Pakistan Crisis is Inherent

Strategic Analysis
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Pakistan: Crisis is Inherent
Samuel Baid
To cite this article: Samuel Baid (2011) Pakistan: Crisis is Inherent, Strategic Analysis, 35:2,
342-371, DOI: 10.1080/09700161.2011.545586
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Strategic Analysis
Vol. 35, No. 2, March 2011, 342–371
From the Archives
Pakistan: Crisis is Inherent
Samuel Baid
n March 23 every year a ritual is performed in Pakistan: observation of Pakistan
Day. Forty-two years ago on this day, the Muslim League, which then was 34
years old, adopted a resolution in Lahore demanding separation of Muslims from
India. The president of the League, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, expounded a theory that
Hindus and Muslims were two different nations. He told the Lahore session:
. . . it is a dream that they Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality
. . . they neither intermarry, nor interdine together and, indeed they belong to two
different civilisations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions.
. . . that Hindus and Musalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of
history. . . . Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and likewise their victories
and defeats overlap. To yoke together two such nations under a single State, one as
numerical minority and the other as a majority, must lead to a growing discontent
and final destruction of any fabric that may be so built for the government of such a
Jinnah also advocated that Muslims were ‘a nation with their own distinctive culture
and civilisation, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of values and proportion, legal laws and moral history and traditions. They
are a nation by all canons of all international law’.
These sayings of Jinnah are recalled every year on March 23 by the Pakistani news
media. One may find it ridiculous to go harping on about them three decades after
achieving Pakistan. But it does betray a certain complex: of not being able to get used
to the state of partition.
What the common man thinks of this two-nation theory is clearly brought out by
the occasional debates and discussions on Pakistan’s culture. In 1980, the Urdu daily,
Jang of Karachi, started a series of interviews with teachers, journalists, politicians
and public personalities to ascertain the relevance of this theory. Most interviewees
expressed their disapproval of this theory. To them it did not explain how a man could
be changed to a different nationality the moment he changed his religion. The change
of religion did not also automatically change food, dress, language, ethics, culture and
This is an abridged version of the original article, which was first published in the IDSA
Journal, 15(1), July–September 1982, pp. 87–135.
ISSN 0970-0161 print/ISSN 1754-0054 online
© 2011 Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
DOI: 10.1080/09700161.2011.545586
Strategic Analysis
By his two-nation theory Jinnah wrought a double harm both on Islam and the
Muslim Ummat in the subcontinent: he turned Islam into a negative religion, a religion
which derived its force from hatred of Hindus. This factor has become a nightmare
for Pakistan: to prove the correctness of this theory, all successive governments had to
maintain a state of confrontation with India (Hindu) and suppressed all democratic and
cultural forces at the great cost of internal and external peace. Secondly, Jinnah’s theory
has divided the Muslims of the subcontinent into three weak parts: India, Pakistan and
now Bangladesh. Had there been no partition in 1947, the Muslims would have become
a mighty power in this region.
All through the Pakistan movement it was very clear that if Hindus and Muslims
were not one Indian nation, they could not have been two nations either. For example,
see what happened after partition. Have the Muslims in Pakistan proved themselves
one nation? East Bengalis clearly told Jinnah, when he visited Dacca after partition,
that they were not going to accept Urdu as the national language. Jinnah insisted that
in Pakistan only Urdu would be the national language. East Bengalis were proud of
their language and culture, which they shared with Bengali Hindus. In West Pakistan,
only about 7 per cent of Muslims claimed Urdu as their language. Punjabis, Sindhis,
Baluchis and Pathans took pride in their own separate cultural identities. Baluch
and Pathan leaders insist that Pakistan has four nationalities and reject the theory of
Muslim nationhood. Even the Muhajireen (refugees from India) maintained their separate identity although they call themselves the standard bearers of Jinnah’s two-nation
theory. This has been the cause of confrontation between the central government and
the provinces and between the democratic forces and religious obscurantists. This
confrontation has already cost Pakistan its eastern wing and whatever is left of that
country is under constant fear of further disintegration. In September 1977, a close
associate of deposed Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto was quoted by Jang as saying that he
(Bhutto) was of the view that Pakistan could not stay together for long: Punjab and
Sind would return to India, Baluchistan would go to Iran and the Frontier Province to
Many Muslim Leaguers, who were closely associated with Jinnah during the
Pakistan movement, were in fact not convinced by his philosophy. His own sister
Fatima told Sri Prakasa, India’s first high commissioner to Pakistan, in 1947: ‘I do not
know how it was that the Qaid-i-Azam thought that Hindus and Muslims could not
live together. But he did so. You will please exert your influence to bring about good
relations between India and Pakistan’.2 The first chief minister of Sind, Mohammad
Ayub Khusro, who was in the innermost counsels of the Muslim League, told Sri
Prakasa that nobody had really wanted partition of India and the creation of Pakistan.
The demand for Pakistan was only a policy of bargain to secure the Muslim’s future
in United India.3 Jinnah’s own right-hand man, Liaquat Ali Khan, tried to prevent the
creation of Pakistan by entering into an agreement with Congress General Secretary
Bhulabhai Desai on January 11, 1945, on the formation of the interim government. This
agreement was made without Jinnah’s knowledge because Liaquat Ali, who was then
the Muslim League secretary general, thought that the days of the Qaid were numbered. When Jinnah came to know of this agreement he was furious. The agreement
was never ratified. Pakistan’s Law Minister Sharifuddin Pirzada, who disclosed this
in Rawalpindi on October 15, 1979, said that the agreement would have scuttled or
delayed the creation of Pakistan. According to him, Jinnah died a heartbroken man.4
Jinnah himself gave short shrift to his two-nation theory when, at the time of partition, he insisted that Punjab and Bengal should not be partitioned on the basis of
Hindu-Muslim population. In this case he argued that the culture, language, etc. of
Punjabi Hindus and Muslims were the same. And the same was true about Bengal, he
said. Later, after Pakistan had been conceded, he repeatedly said that now there were
no Muslims and Hindus: they were all Pakistanis.
So much for the two-nation theory. Another question connected with this theory
was: will Pakistan be an Islamic state or a Muslim state? To Western educated lawyers,
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landowners, merchants, doctors, journalists and civil servants, Pakistan meant a state
where Muslims would constitute the great majority, and where all trade, defence
and bureaucracy would be under the control of Muslims. This group dominated the
Muslim League. Jinnah belonged to this group. Thus, it would appear that the Muslim
League wanted Pakistan for political and economic reasons and not for religious
reasons. This was emphasised by veteran Muslim Leaguer Mian Mumtaz Mohammad
Khan Daultana at a function held in Lahore on March 23, 1981, in connection with the
platinum jubilee of the League. He said right from its birth in 1906 to the achievement
of Pakistan in August 1947 that the League was a political movement and not a
religious one. Had this been so (if it had been a religious one), the Muslims, despite
all the large-heartedness, would not have accepted Jinnah as their leader. ‘You may
make Pakistan as Islamic as you want, but do not blame the Muslim League, for not
having done religious work. The Muslim League had only sought to have a political
Jinnah himself did not appear very sure on this question. After partition he called
Pakistan a Muslim state, but at the same time allowed his right-hand man Liaquat
Ali Khan to preach that Pakistan was an Islamic state.6 Those who argue that Jinnah
favoured Pakistan to be an Islamic state point out that for the 1946 elections he had
acquired the services of mullahs for electioneering. These mullahs decried opponents
of the League as enemies of Islam and said Pakistan would be a state deriving its
inspiration and guidance from the principles of the Holy Quran and traditions of
the Prophet. They invoked divine displeasure against those who did not vote for the
League. In Punjab, they threatened that Muslims who did not vote for the League
would be barred from using Muslim graveyards.7 ‘. . . the twin cries of Islam in danger and Pakistan had put so much power in the hands of Jinnah that no landowner
could hope to defy his authority without losing political support.’8 This use of Islam as
a negative force helped the league win 460 of the 538 Muslim seats in the central and
provincial elections in 1946.9 However, the party was able to form governments only
in Sind and Bengal.
After Jinnah’s death in September 1948, the confusion about what role Islam should
play in Pakistan increased further. He had told the first constituent assembly that in
Pakistan there would be no Muslims or Hindus, but only Pakistanis. However, after his
death this ideal was ignored and the same constituent assembly adopted the Objective
Resolution stating that Muslims and Pakistan would be enabled to mould their lives in
accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam. Thus confusion was created
about the goal of Pakistan. The confusion has since persisted and has been the cause of
instability of all the institutions of the country.
Throughout the Pakistan movement, the Muslim League had never bothered to
seriously work out a social and political philosophy and a system of government for
the homeland they were demanding. They had all the time at their disposal, unlike the
congressmen, who were most of the time in jails.
That the League had not prepared a social philosophy and a system of government
may mean that it was not really serious about its demand for a separate homeland for
Muslims. It is quite possible that under cover of the demand for a separate homeland,
Jinnah was trying to prevent independence; but if this could not be prevented, Muslims
must have a separate country as a last resort. One reaches this conclusion on the
strength of reports that he had established secret links with Sir Winston Churchill, who
was posing freedom to India, and British intelligence, which was trying to sabotage
efforts for independence by creating bloody communal riots.10
Thus, when Pakistan was conceded, the Muslim League and Jinnah were not really
prepared for it, like the five foolish virgins in the parable. Jinnah betrayed this stage of
Strategic Analysis
unpreparedness in his remark after the creation of Pakistan: ‘I have done my job. When
the Field Marshal leads army into victory, it is for the civil authority to take over’.11 But
he knew well there was no civil authority to take over. For him the League was not a
political organisation; it was a machine which must obey his command without asking
questions, and this machine could not work by itself. In other words, the League which
had followed Jinnah like a sheep could not be expected to suddenly start functioning
as an effective organisation.
Because Jinnah was opposed to the involvement of the masses in the struggle
against British rule, the League never tried to strike roots among them. He wanted
the League to remain an elitist organisation. Such an organisation, its claims notwithstanding, could not have been the representative of the rural masses and the working
classes. The 1937 elections had proved his point. The 1946 electoral gains were largely
the result of the use of Islam as a negative force: creation of anti-Hindu communal
frenzy and the threats of mullahs of divine displeasure. These gains, therefore, did not
mean that the Muslim voters had expressed their confidence in the League. They had
voted in an extraordinary communal situation created by the League. After the creation of Pakistan, the League was denuded of its anti-Hindu appeal and thus its claim
that it was the only representative of the Muslims of India exploded. Jinnah also lost
his strongest point (Hindu baiting) after the creation of Pakistan. Both Jinnah and the
League still did not think it necessary to build bridges with the masses and decide what
type of government the new homeland should have.
Some writers, and many Pakistanis, believe that things would have been better
for Pakistan had not Jinnah died so soon (he died on September 11, 1948). Perhaps
things would have been worse. He had become a spent force. But he had made things
miserable by trying to prove otherwise. As the first governor-general, he was very
keen that all files should go to him, but he never wanted to return them.12 He did not
allow Liaquat Ali Khan to work as an independent prime minister. Liaquat owed his
prime ministership not to his position as the leader of the League, but to the kindness
of Jinnah. Jinnah also chose cabinet members for Liaquat and presided over cabinet
meetings.13 Jinnah’s order to the armed forces to march into Kashmir was also without
Liaquat’s consent.14 The British commander-in-chief of the Pakistani army, General
Gracy, also did not support the idea of invading Kashmir by Pakistani forces.15 As
Ayub Khan writes in his autobiography, Friends Not Masters, it was because of this
attitude of the British commander-in-chief that the government decided to replace him
with a Pakistani. Thus Ayub became the first Pakistani to hold that position on January
17, 1951.16
The order to the army to march into Kashmir and the removal of Dr. Khan Saheb’s
congress government in the Frontier Province were two of Jinnah’s actions before his
death which laid the foundation of future crises. The 1947–48 war in Kashmir, which
resulted from Jinnah’s order, wrought a double disaster for Pakistan. First, it organised and strengthened the armed forces while political forces were weak, divided and
uncertain of themselves. After Jinnah’s death, the Muslim Leaguers found themselves
as sheep running astray without the shepherd. Liaquat Ali, the Nawab that he was,
could at best be the leader of an elite group and not of the masses. The army had
realised that the League had no roots and therefore it was not fit to rule. Until today
this is the army’s alibi for not allowing the political parties to rule the country. Worse,
the army, since its action in Kashmir on Jinnah’s orders, had begun to consider itself the
defender not only of Pakistan’s geographical boundaries but also its ideological boundaries. The latter function puts it above all other institutions in Pakistan and makes
it the only force to rule the country. Any opposition to it is considered anti-Islam,
The first confrontation between the Muslim League leadership and the army came
when Liaquat Ali ordered the latter to cease fire in Kashmir. This confrontation finally
ended with the assassination of Liaquat Ali on October 16, 1951, very close to army
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headquarters in Rawalpindi.17 Ayub Khan admits in his autobiography that right from
the day Liaquat Ali was killed the army had started preparing itself for the eventual
takeover of the government. Once Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad asked Ayub
to take over the reins of the government. Ayub declined. However, on October 7, 1958,
he finally accepted the post of chief marshal law administrator (CMLA) from President
Iskandar Mirza. Twenty days later, Ayub ousted his benefactor as he found the post of
president redundant.
