From Ayub Khan to Ziaul Haq
When the British finally decided to divide India into two sovereign States, it was reluctant to divide the Indian Army. Quad-e-Azam was repeatedly advised to desist from division but he stood firm saying ‘a country is not sovereign without its own armed forces to defend its sovereignty’. On August 14, 1947, the day Pakistan was born; Lt Gen Sir Frank Messervy was appointed C-in-C Pakistan Army and promoted to the rank of General. On October 27, 1947, Indian troops landed in Srinagar to prevent its imminent fall at the hands of tribesmen who had reached Baramula. Messervy was succeeded by Gen Sir Douglas Gracey on February 10, 1948. He served as C-in-C till January 17, 1951 and during this period he was witness to Indo-Pak Kashmir war which terminated on January 1, 1949.
Gen Muhammad Ayub Khan (January 16, 1951 – October 26, 1958) succeeded Gracey as the first native C-in-C of Pakistan Army. He superseded Maj Gen Akbar Khan, Maj Gen NAM Raza on his elevation: Soon after taking over, he was faced with a conspiracy against the State in March 1951 headed by CGS Maj Gen Akbar Khan, half a dozen Brigs and Faiz Ahmad Faiz. They felt that agreement to ceasefire in Kashmir was ill-timed and had denied Pakistan an opportunity to settle the issue in its favor. All were tried and awarded punishments.
On October 16, 1951, PM Liaquat Ali Khan during his address in Liaquat Bagh was shot dead by an Afghan national Said Akbar. He was killed by the police but the plotters could not be traced. Recent declassification of US State Department has revealed that the US had a hand in his assassination. It was disenchanted with Liaquat since he was not ready to toe the US line. His death gave a deathblow to democracy. On March 6, 1953, Martial Law was imposed in Lahore in the wake of riots agitated by Jamaat-e-Islami led religious forces against Ahmadis. Maj Gen Azam Khan managed to restore the situation in one month. In October 1954, Gen Ayub Khan was given additional portfolio of Defence Minister by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad to promote proximity between military and bureaucracy. Later on, Ayub was given extension in service. On October 7, 1958, President Iskandar Mirza sacked Feroz Khan Noon government, abrogated 1956 Constitution, imposed martial law and appointed Gen Ayub as PM. On October 28, 1958, Ayub Khan removed Iskandar Mirza and occupied his seat. He appointed Gen Muhammad Musa (October 27, 1958 – June 17, 1966) as his C-in-C, who superseded Maj Gen Sher Ali Khan Pataudi, Maj Gen Latif Khan and Maj Gen Adam Khan. Musa served Ayub most loyally.
After seeing the deleterious role of politicians from 1948 to 1958 during which seven PMs changed hands, Ayub Khan placed the corrupt, inept and scheming politicians in suspended animation through EBDO. As long as he kept them out of reach, he achieved outstanding results. His crafty and highly ambitious Foreign Minister ZA Bhutto whom he had groomed prevailed upon him and brought the discarded politicians back to life in 1964. Gen Muhammad Yahya Khan (June 18, 1966 – December 20, 1971) was designated Deputy C-in-C in March 1966. He later became the C-in-C in June 1966. He superseded Lt Gen Altaf Qadir and Lt Gen Bakhtiar Rana. Ayub Khan was appointed Field Marshal because of his extraordinary all-round reforms.
During his ten years rule, Ayub Khan expanded and modernized armed forces, strengthened economy and made Pakistan strong. He did a lot to uplift East Pakistan and bring it at par with West Pakistan. The politicians after re-entering the political arena recommenced their old game of intrigues and power politics and they didn’t rest till they forced Ayub Khan to resign and thus end the golden period of Pakistan. In the face of countrywide agitations spearheaded by ZA Bhutto and Mujibur Rehman, and failure of Round Table Conference despite Ayub agreeing to all the demands of the opposition, he handed over the reins of power to Gen Yahya Khan in March 1969. The latter imposed martial law and abrogated 1962 Constitution.
Yahya Khan went out of the way to appease the Bengalis but all his efforts to remove their grievances proved in vain because of obduracy of Mujib and uncompromising attitude of Bhutto, former wanting the whole cake and the latter hungering for half cake. While the two power hungry demagogues never tired of sabre rattling, the rebels aided by Indian military kept jolting the eastern province. Yahya and his team remained under the misplaced belief till the very end that the Indians were interested in capturing chunk of East Pakistan territory only. He kept fiddling with his flute while Pakistan kept sinking and ultimately breaking into two on December 16, 1971.
