General Zia: A Man Who Changed the Arena of Pakistan’s Politics

Who knew that one day Zulfikar Ali Bhutto would be hanged by his own Army Chief,General Zia-ul-Haq, whom he appointed by superseding seven Lieutenant generals? Who knew that the hand-picked politician of the establishment, who pledged to carry out the mission of Gen Zia, would be kept in solitary confinement when he refused to toe the line of his masters? Since the last four decades, Pakistan politics is revolving around a circle and we have not been able to get rid of General Zia’s policies which changed the dimensions of polity merely for his lust for power.

Gen Zia usurped the power on 5 July 1977, in a coup naming it operation fair play. Who inculcated the condition of being ‘Sadiq & Ameen’, vowed to nation that he would hold elections within ninety days. These ninety days couldn’t become reality until 1985.He didn’t abrogate the constitution but suspended it and in his flamboyancy and blatancy, he stated: “What is constitution? It is a booklet with ten or twelve pages. I can tear them up and say that tomorrow we shall live under a different system. Today, the people will follow whatever l lead.”

Besides the hanging of Bhutto in 1979, two important regional developments ensued: Iran’s revolution & Afghanistan invasion by the Soviet Union. These events directly supported Gen Zia to linger in power a quid pro quo by remaining in the good-books of the United States to vanquish its rival, the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan when its installed pro-communist Govt was wobbling. That invasion was marked by the U.S as a threat to its security in the Pacific Ocean and in the gulf region.

The populist narrative which is run by extractive institutions was also resorted on the name of Jihad against the infidels. Pakistan fought the war as a vanguard state, defeated the mighty superpower, and made America the sole superpower of the world. America celebrated its victory, left Afghanistan in shabby and dilapidated condition, and didn’t care about how to de-weaponize the Mujahideen. Pakistan’s military had to contrive the Taliban to rescind the outbreak of violence in Afghanistan & Taliban government was established in 1996.But, as a backlash Tahreek Taliban Pakistan(TTP) emerged & the state is still combating with the sadistic enemy which was created by them. TTP menace is the blowback of 1980s policies.

Sectarian violence was also at its peak during his regime between Shia & Sunni. Recently, in an interview to American Journalists Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman revealed that Wahhabism was promoted at the behest of the West to contain the Soviet Union. In 1985, Sunni based organization Siphah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) was established to contain the Shias; this divide intensified the Shia-Sunni conflict which is still in place, particularly in Baluchistan, where hundreds of Shias are persecuted and killed. Is this not a sequel of the 80s policies of the state?

The Islamic clauses of constitution, articles 62 & 63, related to ‘Sadiq and Ameen’ were added by Gen Zia to deter those who tried to show their guts to military. These necessitate that a person should be ‘sagacious, righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen’ to become the member of the Parliament. Implementation of these articles is looming as a sword of Damocles around the political career of politicians. It also paved the way of transition from military coup to judicial coup.

Although he died on August 17, 1988 but he is still ruling the country through his policies which counties to haunt even those who had started their political career under his protégé. He mutilated and destroyed the fabrics of polity only for his ambitious desire to be the mighty power. Even after four decades later, people are paying the price of his policies by their blood.

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  1. muhammad says

    By reading your article, it seems to me that your mind can only work negatively.

    Every person has good and bad qualities. In the article, you are just criticizing the General Zia policies.
    Can you write another article on the good works he had done in his era?

    1. tar says

      The good point of Zia Ul Haq was that he broke the constitution and took power through back door. I trust you will agree with it!!!! Come on get educated….even after half of Pakistan is blown away by bombs and terrorism you have to be blind not to notice it…..all these are gifts of this CIA loyal Shaheed General.

  2. KHURRAM says


  3. Ali says

    Zia-Ul-Haq had his faults but he is still Pakistan’s greatest leader after the founders of the Nation. In his time, crime fell while investment from other countries flooded into the country leading to the highest economic growth rate in Pakistan’s history. In villages, he is still rightfully seen in a positive light because of policies to preserve and solidify support for Islamic culture within the country. Zia’s detractors are usually of the bourgeois, liberal secularist class who have not accepted Pakistan’s stature as Muslim nation. Speaking of Bhutto, wasn’t he the one who refused to accept the results of the 1970 elections which led to the catastrophe of 1971?

  4. tar says

    It is easy to spread “Shit” in no time…….but it takes ages to clean it…and that’s what Pakistanis are continue to do for generations….This is the summary of Zia Ul Haq, call him a dictator, a general, a politician, a traitor, a liar, an islamist, a Jihadi, CIA agent…….you name it……

    1. Ali says

      Zia’s assistance of the CIA was on the basis of the Soviet threat which had invaded land-locked Afghanistan. After Afghanistan, Pakistan was a likely target of Soviet expansion as Pakistan had warm-water sea ports which the USSR desperately needed and Zia, seeing an opportunity to avoid a direct war with the Soviets opted to work with the CIA. That doesn’t make Zia a “CIA agent”. The Soviets had better ties with India and Pakistan was surrounded in the region by a regional power (India) and a superpower (USSR); asking the CIA for help was a necessary action. Pakistan couldn’t have fought off the threat alone.

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