The army had taken over after a thorough dress rehearsal in 1953 when martial law
was imposed in Lahore in the wake of anti-Ahmediyya riots. The martial law gave a
clear idea to the army how country-wide martial law would be accepted and how it
worked. In October 1958 the army staged its coup just as the country was preparing to
go to its first ever polls under the 1956 Constitution. The prospects of a government by
the people, for the people were just nipped in the bud.
Secondly, Jinnah’s order to the army has since turned the Kashmir issue into a dead
albatross around the neck of the people of Pakistan. The army has been fattening itself
on it in the name of Islam and ideology, while for the common man it has become the
source of all his misery, suppression and frustration. When Pakistan lost its eastern
wing in 1971, the shocked and grief-stricken people blamed the Kashmir issue for it.
The second action of Jinnah related to the dismissal of Dr. Khan Saheb’s government in the Frontier Province. This undid the 1946 mandate of the people in
that province18 and brought in power the defeated Muslim League, led by Khan
Abdul Qayyum Khan, an ex-congressman. After Jinnah’s death every successive
governor-general thought it was his prerogative to dismiss the central or provincial government whether or not it enjoyed the majority support. On the strength of
the 1935 Constitution, a governor-general interpreted the phrase ‘during the pleasure of the governor-general’ to mean that the prime minister or the chief minister
and his government could exist as long as he, the governor-general, was pleased. The
instability created by this confrontation can be measured by the number of governorgenerals and prime ministers who came and went between 1947 and 1958. During this
period, Pakistan had four governor-generals, one president and seven prime ministers.
In between, Governor-General Ghulam Mohammad had dissolved the Constituent
Assembly in 1953 because it redefined the powers of a governor-general. This was a
serious blow to the political system which was still in the embryonic stage.
Whatever Jinnah might or might not have thought of the future system of government for Pakistan, one could say with some assurance that he did not have the rule
of the generals in mind. But as irony would have it, the military turned out to be the
only organised force which could provide a semblance of a stable government. In reality it corroded public morals and national sentiments in Pakistan. During its role, the
army proved more corrupt than civilian leaders. Worse, while civilian leaders were
accountable to the public, army bosses are answerable to none.
The army rule also created provincial tensions. Since more than 60 per cent of the
armed forces personnel belonged to Punjab, the people of that province benefited the
most from military rule. There are few Punjabi families who do not have at least one
member in the armed forces. Now, since all administrative powers were in the hands of
the military, Punjabis got most of the contracts, licences and lucrative posts at the cost
of the people of other provinces, who were virtually reduced to the status of second
rate citizens.
However, these benefits did not make Punjabis support military governments
because like others they were also denied their fundamental rights and their leaders
were given long jail terms. Newspapers coming out from Lahore and Rawalpindi were
by no means freer than those published in Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta or Dacca. Thus
Strategic Analysis
Punjabis were as angry with the Punjabi-dominated military government as were the
Bengalis. This was abundantly demonstrated during the anti-Ayub agitations in 1968.
But for the Punjabis’ whole-hearted support, Sindhi Bhutto could not have shaken the
mighty Ayub.
The 12-year spell of Ayub’s and then Yahya Khan’s rule established another point:
power not only corrupts state defence forces; it also makes them unfit for the profession. This point was proved by the 1965 and 1971 wars. The military eats away more
than 50 per cent of the annual budget and behaves as if this homeland for the Muslims
of India was carved out for it alone. They were not trained to rule, but they would not
allow anybody else to rule.19 They were trained to defend the geographical boundaries
of the country, but they claim they have a duty to defend the ideological boundaries of
the country. Akhbar-i-Jahan in September 1965 wrote that the plan for the 1965 attack on
India was made by Ayub Khan himself in the hope of taking Kashmir overnight and
then using this would-be victory for making the people accept him as life-president.
But within 11 days he was nervous because there were no more weapons to fight with.
When Bhutto took over as president and chief martial law administrator on
December 20, 1971, the people of Pakistan were writhing in anger and shame because
of the performance of their army. Bhutto sought to exploit this by allowing newspapers
to expose the misdeeds of the armed forces. Pakistan TV showed the surrender ceremony (in Dhaka on December 16, 1971). The newspapers made spicy disclosures about
the sex life of the following generals. Bhutto brought one General Rani into the limelight to expose the sex exploits of General Yahya Khan and his band. She was called
General because she was patronised by generals. Rani, as the newspaper report said,
supplied highly connected women to them. The idea of this publicity was to tell the
people that their present plight was brought about by these fun-loving generals, who
ruled the country claiming themselves to be the defenders of ideology and the soldiers
of Islam.
The rise, decline and fall of Bhutto fits well in the political culture of West Pakistan.
Born in the landed aristocracy, Bhutto received political training in the military dictatorship of Ayub Khan. These two points—his birth and training—made Bhutto
anything but a Democrat. Intelligent as he was, he had carefully studied the working,
the weakness and the strength of Ayub’s government. During the anti-Ayub agitations
led by Jinnah’s sister, Fatima, in 1964 with the support of a five-party alliance called
the Combined Opposition Party (COP),20 Bhutto might have clearly seen how powerful, yet easy to exploit, was the support of the masses. At that time, as part of the Ayub
regime, he was supporting Ayub against the frail Miss Jinnah.
It is commonly charged in Pakistan that as the then foreign minister, Bhutto had
beguiled Ayub into sending intruders into Kashmir in 1965 on the assurance that India
would not react elsewhere.21 Ayub who had been badly shaken up by Miss Jinnah’s
campaign, needed a diversion. Bhutto offered him one. But that turned out to be a
poisoned apple.
Probably, Bhutto knew that the only way to get rid of the army was to set it
against India. He struck when he found the army in its weakest state—disunited and
demoralised—after the 1965 war. He broke away from Ayub during the Tashkent
meeting because Ayub was furious when he realised that he had been taken for a ride
by his own Sindhi protege, Bhutto, who opposed the draft declaration although he had
written the draft himself.22
Bhutto’s objection to the Tashkent Accord was that it did not mention the
Kashmir issue—the issue which Pakistan wanted to highlight by sending intruders into
Kashmir. The people of Pakistan, fed on the propaganda during the war that their army
was scoring victory after victory and that the capture of the whole of Kashmir was a
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matter of a few days, found their dreams shattered when the ceasefire and later the
Tashkent Accord came. Frustration, anger and humiliation seized them. Bhutto found
it was the best time to launch a campaign against the army leadership. He gave a new
slogan of 1000-year war on India and found that it had gone down very well with the
people of Punjab. Striking while the iron was hot, Bhutto formed his Pakistan People’s
Party (PPP) on December 1, 1967. A glance at the 1970 election results will reveal how
effective the 1000-year slogan proved with the people living in the areas bordering
India. Bhutto received almost total support from these areas. But as the distance from
these areas increased, Bhutto’s support in terms of votes dwindled and tapered off in
Baluchistan and the Frontier Province.
A campaign against Ayub had become very easy after the 1965 war which had left
the Field Marshal demoralised, humiliated and sick. What fuelled the situation further
was the launching of the six-point demand by the Awami League in East Bengal and
disunity among the armed forces. At the same time the United States was annoyed with
Ayub for not renewing the lease of its monitoring base in Peshawar. The Americans
expressed their annoyance by supporting Bhutto, according to both rightist and leftist
papers in Pakistan. The rightist weekly Chatan wrote on July 12, 1976, that big landlords
of Multan joined Bhutto only at the insistence of American envoy Farland in 1970. The
leftist weekly Al Fatah later repeated this charge. That there was some truth in this
could be seen from the support Bhutto received from the sons and daughters of senior
army officers in Islamabad during anti-Ayub agitations. Because of very close relations
with America, these officers were considered to be pro-US.
Bhutto picked up slogans which appealed to all important sections of the society.
For example, the 1000-year war slogan appealed to the hawks in the army as well as
to many people in Punjab and Sind. His slogan of Roti, Kapda, Makaan (food, clothes
and shelter) is like a sweet melody in the ears of the starving, ill-clad and shelter-less
mass of the poor. The leftists, trade unionists, workers, students and a section of the
intelligentsia were attracted by his slogan of socialism. To the mullahs, he gave the
slogan ‘Islam is our faith’.
Amid anti-government riots both in West and East Pakistan, Ayub handed over
power to Yahya on March 25, 1969, because he said he did not want to preside over the
disintegration of Pakistan. Yahya Khan abrogated Ayub’s 1962 Constitution, imposed
martial law and promised to hold elections. Elections he did hold as promised, but
as it turned out later, he had hoped that no party would be able to get an absolute
majority in either wing and thus he would stay in power by manipulating political
parties. 23
In West Pakistan, elections were fought by the PPP on the aforementioned slogans
of the 1000-year war and Roti, Kapda, Makaan. In East Bengal, the Awami League fought
on the six-point programme. Both were well requited by voters in their respective
wings. The election results, much against Yahya’s estimates were:
Awami League
Muslim League (Qayyum)
Muslim League (Council)
Muslim League (Convention)
Jamiat (Ahl-i-Sunnat)
NAP (Wali Khan)
Pakistan Democratic Party
Independents (Two of them later joined PPP)
Strategic Analysis
Had democratic norms been allowed a fair chance, the Awami League (or for that
matter, East Bengal) would have taken over the reins of government. But this could not
be allowed: West Pakistan, after all, had a long 24-year history of ruling all of Pakistan.
During these years the armed forces, the bureaucracy, the landed aristocracy, the 22
wealthy families and what was nicknamed ‘Islam pasands’ had emerged as the tributaries of the powers that be. Bhutto represented these class interests and therefore
would not allow any government which would not protect these interests. Bhutto, in
fact, was being used as a front by these interests. The worst to suffer would have been
Punjab’s monopoly of the armed forces had Bengalis been allowed to rule. Those who
accuse him of causing the break-up of Pakistan by refusing to accept the status of an
opposition for his party conveniently ignore the reasons why he was being patronised
by the army. Secondly, Bhutto’s rejection of the Awami League’s victory and his refusal
to accept any future constitutional set-up which did not ensure his party’s equality with
the Awami League only repeated a similar attitude of Jinnah in united India. Jinnah,
too, was unwilling to accept any future constitutional set-up in united India which
did not give equal political power to the minority Muslim population with the majority. The result was the break-up of India. Twenty-four years later Jinnah’s philosophy
rebounded on Pakistan and broke it into two.
The separation of East Bengal in 1970 dealt a crippling blow to their hopes of democracy in Pakistan. It sounds paradoxical, because it was in December 1971 itself that the
army surrendered power to civilians in West Pakistan. But as we shall see later, the
change from military dictatorship to civilian rule was something like a change from
tweedledum to tweedledee for those who aspired for genuine democracy. Bhutto’s
civilian government was a more ruthless and indisciplined dictatorship than one had
experienced during the military rule. Bhutto’s rule, with all its infirmities, had started
a process of political awakening which if it had been allowed to proceed would have
strengthened the roots of democracy in Pakistan.
With the loss of East Bengal, Pakistan had lost its politically conscious majority
population, which alone produced genuine leaders of the masses like Fazlul Haq, H.S.
