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Muhammad Rafiq Tarar

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Muhammad Rafiq Tarar
محمد رفیق تارڑ
Tarar in 2000
9th President of Pakistan
In office
1 January 1998 – 20 June 2001
Prime MinisterNawaz Sharif
Chief ExecutivePervez Musharraf
Preceded byWasim Sajjad (Acting)
Succeeded byPervez Musharraf
Member of Senate of Pakistan
In office
Succeeded byRafique Rajwana
Senior Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan
In office
17 January 1992 – 1 November 1994
Nominated byBenazir Bhutto
Appointed byGhulam Ishaq Khan
Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court
In office
6 March 1989 – 31 October 1991
Appointed byTikka Khan
Preceded byAbdul Shakurul Salam
Succeeded byMian Mahboob Ahmad
Personal details
Muhammad Rafiq

(1929-11-02)2 November 1929
Mandi Bahauddin, Punjab, British India (Now, Punjab, Pakistan)
Died7 March 2022(2022-03-07) (aged 92)
Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan
Political partyPakistan Muslim League (N)
RelativesSaira Afzal Tarar (daughter-in-law)
Attaullah Tarar (grandson)
Bilal Farooq Tarar (grandson)
Alma materGovernment Islamia College, Gujranwala (BA)
University of the Punjab (LLB)
CabinetSharif Cabinet

Muhammad Rafiq Tarar (/rəˈfk təˈrɑːr/ ; Urdu: محمد رفیق تارڑ; 2 November 1929 – 7 March 2022) was a Pakistani politician and jurist who served as the ninth president of Pakistan from January 1998 until his resignation in June 2001, and prior to that as a senator from Punjab in 1997. Before entering politics, Tarar served as senior justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan from 1992 to 1994 and as the 28th Chief Justice of Lahore High Court from 1989 to 1991.[1]

Tarar was born in Mandi Bahauddin, and graduated with LLB from University of the Punjab in 1951, before starting practice as a lawyer in Lahore High Court the following year.[2] In 1966, he pursued a career as a jurist. Tarar later served as a justice in Pakistan's highest courts. After his retirement at 65, he started a political career as a legal advisor to Nawaz Sharif. Tarar became a senator from Punjab in 1997 and the same year nominated as presidential candidate by PML-N, but his nomination paper was rejected by the Acting Chief Election Commissioner. Barrister Ijaz Husain Batalvi assisted by M. A. Zafar and Akhtar Aly Kureshy Advocate, challenged his rejection in Lahore High Court and the Full Bench set aside the rejection order of the Election Commission[3] and he was elected president of Pakistan in the presidential election by a margin of 374 out of 457 votes of the Electoral College.[4]

Tarar assumed office in January 1998 with heavy criticism by opposition especially from former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who accused him of illegally legitimizing dismissal of her government as a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. As head of state, Tarar shifted Pakistan's system of government from semi-presidential system to parliamentary democratic system by signing the Thirteenth Constitutional Amendment. He surrendered his reserve power of dismissing the Prime Minister, triggering new elections and dissolving the National Assembly. He also signed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendment to the constitution that limited the powers of the presidency from executive to a figurehead.[5]

Tarar resigned as President in 2001 in the wake of the 1999 Pakistani coup d'état.[6] He resisted and did not endorse the 12 October 1999 military coup. He was forced to step down by then Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf and ultimately succeeded by Musharraf through a referendum held in 2002.[7] Twenty months after seizing power in a coup, General Musharraf took the head of state's oath and became the fourth military ruler to become president.[8]

Early life and education[edit]

Muhammad Rafiq Tarar was born in Mandi Bahauddin, British India, on 2 November 1929 to a Tarar family.[9] Tarar was influenced by Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari and he took a part in political sessions of Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam during British colonial rule. In his college years, he was also an activist for the All-India Muslim League and was a follower of Muhammad Ali Jinnah.[10] During the partition of India, Tarar performed voluntary duty as a relief worker in camps set up by the All India Muslim Students Federation for Indian emigrants. He graduated with BA in Islamic Studies from Government Islamia College, Gujranwala in 1949. He acquired LLB degree in 1951 from Punjab University Law College.[2]

