ZIA UL-HAQ AND MILITARY DOMINATION, 1977-88
General Mohammad Zia ul-Haq, chief of the army staff (COAS),
took control of Pakistan by proclaiming martial law, beginning
the longest period of rule by a single leader in Pakistan's history.
It ended only with his death in a still-unexplained aircraft crash
on August 17, 1988. President Fazal Elahi Chaudhry remained in
office until his term expired in September 1978, when Zia assumed
that office in addition to his role as chief martial law administrator.
In announcing his takeover of the government, Zia stated that
he had taken action only in order to hold new elections for national
and provincial assemblies within ninety days. Political parties
were not banned, and nominations were filed for seats. The country
expected that a new "free and fair" poll would take place. It
did not. Zia canceled the elections because, he said, it was his
responsibility first to carry out a program of "accountability";
he had "unexpectedly" found "irregularities" in the previous regime.
As a result, a number of "white papers" on topics ranging from
fraud in the 1977 elections, to abuses by the Federal Security
Force, and to Bhutto's manipulation of the press were generated.
The attacks on the Bhutto administration increased as time passed
and culminated in the trial and the hanging in April 1979 of Bhutto
for complicity in the murder of a political opponent.
After elections were canceled by decree on March 1, 1978, Zia
banned all political activity, although political parties were
not banned. The same month, some 200 journalists were arrested,
and a number of newspapers were shut down. Zia, however, maintained
that there would be elections sometime in 1979. Members of some
of the PNA parties, including the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Pakistan
Muslim League, joined Zia's cabinet as he tried to give a civilian
cast to his government. But suppression of the PPP continued,
and at times Bhutto's widow, Nusrat, and his daughter, Benazir,
were placed under house arrest or jailed. Elections for local
bodies were held in September 1979 on a nonparty basis, a system
Zia continued in the 1985 national and provincial elections. Many
of those elected locally identified themselves as Awami Dost (friends
of the people), a designation well known as a synonym for the
PPP. Zia announced national and provincial elections for November
17 and 20, 1979, respectively, but these, too, were canceled.
Many thought that the showing of the Awami Dost made him fear
that a substantial number of PPP sympathizers would be elected.
As further restrictions were placed on political activity, parties
were also banned.
On February 6, 1981, the PPP--officially "defunct," as were the
other parties--and several other parties joined to form the Movement
for the Restoration of Democracy. Its demands were simple: an
end to martial law and elections to be held under the suspended
1973 constitution. The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy
demonstrated from time to time against Zia's government, especially
in August 1983, but Zia was able to withstand its demands. Many
of the leaders spent time in jail.
Nusrat Bhutto brought a suit protesting the martial law takeover.
The Supreme Court ruled against her and invoked once again the
"doctrine of necessity," permitting the regime to "perform all
such acts and promulgate all measures, which [fall] within the
scope of the law of necessity, including the power to amend the
Constitution." After this ruling, Zia issued the Provisional Constitutional
Order of 1980, which excluded all martial law actions from the
jurisdiction of the courts. When the Quetta High Court ruled that
this order was beyond the power of the martial law regime, the
Provisional Constitutional Order of 1981 was issued. This order
required all judges of the Supreme Court and high courts to take
new oaths in which they swore to act in accordance with the orders.
Several judges refused to do so and resigned.
In February 1982, in an unsatisfactory response to the demand
for elections, Zia created an appointed Majlis-i-Shoora (Council
of Advisers), claiming that this was the pattern of Islamic law.
The body was clearly unrepresentative and had no powers of legislation.
It served merely as a tame debating body.
The Islamization of Pakistan was another of Zia's goals. In 1978
he announced that Pakistani law would be based on Nizam-i-Mustafa,
one of the demands of the PNA in the 1977 election. This requirement
meant that any laws passed by legislative bodies had to conform
to Islamic law and any passed previously would be nullified if
they were repugnant to Islamic law. Nizam-i-Mustafa raised several
problems. Most Pakistanis are Sunni, but there is a substantial
minority of Shia whose interpretation of Islamic law differs in
some important aspects from that of the Sunnis. Zia's introduction
of state collection of zakat (see Glossary) was strongly
protested by the Shia, and after they demonstrated in Islamabad,
the rules were modified in 1981 for Shia adherents. There were
also major differences in the views held by the ulama in the interpretation
of what constituted nonconformity and repugnance in Islam (see
Islam in Pakistani Society , ch. 2).
In 1979 Zia decreed the establishment of shariat courts to try
cases under Islamic law. A year later, Islamic punishments were
assigned to various violations, including drinking alcoholic beverages,
theft, prostitution, fornication, adultery, and bearing false
witness. Zia also began a process for the eventual Islamization
of the financial system aimed at "eliminating that which is forbidden
and establishing that which is enjoined by Islam." Of special
concern to Zia was the Islamic prohibition on interest or riba
(sometimes translated as usury) (see Monetary Process , ch. 3).
Women's groups feared that Zia would repeal the Family Laws Ordinance
of 1961, but he did not. The Family Laws Ordinance provided women
critical access to basic legal protection, including, among other
things, the right to divorce, support, and inheritance, and it
placed limitations on polygyny. Still, women found unfair the
rules of evidence under Islamic law by which women frequently
were found guilty of adultery or fornication when in fact they
had been raped. They also opposed rules that in some cases equated
the testimony of two women with that of one man.
