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General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, was the fourth chief martial law administrator and sixth president of Pakistan. He was born on 12 August, 1924 in Jalandhar, India, and died on 17 August, 1988. Zia was born in Jalandhar, India, in 1924 as the second child of Muhammad Akbar, who worked in the Army GHQ in Delhi and Simla pre-partition.
He completed his initial education in Simla and then attended St. Stephen’s College, Delhi for his graduate degree. After graduation from St. Xavier College, Zia joined the British Indian Army in 1943.Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto appointed him Chief of Army Staff in 1976, after retiring seven lieutenant-general in order to promote Zia ul Haq, to four star rank. On July 5, 1977 Zia Ul Haq, planned and overthrew the ruling Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in a coup d’état, getting advantage of widespread civil disorder. He became the state’s third ruler to impose martial law. The primary line of his military government was his idea of religious conservatism in Pakistan. After getting power throughout the 80’s Zia managed to get more and more powers in his hands, and slowly and gradually put down all the opposing forces in Pakistan. Initially he started his rule as Chief Martial Law Administrator, but later became the president of Pakistan. Zia forcefully crushed the secular-communist and socialist democratic struggle led by Benazir Bhutto the eldest daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Zia abandoned the previous economical policies of Bhutto, and replaced them with capitalism and privatization of the major industries of Pakistan that had been nationalized by Bhutto in 1970s. During his regime, the Pakistan economy became one the fastest growing economies in South Asia. However, during this period of economic and social change, Zia curbed and violently dealt with the political rivals in 1980s. His reign is often regarded as a period of mass military repression in which hundreds of thousands of political rivals, minorities, and journalists were executed or tortured.
Domestically Zia initiated the consolidation of nuclear development earlier initiated by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. He is also remembered for denationalization and deregulation and the state’s Islamization. During his tenure the Baloch insurgency was disbanded. He is most remembered for his foreign policy; the subsidizing of the Mujahideen movement during the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which led to the Soviet-Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan Socialist Republic. Zia entered into an undeclared secret war with Soviet Afghanistan and its ally Soviet Union. Zia authorized secret funding and expansion of intelligence operations in Pakistan and abroad, initially focusing on anti-communist operations. He was described by some as a “fundamentalist Sunni dictator”. Zia was commissioned in the British Indian Army in a cavalry regiment on May 12, 1943 and served against Nazi Germany and its allies in World War II. After Pakistan gained its independence, Zia joined the newly formed Pakistan Army as a Major. His regiment was now the Guides Cavalry Frontier Force Regiment. He was trained in the United States in 1962–1964 at the US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After that, he returned to take over as Directing Staff (DS) at Command and Staff College, Quetta. During the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, Zia was a tank commander.
Zia was stationed in Jordan from 1967 to 1970 as a Brigadier, helping in the training of Jordanian soldiers, as well as leading the training mission into battle during the Black September operations as commander of Jordanian 2nd Division, a strategy that proved crucial to King Hussein’s remaining in power. By 1973, then Major General Zia was commanding the 1st Armored Division at Multan.
He was then promoted as Lieutenant General and was appointed commander of the II Strike Corps at Multan in 1975. It was during this time that Zia invited Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto as the Colonel-in-Chief of the Armored Corps at Multan, using his tailor to stitch the Blue Patrols of his size. The next day, Bhutto was requested to climb a tank and engage a target, where the target was quite obviously hit. After the function, Zia met Bhutto, placed his hand on the Qur’an and said, “You are the savior of Pakistan and we owe it to you to be totally loyal to you”.
On March 1, 1976, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto approved then-3 star general Lieutenant-General Zia as Chief of Army Staff and to be elevated to 4 star rank. This promotion was ahead of a number of more senior officers. This promotion was highly controversial but had political motives for Bhutto, who saw Zia as firmly religious and an apolitical military figure that had distaste of politics.
Having known the weaknesses of the government Zia imposed Martial Law, and from then on started his rule, which obviously are remembered as one of the unfortunate phase of Pakistan history.
Zia died along with several of his top generals and admirals and the then United States Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Lewis Raphel in a suspicious air crash near Bahawalpur (Punjab) on 17 August 1988.