Zia ul-Haq

Pakistan Table of Contents

General Zia ul-Haq, chief of the army staff, became chief martial law administrator in July 1977 and president in September 1978. He suspended the constitution, with the army's stated objective being to create an environment in which fair elections could be held. However, Bhutto, his primary opponent, was tried and sentenced to death in 1978 on the charge of conspiring to murder a political opponent. The Supreme Court upheld the sentence, and Bhutto was hanged in April 1979. Zia cancelled the elections that had been promised and kept the country under martial law until 1985. During this time, Zia pressed the policy that Pakistan's survival and progress were dependent on building an Islamic state. A number of measures were taken to implement this policy, including the introduction of the Federal Shariat Court. A referendum held in 1984 confirmed Zia's policy of Islamization. In this referendum, a "yes" vote agreeing with Zia's Islamization policy was also to be interpreted as a vote for Zia to remain in office as president for another five years. According to the results reported by the government but contested by the opposition, Zia obtained 98 percent of total votes cast.

Zia's government also adapted Ayub's Basic Democracies structure to institute a new system of local government. Local councils were organized into tiers with union councils at the base, tehsil (subdistrict) councils above them, and zilla (district) councils at the apex. The system also included municipal committees and municipal corporations in the larger metropolitan centers. Councillors were elected for fouryear terms and could stand for reelection. The councils were designed to meet a need for grass-roots expression. Elections were conducted without formal political party affiliation or involvement. The councils were to concentrate on improving local development, including agricultural production, education, health, roads, and water supply.

In 1985 elections were held for both the national and the provincial assemblies, an amended version of the 1973 constitution was reinstated, and martial law was ended. Zia remained president, and the amended constitution, including the controversial Eighth Amendment passed by the National Assembly in November 1985, gave predominant political authority to the president. The president could appoint and dismiss the prime minister and the provincial governors and could dissolve both the national and the provincial assemblies. A significant feature of the 1973 constitution as amended in 1985, insofar as the Islamization process was concerned, was that the Objectives Resolution, adopted by the first Constituent Assembly in 1949 and made a preamble to the 1956, 1962, and 1973 constitutions, was incorporated as a substantive part (Article 2- A) of this restored constitution. The Objectives Resolution provided, in part, that Pakistan would be a state "wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and the Sunna."

Political parties were not allowed to participate in the 1985 elections, and the PPP, led by Benazir Bhutto (Zulfiqar's daughter), boycotted them. After the elections, Zia picked Mohammad Khan Junejo, a politician from Sindh and a minister in one of his earlier cabinets, as his prime minister. The ZiaJunejo period lasted three years until Zia dismissed the prime minister and dissolved the National Assembly and the four provincial assemblies. Zia cited incompetence, corruption, and failure to further the Islamization process as reasons for his actions. In addition, Zia came to regard Junejo as too independent, and the two men clashed on a number of issues including differences on policy relating to Afghanistan and promotions in the armed services. Zia also announced that new elections would be held.

Zia's sudden death in a airplane crash in August 1988 near Bahawalpur, a town in central Punjab, left Pakistan without a president, prime minister, or national or provincial assemblies. In a demonstration of the country's resilience, Ghulam Ishaq Khan, the chairman of the Senate--which had not been dissolved by Zia--and next in the constitutional line of succession, became interim president in December. Elections were held, Benazir became prime minister, and Ishaq Khan was subsequently elected president.

Data as of April 1994

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress