Fazal Elahi Chaudhry English IPA: fəzɛl ɪllɑɦi t͡ʃɒɪdɾɪ (Punjabi, Urdu: فضل الہی چودہری; January 1, 1904 – June 2, 1982), was the fifth President of Pakistan, serving from 1973 until 1978, prior to the martial law led by Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq. (see codename Fair Play)
After the successful promulgation of country's constitution in 1973, Chaudhry was elected as the president, succeeded Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and became the first president of country from the Punjabi class of the Punjab Province.
Taking an active role in the Pakistan Movement through the platform of the Muslim League, Chaudhry was appointed minister in the Liaquat Ali Khan government in 1947, and further joined the Pakistan permanent representative's delegation to the United Nations in 1951.
His presidency was a mere figurehead as per the constitution, since the heading of the government's operations remained the authority of prime minister. After the success of the Fair Play— a codename of the operation to remove Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from power — Chaudhry continued his presidency but had no influence in the government operations or the military and national affairs. After contentious relations with the military, Chaudhry was relinquished from the office after resigning from his presidency, despite the urging of the Chief of Army Staff and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff. On September 16, 1978, Chaudhry handed the charge of the presidency to ruling military general Zia-ul-Haq who succeeded him as the sixth president, in addition to being the Chief Martial Law Administrator and the Chief of Army Staff.
Fazal Elahi Chaudhry was born on January 1, 1904 in an influential Gujjar family in Marala village, near the city of Kharian, Gujrat District in Punjab Province. After receiving his education from there, Chaudhry joined the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University in 1920, receiving his LLB in Civil law in 1924. Thereafter, Chaudhry returned to Punjab and attended the Punjab University's post-graduate school in law and political science. In 1925, Chaudhry obtained his M.A. in Political Science in 1925, and the advanced LLM in Law and Justice, in 1927.
After completing his education, Chaudhry established his law firm in Lahore, advocating for the civil law and liberties, and went back to Gujrat and started practicing the civil law. In 1930, he started taking interest in politics and participated in the Indian general elections in 1930 for the Gujrat District Board and was elected unopposed.
He joined the Muslim League in 1942. In 1945, he was elected from Gujrat as the President of Muslim League. He took part in the 1946 elections on Muslim League's ticket and played an important role in propagating the ideas of the Muslim League among the people of his area. Upon the independence of Pakistan, Chaudhry got involved in the new government, moving up to high ranking positions in the National Assembly.
Speaker of the West Pakistan Assembly
After Independence, he was given the post of Parliamentary Secretary. He was later appointed Minister for Education and Health. In 1951, he contested the elections of the Punjab Legislative Assembly on the Muslim League ticket and was elected as a member of the Punjab Assembly. In 1952, he represented Pakistan in the United Nations. In the 1956 elections, he was elected as member of the West Pakistan Assembly. Chaudhry was its Speaker from May 20, 1956 to October 7, 1958. In 1962, when Ayub Khan announced the elections, he was selected as the Deputy Opposition Leader of the House on the basis of his experience and knowledge about parliamentary proceedings. Chaudhry joined the Convention Muslim League, and after the 1956 elections, he was elected as the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly.
President of Pakistan
He was elected as member of the National Assembly in 1970 on the ticket of the Pakistan Peoples Party and was later elected as the Speaker of the National Assembly. He ended up joining the Pakistan Peoples Party. He contested the Presidential Elections of 1972 against s Khan Amirzadah Khan Of NAP & all opposition parties and was made President in 1973, when the head of the PPP, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was made Prime Minister.
Chaudhry was largely a figurehead, and was the first Pakistani President with less power than the Prime Minister. This was due to the new constitution of 1973 that gave power to the Prime Minister; previously, the President had been the chief leader of Pakistan and had the power to appoint Prime Minister.
Fazal Elahi Chaudhry remained President until 1978, when he resigned after the military took control of the government under General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq. General Zia respected Chaudhry and came to visit him on his deathbed.
Chaudhry died on June 2, 1982. His family since then has taken a very active role in politics.