General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq Sixth President of Pakistan

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (August 12, 1924–August 17, 1988) ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988. His rule over the country, which lasted eleven years, is the longest to date in the history of Pakistan. Appointed Chief of Army Staff in 1976, General Zia-ul-Haq came to power after he overthrew ruling Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, after widespread civil disorder, in a bloodless military coup d’état on July 5, 1977 and imposed Martial Law. He assumed the post of President of Pakistan in 1978 which he held till his death on August 17, 1988.

And saw his rule on the application of Islamic law in the country, and to achieve the political stability of the separation of threatening Balochistan after setting him up from a military regime separately within the province, the death of Amendment 8 to the debate in constitutional law, as well as the gradual privatization and the renewal of a subsequent deterioration of the economy previously.

He had also fought a proxy war in Afghanistan and help the mujahideen against the Soviet Union’s superpower, the Soviet war in Afghanistan. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and until the end of détente, he was instrumental in providing the United States-backed military aid to the Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation and then convert at a later time for them in the Kashmir issue in the late 1980s. His significant contributions to the Mujahideen greatly aided them in, which led to a full withdrawal by the Soviet Union in 1988.History and Background

Having become President in 1978, he secured his position as head of state through a referendum in 1984 which successfully ensured his rule as President for another five years. He lifted Martial Law and held partyless elections in 1985, and handpicked Muhammad Khan Junejo to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. He dismissed Junejo’s government in May 1988 on several charges. He was assassinated in a planned aircraft crash on August 17, 1988 under mysterious circumstances, and the perpetrators of the highly sophisticated air sabotage have not been proven. His death ended his unprecedentedly long eleven-year military dictatorship over Pakistan.

General Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization

On December 2, 1978, on the occasion of the first day of the Hijra calendar to enforce the Islamic system in Pakistan in a nationwide address, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq accused politicians of exploiting the name of Islam saying: “Many a ruler did what they pleased in the name of Islam.”

After assuming power, the task that the government set to was its public commitment to enforce Nizam-e-Islam (Islamic System), a 180 degree turn from Pakistan’s predominantly Anglo-Saxon Law. As a preliminary measure to establish an Islamic society in Pakistan, General Zia announced the establishment of Shariah Benches.

Under Offenses Against Property (Enforcement of Hudood Ordinance 1979), the punishment of imprisonment or fine, or both, as provided in the existing Pakistan Penal Code 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 ( Arabic حدود, also transliterated Hadud, Hudud; plural for Hadh,, limit, or restriction) is the word often used in Islamic social and legal literature for the bounds of acceptable behaviour.

In legal terms, (Islamic law being usually referred to as Sharia, the term is used to describe laws that define a 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. However, with liberal movements in Islam expressing concerns about hadith validity, a major component of how Islamic law is created, questions have arisen about administering certain punishments. Incompatibilities with human rights in the way Islamic law is practised in many countries has led many to call for an international moratorium on the punishments of Hudud laws until greater scholarly consensus can be reached. It has also been argued by some, that the Hudud portion of Sharia is incompatible with humanism or human rights.

Drinking of wine (i.e. all alcoholic drinks) was not a crime at all under the Pakistan Penal Code. 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 as that the women and the man guilty will be flogged, each of them, with one hundred lashes, if unmarried. And if they are married they shall be stoned to death.


General Zia-ul-Haq’s most enduring legacy was his fighting the Soviet-Afghan War by proxy, in an alliance with the Afghan resistance, the Mujahideen, against the invading USSR. His open accepting of financial aid from the United States of America to fight the Soviet Union helped in ending an already struggling Détente. He was then instrumental in providing military aid to Mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan against Soviet occupation and then later diverting them to the Kashmir cause in the late 1980s. His major contributions to the resistance movement greatly aided in complete Soviet withdrawal by 1988, which perhaps stopped a direct military invasion of Pakistan.

