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Ayub Khan's Message to the Nation

On 7 October 1958, President Iskander Mirza declared Martial Law in the entire country, and appointed General Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. General Ayub delivered the following boradcast through the radio (television was not introduced in to Pakistan until 6 years later). On 27 October, Ayub was sworn in as Prime Minister and, the same night, he deposed President Mirza to himself become the President.

General Ayub's Message to the Nation

October 8, 1958

Fellow Citizens of Pakistan, As-Salam-o-Alaikum

I am going to address you on matters which are both solemn and serious. It is vital that you should listen to them carefully, understand them correctly so as to be able to act constructively, as, in correct action lies the salvation of us all and our future generations.

You should have heard by now the declaration by the President abrogating the Constitution and imposing Martial Law throughout Pakistan. He has appointed me as the Chief Martial Law Administrator and all the Armed Forces of Pakistan, including the Civil Armed Forces, have been put under my command. This is a drastic and extreme step taken with great reluctance, but with the fullest conviction that there was no alternative to it except the disintegration and complete ruination of the country. History would never have forgiven us if the present chaotic conditions were allowed to go on any further.

These chaotic conditions as you know have been brought about by self-seekers who in the garb of political leaders have ravaged the country or tried to barter it away for personal gains. Some have done it as a matter of right because they professed to have created Pakistan, and others who were against the very idea of Pakistan openly worked for its dissolution or in any case did all they could to agitate its problems. Their aim is nothing but self-aggran-disement or thirst for power. Meanwhile weak and irresolute Governments looked on with masterly inactivity and cowardice and allowed things to drift and deteriorate and discipline to go to pieces.

Base Struggle

Ever since the death of the Quaid-i-Azam and Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, politicians started free-for all type of fighting in which no holds were barred. They wage ceaseless and bitter war against each other regardless of the ill effects on the country, just to wet their appetites and satisfy their motives. There has been no limit to the depth of their baseness, chicanery, deceit and degradation. Having nothing constructive to offer they used provincial feelings, sectarian, religious and radical differences to set a Pakistani against a Pakistani. They could see no good in any body else. In this mad rush for power and acquisition all that mattered was self-interest. The country and people could go to the dogs as far as they were concerned.

There were a few honourable exceptions but their conscience was deadened and they were rendered ineffective by hordes of their supporters in the assembly changing party affiliations from day to day.

There are two things a man – a man of any conscience – finds it very difficult to do: change his religion, change party affiliations. But our so-called representatives in the Assemblies shifted from one party to other without turning a hair or feelings any pangs of conscience. This is the basis on which democracy has been run in Pakistan and in the sacred name of Islam. In the process, all ideals and high sense of values inherent in our religion and culture have been destroyed.

The result is total administrative, economic, political and moral chaos in the country, which cannot be tolerated in these dangerous times. Pakistan certainly cannot afford this luxury. It has far too many internal problems to solve and external dangers to guard against – the pre-requisite to solution of which is a secure and stable base within the country.

Our people are by nature patriotic and good people. They are tolerant, patient and can rise to great heights when well led. They are also intelligent and could see all these happenings in front of their eyes. But they found themselves helpless as they did not wish to aggravate the problems facing the country or perhaps did not wish to hurt the feelings of the Army which, in the final analysis is responsible for law and order and which had served them so well with loyalty and devotion. But lately I could see that they were beginning to loose faith even in us for not saving them from the tyranny and mental and spiritual torture. I am sure they are sick and tired of the unscrupulous type of politicians who were busy tearing their dear country into pieces. The Army too felt the same much more but held their patience for the reasons which I will just now explain.

Army’s Attitude

This is the occasion on which I feel I should take my countryman in to confidence about the Army’s attitude and behaviours. Ever since the inception of Pakistan we in the Armed Forces saw very clearly the internal problems facing the country and the external dangers, to which it was exposed. We were also conscious to our limited means. We solmnly decided to build a true national army free from politics, a model of devotion to duty and integrity imbued with the spirit of service to the people and capable of effectively defending the country. Further, I always told my people that our major task is to give cover to the country behind which it could build a sound democratic system and lay the foundation of a stable future. We kept severely aloof from politics.

You may not know but I refused on several occasion the late Mr. Golam Mohammad’s offer to take over the country. I did so in the belief that I served the cause of Pakistan better from the place where I was, and also had a faint hope that some politicians would rise to the occasion and lead the country to a better future. Events have falsified those hopes and we have come to the present pass. A perfectly sound country has been turned into a laughing stock. This is sad, but the situation has to be faced and remedies found, as God willing they are going to be.

Let me announce in unequivocal terms that our ultimate aim is to restore democracy but of the type that people can understand and work. When the time comes your opinion will be freely asked. But when that will be, events alone can tell. Meanwhile, we have to put this mess right and put the country on an even keel.

There are certain problems which need immediate solution, yet there are others which are of a long term nature. We shall do our utmost to solve them and eradicate the evils. But in all these, I must demand your wholehearted understanding, cooperation and patience. I must also ask you to work hard and put in your best effort. This is the period when our state has to be built and this can only happen if people work. Slogan-mongering can never take the place of hard sweat. Remember there are certain things which should be in our power to put right. We shall see that is done. But there are others, solutions to which are beyond our control. Here all we can promise is our best endeavours, leaving the result to God. So, when judging our performance do keep these hard realities of life in mind.

Civilian Agencies

As to the operation of Martial Law I propose to use the Civilian Agencies to the maximum. The Armed Forces will be utilized as little as possible. In the main, they will continue to attend to their prime role of external defence. Martial Revolution will be produced which will tighten up the existing laws on matters like malingering or inefficiency in officials, any form of bribery or corruption, hoarding, smuggling or black-marketting or any other type of anti-social or anti-state activity. In other words the nefarious activities of the characters of all description shall be firmly curbed in order that Pakistan is made safe for the law abiding citizens.

Since Martial Law will, in the main, be operated in the Civilian Agencies I must ask them to discharge this onerous and perhaps unpleasant duty honestly, justly and faithfully. Here is an opportunity for you to show your mettle. Go to it and show us what sort of stuff you are made of. Your services had tremendous traditions. Don’t miss the opportunity to revive them and in doing so you can be assured of the Armed Forces’ faithful support. At this critical juncture it is more than ever necessary for the Armed Forces to be prepared at all times to face external aggression. But they were fully aware that internal stability is absolutely essential if they are to successfully repeal aggression from outside.

Some of them may have to be called upon to perform duties, in connection with Martial Law. Whatever these duties may be, I expect them to do them loyally, efficiently and unhesitatingly. Their behaviour at all times must be correct, disciplined and impartial. I have every confidence in their ability to face any challenge however difficult it may be.


A word for the disruptionists, political opportunists, smugglers, black-marketeers and other such social vermins, sharks and leeches. The soldiers and the people are sick of the sight of you. So, it will be good for your health to turn a new leaf and begin to behave, otherwise contribution will be swift and sure. At any rate, they have no cause to be neglected. We shall be making desperate efforts to catch up with them as soon as possible.

I have spoken to you, my fellow citizens, at some length to put you in the picture and remove doubts and misgivings and to convince you that this extreme step has been taken in your interest and in the interest of the stability of Pakistan. Now let us all bow before Almighty God in all humility to guide us to a better future so that we emerge from this hour of trial as a sound, solid and strong nation. AMIN. Pakistan Paindabad!

Source: Documents and Speeches on the Constitution of Pakistan
By G. W. Choudhury (1967). Green Book House, Dacca (East Pakistan)

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