Judicial and political career[edit]

Tarar started a career as a lawyer, soon after completion of his studies. In 1951, he enrolled as a pleader in the Lahore High Court. He started practicing as an advocate in the same court, in later years. He established a Gujranwala-based legal aid firm in 1960s and excelled at advocacy. In 1966, Tarar started a judicial career after he appeared and passed the competitive exams to be elevated as session judge in District Courts. In 1971, he became Chairman of the Punjab Labor Court. Tarar was appointed a judge at Lahore High Court, highest appellate judicial court of Punjab province, in October 1974.[11]

Lahore High Court

Tarar served in the Lahore High Court as a justice for decades. He was also a member of the Election Commission of Pakistan where he represented Punjab. He was appointed the 28th Chief Justice of Lahore High Court where he served from 1989 to 1991 until his appointment as a judge in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. His appointment was made by then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan with the consent of Supreme Judicial Council. He served as a senior justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan from January 1992 to November 1994. He was also an awaiting candidate of the Chief Justice of Pakistan but he retired earlier on attaining the age of 65 years and started a political career.[4] In 1994, following his retirement from the judiciary, Tarar entered into politics and started a political career as a legal adviser and close aide to then opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. In March 1997, he became a senator and represented Punjab in the upper-house of Pakistan until his resignation in December 1997. He was nominated as the presidential candidate by the PML(N) in the same year and secured a historical victory in the presidential election.[1]

Presidency (1998–2001)[edit]

Initial days[edit]

After Farooq Leghari's resignation in 1997, he was nominated as a candidate for the president of Pakistan.[1] On 31 December 1997, in an indirect election, Tarar was elected by a huge margin,[4] getting 374 of 457 votes of the Electoral College against Aftab Mirani of PPP (a PML(N)'s rival) who got 31 votes, and Muhammad Khan Shirani of JUI(S) who got 22 votes. This was the largest margin in such elections. Upon his election, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto delivered a speech in London to the Commonwealth Ethnic Bar Association and criticized his election. She accused him of being dishonest by saying "A former judge [Tarar] who dishonestly legitimized the overthrow of my first government was elected president of Pakistan. This same man stands accused by a former President Farooq Leghari of taking briefcases of money to bribe other judges in the famous 1997 case. The Election Commission rejected Justice Tarar's nomination for the presidency. Justice Qayyum, on leave for his mother's funeral, rushed back to grant a stay, and Tarar was elected. As for the bribery charges, Tarar, as a former judge, like former generals, is immune to prosecution in real terms."[12]

Nuclear Program[edit]

During his tenure as President, Tarar played a significant role in Pakistan's nuclear program. Advised by his brother, Colonel Muzafar Tarar, Tarar pursued policies aimed at enhancing the country's nuclear capabilities. Colonel Tarar's insights and expertise, particularly regarding Bhutto's nuclear program, became instrumental in guiding Pakistan's nuclear policy during their tenure. The successful continuation and advancement of Pakistan's nuclear program became one of the highlights of their joint efforts. In addition to his contributions to the nuclear program, Tarar focused on issues related to law and order, education, and social welfare during his presidency. He advocated for the strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law, promoting harmony and understanding among different segments of Pakistani society. His family remains influential in the country's political landscape. Colonel Tarar served in the Pakistan Army and held various command positions during his military career. Colonel Tarar is renowned for his invaluable contributions to Pakistan's national security, particularly in the realm of the nuclear program. Colonel Tarar's strategic advice and expertise were pivotal in shaping Pakistan's nuclear policy, ensuring the successful continuation and advancement of the program. His insights into Bhutto's nuclear art program, shared with President Tarar, played a crucial role in guiding Pakistan's nuclear strategy during their tenure. After retiring from the military, Colonel Tarar has been involved in philanthropic activities, supporting initiatives aimed at the welfare of veterans and their families.

