Why Ziaul Haq should not be forgotten

Published: April 7, 2012
The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore 

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@tribune.com.pk

Reportedly, when the relationship between China and the USSR was at its most tense and just before the Sino-Soviet split, the top leaders of both countries, Zhou Enlai and Nikita Khrushchev, met to see if the situation was still salvageable. After reaching a stalemate, the Russian premier Khrushchev said to his Chinese counterpart that he now understood what the problem was: “I am the son of coal miners,” he said. “You are the descendant of big feudal mandarins. We have nothing in common.” “Perhaps we do,” replied the great Zhou Enlai, “we are both traitors to our class.” I cannot hear or read about this story without thinking about how that could so easily be the conversation between Ziaul Haq and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Zia were both traitors to their respective classes. The son of Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto and the scion of one of the largest landowners of the country is now revered mostly by the most downtrodden of the masses. Whereas Ziaul Haq, the common man who climbed to the top, remains so alien and so painful to remember that ironically only a very small particular segment of the urban middle class can reluctantly associate with him.

I feel compelled to shed any pretense of theoretical, objective analysis and at the outset put forth my belief that Bhutto was the greatest and ablest leader that this country has witnessed. My purpose here is not to write an obituary for Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, I feel myself thoroughly ill-equipped for that task. The death anniversary of Bhutto was commemorated a few days ago, and a considerable bit has been said about his life, works and death, although not enough attention has been given to the implications of his death on the trajectory of our state. It would be an understatement and probably a misstatement to say that we have not quite recovered from Bhutto’s murder, since ‘recovery’ would imply that the infliction of damage has ceased.

There is a lot of easy, room-temperature analysis at offer these days about the decline of our state. An example of juvenile analysis is that why do people keep on electing the same corrupt politicians over and over and, perhaps, we deserve these leaders etc., and this is laced with reminiscence of the better times gone by. This often pretends as if it was some process of natural erosion or atrophy which has gradually led us to this point. Pakistani society and politics did not fade away or go giggling into the sea. They were destroyed very deliberately by the use of repression by the theocratic, tyrannical and maniacal dictatorship of Ziaul Haq. One need not be an admirer of Bhutto to see how the ghastly murder of Bhutto destroyed our moral fabric and integrity.

Coming back to the class treason bit, the 1970 election allowed the highest number of common people to be elected to the assemblies, with more feudal lords and industrial barons swept aside, than in any other election in our history. Bhutto did lose the plot slightly in 1977. However, compare this with the shamefully poorly-conducted farce of the non-party election in 1985, which returned to the assemblies the worst bit of our politics and more. Student politics was destroyed, it became a sin to be woman and the list goes on. Ziaul Haq was indeed pathological with visions about him guiding him, it was a shame that medical research could not benefit from him. Yet he did not and could not have done it alone. While Bhutto was being killed and people publicly flogged and executed, there was no meaningful opposition from the common man and that was the real damage. Weakness of this sort is regressive, as we have seen many times after that.

Due emphasis is being placed on the corruption of our leaders these days. Amongst other politicians, the Zia era produced some very brilliant army children, including his sons, who were to become very wealthy in a matter of few years. It is a shame that Pakistan has not benefitted more from the business acumen of Ijazul Haq and Humayun Akhtar Khan etc. It is indeed surprising that nobody has asked them to render accounts of how they moved from army salary allowances to the tycoons that they are today.

I could go on about Ziaul Haq, but it would be unnecessary. His political progeny have disowned him; association with Zia is now a stigma. His death anniversary passes almost unnoticed every year. Even his son does not seem entirely keen or comfortable relying on the works and wisdom of his father. The opening batsmen of his team would not like to be caught praying at his tomb. Yet, it is very important that we never forget Ziaul Haq and what he did and stood for. Actually, merely opposing what he represented is a fairly decent model of good political conscience and responsibility. The reluctance to bring up Zia cannot be solely attributed to the tedium of recollection of pain inflicted on the Pakistani people in general but also because Zia remains the most horrifying and shameful skeleton in many important closets. To use a term, unironically, a thorough post-mortem of Ziaul Haq and his legacy is essential, if for nothing else, then for closure. It is also necessary, perhaps, because we are still not completely immune to the lure of that demagoguery.

Ziaul Haq should remind us of the evil, mediocre and I stake everything and say; common men are capable of. In the comparison between Bhutto and Zia to mention the verdicts of history etc., will be a cliché. Admittedly, some Bhutto supporters go a tad too far in their devotion, yet he certainly was a man worth admiring. Even his political opponents feel compelled to praise him before attacking other members of his party; I suspect this is not merely genteel courtesy dictating that one not speak ill of the dead, but the feeling of guilt, of blood on their hands and their complicity in his murder.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (81)

  • Ali Tanoli
    Apr 7, 2012 - 11:38PM

    Mr bhutto was good man but Gen zia was great Army man.


  • Saif
    Apr 7, 2012 - 11:41PM

    zia ul haq lived in the hearts of the people of pakistan and continues to do till now. In his era, these political killers and looters used to think ‘twice’ even before planning any corruption or malice. During his era, pakistan saw a tremendous amount of growth in all its sectors (you can verify it from any source you like) and a huge credibility in the eye of international stakeholders. It was during his era that karachi was the most peaceful city of entire sub-continent and people used to love each other. So sad, that our media and biased secular forces have shown him as evil and a tyrant, which he was not. He stood for something, and protected the country at the stake of his own life.

    Our ghq still holds his photograph at the highest point in their offices.


