Analysis: Zia’s unfinished business

Published: April 4, 2013
General Ziaul Haq. PHOTO: FILE

General Ziaul Haq. PHOTO: FILE

The ghost of General Ziaul Haq and his drive to turn Pakistan into a theocracy continues to haunt us. Under immense pressure from the courts and clerics, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is seemingly undertaking a purge of politicians who may not be ‘righteous’ under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

These articles emanated from the desire to create an Islamic legislature where only the “sagacious”, “righteous and non-profligate, honest and ameen” could hold public offices. How can we define these vague terms, which are open to interpretation and abuse?

Articles 62 and 63 also suggest disqualification if a candidate is deemed to be against the ‘ideology of Pakistan’. Sadly, that very term was coined under the influence of Jamaat e Islami and General Yahya Khan’s comrade Gen Sher Ali contributed to its adoption for cynical reasons. History is a witness to Gen Yahya’s own conduct and the utter disdain he had for his Bengali subjects. The genesis of this term therefore is self-serving and purely hypocritical. Soon, the same junta trumpeting the ideology of Pakistan led an army action against Pakistanis and the events of 1971 remain a blot on our collective conscience.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto also caved to the pressure of the religious right, first by declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims and later by introducing pseudo-Islamisation steps such as the banning of alcohol at the end of his tenure. But it was Gen Zia who truly wanted to undertake social re-engineering. “Ideology of Pakistan” became a plank of his policy of controlling dissent and reshaping Pakistani society.

Since then, the “Ideology of Pakistan” has been inserted into all key clauses of the Constitution as well as into the oaths of the high functionaries of the state and government. More and more opportunities for witch-hunts of politicians have thus opened up.

Perhaps the most bizarre development in recent days has been the use of Articles 62 and 63 to determine the ‘religiosity’ of candidates. Exploitation of clauses (d) and (e) is tantamount to using religion as a means to reject nomination papers. Candidates have been asked to recite verses from the Quran in order to prove eligibility. In an ironic instance, reportedly, a JI candidate could not fulfil the eligibility test. Additionally, the Returning Officers have no strict guidelines within which to exercise the clauses, leading to potential variations.

In the foreground, the Supreme Court backs such purges by stating time and again that implementation of Articles 62 and 63 is mandatory. Concurrently, the fake degree cases are also endangering the prospects of hundreds of candidates who reportedly earned ‘fake degrees’ to fulfil the condition of graduation imposed by Gen Musharraf during his tenure.

While their conduct is unbecoming, there is a wider question of if such tests have been applied on the civil-military bureaucracy and judges? Since 1950s, disqualification has been a game of the elected being fixed by the unelected. This time the media is aiding the process.

Some, like PTI chief Imran Khan, point to the failure of the outgoing parliament to remove these articles. This is an easy claim, as Mr Khan should know that governments operating under the pressure of the right-wing can seldom take such initiatives.

The real question here is who determines a person’s fitness for election. Is the decision in the hands of unelected officials or the people whom the Constitution empowers as the ultimate arbiters of the democratic system? The political parties would need to refine and improve the description of these clauses once the next Parliament takes oath. Otherwise they may invite more purges in the years to come.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (39)

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Apr 4, 2013 - 9:43AM

    The Ghost of Zia will keep on chasing the nation in different forms for a very long period until we change our minds and become reasonable while dealing with others.


  • Jadoon
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:06AM

    If an ideology holds strong 25 years after the death of dictator, than it is not his legacy, it is something that the majority of the people want. Don’t keep on blaming the poor guy, who played his role and took the “retirement package” from his masters. We need to do some soul searching of our own instead.


  • HIstorian 1
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:10AM

    Remove all amendments made by general zia otherwise these will haunt us forever.


  • Ayaz Khan
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:21AM

    Dear Raza,
    Gen Zia wanted to change PAkistan into a theocracy or Gen Musharraf went towards his coining of ‘Enlightened Moderation’ have been governmental objectives. What agenda your article supports is though unclear. Are you trying to say an election that doesn’t take Articles 62 and 63 into consideration is better?
    Secondly, you in the article mentioned that some of the changes were aided by JI, later mentioning one JI candidate failed to qualify. Can you please mention who/give reference. Cause mentioning such may not go against JI but trigger a notion that any claim based on religion and righteouness is false.
    I’m sure you understand anyone who gives a glance at your article will most probably only remember negative criticism and not get any productive action/agenda from it. Nevertheless, the analysis is good. A better ending emphasising on the objective, and not one saying “Otherwise they may invite more purges in the years to come”, would have been neutral and better appreciated.


