Military Rule in Pakistan

Why military-ruled Pakistan for more than 3 decades?

It was a moment of joy  for the Muslims of this continent, when Pakistan emerged on the map of this world on 14 august 1947. The country, which was created for the sole purpose of being an Islamic state, has failed to achieve its purpose as crafted by its forefathers. The idea of Pakistan presented in Pakistan Resolution on 23 march 1940 was to provide independent states to the Muslim majority areas, and to provide protection to its minorities. After seven decades of its independence, its well-wishers and patriotic citizens are still searching and hoping for Pakistan, for which their ancestors sacrificed their wealth and families. Who is responsible for Pakistan’s steady growth as compared to its neighbour’s? This question is easy in that context that you can blame anyone forms the military to parliament and from the judiciary to other independent organizations.

The luck was not on the side of this country when its founding father Quaid-I-Azam Muhammad Ali Jannah died just after 13 months of independence. Leonard Mosley called the creation of Pakistan a “one-man achievement”. It is true in many aspects that political stability went into turmoil after the death of its Quaid, As we did not had any other political leader of Quaid’s calibre, who could have hold this country tight and guide towards its prosperity and development. The statement of Beverly Nicholas showed the danger which stated that if Gandhi goes, there is always Nehru, or Rajagopalachari, or Patel or a dozen others. But if Jinnah goes, who is there? The reason behind this lack of political leadership is that, unlike Congress, the Muslim league was just a platform for Muslims for their freedom movement, it was never a political party. After the departure of Quaid-I-Azam, everyone tried to use this system and government for their use and benefits. The differences between the political leadership started from Quaid and Liaqat Ali khan, what Liaqat Ali khan did in the last moments of our Quaid may have been the start of exploitation by the leadership of this country.

Inauguration of Coup Legacy

This country has been ruled by military leadership for more than 3 decades. Now, it should be consulted with the history that what were the conditions and environment at those times when military coups took place. It is very important to know here who started the legacy of the coup. It was started in 1953 when Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad dismissed Khawaja Nizamuddin from prime ministership under Article 10 of India Act 1935 despite having support from the constituent Assembly of Pakistan. Then the same governor-general dismissed the constituent assembly of Pakistan to prevent it from changing the constitution to restrict the governor-general powers. The courts also failed to support representative institutions, the Molvi Tamizuddin khan case became a seed to support coups like this under the doctrine of necessity.

It was an abominate chapter of Pakistan’s history in which a patient of paralysis was made governor-general who was not even able to speak clearly, yet he took decisions which consequences are still prevalent in Pakistan’s politics. It is unimaginable that how a person with paralysis ruled a newly born country of 75 Million citizens as governor-general for almost 4 years, certainly gave passage to other attempts to seize the power.

1st Era of Military’s Rule

General Ayub and Major General Iskander Mirza were a firm supporter of Malik Ghulam Muhammad. This is the reason when they saw that now the governor is not in a position to continue further they took his resignation and Iskander Mirza become 4th Governor-General of Pakistan in 1955. He was a party man as per people who worked with him but he made Chaudhary Muhammad Ali prime minister in 1955 who was much honest and sincere to Pakistan then all other political leaders at that time. Chaudhary Muhammad Ali enforced the first constitution of Pakistan on 23 March 1956. Under the new constitution Iskander Mirza become the first president of Pakistan, his powers were restrained beneath the constitution. Chaudhary Muhammad Ali voluntarily resigned. He knew the dirt is coming into politics through Iskander Mirza because he was afraid of democracy and wanted to rule as a dictator. The chapter of Extension to military commanders was also started at that time and Iskander Mirza was the person who started it, he gave 2 years extension to Ayub khan in 1958 and ironically in the same year, military-ruled started in Pakistan through Ayub Khan. As per the 1956 constitution president had to resign and reelect again. It was a death for Iskander Mirza as he was no were in the race to win President’s Election so he tried to suspend the election, in the meantime, he abolished the 1956 constitution on the 8th of October 1958 which paved the way for Ayub’s rule. His greed for being president did not let Ayub khan continue with his close friend.

Pro’s and Con’s of Ayub’s Government

General Ayub khan’s era was very critical for this country as in this period many important seeds were sowed. On a positive note, Pakistan prospered in the fields of trade and agriculture, Mangla and tarbela dams were started, relation with the USA and china got better, Pakistan became self-sufficient in wheat production. Indus basin water treaty of 1960 also goes into Ayub’s basket. On the contrary, he barred many politicians from politics for seven years under EBDO to remove any resistance against him, in his era east and West Pakistan went far from each other. He enforced the 1962 constitution and started formal politics through a presidential election under this constitution. Unfortunately, his opponent was Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, sister of our founding father. All the cheap tricks were used against her, tried to malign her character, in the end, Ayub won this election which is known as an openly rigged election. Like his predecessors, he also tried to rule this country forever but in 1969 movements of his ouster started to gain momentum and by foreseeing his future he resigned as a president and General Yahya Khan became the second chief martial law administrator.