After the 1985 election, two members of the Senate from the Jamaat-i-Islami
introduced legislation to make the sharia the basic law of Pakistan,
placing it above the constitution and other legislation. The bill
also would have added the ulama to sharia courts and would have
prohibited appeals from these courts from going to the Supreme
Court. The bill did not pass in 1985, but after the dismissal
of Prime Minister Junejo and the dissolution of the national assembly
and provincial assemblies in 1988, Zia enacted the bill by ordinance.
The ordinance died when it was not approved by Parliament during
the first prime ministership of Benazir Bhutto (December 1988-August
1990), but a revised shariat bill was passed by the government
of Nawaz Sharif (November 1990-July 1993) in May 1991.
Provincialism increased during Zia's tenure. He handled the problem
of unrest in Balochistan more successfully than had Zulfiqar Ali
Bhutto. Zia used various schemes of economic development to assuage
the Baloch and was successful to a high degree. The North-West
Frontier Province, alarmed at the presence of Soviet troops next
door after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979,
remained relatively quiet. But the long-festering division between
Sindhis and non-Sindhis exploded into violence in Sindh. The muhajirs
formed new organizations, the most significant-being the Refugee
People's Movement (Muhajir Qaumi Mahaz). The incendiary tensions
resulted not only from Sindhi-muhajir opposition but
also from Sindhi fear of others who had moved into the province,
including Baloch, Pakhtuns, and Punjabis. The fact that Sindhi
was becoming the mother tongue of fewer and fewer people of Sindh
was also resented. The violence escalated in the late 1980s to
the extent that some compared Karachi and Hyderabad to the Beirut
of that period. The growth of the illicit drug industry also added
to the ethnic problem.
Pressure on Zia to hold elections mounted, and some of it came
from overseas, including from the United States. In 1984 Zia announced
that elections to legislative bodies would be held in 1985, and
this time the schedule held.
Zia decided to restore the separate electorates, abandoned under
Ayub Khan. In the National Assembly, ten of the 217 directly elected
seats were set aside for minorities: four each for Hindus and
Christians and one each for Ahmadiyyas and "others," including
Parsis, Sikhs, and Buddhists. There were also twenty indirectly
elected seats reserved for women, although women could run for
directly elected seats. Zia decided that parties would not be
permitted to participate. Each candidate, therefore, would be
Before the general elections, Zia held a national referendum
ostensibly seeking a mandate to continue in office as president.
The referendum, on December 19, 1984, focused on Pakistan's Islamization
program. The electorate was asked simply if it felt the government
was doing a good job of Islamizing the various social institutions
of the state. Zia interpreted the positive results (98 percent
voting "yes") to mean that he had received the right to a new
five-year term as head of state. There was, however, little doubt
that the vote was rigged.
After the "election," which most PPP supporters boycotted, Zia
announced the appointment of Mohammad Khan Junejo as prime minister,
subject to a vote of confidence in the National Assembly. Junejo,
a Sindhi, took office on March 23, 1985. Zia issued the Revival
of the Constitution of 1973 Order, which was a misnomer. The constitution
was so vastly changed by various decrees that it was much different
from the one enacted by the Bhutto regime. In the 1973 document,
power had been in the hands of the prime minister; by 1985 it
was in the hands of the president.
Zia promised to end martial law by the end of 1985, but he exacted
a high price for this. The Eighth Amendment to the constitution
confirmed and legalized all acts taken under martial law, including
changes to the constitution. It affirmed the right of the president
to appoint and dismiss the prime minister. With the amendment
passed, Zia ended martial law in late 1985. Political parties
were revived. In 1986 Junejo became president of a revived Pakistan
Muslim League. The PPP, although self-excluded from the National
Assembly, also resumed activity under the leadership of Benazir
Junejo, however, was not able to accomplish all of Zia's agenda.
For example, his government did not pass the sharia bill. It allowed
the resumption of political parties, a step not welcomed by Zia,
who saw parties as divisive in what should be a united Islamic
community. Nonetheless, the dismissal of Junejo on May 29, 1988,
and the dissolution of the national and provincial assemblies
the next day, came as a surprise. In explaining his action, Zia
pointed to the failure to carry Islamization forward and also
to corruption, deterioration of law and order, and mismanagement
of the economy. Another important reason for Junejo's dismissal
was his interference in army promotions and his call for an investigation
into an arsenal explosion near Islamabad; civilians were not expected
to meddle in military affairs.
Zia procrastinated on calling new elections, which even his own
version of the constitution required within ninety days. He finally
set November 17, 1988, as the polling date for the National Assembly,
with provincial elections three days later. His reasons for the
delay were the holy month of Muharram, which fell in August during
the hot weather, and the lack of current electoral registrations
(a point he blamed on Junejo). Despite the open operation of political
parties, Zia indicated that elections would again be on a nonparty
basis. Before elections took place, Zia was killed in a mysterious
aircraft accident near Bahawalpur, in Punjab, on August 17, 1988,
along with the chairman of the joint chiefs committee, the United
States ambassador, and twenty-seven others. A joint United States-
Pakistani committee investigating the accident later established
that the crash was caused by "a criminal act of sabotage perpetrated
in the aircraft."
Court actions ended the nonparty basis for the elections, and
parties were permitted to participate. A technicality--the failure
to register as a political party--that would have prohibited the
PPP from taking part was also voided. The election gave a plurality,
not a majority, to the PPP. Its leader, Benazir Bhutto, was able
to gain the assistance of other groups, and she was sworn in as
prime minister on December 1, 1988, by acting President Ghulam
Ishaq Khan. He in turn was elected to a five-year term as president
by the National Assembly and the Senate.
Data as of April 1994