  • Mirza
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:23AM

    Who says fundamentalist Gen Zia is dead? He is reincarnated in the PCO SC, which is implementing his agenda very successfully and willfully without any regard to basic human rights of Pakistani citizens.Recommend

  • Lawless
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:23AM

    Well, I have seen a video yesterday, in which a candidate failed to recite Qoumi Tarana. If a member does not know the Qoumi Tarana which is the essence of any law then how the will make legislation for common people interest…. this is a BIG question.


  • Ahsan Mirza
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:28AM

    Well if 62 and 63 are part of constitution then nothing can be done unless an elected parliament with 2/3rd’s of majority repeal it. Democracy is developed through adhering to good traditions and conventions regardless if they are in the constitution or not. The British democracy reflects on their nation’s strong feeling for fairness and social responsibility. Apparently they don’t have a written constitution however British are one of the most successful parliamentary democracies (and a constitutional democracy) in the world.


  • proud Indian
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:36AM

    Now I understand wisdom of founding fathers of India for keeping option for even illiterates to contest elections for any sit in India. Good education is no guarantee for high ethics nor absence of education sure sign of no ethics.


  • Kataria
    Apr 4, 2013 - 10:48AM

    You’re such an apologist. PPP had their chance to roll back some of the articles yet it spent more time chanting “democracy is the best revenge” and harping on about foreign ideologies rather than focus on Pakistan for Pakistanis. No one in Pakistan thinks the world of “democracy” nor should they. If democracy means not serving the interests of Pakistanis but rather imperialists than no thanks. I will give them credit on its relations with Iran. Besides that? Nothing.


  • Ilmana Fasih
    Apr 4, 2013 - 11:01AM

    The fort of Zia’s Islamic Pakistan may not have become a long standing skyscraper that it is now, if there was no foundation given to it by Bhutto’s Islamic Constitution. Bhutto’s constitution may be more democratic, but it definitely was a lot less secular.
    As quoted by William Butler Yeats~ “Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution”.


  • Riaz Ahmad
    Apr 4, 2013 - 11:03AM

    Zia died long time ago, do not fool the people by using Zia as a scape goat for the collective failings of your ignorant, ruthless and corrupt society, nurtured in a culture, in which law order and justice had been turned in to a commodity, freely allowed to be bought and sold long before Zia’s time; a culture in which morals and ethics, Islamic or otherwise had became as alien as Mars.
    Zia meant well by turning to his beloved Islam, in the belief that he will be creating a just society, based on pious Muslims. How was he to know at the time, that the pious Muslims he was creating, majority of them born as underdogs, neglected, used and exploited by the ruthless and corrupt society, will turn to revenge by becoming damn right nutters. I am no fan of Zia, nor of religion for that matter; but your shameless democratic mafia thugs, who accuse Zia are just as despicable as the religious nutters which Zia inadvertently created.


  • bandgi
    Apr 4, 2013 - 11:28AM

    Allha bless people of Pakistan………Oath for respibsibility does according to religion & concept……Politics(democracy) is basic part of capitalism………….Capitalism is poison for moderate living standard………We should help eachother……….


  • Apr 4, 2013 - 11:29AM

    Zia is discussed, Bhutto is discussed, Yahya Khan is discussed.

    But, strangely, the guy who said this:

    “Some are misled by propaganda.
    Islamic principles are as applicable
    to life as they were 1,300 years ago.
    The Constitution of Pakistan will be
    made on the basis of the sharia.”

    is never discussed. Because its a foregone conclusion in the liberal mind that Jinnah was against Sharia and was a hardcore secular man.

    I don’t fault Zia one bit. He did what Jinnah wanted.


  • Feroz
    Apr 4, 2013 - 11:44AM

    Is any further proof needed that Pakistan is fully Talibanized with every Institution and most citizens having given a helping hand. If Pakistan was not Talibanized all the undemocratic articles inserted into the Constitution illegally would have been repealed. The ideology of Pakistan however citizens may see it, as visible from outside its borders is — Hate non Muslims, convert or kill minorities, provide safe haven to fugitives and terrorists and glorify violence. All the seeds for a very violent outcome have been successfully sown, now the wait is only for Allah’s patience to run out.


  • Amrullah
    Apr 4, 2013 - 11:55AM

    The greatest gift of zia to the world is TALIBAN and hardline sunni extremism.This has resulted in first targeting non muslims and slowly in non sunnis.Sadly the general sold his soul in return of saudi petrodollars and the whole region is the paying the price untill now.


