On this day 40 years ago Gen Zia laid the foundation for today’s terror-struck Pakistan
I grew up reading Nasim Hijazi’s historical fiction and with my mother telling me all about the glory of Islam and how Zia’s Islamisation of country was the best thing that happened to Pakistan. I was just a kid, so I believed everything I was told by my mother. It wasn’t until I joined college that all my ideals came falling down and I was exposed to the truth.
July 5 marks the 40th anniversary of Zia’s regime in Pakistan. The general orchestrated a successful military coup against PPP’s government and dissolved the elected parliament. Zia’s regime shaped today’s Pakistan and today’s Pakistan isn’t a pretty picture.
The first 30 years of Pakistan as an independent country were flawed by the disastrous political leadership. The tussle for power between the civil bureaucracy, military bureaucracy and public elected representatives kept the new born country from sustaining political stability.
The instability, unequal distribution of resources and playing the religion and ethnicity cards for political purposes, managed to alienate not only ethnic and religious minorities but also the ethnic majorities, causing distress and disturbance in Eastern Pakistan, a hard-to-swallow military defeat and separation of Eastern Pakistan – now Bangladesh.
The separation of Eastern Pakistan would have been considered the biggest tragedy ever, if Zia hadn’t decided to be a U.S. ally to oppose Soviet expansionism.
With the USSR invading Afghanistan in 1979, General Zia was viewed as one of the pivotal allies of U.S., and Pakistan went from the sclerotic dictatorial regime – of which the western nations didn’t approve of before – to the frontline state in the battle for freedom and democracy.
The rest of the story, of how much aid we got as a result, how we trained ‘Mujahedeen’, how many nations participated in this extensive program funded by U.S., U.K., Saudi Arabia and even Israel, how the tribal line of Pakistan was used and how the dream of a secular Pakistan vanished into theocratic ideology is not told,but can be found in silent hushes and whispers.
The creation of Taliban and the role ISI played in Afghanistan during Soviet War may be a taboo topic but the impact it had on Pakistan isn’t one – one can’t remain hushed about it.
The war was over and so was the purpose for which the mujahdeen were created. There was no strategy for what to do when the war was over. The war heroes were abandoned and these abandoned heroes struck back. The extremist ideology came back home.
It came back in the form of war in Waziristan, Lal Masjid, suicide bombing and Pakistan it still is paying back the $3.2 billion Zia received from President Reagan in the form of bloodshed and extremism.
Gen Zia knew what impact Pakistan’s involvement in Afghan quagmire would produce but he ignored the hazards anyway, leaving us today’s Pakistan.
Zia is dead and so are many Pakistanis at the hands of the beasts he created. What is even more tragic is that his policies and propaganda have killed the real dream of Pakistan and have given us a shattered, extremist Pakistan where harmony and peace is considered a mere daydream.
This play of power, politics and religion by Zia forced Pakistan towards fast transition to sclerotic dictatorial regime,en route to being a theocratic state.