General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (12 August 1924 – 17 August
1988) was the sixth President of Pakistan from July
1977 to his death in August 1988. Distinguished by his role in the Black
September in Jordan military
operation in 1970, he was appointed Chief of Army Staff in 1976.
After widespread civil disorder, he overthrew ruling Prime
Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in a bloodless coup d'état on
5 July 1977 and became the state's third ruler to impose martial law. He
initially ruled as Chief Martial Law Administrator, but later installed
himself as the President of Pakistan in September 1978.
Zia's major domestic initiatives included the consolidation
of the fledgling nuclear program, which was initiated by Zulfiqar Ali
Bhutto, denationalization and deregulation and the state's
Islamization. His tenure saw the disbanding of the Baloch insurgency. His
endorsement of the Pakistan Muslim League (the founding party of Pakistan)
initiated its mainstream revival. However, 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. He was described by
some as a "fundamentalist Sunni dictator".
Zia died along with several of his top generals and
then-United States Ambassador to PakistanArnold Lewis Raphel in a
suspicious aircraft crash near Bahawalpur (Punjab) on 17 August 1988.
Zia was born in Jalandhar, British India, in 1924
as the second child of an Arain, Muhammad Akbar, who worked as a
senior clerk in the Army GHQ in Delhi and
After graduation from St Stephen's College in Delhi, Zia joined
the British Indian Army in 1943. He married Shafiq Jahan in 1951. One
of his sons went into politics (Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq) becoming a cabinet
minister in the government of Nawaz Sharif. He completed his initial
education in Simrla and then at St. Stephen's College, Delhi.
General Zia-ul-Haq died in a plane crash on 17 August 1988.
After witnessing a US M1 Abrams tank demonstration in Bahawalpur, Zia had left the small town in the Punjab province by C-130 Hercules aircraft.
Shortly after a smooth take-off, the control tower lost contact with the
aircraft. Witnesses who saw the plane in the air afterward claim it was flying
erratically, then nosedived and exploded on impact. In addition to Zia, 31
others died in the plane crash, including Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
Committee General Akhtar Abdur Rehman, close associate of General
Zia Brigadier Siddiquer Salik, the American Ambassador to
Pakistan Arnold Raphel and General Herbert M. Wassom, the head of the
U.S. Military aid mission to Pakistan. Ghulam
Ishaq Khan, the Senate Chairman announced Zia's death on radio and TV. The
manner of his death has given rise to many conspiracy theories. There is
speculation that America, India, the Soviet Union (as retaliation for
US-Pakistani supported attacks in Afghanistan) or an alliance of them
and internal groups were behind the attack.
A board of inquiry was set up to investigate the crash. It
concluded the most probable cause of the crash was a criminal act of
sabotage perpetrated in the aircraft. It also suggested that poisonous gases
were released which incapacitated the passengers and crew, which would explain
why no Mayday signal was given.
His funeral was held on 19 August 1988 in Islamabad. Also in
attendance was his successor President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, who had earlier
officially announced Zia's death in a nationwide address. Zia's body was buried
in a small tomb outside the Faisal Mosque.