Suhrawardy and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. West Pakistan, maybe because of the dominant tribal-feudal influences, has not produced a single leader to match these Bengali
leaders. In 1974, the Karachi weekly, Outlook wrote24 that the Bengali leadership
was not only a stabilising factor in the country’s politics, but a powerful counterpoise to the forces of despotism that naturally grew out of the feudal structure of
the western wing. Ayub had become so convinced and awed by the Bengali power
that while quitting he shocked everyone by saying that he did not want to preside
over the disintegration of Pakistan. He had chosen his protégé Yahya Khan for this
Bhutto’s slogan of ‘all power to the people’ had made him appear a symbol of change
in Pakistan’s political, economic and social institutions. Hitherto, the successive governments, right from that of Jinnah, had not given any thought to the toiling, poor
masses, nor did they acknowledge that they owed their existence to them (the masses).
So Bhutto appeared to have descended as the Messiah on the horizon of West Pakistan
to redeem the people from their misery. Bhutto had really worked to create this
impression about himself: during the electioneering for the 1970 elections, he went
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on whirlwind tours carrying his own coffin and a sword (his election symbol), which
he called Ali’s sword, and proclaimed himself the deliverer. His gimmicks were successful: on December 20, 1971, the defeated and humiliated army crowned him the
president and the chief marshal law administrator or whatever was left of Pakistan.
But it was a crown of thorns. Bhutto had inherited a bankrupt economy, an utterly
demoralised people and a battered national image. On the other hand there was
the hydra- headed monster—the combination of urban Muslim obscurantists, landed
aristocracy, businessmen, bureaucrats and the armed forces. These forces wielded
real power in Pakistan. These elements are interconnected with family ties, business
interests and identities of interest in ruling this ‘promised land’ in different capacities.
Bhutto’s emergence as the voice of the masses alarmed them. During the 1970 electioneering the mullahs floated a slogan that socialists, whom Bhutto led, had no right to
stay in the masses. His first priority was to establish the supremacy of the people over
the erstwhile ruling forces. His economic and social reforms in respect of landholdings,
labour, education, police and the armed forces as well as his programme of nationalisation of banks and industries were all aimed at effecting a revolutionary change in
Pakistani society and polity.
The new CMLA began a crackdown on the 22 wealthiest families and ordered them
to bring back their money from foreign banks. But this yielded only Rs 4 crore out of
an estimated Rs 2710 crore. On January 1, 1972, he ordered the arrest of Ahmed Daoud
and Fakhruddin Walika, both connected with these families. On January 10, he got Lt.
Gen. Habibullah Khan arrested. Habibullah, who was released 10 days later, headed
the Gandhara Industries, which were a monumental example of corruption among the
armed forces if they are allowed to rule. The Gandhara Industries, a car assembling
plant, were established by Ayub’s relatives with his support.25
The most formidable challenge to Bhutto came from the armed forces, although a
section of them had favoured handing over power to him after the 1971 humiliation.
However, another section opposed surrender of power to civilians while yet another
took the stand that nobody, within or without the armed forces, who was connected
with the state of affairs which resulted in the 1971 debacle be allowed to rule. This
section comprised younger officers, who were not willing to forgive and forget the fact
that Bhutto was a dominant part of the military junta right from the very first day of
Ayub’s rule to the last day of Gen. Yahya Khan. It appeared there was another section
which was under the influence of Jamaat-i-Islami, an unrelenting enemy of Bhutto and
his socio- economic policies. Gen. Mohammad Ziaul Haq belonged to this section.
Bhutto used the proverbial stick-and-carrot method to keep the army under control.
The very day he took over as president and CMLA, he sacked seven generals including
Yahya Khan. He called them fat and flabby generals and waderas of the armed forces.
On the same day he appointed chief of the general staff, Lt. Gen. Gul Hasan Khan as
the acting commander-in-chief of the army. Hasan superseded all generals of his rank
except Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi, who was then a prisoner of war in India. Hasan was
confirmed as the commander-in-chief on January 22, 1972. Bhutto also appointed Air
Marshal A. Rahim as commander-in-chief of the air force. These appointments were
Bhutto’s rewards to the two officers for installing him as president.
On December 22, 1971, Bhutto had removed military governors of the four
provinces. They were simultaneously removed from service. The following day he
removed the navy admirals, two commodores and three more major-generals.
Bhutto also exposed the sex escapades of the military generals when they were
ruling. Pakistan TV showed a number of women, supposed to be the girlfriends of
Yahya. The Urdu weekly, Al Fatah, which supported Bhutto’s socialist policies, wrote
that General Niazi was drinking and womanising in the Governor’s House while Dacca
was burning. He had built up a harem of helpless Bengali girls ‘whom he ravaged like
a hungry wolf’.
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Bhutto also punished Ayub’s information secretary, Altaf Gauhar, by putting him
on trial and accusing him of drafting Mujibur Rahman’s six-point programme because
of his (Gauhar’s) illicit relations with a Bengali woman, Rukiya Kabir. These charges,
which sometimes sounded like a mix of pornography and mystery, were given wide
press publicity.
Further, on January 9, 1972, TV showed the surrender of General Niazi in Dacca on
December 16, 1971. This created a furore. Some young people wanted to burn down
the Karachi TV studio. The following day Bhutto’s information minister, Abdul Hafeez
Pirzada, called a press conference to explain the screening of the film. He said every
Pakistani should be ‘man enough to face the truth in regard to their country’s defeat at
the hands of India and the surrender of the Pakistani army in Dacca’.26
On March 3, 1972, Bhutto replaced Lt. Gen. Hasan with Lt. Gen. Tikka Khan as
the army chief. Air Force Chief A. Rahim Khan was replaced by Air Marshal Zafar
Choudhury who was then the managing director of Pakistan International Airlines
(PIA). At the same time he retired eight air force officers and announced that the chiefs
of each of the three services would thenceforth be designated as chiefs of staff and not
commanders-in-chief and that they would have a fixed tenure.
By doing so, said Bhutto, he had put an end to Bonapartism in Pakistan. He said
‘the people and the armed forces were equally determined to wipe out the Bonapartist
influence from the armed forces which had resulted in turning a professional army into
professional political leaders’.27 Later, the 1973 Constitution (Article 6) laid down that
‘any person, who abrogates or attempts or conspires to subvert the Constitution by use
of force or other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason’. On September
14, 1973, the National Assembly prescribed the death penalty or life imprisonment for
high treason.
Another method to keep the army under control was to raise a rival force, a people’s
army. Bhutto once said: ‘We must take a leaf out of Vietnam’s military textbook. A
People’s Army rather than a conventional army. That is the philosophy that will guide
us in our new defence’.28 Many accused Bhutto of trying to add insult to the injury the
armed forces had received from India. But he was fighting for his own survival.
Soon after he took over, conspiracies to remove Bhutto had started. On January 7,
1972, he told his party workers in Larkana that a conspiracy was being hatched to overthrow his government. He said the current wave of industrial unrest and agitations in
the country was all part of this conspiracy, which, he said, was being hatched inside
and outside the country.29
While Bhutto was addressing workers in Larkana, the worst jail riots took place
in Karachi, the traditional stronghold of the Jamaat-i-Islami. In the confusion of riots,
which overlapped the nationwide student agitations, 300 of the 1,500 jail inmates ran
away. The following month, policemen went on strike throughout the country. At the
same time anti- and pro-Urdu riots erupted in Sind during June–July while Bhutto was
trying to reach a peace accord with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India in Simla.
Posters appeared in Karachi in Rawalpindi demanding the return of Ayub Khan. Some
posters were addressed to Tikka Khan asking him to take over.
As events unfolded themselves, the motives of Gen. Hasan and Air Marshal Rahim
Khan in making Bhutto the president became known. They had brought in Bhutto just
for the period of public hostility towards the armed forces. But Bhutto outsmarted
them. He not only retired them, but also exiled them on ambassadorial posts in Greece
and Spain respectively. Salmaan Taseer writes in Bhutto: A Political Biography that the
two officers had not actively plotted against Bhutto, but near-record suggested that
they might.30 Shahi Javed Burai wrote in Pakistan under Bhutto that these officers were
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interested in a new system in which the military would retain some political control.31
The Karachi Urdu weekly Al Fatah wrote in April 1977 that Yahya wanted to hand over
power to his commander-in-chief Gen. Hamid, but Gen. Hasan and Air Marshal Rahim
Khan intervened and forced him to hand over power to Bhutto. The two officers had
feared a civil war if another army man took over the reins of power immediately after
the 1971 defeat. So they thought they could themselves rule the country with Bhutto as
a facade. Gul Hasan wanted to become the president of the country eventually. During
anti-Ayub agitations in 1968 he was hoping to take over the reins of government.32
What Gul Hasan and Rahim wanted was a system of government wherein both
civilians and the military could rule together. Bhutto himself was the author of this
idea; and that might be the reason why the two officers favoured him as a successor to Yahya. On June 9, 1969, Bhutto had issued a statement saying that there were
three claimants to power in Pakistan. In order of their importance, they were the
armed forces, the bureaucrats and the politicians. These three must evolve a system
of cooperation instead of confrontation. He suggested that Pakistan should have the
Constitution on the lines of the Turkish Constitution, which, as evolved in 1960, envisaged the army’s role in the conduct of the government. According to Al Fatah, Yahya
Khan was pleased with this suggestion. However on September 1, 1977, when Gen.
Ziaul Haq advocated this theory for the future government in Pakistan, Bhutto, then on
bail, opposed it (September 14) saying that this could not guarantee political stability
in Turkey.33
A few months after the despatch of Gul Hasan and Rahim on ambassadorial posts,
an army conspiracy came to light. On August 10, 1972 six senior army officers were
sacked on charges of causing a civil war in Pakistan and disrupting public life just two
days before Bhutto took over. Later on March 30, 1973, the government announced that
a group of military officers had been arrested because they had been engaged in activities directed towards seducing military personnel from their duty or allegiance to the
government. The following day the government gave the number of those arrested as
24. They included Brig. F.B. Ali and Col. A.B. Afridi, who were sacked on August 10,
1972. Among the serving officers arrested were a brigadier, three lieutenant colonels
and 14 majors of the army, an air force wing commander and a squadron leader. Of the
two civilians arrested, one was a retired police officer and a government officer, who
had been retired along with 1,400 government servants in March 1972. By April 2, 1973,
the number of arrests had gone up to 63. They included two serving brigadiers, one
retired brigadier, four lieutenant colonels, 17 majors and three captains. There were
three civilians including one Tariq Khan, a brother of Tehrik-i-Istiqlal Chief Asghar
Khan. A Defence Ministry statement on May 12, 1973, said that the conspirators had
planned to seize power between April 4 and April 21, 1973, by arresting top government executives and military generals. Their subsequent trial was presided over by the
little known Brigadier Ziaul Haq.
These reports of military conspiracy exploded the myth that Bhutto was popular among junior officers. They also showed that the army had not reconciled
to its subjugation to the civilian authority, Bhutto’s claim of ending Bonapartism
What baffles one is the fact that, surrounded by these threats, Bhutto systematically
alienated not only the opposition leaders but also his own party stalwarts and thus
expanded the circle of his foes. We need to go on to December 20, 1971, when he lifted
the Yahya-imposed ban on the National Awami Party of Wali Khan, but refused to
acknowledge its position in the Frontier Province and Baluchistan. In these provinces,
party positions after the 1970 elections were:
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Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI)
Muslim League (Qayyum)
Muslim League (Convention)
Muslim League (Council)
Baluchistan United Front
6 (two of them later
joined the PPP)
It was hoped that in ‘new Pakistan’ Bhutto would respect the results. But he ignored
the NAP’s position in the two provinces and appointed his own party men as provincial governors despite stiff opposition by the people of these provinces. This act of
Bhutto held him suspect in the eyes of the provincial leaders and ignited violent agitations. On March 6, 1972, he entered into a tripartite agreement with the NAP and JUI
and allowed them to form coalition governments in the two provinces. Maulana Mufti
Mahmud (JUI) and Arbab Sikandar Khalil (NAP) became chief minister and governor,
respectively, in the Frontier Province while in Baluchistan Sardar Ataullah Mengal and
Sardar Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo took charge of these posts, respectively.