  • Falcon
    Apr 7, 2012 - 11:48PM

    I think hailing Bhutto as the messiah and Zia as the devil’s incarnation are both devoid of objective analysis. This is just a point of view which might be disconnected from reality. The truth is that both of them made unnecessary compromises to stay in power while Zia admittedly made the worst choices. Question is if Bhutto was alive, would he still be that much popular? Answer is a big no; and therein lies the answer to our question, we are a nation that is more loyal to the dead than the living!


  • Atiq
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:04AM

    Do some research. Pakistan’s economic progress and stability under Zia was the highest of any government, even higher than the much acclaimed Ayub years. You can see the data for yourself at the IMF site.

    Bhutto may have been the ablest, but he was also the most treacherous. His refusal to accept Mujib’s election victory sparked civil war in Pakistan. His rejection of a decent ceasefire agreement led to the army surrender. His rigging in the next election caused another coup. On his orders the security forces killed over 350 unarmed people who were protesting against the rigging. Bhutto also bombed Balochistan and ordered army action in KP. Anyone who thinks a person like that is the greatest is creepy.


  • BlackJack
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:10AM

    Bhutto was as self-serving and anti-democratic as any other leader in Pakistan till then; he was just a very charismatic leader with socialist pretensions, making him the darling of the masses – and since Pakistan (even now) has had very little experience with civilian politicians, his memory is seen through rose-tinted glasses. I believe that Jinnah was no different – given the choice, he preferred to become a Govnernor-general (next best thing to a king) rather than lay the democratic fundament for a nation that he single-handedly created. Zia-ul-Haq had his job cut out for him by playing the anti-Bhutto; without the dollar jihad to help run the economy, he would have driven Pakistan into the ground a lot earlier.


  • Meena Gabeena
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:12AM

    Excellent write up…. so true… we really haven’t been able to get that closure. We r a sad nation, disappointed with the people of that time who didnt save ZAB, disapointed with ARMY generals and their worst affects on our country. We cant move on untill we get our closure.


  • cosmix
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:30AM

    Quite a true reflection of moral and judicial oppression starting from Bhutto hanging. Zia era must have agonized Quaid i Azam in grave and I wonder if we will ever recover from one-eyed tyrant’s misrule…..


  • Usman
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:31AM

    “His political progeny have disowned him; association with Zia is now a stigma.” For all three who commented before me, the pasted sentence is the answer to ZIA’s legacy.


  • alijan
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:37AM

    Zia ul Haq..11 years of fascism!…Pakistan will take decades to recover from what that man did


  • Arifq
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:43AM

    Worst chapter in our history, Zia ul Haq. Country needs closure and as a starting point we should remove all Zia related legacies from state institutions, Text books corrected and children told what a monster Zia was. Most importantly, Religion not to be ever abused again for political gains, terrorizing opponents or used as a pretext to marginalize women and minorities. Saroop many thanks for expressing our thoughts.


  • Mr T
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:48AM

    While Zia was an animal… he should not even be considered human for the damage he has done to Pakistan… i don’t think we can admire bhutto way too much… his arrogance caused the break up of pakistan… and btw… he was the first one to appease the religious bigots of our country…


  • jehanzeb
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:52AM

    @saif. sir you should take political science 101, rather pakistan history 101, leave poltical science that would be too trying …peace


  • Shahid Jamil
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:57AM

    Zia ul Haq was appointed by Bhutto Sahib. Why did Bhutto inflict such a person on us?


  • Hamda imam
    Apr 8, 2012 - 1:07AM

    @saroop ijaz
    thanks choosing nice words
    being student of history may i ask few questions?
    1. Keeping in view the coming elections-
    Is it not the right time to recall both of them. Zia & ZAB?
    2. Are not pakistanis being merged into a nation as result of coming elections?

    3. Is it not fact that Zia, the leader of every religious faction in pakistan?
    4. Is not ZAB a name of a styled life, a broad minded, open hearted great man?
    5. Is not AAZ a voice of ( BB, ZAB and) masses of not only in pakistan but also in every country, where masses have to lift a burden of ugly kings in the name of islam?
    6. Was not his height felt in peopl’s of south asia?
    7. shall we not recall zia as a leader of those who creath and worship statues in the name of their religious men?
    8. Is jhang not holy name for one and abbottabad for another?
    9. Is not Islamabad a holy city for drug dealers and warriors?
    is it not right time to paste zia on every wall for the masses to have an EBRAT, and for his follower to bow their head before every wall? Will zia’s heirs arrange his pic along with hafiz saeed on left and ghazi aziz on the right,
    for the use in election camps of every one who wish a religious rule in this country?
    10. Is not one taj haider 1 man enough to reply every question from the followers of their home made religion?
    11. Does AAZ BB ZAB require any publicity?
    12. Is it not a professional duty of those who needs votes to be in a camp of AAZ or hafiz saeed?
    12. Are not the basic worries of pakistanis a chain of factions? Are not their common targets chanda, rents, drug and arms? Is it not a great suggestion for them all 40 org that gathered to torch the HURMAT of human a flag of a nation, will they not win if unite?

  • Big Rizvi
    Apr 8, 2012 - 1:17AM

    Well, Zia had his good and bad points. Atleast he could have been more tolerant of ‘progress’. It was a nice thing that the poor man got his day’s food in his era and there was peace.


  • Pakistani
    Apr 8, 2012 - 1:26AM

    Both Bhutto and Zia together destroyed the fabric of society by pandering to mullahs. Bhutto’s Second Amendment limited religious freedom and Zia’s Ordinance XX destroyed freedom to religious practice. In this respect, Zia was more competent than Bhutto in the suppression of minorities.


