General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (Urdu:محمد ضياء الحق) (August 12, 1924 – August 17, 1988) was the president and military ruler of Pakistan from July 1977 to his death in August 1988. Appointed Chief of Army Staff in 1976, General Zia-ul-Haq came to power after he overthrew ruling Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a military coup d'état on July 5, 1977, and became the state's third ruler to impose martial law. Promising to deliver election within 90 days, he failed to do so throughout his presidency. The coup itself was largely bloodless; however, he later had Bhutto executed. Zia initially ruled for a year as martial law administrator, and later assumed the post of President of Pakistan in September 1978.
During his tenure, he advanced the Islamization of Pakistan and carried out economic reform. The economy benefited from the influx of money from the West to support the mujahedin fighting the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan. To shore up the increasingly tenuous control of the central government over the tribal provinces, he appointed martial law administrators as governors of Balochistan and the tribal areas with wide powers, including the abridgement of civil liberties. Zia was killed along with several of his top generals and the then United States Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Lewis Raphel in a mysterious airplane crash near Bahawalpur (Punjab) on August 17, 1988. The circumstances of the crash remain unclear. His death with the American Ambassador gave rise to many conspiracy theories. His son, Ijaz-ul-Haq, was federal minister of religious affairs in Pakistan from 2004 to 2007.
Zia may have genuinely wanted to stabilize his country. However, in choosing to rule autocratically, he made no contribution towards establishing good governance, nor did he encourage popular participation in government. This remained a privileged arena, in which only those who belonged to the ruling elite participated. His alliance with the U.S. against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan did improve Pakistan's international standing. However, his autocratic rule weakened democracy in Pakistan, contributing to a pattern of military intervention and the suspension of civil governance.
Zia was born in Jalandhar, India, in 1924, as the second child of an Aain Muhammad Akbar, who worked in the GHQ in Delhi and Simla pre-partition. He married Shafiq Jahan and had five children. His two sons went into politics. He completed his initial education in Simla and then at St. Stephen's College, Delhi. He was commissioned in the British Indian Army in a cavalry regiment in 1943, and served during World War II. After Pakistan gained its independence, Zia joined the newly formed Pakistani Army as a major. He trained in the United States in 1962–1964, at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Zia was a tank commander. He was stationed in Jordan from 1967 to 1970, helping in the training of Jordanian soldiers, as well as leading the training mission into battle during the Black September in Jordan operations, a strategy that proved crucial to King Hussein's remaining in power. On March 1, 1976, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto appointed Zia-ul-Haq as Chief of Army Staff, ahead of a number of more senior officers, most likely because both of them came from the same Arain tribe. He superseded five senior lieutenant generals Akbar Khan, Aftab Ahmad Khan, Azmat Baksh Awan, Agha Ali Ibrahim Akram, and Abdul Majid Malik. The most senior of them at that time, Lieutenant General Mohammad Sharif, even though promoted to General, was made the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, a constitutional post akin to President Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry.
Prime Minister Bhutto began facing considerable criticism and increasing unpopularity as his term progressed. Initially, Bhutto began targeting leader of the opposition, Abdul Wali Khan, and his opposition National Awami Party (NAP). Despite the ideological similarity of the two parties, the clash of egos both inside and outside the National Assembly became increasingly fierce, starting with the Federal governments decision to oust the NAP provincial government in Balochistan for alleged secessionist activities and culminating in the banning of the party and arrest of much of its leadership after the death of a close lieutenant of Bhutto's, Hayat Khan Sherpao, in a bomb blast in the frontier town of Peshawar.
Dissidence also increased within the PPP, and the murder of a leading dissident, Ahmed Raza Kasuri's father, led to public outrage and intra-party hostility as Bhutto was accused of masterminding the crime. Powerful PPP leaders such as Ghulam Mustafa Khar openly condemned Bhutto and called for protests against his regime. The political crisis in the NWFP and Balochistan intensified as civil liberties remained suspended, and an estimated 100,000 troops deployed there were accused of abusing human rights and killing large numbers of civilians. On January 8, 1977, a large number of opposition political parties grouped to form the Pakistan National Alliance. Bhutto called for fresh elections, and PNA participated in those elections in full force. They managed to contest the elections jointly even though there were grave splits on opinions and views within the party. PNA faced defeat but did not accept the results, alleging that the election was rigged. First, they claimed rigging for 14 seats and, finally, for 40 seats in National Assembly. They proceeded to boycott the provincial elections. Despite this, there was high voter turn out in national elections.
