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Politics & War

Politics & War

Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq

Muhammad Zia-Ul-Haq




  • Muhammad Zia-ulHaq was born in a Punjabi family in Jalandhar, Punjab Province of the British India, on 12 August 1924 as the second child of Muhammad Akbar, who worked as a staff clerk in the Army GHQ of India.
  • He completed his initial education in Simla and then attended St. Stephen’s College of the University of Delhi for his BA degree in History, which he graduated with highest marks in the college in 1943.
  • He married Shafiq Jahan in 1950. Begum Shafiq Zia died on 6 January 1996


  • Zia was commissioned in the British Indian Army in the Guides Cavalry on 12 May 1943 after graduating from the Officer Training School Mhow .
  • After Pakistan gained its independence through a partition in 1947, Zia joined the newly formed Pakistan Army as a Captain in the Guides Cavalry Frontier Force Regiment.
  • He took over as Directing Staff (DS) at Command and Staff College, Quetta.He was then promoted as Lieutenant General and was appointed commander of the II Strike Corps at Multan in 1975.


  • On 1 March 1976, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto approved then-three star rank general Lieutenant-General Zia as Chief of Army Staff and to be elevated to four-star rank.
  • Zia never called Bhutto “Mr. Prime Minister”, instead he called him sir when speaking to him.
  • Prime Minister Bhutto began facing considerable criticism and increasing unpopularity as his term progressed, the democratic socialists alliance who had previously allied with Bhutto began to diminish as time progresses.


  • On 8 January 1977, a large number of opposition political parties grouped to form the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA).
  • Bhutto called fresh elections, and PNA participated fully in those elections. The PNA faced defeat but did not accept the results, alleging that the election was rigged.
  • Soon, all the opposition leaders called for the overthrow of Bhutto’s regime. On 21 April 1977, Bhutto imposed martial law in the major cities.


  • Zia planned the Coup d’état carefully, as he knew Bhutto had integral intelligence in the Pakistan Armed Forces.
  • The coup, (called OperationFair Play”) transpired in the small hours of 5 July 1977.
  • Bhutto tried to call Zia but all telephone lines were disconnected. When Zia spoke to him later, he reportedly told Bhutto that he was sorry that he had been forced to perform such an “upleasant task”.


  • The United States, notably the Reagan Administration, was an ardent supporter of Zia’s military regime and a close ally of Pakistan’s conservative-leaning ruling military establishment.
  • The Reagan administration declared Zia’s regime as the “front line” ally of the United States in the fight against the threat of Communism.
  • After assuming power as Chief Martial Law Administrator, Zia shortly appeared on national television, PTV promising to hold new and neutral parliamentary elections within the next 90 days


  • After deposing Prime Minister Bhutto on 5 July 1977, Zia-ulHaq declared martial law, and appointed himself Chief Martial Law Administrator, which he remained until becoming president on 16 September 1978.
  • Former elected Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was arrested during the coup but released shortly afterwards.
  • On 3 September 1977, he was arrested again by the Army on charges of authorising the murder of a political opponent in March 1974. The trial proceedings began 24 October 1977 and lasted five months. On 18 March 1978, Bhutto was declared guilty of murder and was sentenced to death.


  • The Ad hoc appointments of senior justices at the Supreme Court of Pakistan was one of the earliest and major steps were taken out by the military government.
  • The Zia regime largely made use of installing high-profile military generals.
  • Zia took the office of President of Pakistan on 16 September 1978. Thus his position was cemented as the undisputed ruler of the country. Over the next six years, Zia issued several decrees which amended the constitution and greatly expanded his power


  • General Zia, like the previous military governments, disapproved of the lack of discipline and orderliness that often accompanies multiparty “parliamentary democracy.” He preferred a “presidential” form of government and a system of decision making by technical experts, or “technocracy”.
  • His first replacement for the parliament or National Assembly was a Majlis-e-Shoora, or “consultative council.” After banning all political parties in 1979 he disbanded Parliament and at the end of 1981 set up the majlis, which was to act as a sort of board of advisors to the President and assist with the process of Islamization.


  • After Bhutto’s execution, momentum to hold elections began to mount both internationally and within Pakistan. But before handing over power to elected representatives, Zia-ul-Haq attempted to secure his position as the head of state.
  • A referendum was held on 19 December 1984 with the option being to elect or reject the General as the future President, the wording of the referendum making a vote against Zia appear to be a vote against Islam.
  • According to official figures 95% of votes were cast in favour of Zia, however only 10% of the electorate participated in the referendum.


  • The “primary” policy, or “centerpiece” of Zia’s government was “Sharization” or “Islamization“. Zia went much further, committing himself to enforce Nizam-e-Mustafa (“Rule of the prophet” or Islamic System, i.e. establishing an Islamic state and sharia law), a significant turn from Pakistan’s predominantly secular law, inherited from the British.
  • Conservative ulama (Islamic scholars) were added to the Council of Islamic Ideology


  • In one of his first and most controversial measures to Islamize Pakistani society was the replacement of parts of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) with the 1979 “Hudood Ordinance.“
  • (Hudood meaning limits or restrictions, as in limits of acceptable behaviour in Islamic law.) The Ordinance added new criminal offences of adultery and fornication to Pakistani law, and new punishments of whipping, amputation, and stoning to death. All these punishments were dependent on proof required.
  • More worrisome for human rights and women’s rights advocates, lawyers and politicians was the incarceration of thousands of rape victims on charges of zina.


  • After holding the 1984 referendum, Zia succumbed to international pressure and gave permission to election commission to hold national wide general elections but without political parties in February 1985.
  • Most of the major opposing political parties decided to boycott the elections but election results showed that many victors belonged to one party or the other.
  • Zia reversed many of Bhutto’s foreign policy initiatives by first establishing stronger links with the United States, Japan, and the Western world.(SOVIET – AFGHAN WAR).


  • One of the earliest initiatives taken by Zia in 1977, was to militarise the integrated atomic energy programme which was founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972.
  • This whole giant nuclear energy project was transferred into the administrative hands of Major-General Akbar who was soon made the Lieutenant-General and Engineer-in-Chief.
  • Akbar proved to be an extremely capable officer in the matters of science and technology when he aggressively led the development of nuclear weapons under Munir Ahmad Khan and Abdul Qadeer Khan in a matter of five years.
  • By the time, Zia assumed control, the research facilities became fully functional and 90% of the work on atom bomb project was completed.


  • Both the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) and the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) had built the extensive research infrastructure started by Bhutto.
  • PAEC conducted the cold-fission test of a fission device, codename Kirana-I on 11 March 1983 at the Weapon-Testing Laboratories-I, under the leadership of weapon-testing laboratory’s director Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad
  • The PAEC responded by conducting several cold-tests throughout the 1980s, a policy also continued by Benazir Bhutto in the 1990s.


  • Zia now found himself in a position to demand billions of dollars in aid for the mujahideen from the Western states.
  • Zia died in a plane crash on 17 August 1988. After witnessing a US M1 Abrams tank demonstration in Bahawalpur, Zia had left the small town in the Punjab province by C-130B Hercules aircraft.
  • The aircraft departed from Bahawalpur Airport and was expected to reach Islamabad International Airport.Shortly after a smooth takeoff, the control tower lost contact with the aircraft.