  • Jawad
    Apr 8, 2012 - 1:32AM

    Sir, Zia was no hero of this nation. But you write for a national paper, and your accusations should be backed up: Ijaz ul Haq has contributed nothing to the political culture, but your calling him a ‘tycoon’ and implying corruption, is wrong and unfounded. they may be many things, but the Zia family, father and son, have no allegations of financial corruption against them. please be more careful that way.


  • Apr 8, 2012 - 1:33AM

    General Ziaul Haq was a great Leader of Muslim World… May Allah forgive him and give him Jannatul Firdous… Ameen :)


  • Blind Pakistan
    Apr 8, 2012 - 1:33AM

    @saif: Uh Mr. Saif Mr Zia introduced Sectarian violence in Pakistan…yet u have the nerve to praise him….God help this country and it blind ppl. Bhutto wasnt gr8, but Zia has not only destroyed Pakistan and Islam as well….thats a bigger crime than corruption.


  • ashok
    Apr 8, 2012 - 1:43AM

    Pakistan just cannot even if Pakistanis try their level best; it has entered in their DNA.

    Karachi to Khyber, Kakul to Karakoram, Gwader to Gilgit and Balochistan to Baltistan, you can see the signs that Zia is alive and kicking not only Pakistan citizens but the rest of the world without any fear or favor. Zia has left his foot prints from China to Chile.


  • Pakistani
    Apr 8, 2012 - 1:45AM

    Zia-ul-Haq is the most hated leader of this country since 1947. That is a FACT. People actually celebrated his death (although I don’t approve of that).
    On the other hand, Bhutto is still probably the most popular leader Pakistan has seen since 1947 (Except Jinnah and Liaqat of course). That, too, is a fact.

    Still, you dont have to be a Bhutto fan to see the damage done by Zia-ul-Haq. He ruined everything. He got us into this mess of Taliban. He was the one who acted as a puppet in the hands of USA. Since then, all our leader have been puppets to the US.

    What surprises me is how so many people admire Nawaz Sharif, without knowing he was brought into politics by Zia-ul-Haq. Nawaz Sharif even called him his idol once.


  • Shariq
    Apr 8, 2012 - 2:00AM

    Zia-ul-Haq was responsible for bringing extremism, terrorism and weapons into our society in the name of Jihad. Bhutto made some mistakes, but Zia made blunders. It’s sad to see some people still portraying him as a hero.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Apr 8, 2012 - 2:36AM

    During Zia ul Haq’s time, Pakistan saw its highest GDP growth, and, as objective, non-subcontinental authors have mentioned, the common man in Pakistan has never prospered as much under any other government. During the time of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s feudal lords saw their position stabilized and strengthened as never before. Large landowners in Sindh and Punjab prospered at the expense of the common man, who had been decieved and exploited by the politics and nepotism of the Bhutto regime.Recommend

  • Huma
    Apr 8, 2012 - 3:02AM

    bhutto was hanged when i was about 7 yrs old, so no comments… but i grew up in the zia-era, and i can tell u, he stands for the worst and most evil of hypocrites we ever had the misfortune to rule us


  • Apr 8, 2012 - 3:03AM

    Both Bhutto and Zia had a common thing, both used religion in the matters of state to stay in the Power, Bhutto’s 2nd amendment, religious ministry and banning vine were all political stunts, same was with Zia, his laws are exceptionally “black” in nature. This use of religion in mainstream politics was an invention by Bhutto, which in the end took his life, as the “Nizam-e Mustafa” movement was an evolution form of his invention. what a misery these two leaders have brought to us.


    Apr 8, 2012 - 3:12AM

    Very disappointed to read this article… while Zia has been rightly blamed for his many faults… the writer seems to whitewash Mr. Bhutto’s shortcomings particularly his despotic tendencies as well as his role in shameful episodes like the East Pakistan crisis…


  • American
    Apr 8, 2012 - 5:48AM

    You seem really upset and very angry at Zia. I hate dictatorships too, but ur tone makes one wonder. Ur timing is also puzzling.

    Didn’t the economy during Zia’s time significantly outperform the GDP growth during Bhutto’s time? Or during any democratic setup? Quite an embarrassment for democracy to be outperformed by an oppressive dictatorship. I think you should do an analysis of why Pakistan’s electoral system fails to deliver true democracy. Its a lot more relevant to today’s situation.

    Or is this article another attempt to publicize the “Bhutto” name before the next election?


  • asma@london
    Apr 8, 2012 - 6:29AM

    @Ali Tanoli:
    Zia was a great army man????? This is the joke of the century. He would be better remembered as the great murderer for not just killing Z.A Bhutto and torturing and killing of PPP workers but also commanding a unit to kill Palestinians!!!! Though he is dead and I was in my teens at the time but as yet I am unable to forgive him for bringing my country to the state it is in now and I also cannot forgive him for taking away from us one of the most genius and courageous leaders.


  • FMM
    Apr 8, 2012 - 7:52AM

    The difference is that Bhutto galvanized people power while Zia exploited state power as means to achieve their respective goals. Today, people power is growing while state power – as exercised by Zia – is eclipsing. Both gentlemen met unexpected ends, however, the litmus test is for the nation to imagine where Pakistan would stand today if Bhutto was to live and implement his ideology versus if Zia’s rule was to go on for another decade.


  • Harish Puri
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:05AM

    The comments on this article show that the more things (times?) change, the more they remain the same… Is the dream of a moderate Pakistan still on the cards??