After assuming power as Chief Martial Law Administrator, General Zia promised to hold National and Provincial Assembly elections in the next 90 days and to hand over power to the representatives of the nation. He also stated that the constitution of Pakistan had not been abrogated whatsoever, but had been temporarily suspended. However, in October 1977, he announced the postponement of the electoral plan and decided to start an accountability process for the politicians. Zia said that he changed his decision due to the strong public demand for the scrutiny of political leaders who had engaged in malpractice in the past (a large number of both PNA and PPP members had asked General Zia to postpone the elections). Thus, the "retribution first, elections later" PNA policy was adopted.
A Disqualification Tribunal was formed, and several individuals who had been Members of Parliament were charged with malpractice and disqualified from participating in politics at any level for the next seven years. A White Paper document was issued, incriminating the deposed Bhutto government on several counts.
Nusrat Bhutto, the wife of the deposed Prime Minister, filed a suit against General Zia's military regime, challenging the validity of the July 1977 military coup. The Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled, in what would later be known as the Doctrine of Necessity, that, given the dangerously unstable political situation of the time, General Zia's overthrowing of the Bhutto government was legal on the grounds of necessity. The judgment tightened the general's hold on the government.
Despite the dismissal of most of the Bhutto government, President Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry was persuaded to continue in office as a figurehead. After completing his term, and despite General Zia's insistence to accept an extension as President, Mr. Chaudhry resigned, and General Zia also assumed the office of President of Pakistan on September 16, 1978. He, thus, cemented his position 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. Most significantly, the Revival of Constitution of 1973 Order granted Zia the power to dissolve the National Assembly virtually at will.
On April 4, 1979, the former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged, after the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence as passed by the Lahore High Court. The Supreme Court ruled four to three in favor of execution. The High Court had given him the death sentence on charges of the murder of the father of Ahmed Raza Kasuri, a dissident PPP politician. Despite many clemency appeals from foreign leaders requesting Zia to commute Bhutto's death sentence, Zia dismissed the appeals as "trade union activity" and upheld the death sentence. The hanging of an elected prime minister by a military man was condemned by the international community and by lawyers and jurists across Pakistan.
On assuming power, General Zia inherited armed secessionist uprisings in Pakistan's largest province, Balochistan, from the Bhutto era. Tribal unrest and feudal clashes were moving the province towards a precarious position. The general acted quickly, offering a general amnesty to those who gave up arms and moving for the appeasement of the tribal unrest. When this had little effect on the prevailing situation there, Zia withdrew troops from the province, ending much of the civil disobedience movements.
Zia then appointed General Rahimuddin Khan, whose previously distinguished career made him stand out among his peers, to the post of Martial Law Governor of Balochistan (and later Governor of Sindh). General Rahimuddin then embarked on a provincial policy that completely isolated feudal families from the government. His authoritarian rule crushed any remaining civil unrest within Balochistan.
This garnered controversy over Zia's appointing of the dictatorial Rahimuddin, as the latter would go on to concentrate power solely with the provincial military regime and mostly act independently of the central government. The controversy eventually dissipated after the impressive progress Balochistan went through during Rahimuddin's lengthy rule (1978-1984), which was to remain characterized by the isolation of feudal families from provincial policy.
In the absence of a Parliament, General Zia decided to set up an alternative system. He introduced Majlis-e-Shoora in 1980. Most of the members of the Shoora were intellectuals, scholars, ulema, journalists, economists, and professionals belonging to different fields of life. The Shoora was to act as a board of advisers to the President. All 284 members of the Shoora were to be nominated by the President. Shoora (or Shura) is a term used twice in the Quran (42: 38 and 3: 159) and means "consultation." Chapter 42 of the Quran is also named "Shura." Muslims are described as those who govern their affairs by consultation. However, Muslims have debated whether consultation is binding on the ruler, or whether a ruler must seek advice but is under no obligation to heed it. The Shura Assembly of Saudi Arabia is also an appointed, not elected, body although other Muslim countries have elected Shura Assemblies, such as Jordan.
General Zia eventually decided to hold elections in the country. But before handing over the power to the public representatives, he decided to secure his position as the head of state. A referendum was held in December 1984, and the option was to elect or reject the General as the future President. The question asked in the referendum was whether the people of Pakistan wanted Islamic Sharia law enforced in the country. According to the official result, more than 95 percent of the votes were cast in favor of Zia-ul-Haq, thus he was elected as President for the next five years. However, they were marred by allegations of widespread irregularities and technical violations of the laws and ethics of democratic elections.