Another enduring legacy of his is the political system he left behind. After the partyless elections of February 1985, the Pakistan Constitution of 1973 was pulled out of cold storage, and on its back, a series of amendments giving absolute powers to the president were grafted to dismantle any future democratic set up at will. Since then the presidential powers have been used three times to disband elected assemblies. In May 1988 he himself sacked Prime Minister Muhammad Khan Junejo and dissolved the elected assemblies while President Ghulam Ishaq Khan sacked Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and disbanded the national and provincial assemblies, later doing the same again with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was again sacked by President Farooq Leghari using the same powers.

Zia’s era also marked the most stable period for Pakistan’s largest province, Balochistan, in the history of the country. This was mostly due to his appointing General Rahimuddin Khan as Martial Law Governor of Balochistan. Rahimuddin’s efficient and iron-fisted rule completely subdued the militancy, and also prevented an influx of drugs and weaponry in the Balochistan from Afghanistan. Calls for secession, which were in excess during the rule of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, were brought under control, and civil disobedience was also put down by indirect military action under the authoritarian Rahimuddin.

His reign also witnessed the rise to prominence of several conservative politicians who would later rule the country, including Nawaz Sharif, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, and Zafarullah Khan Jamali (all of whom would later hold the post of Prime Minister of Pakistan). General Zia also revived and endorsed Pakistan’s current ruling political party, Pakistan Muslim League. By 2002, the party broke into several splinter factions, the majority of which became structurally united again in 2003 under Pakistan Muslim League (Q), including Pakistan Muslim League (Z), which was named after Zia.

General Zia also militarized the bureaucracy systematically. By his government’s orders, 5 % of all new posts in the higher civil civil service were to be filled by army officers who, consequently, occupied important civilian positions. Successive democratically elected governments did not rescind this order due to the power wielded by Pakistan Army. Under Pakistan’s current military government, militarizing the bureaucracy is again pursued.

Zia’s rule witnessed heightened tensions with neighbouring states. He was instrumental in providing military assistance to Mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan against Soviet Occupation and then later diverting them to the Kashmir cause in the late 1980s. During his time as President, Zia was also accused several times by Indian premier Indira Gandhi (and later Rajiv Gandhi) of training Sikh insurgents and sending them to destabilize India. The completion of the construction of the Karakoram Highway from Pakistan to China, the highest paved international road in the world, took place during his rule in 1978.

Early Years

Zia (more appropriate Arabic transliteration: Dhia) (an Arain) was born in Jalandhar (in India) in 1924 as the second child of a school teacher named Muhammad Akbar. He completed his initial education in Simla and then at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. He was commissioned in the British Army in 1943 and served during World War II. At Pakistan’s independence, Zia joined the Pakistani Army as a major. He got trained in the United States 1962–1964 at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Zia 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. On 1 April 1976, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto appointed Zia-ul-Haq as Chief of Army Staff, ahead of a number of more senior officers.

Reign as Chief Martial Law Administrator

The Doctrine of Necessity

Nusrat Bhutto, the wife of the deposed Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, 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.

Assumption of the Post of President of Pakistan

Despite the dismissal of most of the Bhutto government, the President of Pakistan, Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry, was persuaded to continue in office. 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. As acting Chief Martial Law Administrator and President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq cemented his position as the undisputed ruler of the country.
The Hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

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 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.

In Power

Military Coup

As Bhutto’s autocratic government became increasingly violent with its detractors and opponents, its popularity greatly fell. Eventually, Bhutto’s ruling Pakistan People’s Party faced a bloody deadlock with the opposing Pakistan National Alliance. On July 5, 1977, Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq led a bloodless coup against Bhutto’s government. The military coup, named Operation Fairplay, was successful, and Zia enforced Martial Law, effectively putting an end to the deteriorating law-and-order situation. Shortly after, Zia promised to hold elections in October and restore power to civilian representatives. He thus became the third person in the history of Pakistan to impose Martial Law.

Postponement of Elections and Call for Accountability

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 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 of the politicians. Zia said that he changed his decision due to the strong public demand for the scrutiny of political leaders who had indulged 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 were once 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.