  • unbeliever
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:16AM

    @ to everybody here

    a lot many of you are saying that pakistan achieved tremendous growth during zia’s rule, but have you ever tried to dig deeper as to why that happened.

    money granted in the form of aid can’t go much farther in building a strong economy, it requires prudence, foresight, and vision.

    the pakistani economy is performing badly in last three years, and if you get a dictatorial regime, it’s very easy to set fundamentals right and spur growth for coming few years, but a long term growth plan would require consolidating the gains and then trying to capitalise on those gains.

    bhutto atleast chalked out a plan for the future of pakistan and atleast was trying on the agenda to lay down the foundation of a stronger pakistan.


  • faraz
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:22AM


    Zia introduced caste, biradri and patronage politics by conducting non-party based elections in 1985. He destroyed the ideological politics that existed before that. The worst of the elite became politicians overnight. The economic growth was due to influx of US dollars for Afghan war, which laid the roots of terrorism and extremism in the society. Have you heard of the massive riots that occurred in Karachi after the death of Bushra? Ethnic politics took roots in Karachi during Zia era. Ask the 10,000 soldiers, who have lost life and limb due to religious terrorism, how much they love Zia.

    @Mustafa Moiz

    Bhutto enacted land reforms which were nullified under Zia era using Shariat courts. The worst kind of feudals, sardars, and chaudhrys made into politics during non-party based 1985 elections. The cost of terrorism is 60 billion dollars, and the policies of Zia era are responsible for that.


  • Mirza
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:22AM

    A very thoughtful Op Ed, fit to be included in ET. The people of Pakistan and history have kept ZAB alive but Zia has been dead. Not only that even Imran Khan compares himself with ZAB nobody with Gen Zia. The urban elite can still hate ZAB, his family and his party but it is the verdict of people that counts and they have repeatedly elected PPP only on his name and manifesto.
    Most people fail to notice that with the 18th amendment even the name of dictator Zia has officially been purged from Pakistani history as if he never existed. Comparing economic progress of the country during the totalitarian era of Zia with ZAB is most unfair. When ZAB took over the govt half the country was gone, with 93,000 soldiers and army officers in Indian custody and the remaining half of the country was in danger. Zia held elections that were the most corrupt in the history with the question that if one likes Islam then he voted for Zia. He committed acts of high treason, judicial murder of elected PM, sowed the seeds of terrorism, fundamentalism, Kalashnikov and heroine culture to name a few. Culturally Pakistan could never be the same as before Gen Zia. However, he was not alone in his mutilation of constitution and religious extremism; he was helped by his generals and judges. No wonder his close associates including Sharifs stay away from his name as leprosy.


  • Shakky
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:23AM

    Zia ul Haq is the reason that Pakistan is in such terrible shape today. This evil dictator is only remembered by army brats whose parents benefited monetarily during Zia’s time. Pakistan used to be a moderate country before this Terry Thomas lookalike came on the scene. And yes, please do look up Terry Thomas and you’ll see what I mean. Not that Zulfikar Bhutto was an angel – he too could be vengeful and nasty and also turned dictatorial in his later years. Truth be told, Pakistan hasn’t really had very good leaders. Each has contributed to the decline of the country. Although none can match Zia in the amount of damage that was done.


  • Haris Chaudhry
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:26AM

    People have short memories !

    The economy only grew during Zia regime because the chickens that Zia gave birth to (mujahideen) didnt come home to roost during his tenure and domestic terrorism + suicide bombings was foreign to Pakistan.

    Zia also got billions in aid from USA during his tenure. Take away those billions and the economy would have gone back in reverse.

    Musharraf had the same fortune of sharing a massive bonanza in the billions he received directly from US + ban on money laundering (again through US pressure) saw other billions being sent as remittances and leading to massive increase in property value and industrial growth.

    During Zia and Musharraf’s era, Pakistan’s export markets also improved again due to European, US relaxing on curbs and tariffs for keeping Pakistan on-side with USA.

    We must realise that we as a nation have only prospered when we are given handouts – US Aid, Western market access for our exports, discounted or free oil from Saudis and written-off loans by IMF and World Bank for doing US’s bidding.

    Zia gave us mujahideen, weapons, banned (relatively) free media, hatred against fellow sects, hudood ordinance, mandatory wearing of shalwar kameez for gov officers, mandatory praying during pray times by gov staff, hypocrites and total suffocation of freedom of expression.

    It takes a courageous, intelligent and ‘able’ person to understand things in their complete perspective.

    A well written article.



  • raw is war
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:37AM

    will never be forgotten. he after all crested Taliban with his friend Ronald Regan.


  • WB
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:47AM

    Bhutto was an evil genius his actions, especially nationalization brought this country to its knees; Bhutto was hypocrite of the first order, he nationalize program never touched the feudal class, while the industrialists, the educationists, everyone else suffered under his rule only the feudal class thrived. That is why PPP is now filled with feudals


  • Anjum Hameed
    Apr 8, 2012 - 9:02AM

    I would not praise Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to the extent you have..but I agree that Zia ul Haq was the biggest evil ever to descend onto this nation..


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Apr 8, 2012 - 9:54AM

    No, it disproves that sentence.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Apr 8, 2012 - 9:57AM

    Neither was a traitor to their classes. Zia raised the middle and lower classes, and they saw an era of prosperity under his rule that has been unmatched by leaders both before and after him. Bhutto strengthened the feudal lords, and also created sectarian tensions in Karachi by blatantly favouring the Sindhis with a quota system.