After being elected President, Zia-ul-Haq decided to hold elections in the country in February 1985, on a non-party basis. Most of the opposing political parties decided to boycott the elections but election results showed that many victors belonged to one party or the other. To make things easier for himself, the General nominated the Prime Minister from amongst the Members of the Assembly. To many, his nomination of Muhammad Khan Junejo as the Prime Minister was because he wanted a simple person at the post who would act as a puppet in his hands. Before handing over the power to the new Government and lifting martial law, Zia got the new legislature to retroactively accept all of Zia's actions of the past eight years, including his coup of 1977. He also managed to get several amendments passed, most notably the Eighth Amendment, which granted "reserve powers" to the president to dissolve the National Assembly. However, this amendment considerably reduced the power he'd previously granted himself to dissolve the legislature, at least on paper. The text of the amendment permitted Zia to dissolve the Assembly only if 1) the Cabinet had been toppled by a vote of no confidence and it was obvious that no one could form a government or 2) the government could not function in a constitutional manner.
On December 25, 1979, the Soviet Union, a superpower at the time, invaded Afghanistan. General Zia, as President of neighboring Pakistan, was asked by several cabinet members to refrain from interfering in the war, owing to the vastly superior military power of the USSR at the time. General Zia, however, was ideologically opposed to the idea of communism taking over a neighboring country, and made no secret about his intentions of monetarily and militarily aiding the Afghan resistance (the Mujahideen).
Under Zia, the previous ruler Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's nationalization policies were slowly reversed, and gradual privatization took place. General Zia greatly favored egalitarianism and industrialization. Between 1977 and 1986, Zia could proudly point to an average annual growth in the GNP of 6.2 percent, one of the highest in the world at that time.
President Zia sought and substantially contributed to the attaining of nuclear capability for Pakistan. Accordingly, the country was made a subject of attack on platforms of international organizations for not signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Zia deftly neutralized international pressure by tagging Pakistan's nuclear program to the nuclear designs of neighboring India. The President then drew a five-point proposal as a practical rejoinder to world pressure on Pakistan to sign the NPT, the points including the renouncing of the use of nuclear weapons. Despite this, he also openly funded a uranium-enrichment plant based in Kahuta under Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan.
President Zia's international standing greatly rose after his declaration to fight the Soviet invaders, as he went from being portrayed as just another military dictator to a champion of the free world by the Western media. Indeed, Pakistan-United States relations took a much more positive turn. U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, cut off U.S. aid to Pakistan on the grounds that Pakistan had not made sufficient progress on the nuclear issue. Then, on December 25, 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and Carter offered Pakistan $325 million in aid over three years. Zia rejected this as "peanuts." Carter also signed the finding, in 1980, that allowed less than $50 million a year to go to the Mujahideen. After Ronald Reagan came to office, defeating Carter for the US Presidency in 1980, all this changed, due to President Reagan's new priorities and the unlikely and remarkably effective effort by Congressman Charles Wilson (D-Tx) and CIA Afghan Desk Chief Gust Avrakotos to increase funding clandestinely to the Mujahideen. Aid to the Afghan resistance, and to Pakistan, increased substantially, finally reaching $1 Billion dollars (U.S.). The United States, faced with a rival superpower looking as if it were to create another Communist bloc, now engaged Zia to fight a U.S.-aided war, by proxy, in Afghanistan against the Soviets.
President Zia now found himself in a position to demand billions of dollars in aid for the Mujahideen from the Western states, famously dismissing a United States proposed 325 million dollar aid package as "peanuts." Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and Special Service Group now became actively involved in the conflict, and in cooperation with the Central Intelligence Agency and the United States Army Special Forces, supported the armed struggle against the Soviets.
In 1981, Ronald Reagan succeeded Jimmy Carter as President of the United States of America. Reagan was completely against the Soviet Union and its Communist satellites, dubbing it "the Evil Empire." Reagan now increased financial aid heading for Pakistan. In 1981, the Reagan Administration sent the first of 40 F-16 jet fighters to the Pakistanis. But the Soviets kept control of the Afghan skies until the Mujahideen received Stinger missiles in 1986. From that moment on, the Mujahideen's strategic position steadily improved. Accordingly, the Soviets declared a policy of national reconciliation. In January, they announced that a Soviet withdrawal was no longer linked to the makeup of the Afghan government remaining behind. Pakistan, with the massive extra-governmental and covert backing from the largest operation ever mounted by the CIA and financial support of Saudi Arabia, therefore, played a large part in the eventual withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988.
