By R K Kaushik
Forty years ago, Pakistan Army launched ‘Operation Fair Play’ and overthrew Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Government and imposing Martial Law in the country. The coup was not so sudden. There were both international and domestic factors triggering an event of that magnitude. The first indication came when on 11th September, 1976 Dr. Henery Kissinger – the then US Secretary of State threatened Bhutto and said, “Stop it Zulfi, Stop it, don’t insult the intelligence of America. We know what you are doing. In case, you don’t stop we will make a horrible example of you for others to see.” Bhutto had remained dumb stuck and perplexed after the warning. It was relating to Pakistan’s Nuclear Programme.
After its creation in 1947, the constitution of Pakistan was made in July 1956 and the first general elections were held in March, 1970. The National Awami Party of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman won absolute majority in the national assembly of Pakistan. Except for two seats, all the seats of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) were won by the Sheikh. The West Pakistan voted overwhelmingly for PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. General Yahya Khan, the Chief Martial Law Administrator ordered military crackdown on East Pakistan from 23rd March, 1971. More than 60,000 troops and 40,000 Para Military Forces were deployed and ordered to crush the Bengali rebellion. The massive killings of Bengalis, lead to huge migration to India and ultimately Indian intervention. After the defeat and surrender of Pakistan army on 16th December, 1917, at Dhaka. General Yahya Khan, who was staggeringly unpopular had to resign on 29th December, 1971. He handed over power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who became first Civilian Chief Martial Law administrator in the world and later the President of Pakistan in January, 1972.
Bhutto faced multiple problems when he took over. He was having the humongous task of bringing back 93,000 POW’s (Prisoners of War). The issue for getting the territory vacated by Indian Forces and ultimately consolidating power in his own hands. He slowly and gradually started working sagaciously on a well thought out plan and in July, 1972 signed Shimla Agreement with Mrs. Gandhi paving the way for release of held POW’s. In June 1972 he helped in organizing a discreet visit by Dr Henery Kissinger to China to meet Mao Tse Tung and Chou En Lai. Bhutto received credit nay appreciation and gratitude from the Chinese Communist Party. Later that year he dismissed more than 1,100 civil employees and bureaucrats officers in the country because they were corrupt and incompetent. In 1973, Bhutto not only started acting as an international leader but was successful in getting massive aid because of the oil crisis created by the OPEC countries in the after math of Arab Israel conflict.
The consolidation of economy with massive middle east aid increased Bhutto’s popularity and his slogan of Roti, Kapra and Makaan became very popular. Bhutto now decided to emerge as a Muslim leader and decided to form an Islamic countries front. He held an Islamic conference of Muslim nations in June 1974 and provoking nay guiding these countries to use their oil as a weapon on issues of Kashmir and Palestine, etc. decided in their favour. Bhutto was boisterously proclaimed importance as Islamic leader. The West especially USA was closely monitoring his movements. In June 1974 Bhutto called all prominent scientists of Pakistan at Multan and directed them to start the process of building of Nuclear device. He gave them carte blanche regarding budget and all sorts of help. Immediately thereafter, Bhutto himself visited China and decided to consolidate relations. In March, 1976, General Tika Khan, the Army Chief retired, Bhutto in his imperiousness ignored the first seven Generals and chose General Zia-Ul-Haq who was number eight in the seniority. All seven generals resigned.
Zia-Ul-Haq was born on 22nd August, 1924 at Jalandhar. His father Akbar Ali was a Head Clerk in Defense Ministry in New Delhi. He studied in Govt. High School at Jalandhar and later did his BA (Hons.) in History in Saint Stephens College, New Delhi in June, 1944. He got commissioned in Armoured Corp in 3rd Cavalry. He belonged to Arain caste. The Sainis and Kambojs who got converted to Islam are generally called Arain. General Zia-Ul-Haq did not fight any war but had mastered the art of pleasing his seniors, leading to rapid promotions in the Army and taking over as Army Chief.
The second general elections were held in March 1977 in which massive rigging was done by Mr. Bhutto. It became obvious that the people’s mandate had been perverted. The opposition parties formed PNA (Pakistan National Alliance) and supported massive agitation. More than 300 persons died in police and army firings. Martial law was imposed and though some talks were initiated between Bhutto and PNA. They were reaching some agreement when on 5th July 1977, General Zia overthrew the Government and imposed Martial Law. Gen Zia promised election within 90 days but later broke the promise. He was initially soft on Bhutto and even released him in last week of July 1977. But within a month he realized that Bhutto could become a serious threat to his power. A murder trial against Bhutto started in Lahore High Court. Some judges were removed and Bhutto’s sworn enemy Maulvi Mushtaq Hussein was appointed Chief Justice of Lahore High Court. Lahore High Court in its sham trial found Bhutto guilty and sentenced him to death with four others for the murder of Mr. Mohammed Raza Kasuri. The Supreme Court confirmed the death sentence by three-forth majority and Bhutto was hanged on 4th April, 1979.
Thereafter, Gen. Zia twisted his administration towards Islamic way of life imposed strict Islamic laws. Hizab became mandatory for lady employees. Islamic punishments were imposed and Islamic courts/Qazi courts were established for matrimonial and property disputes. The whole effort was to make country Islamic State. Even the name of Parliament was changed to Majlis-e-Shoora. Gen. Zia’s Pakistan became front line State in war against Soviet Union because Soviet forces had entered Afghanistan on 29th December, 1979. The west and USA gave massive aid in the form of weapons and Dollars to Pakistan which galvanized its ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) to create Mujahedeens to fight with Soviet forces.
Gen. Zia created more than 11,000 Madrasas in his country and almost four lakh students started taking training both in religious studies and in arms and weapons. Such a huge militia of arms and armed terrorists dangling in streets of cities and country side changed the total culture and environment of Pakistan society. Night life in hotels slowly withered away cinema, music got banned. Gen. Zia also imposed the very strict form of Sunni Islamic culture and started interfering in Indian Punjab and started arming and supporting terrorists. A similar approach was adopted in Kashmir. This annoyed India. His anti Shia measures created discomfort for Iran. The massive Dollars and weapons aid by USA militarised the normal society into an establishment of Jihadis. Ultimately in February, 1988, Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan and Gen Zia died in a mysterious plane crash on 17th August, 1988. The coup he had started ended on that day.
Observers put the blame on Gen. Zia and his coup for militarization and creating industry of Jihadis and Mujahedeens in Pakistan, which ultimately became a serious menace not only to neighbours but also to world at large. Pakistan also had its own share of difficulties in this context which the later years showed perspicaciously.
The writer is an IAS officer of the Punjab cadre. He may be reached at email@example.com