  • Naumaan Farooq
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:00AM

    Whatever you called Zia, but Zia still in the hearts many. Like Bhutto, Zia was also a staunch nationalist. Both wanted to see Pakistan strong. Yes, Pakistani liberals hate Zia but one cant take out the respect and love of him from many rightest ones. Whether you called it irony or shame. No one called it shame when Bhutto threaten if Mujeeb be called for the premiership after election and this led to breakup of Pakistan. Is this democracy !!! … or dictatorship is in the blood of politicians.


  • Mir
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:07AM

    zia wiped out many villages in sindh in 1983, many people were killed,tortured and jailed for their support to bhutto, all the temporary economical growth in zia era was due to world’s aid to fight afghan war but in return we got 3mn refugees, death and destruction of pakistanis , extremism, militancy, while bhutto did many wrong things but he gave confidence to downtrodden to raise their voice against landlords, bureaucrats,industrialists, which was considered sin before bhutto, zia used all his might to suppress these voices under the banner of religion and returned power to landlords,industrialists,bureaucrats.


  • Hammad
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:08AM

    Zia, Ijaz, whatever their faults, were not Corrupt. get your facts right


  • Ali Wali
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:19AM

    @AliTanoli: Zia lost Siachin to India, what kind of greatness is that! Zlucky poor Pakistanis, NOT. Recommend

  • Ali S
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:09AM

    I’m no fan of Zia ul Haq, but I just want to clarify why the “downtrodden masses adored Bhutto”. Are you sure there is no coincidence in his stronghold being rural Sindh and him being a top wadera from Sindh? – these people have always been blindly loyal to their big wadera master, and it definitely helped that Bhutto was admittedly the most charismatic of them. There was hardly any intellectual analysis involved in their decision. It is just die-hard burger liberals like you, a tiny and fairly irrelevant minority of the general population, who love Bhutto for his wine-drinking uppity and now-tarnished brand of liberalism. If only your analysis was more balanced.


  • Xyz
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:56AM

    Seriously cant believe what im reading above! Is all you care about growth? You people must understand 2 things. Firstly, having growth doesn’t mean that everyone will benefit from it, especially in a country with a given corruption culture. Secondly,there is causality in economics. things take time to implement and develop. alot of growth that occurred in Zias era was due to the sowing of policies by the previous govt that had started to reap rewards such as in agriculture. alot of his policies were highly unsustainable, which is why his successors were left with a debt mountain. this man brought drugs and weapons into pakistan. He fostered extremism in madrassas. His Hudood ordinances disproportionately punished the poorest segment of society. If you support this man, do all sensible people a favour. Find a cliff and jump off it!


  • Feroz
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:12PM

    Zia has accomplishments that cannot be matched by Bhutto or anyone else. He offered the lives of misguided youth as cannon fodder to fight someone elses War in Afghanistan. The seeds sown by his then actions are flowering slowly but surely. The poisonous fruit is ready for harvest and I better be dead before I get to see the results from consuming it.


  • Dan
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:18PM

    For all those people who are bringing in ‘growth’ figures to support the Zia-era. Please note that majority of the GDP growth of that time came in the form of Foreign Aid ($$$) which was used to fund the Jihadist movement against the Soviet incursion. This ‘growth’ is responsible for arming all the militant extremist. It is a ‘growth’ for which we are still paying today courtesy all the suicide bombing talking place.

    An excellent point by the author. Whenever we talk about intolerance and radicalization of Pakistan all fingers are pointed towards Zia, which in my opinion is unfair. I am not absolving Zia of what he did. I am pointing fingers at the rest of Pakistan. Highlighting how easily the radicalization policies of Zia were not just accepted but welcomed with open arms. Intolerance and Extremism is in the hearts of the Pakistanis and Zia only gave the people what they wanted. Zia was not a leader that Pakistan needed but he was a leader that Pakistan deserved.


  • Saif M
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:29PM

    This is the best obituary I have read of Ziaul Haq.


  • Beatle
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:37PM

    The subject does not require any argument or dispute. Time has proven and continues to prove the facts. With all the negativity and bias, Bhutto’s followers get ellected still today. On the other hand the leading opposition party head used to call Zia as his “Spiritutal Father” feel ashamed to even associate with the dictator.


  • socialist
    Apr 8, 2012 - 1:26PM

    when people mention the gdp growth in despotic regimes i cant help wondering at that fictitious bird who could not remain happy in a golden cage when chooori was being offered to him.he was a thankless bird!


  • A S
    Apr 8, 2012 - 1:48PM

    Why O’ why do we blame anyone else other than ourselves?
    Can we take time to search our souls and ask the question as to what have we done to bring about moral and material improvement in our local environment, individually and more important collectively?
    Why blame anyone else? Who allows anyone to become leader or Ruler? Is it not us , the people at large?
    Muslims, if there are true Muslims anywhere in the world, will never allow any man to become a leader or a Ruler.
    Muslims are commanded by Lord Almighty to come together to join hands and to bring about a system of the people, by the people in control of the people. Muslims then are commanded to erect the Autocracy of no one but Lord Almighty.
    This will happen only when people calling themselves Muslims will indeed become Muslims. Muslims in spirit and practice.


  • A Peshawary
    Apr 8, 2012 - 2:12PM

    At least the freedom of media is paying rewards and we have started getting something worht reading.

    As for Zia is concerned what ever has been written is a fact which is well recorded in the history. Under military dictatorships the whole fabric of society is tarnished and the people have to pay for it in the dedaces to come. This class of Generals although coming from common masses work against thier own class only and only to serve their ego on the cost what ever it may. Each of the dictators who ruled and casued irreparable dammge to Pakistan; were prisoners of thier own paradigms.