On December 2, 1978, on the occasion of the first day of the Hijra to enforce the Islamic system in Pakistan in a nationwide address, Zia accused politicians of exploiting the name of Islam: "Many a ruler did what they pleased in the name of Islam."
After assuming power, the government began a program of public commitment to enforce Nizam-e-Islam (Islamic System), a significant turn from Pakistan's predominantly Anglo-Saxon Law, inherited from the British. As a preliminary measure to establish an Islamic society in Pakistan, General Zia announced the establishment of Shariah Benches.
Under Offences Against Property (Enforcement of Hudood Ordinance 1979), the punishment of imprisonment or fine, or both, as provided in the existing Penal Code of Pakistan for theft, was substituted by the amputation of the right hand of the offender from the joint of the wrist by a surgeon. For robbery, the right hand of the offender from the wrist and his left foot from the ankle should be amputated by a surgeon. Hudood (حدود, also transliterated Hadud, Hudud; plural for Hadh, حد, limit, or restriction) is the word often used in Islamic social and legal literature for the bounds of acceptable behavior. Although the punishments were imposed, the witnesses and prosecution system remained Anglo-Saxon. As in Islamic laws Hudud can only be given if 4 witnesses saw the crime happen. In reality, hardly anyone can be punished by Islamic Hud laws as very rarely can the conditions for punishment be met.
In legal terms, (Islamic law being usually referred to as Sharia, شريعة) the term is used to describe laws that define a certain level of crime classification. Crimes classified under Hudud are the most severe of crimes, such as murder, theft, and adultery. There are minor differences in views between the four major Sunni madhhabs about sentencing and specifications for these laws. It is often argued that, since Sharia is God's law and states certain punishments for each crime, they are immutable. It has been argued by some, that the Hudud portion of Sharia is incompatible with humanism or human rights. Although the Hud punishment were imposed, the Islamic law of evidence was not implemented and remained British in origin.
Drinking of wine (or any alcoholic drinks) was not a crime under the Penal Code of Pakistan. In 1977, however, the drinking and selling of wine by Muslims was banned in Pakistan and the sentence of imprisonment of six months or a fine of Rs. 5000/-, or both, was provided in that law.
Under the Zina Ordinance, the provisions relating to adultery were replaced so that the women and the men guilty will be flogged, each of them, with one hundred lashes, if unmarried. And if they are married they shall be stoned to death.
The Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code were amended, through ordinances in 1980, 1982, and 1986, to declare anything implying disrespect to Muhammad, Ahle Bait (family of Muhammad), Sahaba (companions of Muhammad) and Sha'ar-i-Islam (Islamic symbols), a cognizable offense, punishable with imprisonment or fine, or with both.
Another addition to the laws was Ordinance XX OF 1984. Under this, Ahmadis were barred from calling themselves Muslims, or using Islamic terminology or practicing Islamic rituals. This effectively resulted in turning the Ahmadiyya community of Pakistan into a minority group. He was also considered anti-Shia because during his reign many Shi'a Muslim personalities and politicians were killed, most prominently the killing of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, which many think Zia did on the orders of the United States Government because Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was anti-American and had a nationalist approach for Pakistan. Many members of the judiciary simply ignored these new laws, continuing to practice the law code that Pakistan has inherited from the British.
Since the foundation of Pakistan, the Islamist Jamaat-i-Islam under its Amir, Sayyid Abul A'la Maududi had criticized successive governments for failing to transform Pakistan into an authentic Islamic state. Mawdudi now found himself consulted by the Government, and Jamaat members were appointed to government posts. According to many Islamist thinkers, what mattered was not so much how a leader or a government was established but the application of Shariah. Once Shariah is established, in this view, the state become an authentic Islamic polity. Initially, many Islamists were enthusiastic about Zia's Islamization project. Mawdudi, however, supported elections for the Shura and for the office of the Amir, or leader of the state and in the light of Zia's constant failure to deliver the elections he promised, the Jamaat began to speak out against Zia. Others questioned whether Zia's Islamization project was a genuine effort to create an authentic Islamic society, or whether Zia saw Islam as conducive to what amounted to autocratic rule;
Zia made sporadic comments on the need for a strong presidential form of government, it being more in line with the “thinking and psyche of Muslims,” since they “believed in one God, one Prophet, and one Book, and their mentality is that they should be ruled by one man.” He contended that true Islamic values envisioned a strong presidential system as opposed to the formerly established parliamentary one—another example of the use of Islam to entrench personal power.
