, as his emblem below displays the sign of the Zulfiqar, the sword of Ali (son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad ). He grew up in Bombay. After completing his early education at Elphinstone College, of the then-University of Bombay, he was later educated at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, becoming the first graduate from the Indian subcontinent at the academy, and was commissioned into the British Indian Army in 1920.

He was attached to the 2nd Btn., Cameronians 16 July 1920, and served in the Khodad Khel Operations 1921 and at Waziristan 1924. He was transferred to the 17th Poona Hse(Queen Victoria's Own) later that year, and joined the Indian Political Service in 1926. He was Assistant Commissioner at Abbottabad 1926-1928, Bannu 1928-1930, Nowshera 1930-1933, and Tonk 1933, a Deputy Commissioner at Hazara 1933-1936 & at Mardan 1936-1938. He was a Political Agent Khyber 1938-1940, Dep. Cmsnr. Peshawar & Political Agent to the Mohmands 1940, Political Agent Orissa States 1945-1946, Joint Defence Sec. India 1946-1947 and Defence Secretary. Mirza only served in the army for six years, after which he was the first Indian to be accepted in the elite Indian Political Service, eventually becoming a joint secretary in the Ministry of Defence of British India. In this position, he was responsible for dividing the British Indian Army into the future armies of Pakistan and India.


Defence Secretary and Governor-General

Upon the formation of Pakistan, Mirza -- at the time, the highest-ranking Muslim civil servant in the nation -- was made the Defence Secretary of the new nation. In 1954, he was made governor of East Pakistan to bring order to the politically distressed region. This position was followed by his being appointed Minister of Interior and Frontier Regions in Muhammad Ali Bogra's cabinet. In 1955, he became acting Governor-General, before becoming the last Governor-General of Pakistan.

Mirza was also a great advocate of the One Unit scheme, and believed in the separation of state and religion. When Mirza succeeded the ailing Ghulam Mohammad as Governor-General, he was married to his second wife, Nahid Mirza, an Iranian lady who had previously been the wife of the Military Attaché of Iran in Pakistan.

President of Pakistan

In 1956, Pakistan established its first constitution, and the position of Governor-General was replaced by that of President. The two were essentially the same, but Mirza was officially elected as President by the Assembly. During his presidency, Pakistan was politically unstable, this was marked by four different prime ministers in two years.

Military coup d'état

In 1958, Mirza decided that the 1956 Constitution was contributing to political instability; on 7 October, he declared martial law with the view to introducing a new constitution "more suited to the genius of the Pakistani people" in November. He appointed the commander-in-chief of the Pakistan Army, Ayub Khan, as the martial law administrator.

Ayub Khan declared himself President on 27 October after a bloodless coup d'état.



On 24 November 1922, Iskander married Rif'a'at Begum (1907-23 March 1967). The couple had two sons and four daughters.

In October 1954, Iskander married Naheed Begum (1914-), the couple had no children.


Mirza lived in exile in London until his death. He died of a heart-attack in London on 12 November 1969, the day before his 70th birthday. After Yahya Khan's military government refused to allow him to be buried in his own country, his body was flown to Tehran where the Shah of Iran gave him a State Funeral.

Excerpts From Major General Iskander Mirza's Letter to His Children

Mr. Chundrigar is now Prime Minister and I hope the present Government will continue until general election in November 1958. I am quite sure there will be a new President in the new set-up. I am tired of trying to keep the country on the rails and wish all the luck to my successor. With 15% literacy we are trying to run a Constitution which requires 70% literacy - This is the basis of all our troubles. I trusted the Army and in Military honour of General Ayub khan. This was an error of judgment, and people who got on top and misjudge as I did have no right to complain and deserve what they get. This is the end of an episode as far as I am concerned. Individuals don't count, it is the country which matters.

Signed I.A.M.


  1. ^ Iskandar Mirza, Ayub Khan, and October 1958, by Syed Badrul Ahsan, The New Age, Bangladesh, October 31, 2005.

See also

Political offices
Preceded by
Chaudhry Khaliquzzaman
Governor of East Bengal
1954 – 1955
Succeeded by
Muhammad Shahabuddin
Preceded by
Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani
Interior Minister of Pakistan
1954 – 1955
Succeeded by
Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq
Preceded by
Ghulam Mohammad
Governor-General of Pakistan
1955 – 1956
Succeeded by
Office abolished
Preceded by
Office created
President of Pakistan
1956 – 1958
Succeeded by
Ayub Khan


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