Constitutional reforms[edit]

Upon becoming President, Tarar was an unassuming and merely ceremonial figurehead who kept a low profile, and avoided news media, and he remained a devoted servant and loyalist of the Sharif family. He readily signed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the Constitution of Pakistan that limited the powers of the presidency.[13]

The President of Pakistan's powers had thus been slowly removed over the years, culminating in the 1997 Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan which removed virtually all remaining reserve powers, making the office almost entirely symbolic in nature as per the true spirit of the Pakistani constitution.[5]


Tarar did not endorse the 1999 Pakistani coup d'état by the Pakistani military which elevated General Pervez Musharraf, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, since he was an appointee of Nawaz Sharif. The Pakistani military thus decided not to retain Tarar as the President for his full term of five years, given his partisan attitude. On 21 June 2001, General Musharraf who acted as Chief Executive in capacity, enforced the Legal Framework Order, 2002; Musharraf removed Tarar as he read the paragraph: "Mr. Muhammad Rafiq Tarar has ceased to hold the office of the President with immediate effect."[14][7]


Tarar retired from politics and settled in Lahore, where he died after a long illness on 7 March 2022, at the age of 92.[7][15][16]



  1. ^ a b c "Tarar sworn in as Pakistani president". BBC News. 1 January 1998. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Rafiq Tarar's Academic career". Archived from the original on 20 October 2019. Retrieved 26 October 2019.
  3. ^ "BBC News | Despatches | Court rules in favour of Pakistan President".
  4. ^ a b c "Previous Presidents: Mr. Muhammad Rafiq Tarar". Presidency of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Archived from the original on 25 April 2013. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  5. ^ a b 12th Parliament of Pakistan (1973). Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (13th Amendment ed.). 12th Parliament of Pakistan.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ "Tarar claims he is still president". 29 May 2003. Archived from the original on 19 October 2019. Retrieved 19 October 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Reddy, B. Muralidhar (21 June 2001). "Rafiq Tarar forced to quit?". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  8. ^ "Coup chief declares himself president". 21 June 2001. Archived from the original on 21 October 2019. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  9. ^ "Rafiq Tarar's BirthPlace". Archived from the original on 10 October 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  10. ^ Chitkara (2001, pp. 118–119)
  11. ^ "Rafiq Tarar's judicial career". Allama Iqbal Academy. Archived from the original on 11 January 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  12. ^ Ardeshir Cowasjee (5 November 2000). "Benazir Bhutto criticized Tarar's appointment as a President". Dawn. Daily Dawn. Archived from the original on 21 October 2019. Retrieved 22 October 2019.
  13. ^ Jones (2003, pp. 31–35)
  14. ^ "Rafiq Tarar forced to quit?". The Hindu. 21 June 2001. Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 31 May 2016.
  15. ^ "Former Pakistani President Rafiq Tarar dies at 92". Associated Press. 7 March 2022. Retrieved 7 March 2022.
  16. ^ Hussain, Javed (7 March 2022). "Former president and PML-N leader Rafiq Tarar passes away in Lahore at 92". Dawn. Retrieved 7 March 2022.

Cited works and general bibliography[edit]

  • Chitkara, M. G. (2001). "Muhammad Rafiq Tarar". Indo-Pak Relations: Challenges Before New Millennium (1st ed.). New Delhi, India: APH Publishing. p. 118. ISBN 8176482722. Retrieved 28 January 2015 – via Google Books.
  • Jones, Owen Bennette (2003). "The 1999 Coup". Pakistan: Eye of the Storm. Texas, U.S: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300101473. Retrieved 28 January 2015 – via Google Books.
  • Preston, Ian (2003). "Pakistan". A Political Chronology of Central, South and East Asia (1st ed.). London: Psychology Press. ISBN 1857431146. Retrieved 28 January 2015 – via Google Books.
  • Zakaria, Rafiq (2001). The Man Who Divided India: An Insight into Jinnah's Leadership and Its Aftermath. New Delhi, India: Popular Prakashan. p. 282. ISBN 817154892X.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Abdul Shakurul Salam
Chief Justice of Lahore High Court
Succeeded by
Mian Mahboob Ahmad
Political offices
Preceded by President of Pakistan
Succeeded by