Sahabzada Yaqub Khan

Ambassador Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan

1920-2016

Ambassador Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan passed away on 25 January 2016 in Islamabad at the age of 95. He is survived by his wife, Begum Tuba Yaqub-Khan, and two sons Sahabzada Abdul Samad Khan and Sahabzada Najib Khan.

Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan was appointed by the Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, as the first Chairman of the AKU Board of Trustees at its inception in 1985. Yaqub-Khan served in this position for 16 years until 2001, guiding the Board through the formative years of the University. As Chairman, Yaqub-Khan brought to the Board wisdom, leadership and generous counsel. His leadership and motivation of the Trustees was invaluable to the Board in its early years as it was called upon to generate ideas, take critical decisions and find its way through different viewpoints.

Ambassador Yaqub-Khan’s astute leadership of the Board was visible through his masterful ability to listen to opposing perspectives on a topic and converge these diverse views to arrive at a consensus. Yaqub-Khan had vast knowledge and experience in a broad range of areas, which he could articulate fluently in several languages. He has been heralded for teaching the importance of curiosity as a pre-requisite for observation and learning.

At AKU’s 2001 Convocation in Karachi, while conferring on Yaqub-Khan the degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa, the Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan said, “[Yaqub-Khan’s] career of service to this country and to this University is a model for all who have been, are, or will in the future, be associated with this institution.”

Ambassador Yaqub-Khan’s career was shaped by special opportunities such as being the Aide de Camp to M.A. Jinnah who inherited Yaqub-Khan from Mountbatten. He later pursued a military career including as an instructor at the Military Staff College in Quetta. General Zia-ul-Haq was Yaqub-Khan’s brigade major and later, as president, he made Yaqub-Khan Pakistan’s Ambassador to France and the US. He also served as the country’s Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Yaqub-Khan was Foreign Minister in the Government of Pakistan from 1982 to 1991 and then caretaker Foreign Minister from 1996 to 1997. Yaqub-Khan made an enormous impact in events that shaped Pakistan’s history, for example in the negotiations of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, his opposition to military operation during his tenure as Military Commander of East Pakistan, and his role as a key point person of the UN to end the civil war in Nicaragua. 

In remembering Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan, we are inspired by his continuous thirst for knowledge and creative expression in his approach to life. With these qualities, he provided sound leadership to the AKU Board of Trustees. As a man of principles, integrity and broad experience, Sahabzada Sahib was a source of wisdom and courage as he guided the Board to follow with conviction the ambitious vision articulated for our University by our Chancellor. As a statesman, great patriot and diplomat par excellence, we are all very fortunate for Sahabzada’s contribution to defending and promoting Pakistan’s national interests.