General Yahya’s indecent rule

General Yahya khan was the second military leader who won the lottery to rule Pakistan. His 2 years rule from 1969-1971 considered to be the darkest time of Pakistan when it was torn into two pieces. He was not financially corrupt but his characteristics were not alike a leader of an Islamic nation. The Hammod ur Rahman commission report on the fall of Dhaka clearly showed how personal attributes were detrimental for this country and why our forces had to surrender in East Pakistan. Although that commission report was never made official which itself anguish for this nation whose offenders never got punishment for their acts who plundered this country. The only positive aspect of his rule was the election of 1970 which is considered to be one of the fairest elections of this country so far. But he and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto did not let the Mujeeb ur Rehman be in power although Mujeeb was in a position to make government, resultantly Bangladesh came into being whose seeds were already growing during Ayub’s era. To sum up all the time of General Yahya’s rule it can be said that it was the most indecent time for Pakistan and its armed forces. After the fall of Dhaka mutiny was started against General Yahya in the army as no one wanted to work for this obscene leader, ultimately the rule was transferred from Yahya to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1971.

Bhutto’s nationalism

When Bhutto came into power after 13 years of military rule, he had huge challenges waiting for him like the return of prisoners of wars from India, 5000 square miles of lost territory, economic crisis and many ravaged institutions. The 1st success Bhutto got through Simla Agreement in 1972 and used his persuasive skills against Indra Gandhi to release POWs and Pakistan territory, this agreement earned him respect back home from both civilians and military. His economic policies revolved around nationalism which led to the nationalization of many industries. Bhutto brought land reforms to break the hold of feudal lords, though he was himself a feudal lord, the limit for owning land was reduced from 500 acres to 150 acres in 1972. But these land reforms benefited only 1% of landless tenants. Another achievement of Bhutto’s government was to enforce the 1973 constitution. Under this constitution, he becomes the first elected prime minister of Pakistan. He was a common man’s leader but his arrogant actions and inability to bear dissent made him a civilian dictator. The situation started to deteriorate in 1977 when Bhutto called for early elections. At the time Bhutto was in a germane position to win, no single party was in a position to beat Bhutto, so the opposition made an alliance of 9 parties which was called the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). Though PNA was getting momentum in its election campaign there was no need to foul play and rig the election, which the Bhutto did and secured 155 seats against 36 of PNA, it was a shock for both parties and resultantly PNA boycotted provincial elections and went for extensive street protests. To suppress his opponents he made his private military force in the shape of Federal Security force (FSF), he did all to his criticizers what dictators could have done, and he made so many enemies through his behaviour and actions who were just looking for the right time to settle his scores. At last, the force he made for his opponents later became a cause of his death punishment. It is also a part of history that Bhutto was brave enough to decline 10 years exile offer from Saudi Arabia, which was later availed by Nawaz Sharif.

Opposition’s critical mistake to launch Military rule in 1977

It is very critical to understand that why a general like Zia ul Haq who was made Army chief by Bhutto after superseding many generals, imprisoned Bhutto and imposed martial law. Zia Shahid in his book “Batian Siysatdanon ki” wrote that Bhutto used to call Zia ul Haq a monkey and once called him monkey in front of Iranian monarch- Raza Shah Pahlavi. It is recorded that Zia ul Haq was encouraged by the opposition parties to oust Bhutto, Air Marshal Asghar Khan wrote a letter to three service chiefs including Zia ul Haq to rise against Bhutto. It was the result of instigation by political parties due to which Gen Zia declared martial law on July 5, 1977, and imprisoned Bhutto in a case which was believed to be fixed from the start.

Nawaz Sharif’s entry

Pakistan was very unfortunate that anyone with resources came into power no matter what are their expertise. Similarly, Nawaz Sharif suddenly came into politics and became Chief Minister of the country’s largest province of Punjab in 1985 with the help of Gen Zia ul Haq. Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain in his autobiography wrote that Nawaz Sharif was the first time made chief minister with their help on the request of General Jillani and Brigadier Retired Qyuoom who were representative of General Zia Ul Haq. The gradually political commotion continued till 1999 when General Pervez Musharraf overthrew Nawaz’s government.

1999 Coup

Kargil war played a major role in creating differences between Nawaz Sharif and General Pervez Musharraf. Gen Musharraf wanted to settle the score with India for the siachin post which was arrogated by Indian in General Zia’s rule. Though Nawaz Sharif argued that he was not aware of Kargil and military leadership did not take him in confidence about Kargil but his that time interior minister Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain wrote in his biography about briefing with dates. So it may show some guile behaviour from the Nawaz’s side. It is very ironic that the Father of Nawaz Sharif, Mian Muhammad Sharif called Gen Musharraf his fourth son but also advised Nawaz to remove him from his post, so it was a malafide intent on the Sharif family’s side. The last nail in the Nawaz coffin was the episode of Musharraf’s aeroplane high jacking attempt which ultimately led to the ravage of democracy once again.


It is very clear from history that every coup was the result of instigation and greed of power from both sides. It can also be the fault of the system as well maybe we are sailing on the wrong ship. As Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government”. Here is a counter-argument about democracies in other parts of the world who never witnessed any coup or somehow tackled and defeated attempts of the coup. It is different in Pakistan because we don’t have a purely political party with leaders having a broad vision and think beyond the scope of making money for individual needs. It is evident from history that whenever the coup took place, part of the politicians was always behind it and gave their full support. Additionally, the public never expressed their outrage against coups openly. If the nation had shown some courage to resist then it was not possible for some generals or politicians to negatively use their powers in favour of their desires.

About Muhammad Haris

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