    We must not forget that our apex courts have always played an important role in giving strenght to these dictators (in a fact Traitors). We hope and prey today’s court should be an axception which is very hard to swollow by following the proceedings of memogate scandel where the army generals are still sacred cows.

    God knows when Pakistan will get rid of games of Forces, Courts and esteblishment promoted piliticians (the Real Trika) abley supported by collaborators from media.


  • gujranwala789
    Apr 8, 2012 - 2:36PM

    @Shahid Jamil:

    He did so because both of them belonged to larger Arain caste of pakistan, it was a perfect example of bradarism.


  • elementary
    Apr 8, 2012 - 3:44PM

    Comparing apples with oranges.However perhaps they can be compared in terms of their impact on the country.Zia ul Haq’s impact was undoubtedly more devastating and enduring.He turned pakistani’s passion for islam into bigotry ,hatred and violence.He revolutionized the education system with the introduction and proliferation of madrassahs,whose impact on society is continuing on.Recommend

  • ahmad
    Apr 8, 2012 - 4:30PM

    There is always economic growth (so called) during dictators regime. why?
    Simple.Because dictators sell people,military bases and rent army to do dirty work of others and get petty aid,dollars which supports economy to some extent but in longer run destroys it.


  • AA
    Apr 8, 2012 - 4:30PM

    Fifty or more years from now, when an objective history of Pakistan’s will be written, Zia’s era will undoubtedly be described as Pakistan’s Dark Ages.


  • Anonymous
    Apr 8, 2012 - 5:18PM

    @Mustafa Moiz:
    Dea r sir quota system was their in federal govt since Pakistan inception. Urban population was 20% and quota was 40%.
    There is affirmative action in US . There is some system in India.
    Dear sir read sacchar commission of India . Your cousins there are below shoodars in all indices. your parents were accommodated in urban centers. You have that advantage. Immigrant were given 10% quota in jobs across whole Pakistan that included Bengal and 10 % open merit quota that went to you also. That is why you are ahead of others. What to talk of claim lands and properties.
    God has given you opportunities but don’t get upset to help natives if you have to go additional l mile.
    Please again read sacchar commission of India, to see where your cousins stand and be thankful to your parents who came here


  • Apr 8, 2012 - 5:27PM

    @Saif: Dear Saif you are perfectly right when you say “zia ul haq lived in the hearts of the people of pakistan and continues to do till now.” Yes and the hearts where he lives are perfect example of ( in the words of Karman Shafi) “the deep religious and sectarian and tribal schisms engineered by Zia and his henchmen to divide the populace of Pakistan so that he could rule the country easier.” Yes Sir, the seeds of religious, sectarian and tribal schisms sown by him are blossoming in killings of thousands of Muslims by Muslims and all the sorrows of Pakistan. The day will come when people of Pakistan will realize what he did to all around.Recommend

  • salim
    Apr 8, 2012 - 6:42PM

    Very unfortunate that the nation had to endure these two leaders.


  • Osman Abdullah
    Apr 8, 2012 - 6:44PM

    Bhutto was no revolutionary. He was an intelligent but power-hungry feudal masquerading as a socialist who is responsible for killing tens of opponents – just because they opposed him (just what he did to JA Rahim, a founder member of PPP(or whatever remains of it) should illustrate the point).
    Another point you mention is that he was the most “ablest” leader this country ever had. Sorry, that accolade should go to Husain Shaheed Suhrawardy.
    Having said that, Zia was more of a patriot than ZAB


  • Parvez
    Apr 8, 2012 - 6:59PM

    Leaders should be remembered for the legacies they leave behind for their country.
    To be honest both deserve to be forgotten but sadly this will only happen until this
    unfortunate country gets a leader worthy of being remembered.


  • Humanity
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:45PM

    ET, please stop censoring my comments. Let people read and reflect.

    Bhutto’s end was a time honored classic fate of men who peddle religion for worldly gains. So was Zia’s. Read the scriptures, analyze and decide for yourselves.

    The ignominious legacy of these men who were guided by equally religious bigots and enabled by a blind, deaf, and dumb nation carries on as a befitting punishment this nation is serving.

    You meddle with the divine realms. Your generations are forsaken to pay the price of your demagoguery. This is how the divine justice is meted out when people start to judge in the Holy Name of God.Recommend

  • Lawangin
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:33PM

    Lets do some comparision
    Brig Zia ul Haq killed thousand of Palestinians in 1967 in Jordan. Three years later Bhutto helped Geneal Yahya and Tikka Khan and killed a Million Bengalies in 1971. Bhutto being a liberal declared Qadiani non Muslim as a first amendment into the 1973 constituion, while Gneral Zia term the same constituion as a useless piece of paper, and he can throw it to the Dustbin anytime he wish. Bhutto bribed MPAs in KP (former NWFP) and Balohistan Assemblies and establshed PPP government despite their thin minorities. Genal Zia held partyless election and paved the way for corrupt, blackmailers, Smugglers and corrupt people to enter the assembly becuase of their money. Geneal zia got killed despite the control of the plane in the hands of his selected security staff and agencies, while Bhutto got killed becuase of his unjusfifed promoted general and selected COAS. Geneal Zia death are celeberated when the Army is in power but Bhutto death is celeberated when PPP is in power. Benazir and PPP used and even using Bhutto grave to grave voite and come to power, while Geneal Zia parties (all the jihadist and non Jihadist groups and parties) use his grave to win vote. I dont not see any difference them. Bhutto was civilian Martial law administrator when he tooke over in 1971 while General Zia was in uniform when he overthrow Bhutto government in July 1977