But the fact that his party had majority in only two of Pakistan’s remaining four
provinces never stopped nagging Bhutto. On February 10, 1973, Bhutto broke the tripartite agreement with the NAP and JUI by dismissing their governments [as well as
governors] in Baluchistan and the Frontier Province. The NAP-JUI government in the
latter province resigned in protest. The excuse for this action was supplied by the discovery of arms in the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad. Bhutto said the arms were meant
for insurgency in Baluchistan. But he could never prove his charge and further lost
his credibility. Tehrik-i-Istiqlal Chief Asghar Khan issued a statement condemning this
action and alleging that Bhutto himself staged the drama of arms discovery to discredit
the NAP and remove it from power.
However, the NAP kept up its cooperation with the government until the adoption
of the permanent Constitution on April 10, 1973. Of the 144 members of the National
Assembly, as many as 125 voted for the Constitution. The rest either did not attend
the Assembly or avoided casting their vote. Mir Ali Talpur (then PPP) was the only
member who walked out of the Assembly saying that in his opinion the Constitution
was neither federal nor democratic.
The Constitution was promulgated on August 14, 1973. But the government’s very
first act after the promulgation of the Constitution was the suspension of fundamental
rights. In fact fundamental rights had never been recognised in Pakistan since October
1958. Between December 20, 1971 and April 20, 1972, Bhutto had ruled under the extant
martial law, which excluded these rights. Between April 20, 1972 and August 14, 1973,
he ruled under his own interim Constitution and kept fundamental rights suspended
during this period.
The draft of the 1973 Constitution was finalised by an all-party34 24-member
team on December 30, 1972. Five of them had put their signatures on the draft
with dissent notes. These five leaders belong to the Council Muslim League, the
Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP), JUI and Jamaat-i-Islami. They had demanded the
abrogation of the Political Parties Act, 1961, which denied the legislators their rights of
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freedom of conscience and association. The NAP representatives signed the draft without any conditions despite stiff opposition from hawks and younger elements within
the party.
Suspension of fundamental rights by the president disillusioned those parties
which were trying to cooperate with Bhutto for strengthening democracy in ‘new
Pakistan’ against the impending danger from the armed forces. In addition to the
denial of fundamental rights, there was the never-ending emergency, which had been
imposed by Yahya Khan on November 23, 1971. Under the emergency, Defence of
Pakistan Rules (DPR) were imposed and DPR tribunals were set up to award long
prison terms to political opponents. Throughout Bhutto’s rule most of Pakistan was
under Section 144, a device to prevent opposition parties from public contacts.
After the promulgation of the Constitution in 1973, the government made seven
amendments. Most of them took away the citizen’s right to seek justice from courts
of law. Five of the amendments curtailed the rights of the citizen and deprived the
courts of their power to grant relief to the victims of government action. The first
amendment bill was introduced on April 15, 1974, and passed the following day in
the absence of the opposition which had boycotted the session. This amendment was
cleverly designed to ultimately ban the NAP with the approval of the Supreme Court.
The second amendment, passed by the Assembly on September 9, 1974, declared
the Ahmediyyas as non-Muslims. This amendment had the support of the opposition.
The next amendment bill, introduced on February 11, 1975, and passed the following
day, increased the period of preventive detention from one month to three months.
The fourth amendment bill, introduced on November 11, 1975, and passed within 48
hours, deprived the High Courts of their power to grant bail to any person detained
under the preventive detention law and to prohibit the making of executive orders
for detention. The protesting opposition leaders were beaten up and thrown out of the
House by the Federal Security Force. In Lahore and Karachi lawyers were lathi-charged
for protesting against this amendment.
The fifth amendment bill was moved on September 1, 1976 and passed on
September 3. It was in fact a super amendment of the fourth amendment. The fifth
amendment withdrew from High Courts their power to order in interim relief, including bail, in all cases where they were exercised extraordinary jurisdiction. This was
combined with the introduction of a tenure system for the Chief Justices. The sixth
amendment, introduced and passed on December 12, 1976, was meant to retain the
services of Justice Yaqub Ali, the Chief Justice, who was to retire in early 1977. The
seventh amendment on May 16, 1977, created a provision for holding a referendum.
All these amendments were rushed through with indecent haste—without adequate debate. Bhutto was not willing to recognise the role of the opposition in the
National Assembly at all. Within his own party, he did not tolerate dissent or anybody
who did not follow him silently. Those who made up the hard core of his party were
one by one humiliated and thrown out. Such members included J.A. Rahim, an elderly
Bengali, whom he had persuaded to join his party; Miraj Mohammad Khan; the Talpur
brothers; Ghulam Mustafa Khar (he later returned); Mohammad Ali Kasuri (he later
joined Tehrik-i-Istiqlal); and Dr. Mubashir Hasan, an eminent leftist economist.
The Federal Security Force (FSF), which Bhutto built up as a counterweight to the
army, was brazenly used against his political opponents and those who wanted genuine democracy. The FSF, more loyal than the king himself, resorted to large-scale
assassinations and harassment of the common man. Political murders, kidnapping and
torturing of Bhutto’s critics became the sport for the FSF jawans. For example, J.A.
Rahim and his son were taken from their house and tortured separately. In 1973, the
police arrested one JUP maulana and took him to a cell where he was stripped naked
and a naked prostitute was made to sit on his lap. The police clicked their cameras.
Muslim Leaguer Khwaja Khairuddin was arrested and left on an uninhabited island
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near Ahmedabad. He was rescued by Indian fishermen. A sex scandal was floated
against Asghar Khan. It was alleged that the Tehrik chief had illicit relations with the
woman party worker Tahir Masud. Her husband Farduddin Masud filed a complaint
accusing them of adultery. The husband was apparently acting at the behest of the
Those who were murdered included Dr. Nazir Ahmed of Jamaat-i-Islami (on June
8, 1972), Khwaja Mohammad Rafiq of Ittehad Party (on December 20, 1972), Baluch
Gandhi Abdus Samad Achakzai of the NAP Pakhtoonkhawa (on December 1, 1973)
and Maulvi Shamsuddin of JUI (on March 13, 1973). Sardar Ataullah Mengal’s son was
kidnapped from Karachi and later believed killed.
Those who escaped assassination attempts included Asghar Khan and Khan Abdul
Wali Khan. On March 23, 1973, a public meeting of the combined opposition in Liaquat
Bagh in Rawalpindi was attacked by gun-toting FSF men. Another FSF group released
snakes and scorpions among the audience to create panic and stampede. Many people
were killed in the FSF firing.
Another method to suppress the opposition was to gag the press. Newspapers were
told not to publish statements of opposition leaders. Thus while section 144 kept them
away from the public, the restrictions on the press denied them the right to express
their opinions through the media.
So the change from the military to a civilian government for the common man made
no difference. At this point of time, efforts were made to persuade Ayub Khan to come
out in politics and lead the people against Bhutto’s repression.
Perhaps, after appointing Tikka Khan as the army chief, Bhutto felt assured of the
army’s total loyalty and so he apprehended no threat from this quarter now. Also, perhaps, he wanted to prove to the people that he had controlled the genie of the army.
And so he pitched the army against the people in Baluchistan. Four divisions were dispatched there to suppress ‘the insurgency’—something which Bhutto himself conjured
up. His Special Secretary Rao A. Rashid Khan wrote a note to him on July 13, 1976,
strongly pleading that the army be withdrawn from Baluchistan as its ‘prolonged stay
is causing adverse repercussions in many fields’. The army, he wrote, had become ‘an
independent law enforcing agency’.35 But Bhutto did not pay any heed to this suggestion, and later, after his fall, he blamed the army leadership for keeping four divisions
in Baluchistan.
The dismissal of the NAP-JUI governments was a clear indication that Bhutto was moving towards one-party rule. He installed his own party in power in the two provinces
just as Jinnah did in 1947 in the Frontier Province. Jinnah’s action was not challenged
although it had set a bad, undemocratic precedent. Bhutto’s action turned out to be a
massive political blunder. The NAP, which he had managed to keep out from Punjab
and Sind, accusing it of being anti-Pakistan and pro-India, suddenly found widespread
sympathies in Punjab. The NAP joined the six-party United Democratic Front (UDF)
and came to be known as a national party. The UDF was formed soon after the dismissal of the NAP-JUI government in Baluchistan. Its constituents included the NAP,
JUI, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Democratic Party, Muslim League and Jamiat-ul-Ulema
in Pakistan (JUP). Tehrik-i-Istiqlal of Asghar Khan refused to join the Front.
The establishment of the Front was a serious challenge to Bhutto’s dictatorial style
of functioning. But he underestimated it, depending on his own ability to break it up as
it consisted of political parties whose ideologies and philosophies were heterogenous.
Jamaat-i-Islami, an ultra-rightist party, was poles apart from the NAP, a leftist secular party. Although the PPP’s philosophy agreed more with that of the NAP, Bhutto
sought to cultivate the Jamaat. It was to please this party that Islam for the first
time was mentioned in the 1973 Constitution as the state’s official religion. By this,
Samuel Baid
Bhutto was trying to emphasise to other constituents of the Front that the Jamaat was
interested in the Islamisation rather than democratisation of the Constitution.
Bhutto gave another blow to the opposition by banning the NAP on February 10,
1975, following a bomb blast in Peshawar which killed PPP leader Mohammad Hayat
Khan Sherpa. The NAP was banned and its top leaders including Wali Khan, Ghaus
Bakhsh Bizenjo and Attaullah Mengal were jailed without verifying NAP’s responsibility for the bomb blast. This blast had occurred in a series of blasts throughout the
country since the establishment of the Front. According to a Dawn report of April 24,
1975, as many as 293 blasts took place in different parts of Pakistan between January
1974 and February 1975, killing 22 and wounding 144 persons. These blasts might
have been contrived by the Federal Security Force who then put the blame on the
opposition.36 After banning the NAP, Bhutto made a reference to the Supreme Court
charging the NAP with ‘anti-Pakistan activities’ like Ghaffar Khan’s opposition to
the partition of India in 1947. The Supreme Court, then headed by a Bengali, Justice
Hamoodur Rahman, upheld the ban on October 31, 1975.
A week later, an independent member of the National Assembly, Sher Baaz
Mazari, announced (on November 6) the formation of a new party called the National
Democratic Party to provide a refuge to the members of the now-defunct NAP. Bhutto
countered this move by issuing an ordinance on December 26, 1975, unseating NAP
legislators from the National and Provincial Assemblies. Earlier, on December 20, a
special court was set up under that Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) ordinance to try top NAP leaders for treason. This ordinance was later regularised. The
special court which came to be known as the Hyderabad Tribunal was first convened
on April 15, 1976. Later it was expanded to try other opposition leaders. It was as long
after as July 25, 1975 that the accused were first informed of the charges. Wali Khan
rejected these charges as they contained no particulars about dates, times, and places.
Two months later a revised list of the charges was submitted.
The trial proceeded very slowly, giving an impression that the NAP leaders were
being held as hostages in return for Kabul’s acceptance of the Durand Line as the international boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan.37 Also, Bhutto sought to please
the Shah of Iran by keeping the NAP leaders in jail. The Shah had told Bhutto (and
Bhutto transmitted this to Wali Khan) that he did not want an NAP government in
By January 7, 1977, when Bhutto announced elections for March, he had completely
swung from the left to the right. As said earlier, he won the 1970 elections in West
Pakistan on the slogan of socialism. By 1977, he had joined the camp of that very hydraheaded monster which he claimed to be fighting in 1970. He had removed some officers
who, he feared, would challenge his position. For the same reason he had retired 1,400
government servants.
But the democratic system, which could have effectively checked the ambitions
of the armed forces and the bureaucracy, was not allowed to grow. On the contrary,
Bhutto did everything to strengthen the armed forces. In his affidavit to the Lahore
High Court, he had said that he had modernised the armed forces by purchasing modern and the latest equipment worth over 1.5 billion dollars. ‘I gave the armed forces
an annual budget of approximately 800 crores. I got considerable military equipment
from China and to a lesser extent from Iran without payment.’
Simultaneously, Bhutto began depending on the bureaucracy for his party work.