  • Anonymous
    Apr 4, 2013 - 11:58AM

    those who contested polls on fake degrees must be punished. If they are being tried for cheating public mandate, why some of so-called liberal writers feeling pangs. These ‘narrow minded’ writers do not know 73 constitution is unanimously passed document by all political forces. Was president clinton not tried for cheating public in the monika case?Recommend

  • Mohammad Awais
    Apr 4, 2013 - 11:58AM

    those who contested polls on fake degrees must be punished. If they are being tried for cheating public mandate, why some of so-called liberal writers feeling pangs. These ‘narrow minded’ writers do not know 73 constitution is unanimously passed document by all political forces. Was president clinton not tried for cheating public in the monika case?Recommend

  • Apr 4, 2013 - 12:11PM

    Albeit Pakistan is like a fly caught in a spider’s web, the only way to extricate it from this mess is to establish a ‘Council of Truth and Reconciliation’ and divulge the facts of Independence.

    With the acrimony and honey that will flow from its meetings, a referendum can be held to decide the future course of action. The citizens of this beleaguered country can then decide once and for all the polity of guns or butter. Salams


  • Apr 4, 2013 - 12:32PM

    The Chief Justice also should prescribe reciting 1 to 20 tables for all the candidates who seek elections so that all of them can be called on percentage basis for their loot.


  • sajjad
    Apr 4, 2013 - 12:54PM

    Authority to EC from the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Constitution from Parliament and Parliament from the People of Pakistan to determines a person’s fitness for election.


  • Saeen
    Apr 4, 2013 - 1:04PM

    Even in the presence of articles 62 and 63 our politicians (70%) don’t pay the TAXs and electricity, telephone bills and hold fake degrees. What would we expect from them if these articles are omitted from the constitution. It would have been a better article if you also have mentioned a solution to this issue. Please don’t ignore the other side.

    Pakistan Kappay
    Corruption NOT-Kappay.


  • Masood Raja
    Apr 4, 2013 - 1:40PM

    Zia committed many crimes against Pakistan and its people. He abrogated constitution. He assassinated elected prime minister. He brought others war in Pakistan He destroyed our national fabric of harmony. He created sectarian and ethnic hatred. He and his wife were involved in heroine’s smuggling. India forcefully occupied 5000 sq kms Siachin glacier of Pakistan during Zia’s dark days. IN nutshell Zia was an evil and I salute those who killed him though quite late.


  • son of soil
    Apr 4, 2013 - 2:14PM

    Mr. Jadoon is very right that “If an ideology holds strong 25 years after the death of dictator, than it is not his legacy, it is something that the majority of the people want.” … Majority of the people of Pakistan would never like people such as Salman Taseer or any other such person who claim to be secular and make fun of Islamic principles. So you will find hundreds of thousands of Gen. Zia’s fan too, whatever or how much you blame him, doesn’t matter.
    Musharraf claim to be secular and did 180 degree against Gen.Zia ideology but remain very less popular, even Nawaz ideology is no more which he claimed in 1980s and 90s (his team now comprises ex-ppp whose thoughts are very different from PML ever since it created), but he cant speak it openly because he know that majority of people of Pakistan will never accept any other ideology.


  • Ali Hasan
    Apr 4, 2013 - 2:36PM

    A common argument presented in favor of Zia’s religion-fueled additions to the constitution and such is that “if they’re so wrong, people would have removed them.”

    Really? What “people”? The PML supported Zia to the core. The PPP has done nothing of worth, ever. These were the parties that came after Zia up till Musharraf. Who honestly expects that they would do anything?

    Why is it not done now? Why aren’t the people demanding it now? Because it’s been in place for 20 years. Everybody born from anywhere in the mid to late-70s grew up in Zia’s time when his idiocy was firmly in place. Anybody born in the 80s and after grew up in a situation where Zia’s ideas were the normal. Why would anybody notice anything different on their own? How many people actually study who changed what in which constitution and how if affects Pakistan? A negligible percentage, surely.
    Those who saw the changes happen were powerless to stop them, those who were born after don’t know what they have missed. Doesn’t make Zia right at all. Just makes the nation unfortunate.


  • PK
    Apr 4, 2013 - 2:37PM

    Honestly i also couldn’t understand the real purpose of your article. What is it that you are trying to blame. Nevertheless, people who blame others are always ignorant. As rightfully said by “Riaz Ahmad”, its the corrupt society we live in. Zia indeed tried to do a good thing.

    How awfully ignorant people are, that they totally forgot that Pakistan was created in the name of ISLAM! why do you even live in Pakistan if you don’t like islamic laws? go back to india under hindu rule? People fail to understand and see, that there is no Pakistan without Islam… and its happening all around.

