Forty years ago on July 5, 1977, Zia subverted the 1973 constitution. Almost 29 years after his death, the Zia legacy continues to haunt Pakistan and the institution he belonged to into disrepute. However, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto is also responsible for his own fate because he selected a junior officer with a tainted professional background. From recent events in Parachinar to target killings in Karachi, and from a spate of suicidal bombing that have massacred hundreds of thousands in Pakistan to the millions of Afghans killed in Afghanistan, the country is reaping harvest of seeds of hypocrisy, hate, intolerance and sectarianism sown by none other than Zia and carried on by Musharraf. Zia destroyed the vision of Quaid-e-Azam who wanted Pakistan to be a modern democratic welfare state with a tolerant society nurtured through investment in education and health, and through crackdown on bribery and corruption. In Quaid’s vision, the army and paid civil bureaucracy had no role in politics of this country, except their designated and defined duties.
In 1984, Zia held the controversial Islamisation referendum to grant him four more years. Earlier in 1979 he patronised hundreds of madrassahs and seminaries to be created overnight, which were to become breeding nurseries where young people were to be brainwashed, while reputed educational institutions were denied funds. But it was Zia’s greed and myopic short term interests that thrust this country to fight proxy wars. In the process, he exploited religion to recruit so called jihadists, while his and his junta’s own able bodied sons were sent to the US and other countries to be educated and manage the billions their families had minted.
Almost 40 years ago, on July 5, the Quaid’s vision of a modern democratic welfare state was replaced by the hypocrisy and greed of Ziaul Haq when he staged a military coup that would forever change a peaceful and tolerant nation into a country besieged by extremism, sectarianism, deceit and ethnic divide. The period from 1977 to 1988 was the darkest chapter in the chequered history of this unfortunate nation. On July 5, 1977 when he staged a coup, he went on television, recited the Holy Quran and promised to hold elections within 90 days, a promise on which he reneged several times. On May13 1978, he sentenced 11 journalists and four of them were publicly flogged. He manipulated the judiciary, constituted Shariat benches in the High Court and the Supreme Court and on April 4, 1979 he hanged elected PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had laid down foundations of our sole nuclear deterrence and negotiated release of over 70,000 POWS. Henry Kissinger had earlier warned ZAB that they would sort him out if he pursues in developing nuclear option and Zia carried out this threat.
On December 24, 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Zia dragged Pakistan into a proxy war which the US had planned to avenge its humiliating defeat in Vietnam. On March 23, 1985, he formally lifted martial law and appointed Junejo as PM, only to remove him on May 29, 1988. Bob Woodward in his book, ‘The Veil’, based on recorded interviews with CIA Director Casey, writes that during Zia tenure, the largest CIA base outside the US was in Islamabad. To date Pakistan bleeds from within, with hundreds of thousands killed and millions displaced and an economy left in shambles, inflicting irreparable damage to political morality of this country.
Malik Tariq Ali