As time passed, the legislature wanted to have more freedom and power. By the beginning of 1988, rumors about the differences between Prime Minister Junejo and President Zia were rife.
On May 29, 1988, President Zia dissolved the National Assembly and removed the Prime Minister under article 58(2) b of the amended Constitution. Apart from many other reasons, Junejo's decision to sign the Geneva Accord against the wishes of General Zia, and his open declarations of removing any military personnel found responsible for an explosion at a munitions dump at Ojhri earlier in the year, proved to be some of the major factors responsible for his removal.
After eleven years, General Zia-ul-Haq once again promised the nation that he would hold elections within the next ninety days. The late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's daughter, Benazir Bhutto, had returned from exile earlier in 1986, and had announced entering the elections. With Benazir's popularity growing, and a decrease in international aid following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, Zia was trapped in a difficult political situation.
As he was grappling with these problems, however, General Zia-ul-Haq died in a plane crash on August 17, 1988. After witnessing a tank parade in Bahawalpur, Zia had left the small town in Punjab province by C-130 Hercules aircraft. Shortly after a smooth take-off, the control tower lost contact with the aircraft. Witnesses who saw the plane in the air afterwards claim it was flying erratically. Directly afterwards, the aircraft nosedived and exploded on impact, killing General Zia and several other senior army generals, as well as American Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel and General Herbert M. Wassom, the head of the U.S. Military aid mission to Pakistan. The manner of his death has given rise to many conspiracy theories.
His funeral was held on August 19, in Islamabad, the country's capital. Also in attendance was his successor as President of Pakistan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who had earlier officially announced Zia's death in a nationwide address. Zia's remains were interred in a small tomb outside the King Faisal Mosque.
Zia's most significant achievement was his support for the anti-Soviet struggle in Pakistan on the one hand, while attempting to establish what he saw as Islamic governance in Pakistan on the other. He is also credited with preventing the secession of Balochistan. His economic policies, too, saw a marked improved in GNP growth. However, his failure to deliver the elections he promised compromised the democratic process in Pakistan. Pakistan and other Muslim majority countries have every right to develop their own systems of governance within an Islamic framework. However, Zia imposed his version of the Islamic State from the top down, without real consultation. There are Muslims who want to see Shariah law established but who interpret this in a radically different way, suggesting that hudud (from the Arabic word for "extreme," or "limit") punishments are meant to set the limit, not to be the norm and can be translated into contemporary-type penalties, such as a severe prison sentence instead of amputation. Pakistan has oscillated between periods of democratic rule, and periods of military dictatorship, or oligarchy according to some commentators. Haqqani, for example, describes "a fundamental divide in Pakistan:"
There is a fundamental divide in Pakistan. On the one hand stands a civil-military oligarchy that thinks it has a God-given right to rule Pakistan without bothering to consider the will of the people but with the help of international (especially U.S.) aid. The oligarchy rules with the covert machinations of a powerful intelligence service, which fixes elections, divides parties, and buys off politicians. …On the other side are politicians who question the military-intelligence oligarchy's right to rule, and pay the price by being jailed and frequently vilified. The focus on the politicians' real or perceived flaws takes attention away from the evils of the ruling oligarchy.
Military intervention in governance in Pakistan has weakened democracy. Zia, strongly supported by the U.S., did solidify Pakistan's international standing as an ally of the West in the Cold War, on which Pervez Musharraf subsequently built in his alliance with the USA and its coalition partners in the "war on terror." In this war, the Taliban whom Pakistan (as did the U.S.) had supported in the anti-Soviet war now become the enemy. Almost all political leaders in Pakistan are charged with corruption, accused of placing their personal interests ahead of the people's. Zia may have been sincere in his desire to bring stability to his country but in choosing to rule autocratically he made no contribution towards establishing good governance, nor did he encourage popular participation in government. This remained a privileged arena in which only those who belonged to the ruling elite participated. When General Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999, he dismissed the democratically elected Prime Minister, suspended Parliament and has twice suspended the constitution in the name of establishing stability, fighting corruption and terrorism in order to preserve national unity.
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