General Zia-ul-Haq was the personality which cloaks political history of Pakistan from July 1977 till Aug 1988. He was a four-star General in the Pakistan Army and also served as 6th President of Pakistan from 1978 until his death in 1988. His military career spans over four decades. Being the longest serving head of state, his policies greatly influenced the foreign relations and internal politics of the country. General Zia-ul-Haq was a distinguished officer in the Pakistan Army and took part in four major wars namely World War II, Indo-Pak war of 1965, Black September in Jordan and Soviet War in Afghanistan.
Assuming presidency in 1978, he played a key role in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. Backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia, he coordinated the Afghan mujahideen movement against Soviet occupation throughout the 1980’s. On 25 December 1979, USSR intervened in Afghanistan and Zia decided to aid the Afghan resisting movement against the Soviet occupation. He allowed the United States to channel the military assets into Afghanistan from Pakistani territory. Moreover, Pakistani military also trained the Afghan fighters in their movement enhancing the resistance to the Soviet invasion. This led to the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in February 1989.
General Zia-ul-Haq reversed many of Bhutto’s policies by establishing strong relations with United States, Japan, and the Western world. He strolled Pakistan away from being a Socialist State towards State capitalism as its major economic policy. He also built covert relations with Israel, which in turn provided reverse-engineered Soviet weapons to Afghanistan.
“Just don’t put any stars of David on the boxes”
The General Zia-ul-Haq regime was mostly known for ”Islamization” of Pakistan. He committed himself to enforce ”Nizam-e-Mustafa” or Islamic system in the country diverting from the pre-dominant secular laws inherited from the British. In his first televised speech to the nation as the head of state, he stated
”Pakistan which was created in the name of Islam will continue to survive only if it sticks to Islam. That is why I consider the introduction of [an] Islamic system as an essential prerequisite for the country.”
Following this ideology, he established ”Sharia courts“ in the country which ensured to judge legal cases using the teachings of ‘Quran’ and the ‘Sunnah’. 10,000 activists from “Jamaat-e-Islaami” were appointed on government posts to ensure the continuation of the Islamic agenda after his passing. This was a major turn from Bhutto’s secular ideology and redefined Pakistan as an Islamic State. Sharia laws introduced under his regime include Hudood, Zakat, and Usher. Blasphemy Ordinance and moving towards profit and loss accounts from the pre-existing interest oriented financial policy.
Under General Zia-ul-Haq, Pakistan militarized the “Integrated Atomic Energy Program”. The Program was established by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1972. He took over the nuclear program under military by disbanding civilian directorate and transferred it over to administrative hands of Major General Akbar, who was then promoted to Lieutenant-General.
General Zia’s death was the incident which shocked the nation to its core and had major effects on the country overall. After witnessing a tank demonstration in Bahawalpur, he departed from Bahawalpur Airport in his C-130B Hercules aircraft for Islamabad International Airport. Shortly after a smooth takeoff, the control tower lost contact with the aircraft. The Plane was reported to be flying erratically first, then nose-diving and exploding on ground impact by the witnesses. In addition to Zia, 31 others including Chairman Joint Chief of staff Committee General Akhtar Abdul Rehman, Brigadier Siddique Malik, American Ambassador to Pakistan, Arnold Lewis Raphel and General Herbert M. Wassom, the head of US military aid mission to Pakistan were also killed. Later, Lt. General
Hameed Gul, the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency at the time, suggested that the United States might be responsible, even though the U.S. Ambassador and military attaché were also killed.
The funeral of General Zia-ul-Haq held on 19 August 1988 in Islamabad. As a 21-gun salute of light artillery resounded off the lush Margalla Hills, nearly 1 million mourners joined in chants of
“Zia ul-Haq, you will live as long as the sun and moon remain above.”
Remains of General Zia-ul-Haq laid to rest in a 4-by-10-foot dirt grave in front of the huge, modern Faisal Mosque that Zia had built as a symbol of Pakistani-Saudi friendship.
Author: Waqar Younis Peerzada