Thus the only use of the PPP for Bhutto was that it lent to him some political
respectability. But the party never had any elections. It was being run on an ad hoc
basis. The party organisation began disintegrating and the people who elected this
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organisation were one by one removed. It was the bureaucracy which prepared the
PPP manifesto for the March 197738 elections and chose party candidates.
Those who enthusiastically voted for the PPP in 1970 were disappointed by the
party manifesto and the choice of candidates, who belong to capitalist and feudal
classes. Bhutto perhaps was aware of the alienation from the masses and, therefore,
he was initially hesitant to hold elections. However, something told him that since the
opposition was in disarray he had no cause for worry and so on January 7, he unexpectedly announced general elections for March 7, 1977. But more unexpected was
the announcement by the opposition on January 11 that nine of them had formed the
Pakistan National Alliance (PNA).
The nine opposition parties were the National Democratic Party, the Muslim
League, the Pakistan Democratic Party, Tehrik-i-Istiqlal, Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiatul-Ulema-i-Islam, Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Pakistan, Khaksar Party, and the Muslim
Conference of occupied Kashmir. These parties were carrying on negotiations for a
long time for forging an alliance. But to hoodwink Bhutto they deliberately created an
impression in their letters to one another, that an alliance was impossible.39 The alliance
parties agreed to fight the election as one party under one symbol (the plough) while
maintaining their separate identities.
The PNA issued its manifesto on February 7 promising to return the nationalised
industries to their owners, ban pubs, prostitution and charging of interest and bring
down prices to the 1970 level. Whatever its promises and components, the PNA was
enthusiastically welcomed by the people, who constantly lived under section 144 and
without fundamental rights. So far they had been made to hear only the government’s
views. Now they had the opportunity to hear the other side. About two lakh persons
attended the PNA’s first public meeting in Nishtar Park on January 23. This confounded even the PNA leaders. The PNA was so encouraged by the public response
that at a press conference in Karachi on February 20, Asghar Khan said: ‘The people
have given their verdict. We have won. The voting on March 7 and 10 will only be a
formality. Ten lakh people participated in my procession and that is a proof that PPP
candidates will lose their deposits.’40
This, however, was a highly unrealistic claim. It was only in urban areas that very
large crowds attended the PNA meetings. The same crowds also graced Bhutto’s meeting. The large attendance at public meetings might largely have been because of the
curiosity of the people, who hitherto were not allowed to hear the opposite view.
Moreover, the PNA strongholds were only in urban areas where the voters accounted
for only 25 per cent. These included a big chunk of minorities, different non-Sunni
Muslim sects and women who were alarmed by the religious fanaticism of the PNA as
it was dominated by Jamaat-i-Islami. The alliance had made no impact on rural areas,
where Bhutto’s image remained high.
Thus the PPP victory at the March 7 elections could not be dismissed as completely
due to rigging, although rigging did take place in an awfully crude manner. The PPP
had won 20 of the 200 National Assembly seats uncontested. Of the remaining 180
seats, the PNA was contesting 137. On the day of the election large-scale bloody clashes
took place near different polling booths, killing 18 and injuring 13 persons. The election
results were:
Muslim League(Qayyum)
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The PNA protested against the rigging and boycotted the 460 seat Provincial
Assembly elections on March 10. Of these seats the PPP had already bagged, uncontested, 60. They were 36 in Sind; 20 in Baluchistan;41 three in Punjab; and one in
It took three weeks for Bhutto to convene the first session of the National Assembly
(on March 26) after the March 7 elections. The Lahore High Court Bar Association
called March 26 the blackest day in Pakistan’s history of constitution and democracy.
The PNA demanded Bhutto’s resignation and re-elections under the supervision of the
army and the judiciary. Punjab and Sind were rocked with agitations punctuated with
bomb blasts and sabotage. Top PNA leaders were taken into custody and the agitations
began to be guided by mosques; and now the PNA was demanding that Nizam-iMustafa be promulgated in Pakistan. On April 17, Bhutto held a press conference in
Lahore and made the following points:
(1) The Islamic ideology council could be reconstituted. He invited Jamaat-i-Islami
founder Maulana Madoodi to send his nominee to it.
(2) Drinking in horse race was banned and nightclubs were ordered to be closed.
(3) Free elections would be held to Provincial Assemblies and if the opposition was
able to win them, there would be fresh elections to the National Assembly.
(4) Section 144 would be lifted.
(5) The Press and Publication Ordinance was abrogated.
These concessions did not work. On April 21, Bhutto imposed martial law on Lahore,
Karachi, Hyderabad and later on Multan. The Pakistan Army Act was amended to
empower the army to set up courts to try offenders. The martial law was imposed
under Article 246 of the Constitution. However, on June 2, the Lahore High Court held
that the imposition of martial law was unconstitutional. The Sind High Court said it
was constitutional. The martial law was lifted on June 7.
On April 28, Bhutto told a joint session of parliament that the US was after his
blood because he was emerging as the Third World leader. Later, on April 13, he sent
a military officer to PNA Chief Maulana Mufti Mahmud in jail with maps to convince him that there was troop build-up on Pakistan borders and in view of this,
re-elections would amount to committing suicide. This cry of troop build-up had
already been rejected by the armed forces on April 6 when Foreign Minister Aziz
Ahmed addressed 500 officers of the three services in Karachi. He said the US was
against Bhutto because of the nuclear reprocessing plant and his efforts to organise the
Third World countries in one forum. He said the US gave Rs 25 crores to the PNA for
A report of this meeting was prepared by the Inter-Services Intelligence directorgeneral, Ghulam Jilani Khan,42 which had clearly told Bhutto that the armed forces
were not with the government and that the orders of superior commanders were more
important for them than their loyalty to the Constitution. Yet Bhutto did not try to make
up with the opposition. On the contrary, he announced on May 13 that he would hold
a referendum to seek the people’s support for himself, which was something extraconstitutional. He had rejected the PNA demand for re-election on the plea that there
was no provision for them in the Constitution. He said that after the referendum he
would change the Constitution to guarantee non-recurrence of a crisis like the present
one. Rumour had it that he was thinking of reverting to the presidential system for
one-party system. It was also rumoured that he was thinking of the Turkish model of
government wherein the armed forces had a role to play.43
However, Bhutto had to drop the referendum plan when the Amir of Kuwait sent
a message to Bhutto and the jailed PNA leaders on May 15 pleading with them to start
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negotiations. Ambassadors of Kuwait, the UAE and Saudi Arabia played an active role
in an attempt to effect reconciliation between Bhutto and the PNA leaders.
Consequently, negotiations began on June 3 in the prime minister’s house in
Rawalpindi. Others present at the talks were intelligence chief Rao Abdul Rashid and
Army Chief Gen. Ziaul Haq, whom Bhutto had specially brought in to convince the
PNA leaders that under the present circumstances, emergency could not be lifted. At
the talks, the PNA demanded, among other things, lifting of the emergency and censorship, and release of the PNA leaders and workers from jail. The government said the
number of such prisoners was 30,000 while PNA leaders said it was about one lakh.44
The PNA side was led by Mufti Mahmud and it consisted of (besides Mufti) Ghafoor
Ahmed and Nawabzada Nasurullah Khan.
While carrying on negotiations with the Alliance, Bhutto was also trying to create a
rift in it. He sent journalist Mazhar Ali to NDP leaders and then to Wali Khan and other
jailed leaders in Hyderabad to seek their support for himself on the promise that they
would be allowed to form their governments in Baluchistan and the Frontier Province.
The proposal was pooh-poohed. They retorted: ‘It is a strange joke: on the one hand
the Government is trying us for treason, while on the other, it is seeking the traitors’
help to bring about an understanding between the NDP and the Government.’
Bhutto further tried to undermine the PNA, when after the announcement on June
15 that an agreement had been reached on basic issues, he suddenly decided to fly to
Libya, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Iran on an unexplained mission. The PNA
protested saying that he should have first signed the agreement. In the agreement, the
government had committed itself to holding the ‘next’ election (not re-elections) after
the Ramazan.
The difference between the two was the modus operandi: how to hold the elections.
The PNA had suggested the formation of a 10-man council to run the country until the
next elections. The council, said the PNA, should consist of five members from each
side and Maulana Mufti Mahmud should be its chief. The government side rejected
it. On July 1 and 2, the two sides talked for 13 hours and later announced that an
agreement had been reached. In the next 12 hours, the PNA denied it and Asghar Khan
said that the PNA representatives had exceeded their brief. However the PNA leaders
were still willing to continue negotiations. They had raised 10 new points. On July 4,
Bhutto called a hurried press conference at 10:30 pm at the prime minister’s house to
say that he was willing to discuss these extra 10 points. ‘If they want they can come
tomorrow morning to sign the agreement,’ he said.
But Bhutto was not to see the next morning as prime minister. At 2 in the night
a solitary colonel came to Bhutto’s house in a jeep to tell him that he was no more
the prime minister. The man who deposed him was none other than Bhutto’s own
protégé—Ziaul Haq.
Aziz Ahmed’s talks with the 500 officers of the three services in Karachi clearly
established that their first loyalty was to their superior commanders—not to the
Constitution. Thus all Bhutto’s efforts to provide constitutional guarantees against a
possible military takeover looked like an attempt to strengthen a house of cards. The
respective attitudes of the army and the government to these constitutional guarantees
were well dramatised when Bhutto’s law minister, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, vigorously
remonstrated with the army jawans, who had come to arrest him in a pre-dawn swoop
on political leaders, that the Constitution did not allow the military takeover. He
quoted from the Constitution to prove his point while being dragged out of his house
in his pyjama suit. The jawans pretended they did not understand what he was saying.
They only understood the orders they had received from superior commanders.
Samuel Baid
As said earlier, the army was treating Bhutto simply as a stop-gap arrangement
soon after its defeat in the 1971 war with India. It either wanted to take back power
from Bhutto as early as the first quarter of 1972 or it planned to rule through him.
But Bhutto outsmarted them and quickly weeded out as many black sheep from the
armed forces as he could find. Also, and that perhaps was sheer luck, Bhutto could
find a loyal soldier like Tikka Khan. But for him, perhaps Bhutto’s fall would have
been much quicker than it was.
In March 1976, Bhutto very carefully picked out Ziaul Haq, then a junior officer, to
take over as the army chief on the retirement of Gen. Tikka Khan. Seven senior officers
resigned in protest. Bhutto did not care, nor did he listen to the advice of Tikka Khan
against appointing Zia, who had close links with the Jamaat-i-Islami, a party which
was the arch enemy of modernist Bhutto. But Bhutto, who had acquired a dictator’s
characteristics, wanted no-one but a sycophant for his army chief. Zia promised to beat
any other officer in this trait. In his affidavit in the Lahore High Court, Bhutto admits:
‘On numerous occasions in private gatherings and in public meetings and conferences,
he (Zia) paid me such wholesome compliments that I was a trifle embarrassed by the
heavenly eulogies’. Zia was taunted by some of his colleagues as ‘Bhutto’s butler’.45
Later after his fall, Bhutto regretted his choice openly. During the hearing of Begum
Bhutto’s petition, Bhutto told the Supreme Court that it was the greatest mistake of
his life to make a Jamaat-i-Islami man the army chief over the heads of seven senior
officers. But, had Zia proved himself an honest sycophant, perhaps things would
have been as devastating in Pakistan as they were in Iran where the Shah used the
army to gun down the agitating civilians. Bhutto was so impulsive and dictatorial
that he would not have hesitated to do the same, to deal with the post-March 1977
elections agitation.46 But the martial law in Karachi, Lahore, Hyderabad and later
in Multan in April 1977 proved to him that the army was in no mood to oblige
him.47 On the contrary, the martial law in these cities proved that without the army’s
connivance the agitation would not have become so formidable. The PNA leaders, particularly Tehrik-i-Istiqlal Chief Asghar Khan, openly boasted that the army was with
As the post-March 1977 elections agitation continued, it became clear that the
country was drifting further and further away from democracy. National Democratic
Party (a reincarnation of Wali Khan’s National Awami Party) President Sher Baaz
Mazari told the Urdu weekly of Karachi, Al Fatah, on June 18, 1977, that he feared
some obstructions in the way of democracy. These obstructions, he said, were the
armed forces. Mazari knew better because his party was an active constituent of the
PNA. Bhutto, too, had warned on June 28, 1977, at a press conference that a ‘third force
would take over’ if there was no agreement between the government and the PNA.
