General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (August 12, 1924–August 17, 1988) ruled Pakistan from 1977 to 1988. Zia-ul-Haq was the third person in the history of Pakistan to enforce martial law and halt civilian rule in the country.
He was born in Jalunder (in present day India) in 1924 as the second child of a school teacher named Mohammad Akram. He completed his initial education in Simla and then in Delhi. He was commissioned in the British Army in 1943 and served during World War II. At independence, Zia joined the Pakistani Army as a major. He trained in the United States 1962–1964 at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Zia was stationed in Jordan from 1967 to 1970, helping in the training of Jordanian soldiers. On 1 April 1976, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto appointed Zia-ul-Haq as Chief of Army Staff, ahead of a number of more senior officers.
On July 5, 1977, Zia led a coup against Bhutto's government, and enforced martial law. He promised elections within three months. Zia released Bhutto and said that he could contest new elections in October 1977. However, after it became clear that Bhutto's popularity had survived his government, Zia postponed the elections and began criminal investigations of the senior PPP leadership. Bhutto was sentenced to death. Despite international appeals, Bhutto was hanged on April 6, 1979.
In the mid 1980s, Zia decided to fulfill his promise of holding elections. Before handing over power, however, he decided to secure his position. A referendum was held in December 1984, and the option was to elect or reject the General as the future President. The question asked in the referendum was phrased in such a way that Zia-ul-Haq's victory was related to the process of Islamization in the country. More than 95% of the vote was cast in favor of Zia-ul-Haq, thus he was elected President for five years.
In early 1988, rumours about the differences between the Prime Minister and Zia-ul-Haq were rife. The president, who had enjoyed absolute power for eight years, was not ready to share it with anybody else. On May 29, 1988 Zia-ul-Haq finally dissolved the National Assembly and removed the Prime Minister under article 58(2) b of the amended Constitution.
After eleven years, Zia-ul-Haq once again promised the nation that he would hold fresh elections within next ninety days. With Benazir Bhutto back in the country and his popularity at an all time low, Zia was trapped in the most difficult situation of his political life. The only option left was to repeat history and to postpone the elections once again. Before he had made a decision, however, Zia-ul-Haq died in a plane crash on August 17, 1988. His death is still a controversial topic in Pakistan. Many people do not believe that it was a simple accident, and hold either the United States or the Soviet Union responsible for Zia-ul-Haq's death. But no evidence has yet come to light to prove either theory.
Zia-ul-Haq's remains are housed in a small shrine outside the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.
Category:Presidents of Pakistan Category:Chiefs of Army Staff, Pakistan