  • Hit-man
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:45PM

    Its no longer Jinnah’s but Zia’s Pakistan which is on the brink due to his ill concieved policies on religion and terrorism, which unfortunately after his demise were followed explicitly by the respective regimes along with the military. Recommend

  • Abdul Jalil Brohi
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:56PM

    strong text
    Dear Mr. Ijaz Saroop.
    I have gone through your comment and comments of other writers about Z.A. BHUTTO. I can not say that he was a pious man, but i believe there can any be a pious person in the world of today, but bhutto was a great great and a great person.I disagree with you that bhutto was a traitor of his class, no he was not a traitor of his class but he was a real educator of his class. he did not come out from his class but educated his class how to serve poor people and give them due respect and in return you will get respect for you and your family till this worl ends. though he belonged to a rich waders class but the misseries of poor people made him think to serve the poor masses. the national and international anti-people forces took bhutto away from his mission, not only AMERICA, GEN. ZIAULHUQ AND HIS ASSOCIATED GENERALS AND JUDICIARY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS GRAVE SITUATION BUT THE POLITICIANS OF PNA AT THAT TIME ARE EQUALLY RESPONSIBLE.


  • Anonymous
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:39PM

    @Ali S:
    Sir your hatred for Sindhis and waders is evident
    Many people have written a lot

    He was elcected by 2/3 majority from Punjab and he represented them well. Sind he got merely fifty percent votes.
    He introduced land reforms that were declared illegal and unislamic by shariat court appointed by dictator.
    He still gets voted from all Pakistan numbers may vary.
    Stinking feudals were brought in power in 1985 elections by by your spiritual leader zia and then another gunmen mush as nazims.
    In non party set up there is chance that some worker get a slot but in nonparty set us hardly anyone gets opportunity

  • Naveed Ikram
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:52PM

    It is so true. This piece did justice to Bhutto, the man and his legacy. Bhutto had his failings like all great people but his achievements against tremendous challenges are legendary. With Bhutto went the hope, liberal thought, religious tolerance, love for cultural values and vision of a better future. Laws, army, judiciary, and religious edicts were used to tarnish his image by the establishment but history had other ideas.

    Zia was the worst thing that could have happened to Pakistan. He crippled our promise as nation, our every dream. A modern, progressive, welfare state we wanted to be but he brought us to this pass.

    Every problem, big or small we face today had its origin in Zia’s reign of terror, be it American influence, terrorism, sectarianism, intolerance, political bribery, parallel economy, nepotism, army’s role in political role, apathy, institutionalized corruption, situation in Karachi, situation in Parachinar, situation in Norther Areas, plunder of national treasury, hatred for written word, power load-shedding …… every festering wound is a gift of Zia to this hapless nation.

    The living standard were improved tremendously during Bhutto regime and not Zia’s and hardcore economic statics prove it beyond doubt. No major development projects were taken under his misrule. Billions of dollars, a windfall of Afghan war were showered on cronies by Zia. Heroin, Kalashnikov, Karachi, sectarianism, intolerance, extremism, failed education system were the things with which we are identified with. Lashes, jails, unemployment, exiles were his replies for argument. Zia is the man who had put my nation on fast track to destruction, now we are “hamstrung to history” as a nation.


  • ROMM
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:02AM

    General Zia and America are responsible for the Mess we are in. He along with Ronald Reagan promoted extremism in Pakistan by arming mullahs of Tribal areas neighbouring Afghanistan. as far GDP growth is concerned that was due to Dollars poured into Pakistan by CIA for fighting Holy war against Soviet union. capitalists and religious clergymen are responsible for the destruction of social fabric of Pakistani society. both are Rascals or same magnitude. General Zia’s Jaw should be brought out from his grave and court martial-ed.


  • Mustafa Moiz
    Apr 9, 2012 - 2:33AM

    While Zia and his son are not personally corrupt, the Bhutto clan is steeped in allegations of corruption and nepotism.


  • Humanity
    Apr 9, 2012 - 2:55AM

    @Mustafa Moiz wrote:
    While Zia and his son are not personally corrupt, the Bhutto clan is steeped in allegations of corruption and nepotism.

    That Bhutto clan is corrupt in every which way.
    Does moral corruption of Zia, his guide, and his followers not matter? Can Zia be absolve of the thousands of Palestinians he butchered? How did his son become so filthy rich? Why do other Pakistanis who work equally hard if not harder become rich?

    Rest assure iss hamaan mein sare nungey hain ..


  • Nauman
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:09AM

    We Pakisatn are in dire straits position just because of ZIA


  • riz
    Apr 10, 2012 - 7:50PM

    zia was not as corrupt as others; he played great role to defeat Russia in Afghanistan and he was on mission to take revenge from India for east Pakistan tragedy through khalistan movement in India but who betrayed at the end is a great question?


  • Faisel Hafeez
    Apr 10, 2012 - 9:07PM

    Zia Ul Haq is the Father of the Worst Corruption Bestowed on Pakistan.
    His singular achievement is the evil of “Religious Corruption”, now deeply embedded in our society.
    The Nation should stand up and denounce his version of Islam, as “Ziaiat”.
    To purge “Ziaiat” out of Islam will take generations.