He had said:
For the sake of the country, the nation, the people, the democracy and the
Constitution, I have done my best. But, if a stalemate is caused despite my efforts,
then only God can save us. Then if the constitution is trampled and angels, Rasputin
or a ferocious Satan comes to rule the country we would not be responsible for that.
After this the result might be a fatal destruction but that would not be my fault.
Bhutto, apparently, was aware of the army’s manoeuvres to recapture power from the
civilians. In a statement to the Supreme Court in 1978, Bhutto said: ‘Actually, even
before the dissipation of power on 5 July 1977, the chief of army staff organised teams
of military officers in each of the provinces to conduct “discreet” inquiries into the
conduct of the March 1977 elections. This was reported to be in categorical terms by at
least one Chief Minister.’48
Al Fatah wrote (July 22–29, 1977) that the army was taking a keen interest in the
PNA-government negotiations right from the beginning. The army was kept well
informed of whatever went on between the two. In the light of this information, the
Strategic Analysis
army had prepared a secret plan code-named ‘Operation Fairplay’ many weeks before
July 5. Connected with this plan were the joint chief of staff, three chiefs of staff of the
armed forces, staff officers and all corps commanders. The signal to execute ‘Operation
Fairplay’ was given at 5 pm on July 4, 1977. The time fixed for the operation was six
hours—from 12 at night to 6 in the morning.
Seventeen hours after his coup, Zia announced in a nationwide broadcast over
radio and television that now he was the chief martial law administrator and that the
National and Provincial Assemblies stood dissolved and the 1973 Constitution suspended. He said he had taken over so as to hold fair and free elections within 90 days.
He called it ‘Operation Fairplay’.
Zia said the armed forces had stressed on the government that it should reach a
compromise with the Opposition without loss of time. The armed forces were subjected
to criticism from certain quarters for their role in aid of the civil administration.
We tolerated this criticism in the hope that it was a passing phase.
I will like to point out here that I saw no prospects of a compromise between the
People’s Party and the PNA because of their mutual distrust and lack of faith.
So as to assure his countrymen that he was sincere in returning the reins of government to civilians, Zia said the Constitution had not been abrogated. Only certain parts
were suspended, and that Fazal Elahi would continue to be the president and the fourmember military council would assist him in the discharge of his national duties. The
council consisted of the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the chiefs of staff
of three forces. ‘I will discharge the duties of the Army staff and Chief Martial Law
Administration,’ he said. He had no political ambition and he was only filling in the
vacuum created by the political leaders. ‘I have accepted this challenge is a true soldier of Islam. My sole aim is to organise free and fair elections which would be held in
October . . . I give solemn assurance that I will not deviate from his schedule. During the
next three months my total attention will be concentrated on the holding of elections
and I would not like to dissipate my powers and energies as the CMLA on anything
So far the speech sounded quite reassuring. But the poison lay at the tail end. He
gave a veiled hint of his long-term programme when he said: ‘I must say that the spirit
of Islam, demonstrated during the recent movement was commendable. It proves that
Pakistan, which was created in the name of Islam, will continue to survive only if it
sticks to Islam. That is why I consider the introduction of Islamic system as an essential
prerequisite for the country.’
This showed that he supported the anti-Bhutto agitations, because, as he said, they
demonstrated the spirit of Islam. Therefore, the PNA’s claim that the army was with the
Alliance was correct. But his long-ranging socio-economic programmes betrayed that
Zia had not come for holding elections. On July 10, he issued a set of martial law regulations prescribing severe Islamic punishments and also punishments for indulging in
politics. On July 14, he told his first press conference that the army would put the fear
of God in the hearts of the people.
If Zia had only taken over for holding re-elections, as he claimed, one saw no sense in
his description of himself as a soldier of Islam and the need to introduce the Islamic
system in the country. This was especially alarming in view of the PNA’s allegations
that the PPP was un-Islamic and socialist.
Samuel Baid
Zia in fact had much more cunning than many students of Pakistani affairs are willing to credit him with. He sought to create an impression that his coup was different
from that of Ayub Khan’s in 1958. Ayub’s coup took place to prevent the very first elections, while Zia’s coup was meant to hold fair and free elections as had been demanded
by the PNA. When Ayub came to power he did not immediately seek the support of
Islam or any political bloc. Zia sought the help of both. He knew well that the name
of Islam would not only endear him with the rightist parties like Jamaat-i-Islami, sections of the Muslim League and many religious groups at home, but would also get the
support of Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia.
Zia began his martial law career with a dual strategy: he made seeming preparations for the promised elections to keep the PNA on his side while in fact affecting
long-ranging structural changes in the administration so as to weed out all pro-Bhutto
elements. Zia repeatedly assured that his interim government would not make such
changes, but changes he was making. The chief secretaries of Sind and Punjab were
the very first victims. Because of censorship the press briefly reported these changes
without pointing out the implications in terms of Zia’s long-term plans.
He sought to tighten the grip of the military on the civil administration by dividing
the whole of Pakistan into five military zones (in charge of military officers). The same
day he issued a martial law order providing for the establishment of special military
Similarly, while Zia claimed that the Military Council had decided not to proceed
against any politician, preparations were going on to implicate Bhutto in some cases.
The press was given full freedom to expose all aspects of the former prime minister’s
life. Most stories the papers published were actually supplied to them by the military
The election promise was a sort of sedative which Zia used to numb the PNA while
he was proceeding against Bhutto and his party. After Bhutto’s fall at least seven cases
were filed against him, but the military junta was of the opinion that only one—that of
the murder of Nawab Mohammed Kasuri in 1974—was enough to finish him.
Besides spreading the claws of the army all over the country, Zia beat the judiciary
into submission by replacement of ‘untrustworthy’ judges with ‘loyal’ ones. Justice
Mustaq Hussain, a bitter critic of Bhutto was appointed acting chief justice of Punjab
High Court on July 16. A day earlier, he had been appointed the chief election commissioner. This appointment was made less than 24 hours after Zia’s assurance that
there would be no witch-hunting of the politicians. Two months later Bhutto would be
tried in this court on a murder charge. A day before Bhutto’s trial opened in Punjab
High Court, Zia told the chief justice and the judges of the Supreme Court to take a
new oath, which freed them from their commitment to the Constitution. It was clearly
aimed at dislodging Chief Justice Yaqub Khan, who proved himself an obstruction
in Zia’s long-term strategy by admitting Mrs Bhutto’s constitutional petition challenging the imposition of the martial law. Justice Yaqub was therefore replaced by
Justice Anwar-ul-Haq, who took the Zia-prescribed oath. Zia also changed the oath of
So all the civil institutions were cut to fit into the military’s plan of recapturing the
governance of the country with the help of servile politicians, government servants
and judges. He told Newsweek that ‘in Pakistan, that only real stability is [provided
by] its armed forces’. However, he denied that he had the Ayubian ambitions.49 Zia
also changed the very economic philosophy of the country as had been adopted by the
PPP government, by replacing the Rice Milling Control and Development Act, 1976,
on September 2, 1977.
That the PNA was not alarmed by Zia’s step-by-step entrenchment into power
speaks of the utter immaturity of the political leadership in the country. The PNA supported all actions of Zia until the hanging of Bhutto in April 1979. As said earlier,
Strategic Analysis
Zia used the promise of elections as a cover to first finish his most dangerous enemy,
Bhutto, his family and his party. Just one day before the Supreme Court upheld
the death sentence on Bhutto on February 6, 1979, Zia fixed November 17 as the
long-awaited date for elections. But after Bhutto’s execution he thought he did not
need the PNA support. To the observers of the Pakistani scene it was very clear that
Zia dared not hold elections and restore the Constitution which had prescribed death
for anyone who abrogated or subverted the Constitution.
The PNA supported the army against Bhutto because the alliance feared that it
could never hope to rule the country as long as Bhutto was around. So its leaders
demanded punishment to Bhutto before elections—even public execution.50 In fact, as
it turned out, they were demanding the execution of the infant democracy in Pakistan.
Looking back, it appears, the controversy about the postponement of elections was
cleverly continued and played up to create a favourable atmosphere for the arrest (on
September 3, in connection with the death of Nawab Ahmed Khan in 1974), and for an
indefinite postponement of elections. Overlapping this controversy was another which
conceived the changeover to a presidential form of government and the military’s role
in it. This controversy was floated by Zia himself on September 1 in an interview.51
With the support of the PNA, Zia cancelled the elections on September 30 when
it became clear that Bhutto would not be out of jail and the PPP would split on the
question of his successor in the party. To further tighten the screw on the PPP a process of accountability was started against all those who had held ministerial posts or
were members of the Senate and National and Provincial Assemblies between 1970 and
July 5, 1977. Those who were found guilty of misuse of power were disqualified from
contesting future elections. Thus almost every PPP leader of any consequence was disqualified. Supporters of the PPP were sought to be silenced either by public whipping
or jail terms.
In the meantime, Zia continued to strengthen his position. He took over as
president on September 14, 1978, in addition to being the CMLA and the army chief.
Now Zia had to tame the PNA. The first one to be brought to his senses was no
other than Asghar Khan. He had always refused to join any opposition alliance. He
agreed to join the PNA on condition that he would be made the prime minister. Zia
defused him by releasing Wali Khan from the Hyderabad jail and using him as a sort
of counterweight to him. The moment Wali Khan came out of jail, all attention turned
to him. Zia often publicly praised Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s patriotism—something
which no Pakistani ruler had done so far. There was also talk of Wali Khan being the
next prime minister. Consequently, Asghar Khan was reduced to a political pigmy.
But Zia still badly needed the support of the PNA. He celebrated his first year in
power by inducting PNA leaders into his cabinet. But after the execution of Bhutto on
April 4, 1979, he asked them to quit. The excuse for their removal was that they could
not continue to be in the government as they were going to contest the promised-again
elections to be held on November 19, 1979. What he really thought of the PNA was
revealed by him in an interview with Kayhan International in September 1977 during
his brief visit to Iran. He said the PNA members were inexperienced politicians, and
‘I told them that they cannot fill the people’s empty stomach with the Holy Quran’.
About Bhutto he said he was a smart intellectual, but totally devoid of principles.52 He
also made it very clear that he was not prepared to hand over power either to the PPP
or the PNA.
With Bhutto’s arrest and a crackdown on the PPP, whatever unity the PNA parties
had artificially forged against their common enemy began to loosen. Asghar Khan quit
the Alliance on November 14, 1977, on the plea that it had achieved its goal of toppling
Bhutto and now it had no relevance. His decision came on the heels of the Supreme
Court’s verdict allowing Zia to rule under the law of necessity. Next to quit the Alliance
Samuel Baid
was Jamiat-ul-Ulema-i-Pakistan (JUP). The NDP, which as a constituent of the PNA
was supporting Zia’s rule, was under tremendous pressure from radicals within the
party to quit the Alliance. The pro-NDP (earlier pro-NAP) students lost to the proPPP students at the Peshawar University elections in 1978. The losing students blamed
the NDP leaders’ support to Zia for this. Wali Khan, who was obliged to the military
government for releasing him and 54 other NAP leaders from the Hyderabad jail, was
actively campaigning against Bhuttoism and talking of Nizam-i-Mustafa. The younger
elements in the NDP resented this because by preaching Nizam-i-Mustafa, Wali Khan
was going against secularism which had remained the cardinal principle of the NAP
and then the NDP. Similarly, Wali Khan’s support to the military dictatorship went
against the principle of democracy for which the NDP (as the NAP earlier) had stood
and suffered for the last 34 years.
Things became worse for the NDP after the April 27 revolution in Afghanistan in
1978, when President Mohammed Daoud and his government members were killed
and leftist Mohammed Tarakki took over. The Baluch NDP leaders at once welcomed
the change in Kabul while the NDP leaders of the Frontier Province were not in a position to express jubilation at the Kabul events because Wali Khan’s family had very
close links with President Mohammed Daoud. Secondly, they could not possibly support the socialist regime of Tarakki when they had been a part of the Nizam-i-Mustafa
Thus an ideological gulf emerged and separated the Pathan and Baluch leaders who
had jointly fought for democracy and autonomy for 34 years. The two parted company.