    Zia didn’t try to change society, he tried to do what people (muslims) wanted. And a JUST muslim society is the best society for any other religion for your information. Sadly, we as corrupt and sold Pakistanis rule her… jeeyay corruption :)


  • Fazal
    Apr 4, 2013 - 3:08PM

    Dear Mr. Raza,

    Thanks for your detailed review but where do we (public) stand?
    all these Politicians as some how involved in different illegal and immoral stuff.
    If anything goes on the right direction we see some writers like yourself linking it to a Dectator.
    Now what I see and feel that lots of better stuff been done by the dectators not Politicians.


    Apr 4, 2013 - 3:50PM

    Gen M. Zia ‘s only Crime is his islamic mind and Sincerity for Muslims


  • Riz
    Apr 4, 2013 - 4:31PM

    No harm implementing 62, 63 clause. If a person is not Saadiq Ameen, what do we expect him to do after he comes to power? Its not being religious, its about being righteous.


  • FAI
    Apr 4, 2013 - 4:48PM

    Oh Come On Stop All This… You are Talking about article’s … Our country needs honest people … dont make people fool with religion or law’s… let people live there live and choose a right person for PAKISTAN….


  • across the border
    Apr 4, 2013 - 7:22PM

    I have written it earlier in the comment section of other blog but here is what i think about Zia.
    When Russia occupied Afghanistan, it became imminent threat for Pakistan. Zia was afraid of India-Russia nexus on western borders.He needed pro Pakistan government in Afghanistan. He went to US and since those were the cold war days, he convinced the US that Russia is gaining momentum in Asia. US being what US is, was ready to support Zia’s efforts to throw Russia out. But could Zia send his own army to tackle Russia in direct conflict? Nope. Russia could annihilate Pakistan.So what could be done? Best way was to motivate local Afghans to take up arm against Russia. But what would bind them to face an enemy like atheist Russia? ISLAM. That is one tool that has been used in the past for many other purposes.Using Islam, Zia was not only able to get all fighting Afghans under one umbrella, Taliban, but also managed to get volunteers from across the world including Pakistan.Rest is history. Bottom line is , Zia did what he had to. Of course there are serious fall out of all this which are quiet prominent in Pakistan right now.


  • An average Indian
    Apr 4, 2013 - 7:25PM

    I am very very worried. All this crosses the border to India in some form or the other.


  • opler
    Apr 4, 2013 - 8:24PM

    pakistan should outlaw JI And arrest its key leaders like syed munawar hassan (who urge rape victims to not report rape unless they found 4 male witnessest and other statements like this) and then change its constitution . . Allow freedom of speech and rename pakistan as secular republic of pakistan! bangladash is an example! (offending anyone is not intended. . I respect all religions/faiths)


  • zafar
    Apr 4, 2013 - 8:38PM

    pakistan is made by ALLAH MUHAMMAD AND ALI, uuu dont wory.and we need a unity at present.further more there is nothing wrong with theocracy,,,,,,,,,, we have to estblish ourself through islam. sukaria


  • amir jafri
    Apr 5, 2013 - 12:36AM

    Islam zindabad….liberaloon secularoons Murdabad


  • Zahur Malik
    Apr 5, 2013 - 1:33AM

    I wish we learn about ourselves & then comment on such topics. I am not an admirer of Zia on many accounts but I do understand that such discussions will cause more dissensions & polarization in our society. Instead of blames & negations we should concentrate to get out of the current crisis. Our resolve may pay for our bright future


  • Malatesh
    Apr 5, 2013 - 4:07PM

    Lol.. Article 62 and 63 are declared by military dictators, today one of the former dictator’s nomination papers got rejected by election commission..

  • Enough...!
    Apr 5, 2013 - 7:41PM

    Everybody here is cursing the rules made by Zia ul Haq
    But nobody here is talking about eradication of those laws
    is it that difficult to make changes in the laws and constitution ?


  • Rizwan
    Apr 6, 2013 - 1:37AM

    Although the whole article is debatable, I have only one question for the writer, Sir in your Opinion Qadyanis are muslims or not?
    If they are non muslims then there should be no hue and cry over declaring them as Non Muslims and if supposedly they are Muslims, them it shouldn’t have been done.


  • Solomon2
    Apr 7, 2013 - 7:09PM

    “The real question here is who determines a person’s fitness for election. Is the decision in the hands of unelected officials or the people whom the Constitution empowers as the ultimate arbiters of the democratic system? “

    In England such matters were only resolved when the populace of Middlesex took to the streets to protest the repeated denial of Parliament to seat their MP, the renowned pornographer and annoyance John Wilkes. Parliament caved in. Wilkes eventually became mayor of London. The city of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is named after him.


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