  • Arslan Tariq
    Apr 11, 2012 - 8:42PM

    By making an analogy between Ziaul Haq and Z.A Bhutto, we are comparing dictatorship Vs democracy. It is a fact that Z.A Bhutto is considered as a great leader till now. Most people anticipate that they are never going to get a spontaneous leader like Z.A Bhutto. My motive here is not to discuss Mr. Bhutto or Mr. Ziaul haq because this is not the hour of need. We have completely forgotten our real problems that are our present problems. Please it’s a request do not praise or demolish character of any leader or dictator of past because they are the part of history. What had happened and who was responsible for what is not the question of our current era. We just have to be proactive now. Stop blaming one another or the leaders of the past, I plead all you to focus on present circumstances!
    Most important above all is that what they have done in the past is irrevocable but not inevitable. We can’t change what had happened to us that were not in our circle of control but what we can do is to take charge of our responses to make a better and prosperous Pakistan. Just promote literacy so that everyone can give his best in selecting a leader for our country.
    I am not in the favor of these kind of articles, they simply make no sense to me we are not in a feuding; not we are demanded to do so because these articles distracts people attention from current situations. I hope that the writer of the article had discussed the absolute facts. My intention is not to harm anybody, just want to make you aware that current Pakistan is our Pakistan “Save Pakistan”
    God Bless Pakistan.


  • Shehryar Asif
    Apr 12, 2012 - 1:05AM

    General Zia-ul-Haq, also named as the fundamentalist dictator, was known as the worst chapter in the history of Pakistan. He made many mistakes. As both President and Chief Martial Law Administrator, Zia forcefully crushed the secular-communist and socialist democratic struggle led by the eldest daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto. During this period of economic and social change, Zia restricted and violently dealt with the political rivals in 1980s. His time in power is often regarded as a period of mass military cruelty in which hundreds of thousands of political rivals, minorities, and journalists were executed or tortured. But at the same time, Zia abandoned the previous economical policies of Bhutto, and replaced them with capitalism and privatization of the major industries of Pakistan that had been nationalized by Bhutto in 1970s. He revived the confidence in the private sector to invest in the country again and by doing this, Pakistan economy became one of the fastest growing economies in South Asia. It caused Pakistan’s GDP to grow by average 6.5% during 1980-88 and at that time it was only exceeded by China, Korea and Hong Kong. Now that’s an achievement!! It must have been a shame for the democracy. I will call it a dictatorship victory over democracy.
    To my conclusion, although Zia-ul-Haq made mistakes, but he was not as bad as the opposition and media portrait him.


  • Hassan Z
    Apr 12, 2012 - 9:37PM

    He mentioned bad tasks of Zia, but has he told any of the blunders of Bhutto who is responsible of dismemberment of Pakistan. Moreover I don’t understand that why he is comparing Zia with Bhutto. by saying these words “Admittedly, some Bhutto supporters go a tad too far in their devotion, yet he certainly was a man worth admiring”. Everything needs a proper proof; do you think that he has given proofs of his arguments? Have a look on these statements “Pakistani society and politics did not fade away or go giggling into the sea. They were destroyed very deliberately by the use of repression by the theocratic, tyrannical and maniacal dictatorship of Zia ul Haq” and “Due emphasis is being placed on the corruption of our leaders these days. Amongst other politicians, the Zia era produced some very brilliant army children”. My question is this, from where he is taking this information or it is his own thought? writer first said that he is not writing an obituary of Bhutto, but goes on admiring Bhutto in the whole article. Recommend

  • Nighat syed
    Apr 17, 2012 - 5:48PM

    Killings always lead to decline and imbalance in the country. Whether the victim of murder is great leader of Pakistan like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto or an ordinary man in Gilgit Baltistan .The writer is hundred
    percent right that we are facing Zia Ul Haq’s legacies till now. In the form of Taliban factor ,suicide bomb attacks and killings. On the other hand ordinary Pakistani was not happy with Bhutto as well. Because, Bhutto was not much effective leader yes of course he tried that Pakistan should be true
    democratic country .Yet he was a landlord and he was unable to finish landlord system from Pakistan.
    Now what an ordinary Pakistani wants?Neither Bhutto nor Zia but an agent of true change.


  • Jayeed Naseeree
    May 16, 2012 - 7:38PM

    This is more of a propaganda piece than an objective analysis. The ‘blame Zia for everything’ permeates many upper-class, “secularised” Pakistanis. They hate Zia more because of the restrictions he placed on their flagrant living than for anything else. Pakistan’s economy flourished in Zia’s era, and the country grew in all respects. As for brutality, Zia was no worse than Bhutto. And didn’t his Islamization programme also lower crimes in the country?


  • Jayeed Naseeree
    May 16, 2012 - 8:21PM

    This is more of a propaganda piece than an objective analysis. The ‘blame Zia for everything’ permeates many upper-class, “secularised” Pakistanis. They hate Zia more because of the restrictions he placed on their flagrant living than for anything else. Pakistan’s economy flourished in Zia’s era, and the country grew in all respects. As for brutality, Zia was no worse than Bhutto. And didn’t his Islamization programme also lower crimes in the country?Recommend

  • Naveed Ikram
    May 17, 2012 - 7:32AM

    Zia was the man who institutionalized corruption in body politic of Pakistan.
    Pakistan did not progress in any respect during Zia’s reign of terror. Everything and every institution was put on the fast road to the destruction which brought the country to this pass. Even power load-shedding was introduced by him. Political bribery was his politics. Education system was destroyed completely.
    No development project was undertaken during his years of misrule.
    Just to continue his power, Zia murdered, tortured, lashed, political workers, intellectual, journalists, artists. Sub-intelligent people were promoted to prominence by him on purpose.


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