On June 2, 1979, the Baluch leaders announced the formation of the Pakistan National
Party with Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo as its president. Its secretary-general, Syed Qaswar
Gardezi, told newsmen that the new party would redraw provincial boundaries on the
basis of culture, language, geography and history.
Within the Frontier Province, a group of ex-NDP workers attempted to revive the
NAP as they refused to join the NDP. The NDP, by joining the PNA had hoped to find a
foothold in Punjab and also get Wali Khan and others released. But a foothold in Punjab
was costing the party its stronghold in the Frontier Province and Baluchistan. NDP
Chief Sher Baaz Mazari tried to correct the party’s course by coming out of the PNA in
protest against the Alliance’s decision to join the military government in August 1978.
Later, he became a bitter critic of the military regime and demanded more provincial
By joining the government, the PNA isolated itself from the people who were fast
growing sympathetic to persecuted Bhutto, his family and the party. The Muslim
League split into three on provincial lines. The Pir of Pagaro led the faction dominated
by Sindhis; the Punjabi-dominated faction was led by Malik Mohammad Qasim; and
Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan came out to lead his Pathan version of the League. Zia
picked up the Punjabi Muslim Leaguers to be made federal ministers despite the Pir
of Pagaro’s resentment. This undermined Pagaro’s position as the president of the
The PNA fully supported Zia in his plans to execute Bhutto. The PNA leaders
resented mercy appeals from world leaders saying that they amounted to interference
in Pakistan’s internal affairs. They also said that in an Islamic society there was no
question of showing mercy to a man just because he had held high position. The death
sentence on Bhutto, according to them, was Islamic justice. But Bhutto was not tried
according to Islamic laws despite his lawyer Yahya Bakhtiar’s appeals. What morbid
pleasure the PNA derived from Bhutto’s execution was symbolised by Muslim League
member of the military government Chaudhury Zahoor Elahi, who begged Zia to let
him have the pen which he used for rejecting mercy appeals on behalf of Bhutto. Zia
obliged him.
Strategic Analysis
Bhutto executed, Zia now wanted to tell the PNA and others, who had seriously
believed that election would take place on November 17, to forget the elections. He
first asked the PNA to quit the cabinet. The alliance did not think it was a rebuff.
He then openly confronted them by announcing that the proposed November elections would be preceded by elections to local bodies on a non-party basis. The PNA
resented this because it was the job of an elected government to hold such elections.
PNA Chief Mufti Mahmud accused Zia of trying to follow in the footsteps of Ayub
Khan. He feared that these elections to local bodies would be eventually turned into
basic democracies. In fact, in Pakistan the local body elections, held in September 1979,
did not augur well for Zia if he went ahead with holding the promised November election. The majority of the candidates who won the local body elections were supported
by the PPP. They used the phrase ‘Awami Dost’ as a Shibboleth to tell the voters of
their links with the PPP. The government later purged as many pro-PPP councillors as
it suspected.
Simultaneously, with the preparation for the local body elections, Zia was trying
to disabuse the people’s mind from general elections. On August 30, 1979 he amended
the Political Parties Act 1961 laying down a four-point code of conduct. It said:
(1) No political party in receipt of foreign money would be allowed to contest the
general election.
(2) All political parties would have to register themselves within one month of the
enforcement of this amendment.
(3) No party would work against the ideology of Pakistan or cast aspersion on the
judiciary or the armed forces.
(4) All political parties must hold their organisational elections before the general
The amendment also required all political parties to submit their accounts to the
Election Commission. This code of conduct was transparently designed against the
PPP, which was accused by the censored press of receiving foreign money (especially
Soviet). After Bhutto’s removal this party was trying to revive its leftist image to take
students, workers and peasants with it. This turn to the left was condemned as antiIslamic and anti-Pak ideology. Also since its formation in 1967, the party never had
organisational elections. Soon after the July 1977 coup, the party split because Bhutto,
from jail, had appointed Begum Nusrat Bhutto as the acting chairman of the party
and in case she was not able to do so, their daughter Benaziar would act as the chairman. Bhutto’s former information minister, Kauser Niaz, objected to this and was
expelled from the party. It was suspected that he had built up bridges with the military
government. He then formed the Pakistan Progressive Party with the help of some dissenters of the party. Zia wanted to exploit this organisational weakness of the PPP by
demanding that all parties should hold organisational elections.
Just two months before the November elections, Zia sent another shock wave by
declaring that elections would be held on a proportional representation system. Ten
days later (September 23) Zia said that the elections would be held only after it was
assured that the future government would be capable of maintaining national integrity
and ensuring Nizam-i-Mustafa.
Asghar Khan reacted by saying that Zia was a salaried employee who had no business to foist himself on the nation. PNA Chief Maulana Mufti Mahmud rejected the
registration condition and called it undemocratic. The PPP, PNP and NDP also refused
to register.
On October 16, Zia finally cancelled the elections and re-imposed the ban on
political parties and strict censorship on newspapers. He declared that the country was
now under real martial law. At the time of Zia’s action, the Punjab High Court was
Samuel Baid
hearing Asghar’s petition against the martial law in defiance of the Supreme Court’s
verdict of November 11, 1977, allowing Zia to rule with a limited purpose of holding
elections. From the proceedings of the case it appeared that the judges were convinced
of the justification of Asghar’s petition. The petition was considered withdrawn after
Zia’s October 16 action and the petitioner was put under detention.
The disillusioned Asghar Khan had become so bitter that when once Zia said that
the Quran did not say that he should hold elections, he retorted: ‘Does the Quran tell
you to keep on telling lies?’
Zia’s last action had further alienated him from the civilians. Even parties like Jamaati-Islami and the Muslim League who continued to stand by him realised that they were
losing whatever support they had among the voters. So they also occasionally began
demanding elections.
But Zia did not seem to bother about increasing alienation at home because he was
gaining increasing support among Western countries and the pro-West Arab world,
particularly Saudi Arabia, in the wake of the Soviet troops’ entry into Afghanistan and
a violent change of government in that country on December 27, 1979.
Zia cleverly exploited this incident to reinforce his position in Pakistan in the name
of Islam. He gave a cry that due to the Soviet action in Afghanistan Islam was in danger.
The Americans, the Western world and the pro-West Arabs were only too anxious to
come to the rescue of this ‘soldier of Islam’. But they had the uneasy awareness that
major political parties did not consider the Afghan crisis an adequate justification for
not holding elections. In January 1980 when Carter announced a $400 million package
of military and economic aid and resumption of arms supply to Islamabad, the people
were resentful, because this amounted to strengthening the military dictatorship of
Ziaul Haq and consequently obscuring the changes of the restoration of democracy.
Except the government-owned newspapers, the entire press wrote scathing editorials
against the American policies in this region and condemned its attempts to involve
Pakistan in a big-power confrontation. During Lord Carrington’s visit to Pakistan on
March 28, MRD acting president Nafis Sadiqi issued a statement accusing the Western
countries of demanding a popular government in Afghanistan while helping Zia to
rule Pakistan without popular support. The only notable party which supported Zia’s
stand on Afghanistan was the Jamaat-i-Islami which had reportedly got $80 million
from Saudi Arabia in the name of Afghan refugees.
Carter’s offer of help only aggravated the anti-US sentiments which had been
smouldering since the removal of Bhutto in July 1977. Bhutto had blamed the
Americans for his fall. The people believed that without the USA’s connivance
Zia could not have executed Bhutto. They showed their feelings by attacking the
American embassy in Islamabad following the temporary capture of Mecca by rebels
on November 19, 1979.
The attack on the US embassy had some revealing aspects. It was organised by the
student wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami, which was trying to sail in two boats simultaneously: support Zia’s military government while trying to keep its influence among the
people, who were demanding elections. That the Jamaati students had official blessings
for their attack on the embassy was quite evident form the way truck-loads of them
attacked the embassy despite stiff martial law restrictions. The martial law authorities
did not respond to the frantic SOS calls from the embassy officials until the embassy
building was burnt down, six workers, including two Americans, were killed and
women humiliated.
What supposedly motivated the students was an unheard of broadcast by an
unknown radio that Americans had seized Mecca. Later, the Pakistani officials sought
to blame All India Radio for creating this misunderstanding. But significantly, only
Strategic Analysis
a selected few in Pakistan heard this mysterious broadcast. Further intriguing was
Zia’s sudden rush to Saudi Arabia to, as he said, apprise King Khalid of the inflamed
passions of the people of Pakistan against the Mecca incident. The attack on the US
embassy was only an expression of these sentiments. But while Zia was trying to
exploit this incident to endear himself with the Saudi royalty, he too was surprised,
and perhaps alarmed by its fierceness. As press reports subsequently indicated, the
anti-US and anti-Zia forces had displayed their strength by taking advantage of the
official permission to the Jamaati students to raid the embassy. It is also quite possible
that some senior army officers allowed things to come to that pass as a warning to Zia.
Public demonstration in Pakistan takes a threatening turn only if a section of the army
supports them. See, for instance, the anti-Ayub demonstrations during 1967 – 68 and
the anti-Bhutto movement in early 1977.
The government-controlled news media in Pakistan sought to make much of Zia’s
rejection of the US$400 million military and economic aid. But why did Zia reject the US
offer? Before saying yes to this aid, Zia, perhaps, wanted to be clear on some basic questions: will this aid be adequate to face the deceived and angry people of Pakistan and
the increased animosity of the bordering neighbours? Is this aid big enough to please
the hawks and aspirants in the armed forces? The latter section was very important
because due to the non-retirement of General Zia and his senior colleagues, frustration
and disaffection were brewing and threatening to result in conspiracies. Zia needed a
lot of money to buy sophisticated arms for the satisfaction of the hawks and for buying
off the aspirants.
Within the limited means at his disposal, Zia was doing all he could to keep the
armed forces personnel happy. He made them the most privileged section of society.
Officers’ wives were given the privilege to go abroad for shopping at the government’s
expense53 and all the top posts in public sector companies and hotels were reserved for
retired officers. Reservation of seats for the children of army officers was increased in
educational institutions.
All this required much more money than Carter was offering. In view of his requirements, $400 million was really a paltry sum. He, perhaps, wanted the Americans to
adopt him as an alternative to the deposed Shah of Iran and thus underwrite his own
security. This desire was transparent in some of his statements. On February 14, 1979,
he told CBS TV that the Shah was ‘the only stable factor in this region’ and lamented
that Americans were abandoning their friends in this region.54 (This statement was
another example of his dual character. He had otherwise gone into Islamic ecstasy
over the Khomeini revolution in Iran.) On January 17, 1980, he told US newsmen in
Islamabad that Carter’s offer of $400 million was ‘peanuts’. He wanted the USA to
guarantee support to Pakistan in the form of a bilateral treaty. However, he ruled out
construction of bases on Pakistan soil because it would earn the animosity of the Soviet
Union. (However, in June 1981, he told Newsweek International that he was willing to
consider any US request for Pakistani bases or port facilities.) 55 He said the 1959 treaty
was not enough: ‘We are looking for a defence treaty, a friendship treaty in which the
integrity and freedom of Pakistan is guaranteed’. As a model he cited the Indo-Soviet
Treaty and Afghan-Soviet Treaty.
General Zia also made it clear that he would not give up the nuclear programme,
nor would he restore civilian rule in the country ‘for the next few years at least. Please
do not look at Pakistan from American eyes . . . About 75 per cent of the people of
Pakistan are illiterate. Do you expect illiterates to decide for themselves what is good
for them?’
Zia knew that what he was demanding from Washington were not the wishes of
a beggar. Christian America was only too eager to defend Islam from the onslaught
of communists. The extent to which the Americans were ready to support Zia is well
indicated in the suppression of the news of the indignities inflicted on the wives of
the US embassy officials in Islamabad and in Washington’s indifference to Pakistan’s
Samuel Baid
nuclear programme and the suppression of human rights and liberties in that country.
Zia finally got what he wanted on June 15, 1981, when Foreign Minister Agha Shahi
and visiting US Under-Secretary of State for Security Assistance James Buckley signed
an agreement in Islamabad envisaging the sale of F-16 aircraft and other advanced
military hardware to Pakistan in addition to a five-year package of US$3000 million
arms sales and economic aid commencing in October 1982.