Stabilization of Balochistan

Declaration of an Amnesty

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 quicky, offering a general amnesty to those who gave up arms and moving for the appeasement of the tribals. When this had little effect on the prevailing situation there, Zia withdrew troops from the province, ending much of the civil disobedience movements.

Appointment of Rahimuddin Khan as Martial Law Governor

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.

Reign as President of Pakistan

Formation of Majlis-e-Shoora

In the absence of Parliament, General Zia decided to establish an alternative system. The Council-E-Shura in 1980. Most of the members of the Shura intellectuals, scientists, scholars, journalists, economists and professionals who belong to different spheres of life. The Shura Council to serve as advisors to the President. The idea of ​​establishing this institution is not bad, but the main problem is that all members of 284 of the Shura had to be nominated by the president, and thus there was no room for opposition

Referendum of 1984

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% 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 techinical violations of the laws and ethics of democratic elections.

The Eighth Amendment and Elections of 1985

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. His reign saw, between 1980 and 1988, the increase of industrial production by nine percent, as well as an annual growth in Gross Domestic Product by six percent, among the highest in the world.

Consolidation of Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme

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 programme to the nuclear designs of neighbouring 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 of Nowshera Cantt..

Involvement in the Soviet-Afghan War

The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan

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 not interfere in the war, owing to the military power of the USSR at the time. The Islamist General Zia, however, was ideologically opposed to Communism taking over a neighboring country, and made no secret about his intentions of monetarily and militarily aiding the Afghan resistance, or Mujahideen.

International Standing Enhancement and Resumption of Aid

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, which had hit a low-point after the burning down of a Pakistan-based US Embassy by fundamentalists in 1979, 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 27, 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. Aid to the Afghan resistance, and to Pakistan, increased substantially. The United States, faced with a rival superpower looking as if it were to create another Communist bloc, now engaged Zia to fight a US-aided war by proxy in Afghanistan against the Soviets.

Fighting the War by Proxy

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 CIA and the United States Army Special Forces supported the armed struggle against the Soviets.

After succeeding Jimmy Carter in 1980, Ronald Reagan became the new 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. Then, in 1981, the Reagan Administration sent the first of forty 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, therefore, played a large part in the eventual withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1988.

Current Status

Dismissal of the Junejo Government and Call for Fresh Elections

As time passed, the Parliamentarians 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 fresh 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 contesting 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.


The August 17th Air-Crash

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 inspection 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 before exploding in mid-air, killing General Zia and several other senior army generals, as well as American Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphael.


General Zia’s funeral was held on 19 August in Islamabad, the country’s capital. A large number of Pakistanis attended the funeral to pay their last respects to the late general, as well as many foreign dignitaries. Also in attendance was his successor as President of Pakistan, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who had earlier officially announced Zia’s death via national address. His remains were housed in a small tomb outside the King Faisal Mosque.

Controversial Reasons Behind the Crash

The atmosphere was tragic incident, politically and militarily, the worst in Pakistan’s history and unprecedented in military aircraft. His death is still a subject of controversy in Pakistan. Many people do not think it was a simple accident, and hold either the U.S. or the Soviet Union responsible for the death of Zia ul-Haq. But had come there is no evidence so far to light to prove either hypothesis. Recently, he accused John Gunther Dean, the former U.S. ambassador to India, the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, accused of planning to assassinate Zia ul-Haq, although he offered no proof that his claims, made ​​to the magazine of global politics. General Hamid Gul, who will become Director General of the ISI after the death of General Zia ul-Haq, said that the CIA was behind the plane crash. I went to some theories say that they did so in coordination with the Soviet KGB and the CIA. Offenders, however, has not been proven yet. Some people believe that the ISI itself was behind the crash.    

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq Pictures

General Muhammad Zia ul Haq Address to General Assembly as a Soldier
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General Zia Ul Haq in Army Uniform
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General Zia-ul-Haq
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General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq Videos

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