Zia successfully crushed a conspiracy within the armed forces against himself in
March 1980. The conspiracy had come to light on March 5 with the arrest of Maj. Gen.
Tajamal Hussain Malik, a retired infantry officer. Besides him, his son, two nephews
and about 20 officers were reportedly detained. Among the conspirators was reported
to be Deputy Chief of the Army Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammad Iqbal Khan. Another name
mentioned in this connection was that of Zia’s right-hand man Lt. Gen. Faiz Ali Chisti,
the former commander of the northern corps. That he was getting fed up with Zia’s
style of rule was clear from a statement he made in London before Pakistani journalists
on February 26, 1980. He said that all governments in Pakistan, without any exception,
had been thrown out of power. No government has ever walked out on its own. He
made this remark when Pakistani journalists told him that the Western press was creating an impression that Zia would not hold elections and transfer power to civilian
Zia dealt with the coup attempt by promoting six major generals to the rank of
lieutenant generals on March 16. Earlier, on March 13, he had promoted Lt. Gen. Iqbal
Khan to the rank of general and appointed him as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Committee. Other officers were sent out of the country on lucrative posts in Saudi
Arabia and other Gulf countries. Later, in April, Zia said the conspiracy was not deeprooted.
Crushing of the army conspiracy proved that Zia did not face a real threat from
this quarter. However, a continued ban on newspapers and suppression of civil liberties and fundamental rights were clear indications that the threat from the civilian
population was very much there. Efforts to divide this population into pro-Islam and
anti-Islam camps did not much succeed.57
Zia’s friends in the Arab world and the Western countries sought to help brighten
up his image by giving him the unique privilege of addressing the UN Special Session
on October 1, 1980, as the representative of 900 million Muslims of the world. This was
played up by the controlled press as the greatest event in Pakistani history. It was an
apparent attempt to tell the people of Pakistan that Zia had done much more commendable service to Islam and to the unity of the Islamic world than what the PPP
claimed for Bhutto. Strangely, while Zia was rehearsing his speech, to be delivered at
the UN Session, communal riots broke out in different parts of India. And this became
part of his speech (without mentioning India by name). Back home, the Pakistani press
was trying to create hysteria against India by publishing exaggerated stories and cartoons about the riots. The apparent idea behind creating the anti-India hysteria in the
name of the Muslim Ummat appeared aimed at bringing the whole Pakistan nation
behind the leadership of Zia, the newly emerged leader of the whole Muslim world.
When Zia came back from New York, he made it very clear that there would be no
restoration of democracy in Pakistan. He told a meeting in Lahore on October 22, 1980,
that ‘unless Islam is enforced in all its aspects in Pakistan, I shall continue to serve the
country as a humble servant of Islam as long as I possess the strength to serve’.
About the system of government in the country, he said ‘. . . in Pakistan sovereignty
lies in Allah and His Deen and none else. There could be no un-Islamic Government in
the country nor could there be the rule of persons upholding un-Islamic values’. 58
Zia faced a fresh challenge to his position in February 1981 when leaders of
nine political parties secretly met and set up an alliance called the Movement for
the Restoration of Democracy. The alliance included PPP, Tehrik, NDP, Muslim
Conference, Muslim League (Khairuddin Group), JUP, JUI and two leftist parties. It
Strategic Analysis
was preceded by the victory of pro-PPP and leftist students at the college and university elections. With the support of students, teachers, lawyers and workers the
movement gained momentum in no time. Zia’s position began to appear shaky. But
things moved into a different direction following the hijacking of a PIA plane on March
2, 1981, to Kabul and thence to Damascus.
Zia used the hijacking incident to put an end to the MRD agitations. The hijackers
were demanding the release of 54 political prisoners in exchange for the hostages. The
Pakistan government was ignoring the demand and blaming the Kabul government
and the PPP for hijacking. The hostages, as they said in interviews after their release,
were convinced that the government was not interested in saving their lives. Thus 15
days were wasted while it was becoming clear that the Zia government was driving
the hijackers to execute their threat of blowing up the plane along with the hostages.
PPP Chairman Nusrat Bhutto condemned the hijacking and said her party had
nothing to do with it. The MRD issued a statement on March 8, accusing the government of trying to exploit the incident instead of saving the lives of the hostages.
On March 15, the Mazdoor Party issued a statement saying it would not condemn the
hijacking because it was the result of Zia’s lawless government. The Jamiat-ul-Ulemai-Pakistan, in its statement on March 23, said that hijacking was bad but worse was
the holding of a nation of 80 million hostage by Zia. The Pakistan government on
March 15 conceded the hijackers’ demand only when they threatened to first kill the
two American passengers aboard the hijacked plane.
Zia said on March 15 that some elements in league with foreign forces were
working against the Islamic order in Pakistan. Taking a cue from this statement the
censorship-bound press began reeling out stories of India’s involvement in the hijacking. India was blamed for financing the PPP. Muslim Conference Chief Sardar Qayyum
Khan, who as MRD president for the month of March cancelled the country-wide agitations programme scheduled for March 23, openly blamed India on March 21 for the
hijacking. He charged that the PPP had spent a lot of money on student union elections.
His press conference was given wide publicity by radio, TV and newspapers despite a
ban. General Zia himself welcomed Qayyum’s statement the following day.
Later, on March 24, Zia tightened his grip further on the country’s affairs by virtually abrogating the 1973 Constitution and replacing it with a Provisional Constitution
Order 1981, which did not admit fundamental rights and provision for any elected
bodies including the National Assembly. In place of this, he provided for a Federal
Council of 350 members to be nominated by him. It took him almost a year to collect 270 persons to join the Council. It had its first session in February 1982. He also
brought the judiciary under his full control by demanding that all judges would have
to take a new oath pledging their loyalty to the martial law. They would not entertain any petition against any action of the martial law authorities. Among those who
refused to take this oath was Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Anwar-ul-Haq who,
in September 1977, had willingly taken the Zia-prescribed oath and became the chief
justice of Pakistan in place of Justice Yaqub Anwarul Haw and had allowed Zia to rule
under the ‘law of necessity’ for the limited purpose of holding elections. He later also
upheld the death sentence on Bhutto. Whenever Zia went abroad he acted as president
although the 1977 Constitution did not entitle the chief justice to perform these duties.
Nor was there any other law under which the chief hustice could perform the duties of
the acting president.
This report appeared in Jang of Karachi at a time when a campaign of vilification was
on against Bhutto soon after his removal from power by Gen/ Ziaul Haq on July 5,
1977. One may question the authenticity of the disclosure. But it is significant, the
Samuel Baid
Times of India then wrote, inasmuch as it reflected the Pakistan people’s obsession with
the fear of further break-up of the country.
Sri Prakasa, Pakistan: Birth and Early Days, New Delhi, p. 181.
Ibid, p. 54.
Nawa-i-Waqt, October 16, 1979.
Imroze, March 25, 1981. He reiterated this in an interview with the Pakistan Times,
March 27, 1981.
Sri Prakasa, no. 2 pp. 56–57.
Khalid B. Sayeed, The Political System of Pakistan, p. 52.
See Churchill’s letter to Jinnah, reproduced by Dawn, April 2, 1981, and also Behind the
Enemy Lines, by Dharmendra Gaur.
Quoted by Sayeed, no. 7 from Dawn, August 18, 1974.
Sri Prakasa, no. 2, p. 85.
Mushtaq Ahmed, Government and Politics in Pakistan, Karachi, p. 21.
Mashriq, October 16, 1979.
M.H. Saiyid, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a Political Study, Lahore, p. 451.
See Samuel Baid and Sreedhar, ‘Pakistan’s Defence Potential’, Foreign Affairs Report,
April 1976.
The 1947 referendum in this province cannot be said to have set aside the 1946 election
A Pakistani poet-journalist from Lahore told this author in February 1981, in New
Delhi, that journalists must decide what arms the Pakistan army should buy and what
defence strategy it should follow. ‘Why not, if the army can tell us what is journalism
and what it is not, why cannot we tell them what is defence and what it is not?’
The five parties were: the Muslim League (Council); the Awami League; the National
Awami Party; the Jamaat-i-Islami; and Nizam-i-Islami.
Many people including Yahya Khan, Asghar Khan and other military writers have
talked about it. But the first inside story of the 1965 war and the Tashkent declaration
was disclosed by Outlook in its issue of January 12, 1974.
Maj. Gen. Fazle Muqueem Khan writes in Pakistan’s Crisis in Leadership, pp. 40–41:
By about August 1970, the appreciation of the government about the outcome of the
forthcoming elections was that out of the 169 seats in the National Assembly for East
Pakistan; Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League would win 46 seats or at the most
60 to 70 seats, the Muslim League 60 seats and the remainder being divided amongst
the other parties including Maulana Bhashani’s National Awami Party and Jamaati-Islami. In West Pakistan the results of elections as envisaged by the president and
his close advisers was that out of 144 National Assembly seats, the Pakistan People’s
Party would win 20 to 30 seats, the three Muslim Leagues 20 to 30 seats each, the
remainder going to the National Awami Party (Wali Group) and the Jamaat-i-Islami.
Yahya’s Constitutional adviser G.W. Choudhury had said in London on September
10, 1970, that there was no question of East Pakistan members forming one single
group in confrontation. ‘. . . If that happened, then it would mean the end of the State,’
Muqueem wrote on p. 41.
D. Shah Khan, ‘Non-Politics in New Pakistan’, Outlook, January 26, 1974, pp. 11–13.
This was alleged by Miss Jinnah during the 1965 presidential elections.
Statesman, January 12, 1972.
Outlook, May 19, 1973.
Pakistan Times, March 29, 1973.
National Herald, January 9, 1972.
Salmaan Taseer, Bhutto, a Political Biography, Delhi, 1980, p. 149.
Shahid Javed Burki,0 Pakistan under Bhutto, 1971-77, London, 1980, p. 73.
Al Fatah, April 29–May 6, 1977.
Al Fatah, September 25–30, 1977.
This includes Tehrik-i-Istiqlal as this party has no member in the National Assembly.
The party chief Ashar Khan had argued that the Assembly based on the 1970 elections
results was not a legal body and therefore not competent to make the Constitution.
Strategic Analysis
White Paper on the Conduct of the General Elections in March 1977, produced by the
Pakistan government in July 1978. Annexure pp. 270–271.
35. Jang wrote on July 14, 1977, that the FSF was responsible for explosions in Baluchistan.
36. In August 1976, the Afghan deputy foreign minister and Pakistan’s foreign minister
of state for foreign affairs prepared a draft agreement in Lahore calling for the simultaneous release of NAP leaders by the Pakistan government and the recognition of the
Durand Line by Afghanistan.
37. Al Fatah, February 25–March 4, 1977.
38. This was disclosed by Tehrik Chief Asghar Khan and JUP President Maulana Shah
ahmed Noorani.
39. Al Fatah, no. 37.
40. The PNA had boycotted the elections in Baluchistan in protest against the continuance
of the army in that province.
41. The text of the report was reproduced by Akhbar-i-Jahan, November 27–December 4,
42. Al Fatah, May 20–27, 1977.
43. Jang, June 4, 1977.
44. Dawn, July 3, 1977.
45. Denzil Peiris, Far Eastern Economic Review, October 14, 1977.
46. Samachar, November 13, 1977.
47. Denzil Peiris, no. 45, quotes Ziaul Haq as saying that he was told by Defence Minister
Tikka Khan: ‘You can shoot down between 10,000 and 20,000 people. That is nothing.
It’s in the national interest.’ Tikka Khan denied this.
48. This statement was not allowed to be published in Pakistan. It was later published in
New Delhi in a book form under the name, ‘If I am Assassinated. . .’ by Vikas with an
introduction by Pran Chopra.
49. Pakistan Times, July 17, 1977.
50. Pakistan Times, September 29, 1977.
51. Pakistan Times, September 2, 1977.
52. Kayhan International, July 18, 1977.
53. This was told to this writer by a senior Pakistani journalist who was asked how the
other army officers were tolerating Zia.
54. Pakistan Times, February 15, 1979.
55. Statesman, June 9, 1981.
56. Daily News (Karachi), February 26, 1980.
57. See ‘How Islamic is Islamic Resurgence’, IDSA Journal, April–June 1979.
58. Pakistan Times, October 23, 1980.
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