Rather than holding Bhutto accountable for the dismemberment of Pakistan, Lt Gen Gul Hassan and Air Chief Marshal Rahim Khan helped ZA Bhutto to takeover power on December 20, 1971 and wear the hats of President, CMLA and later PM and becoming absolute ruler. Bhutto elevated Gul Hassan to the post of COAS (December 20, 1971 – March 3, 1972). He was the only 3 star C-in-C we ever had. He superseded Lt Gen Tikka Khan but the latter continued to serve under him. Gen Yahya Khan was put under house arrest. Within three months, Gul Hassan was removed on March 2, 1972 and replaced by Gen Tikka Khan on March 3, 1972. He was the only superseded Lt Gen to become Army Chief in our history. He was promoted full Gen on seniority and did not supersede any officer.
Hamoodur Rahman Commission set up by Bhutto in 1974 was given a limited scope. It recommended trial of Gen Yahya Khan and ten other generals for the humiliating defeat in East Pakistan in the 1971 war. Despite Yahya’s pleadings, he was not put on trial and he died a lonely man. Bhutto in the meanwhile made seven amendments in the 1973 Constitution he authored, created dreaded FSF, opened Dalai camp and authorized ISI to meddle in political affairs, all in his bid to arrogate full power and muffle opposition.
After Gen Tikka’s retirement on March 1, 1976, the junior most Corps Commander Gen Ziaul Haq was picked by Bhutto as next COAS (March 1, 1976 – August 17, 1988) because Bhutto thought he was the most loyal and docile General among the contenders. Zia superseded Lt Gen Muhammad Shariff, Lt Gen Aftab Ahmad Khan, Lt Gen Akbar Khan, Lt Gen Azmat Baksh Awan, Lt Gen Ghulam Jilani and Lt Gen Abdul Majid Malik.
In the wake of political agitations by PNA, Bhutto was forced to impose martial law in three major cities. Refusal of opposition parties to find a political way out of the deadlock impelled Gen Zia to sack Bhutto and take over power on July 5, 1977. His takeover was rejoiced by the politicians. He wanted to hold elections within 90 days but the politicians prevailed upon him and prevented him from doing so knowing that Bhutto would again win. An FIR registered in 1974 was put out of the freezer and Bhutto put under trial of murder of father of Ahmad Raza Kasuri. He was convicted by four judges of Supreme Court, with three judges dissenting, and awarded death sentence. The whole lot of politicians made sure that Bhutto was hanged to death on April 4, 1979.
During his eleven years rule, Zia made an effort to Islamize the society which had been given heavy doses of secularism by Bhutto. He also bolstered the economy badly ruined by nationalization and raised the GDP to 7%. His all out support to the Mujahideen fighting the Soviet forces in Afghanistan resulted in defeat and ouster of Soviets and enhancement of his and Pakistan’s stature in the world. During the Afghan war, Pakistan had to brave KGB-RAW-KHAD-AlZulfiqar onslaughts and sectarianism sponsored by foreign powers. Despite extreme Indo-US-Israeli-western pressure, Zia took advantage of US compulsions and completed the process of nuclear enrichment by 1984.
From June 1988 onwards he was cautioned by the intelligence agencies to remain extra vigilant and not to move out of Rawalpindi since he had made too many sworn enemies. Among his detractors were the PML (Junejo League), PPP, Shias in Pakistan, Soviet installed regime in Afghanistan, India, Soviet Union, USA, and Israel. On his return from Bahawalpur after witnessing MI tank trials in Khairpur Tamewali, the C-130 plane carrying 31 passengers crashed mysteriously on August 17, 1988 in which he and 12 top Generals including CJSC Gen Akhtar Abdul Rahman, American ambassador and military attaché died. It was and still is speculated that it was an act of sabotage.
Over one million mourners including Afghan refugees attended his funeral and many moving scenes were witnessed. He was buried within the picturesque premises of Faisal Mosque in Islamabad with full military honors. He was allotted this place in recognition of his services rendered for the promotion of cause of Islam. Among all the political/military rulers of Pakistan, Zia was the humblest. He was a practicing Muslim ruler, who never missed his prayer. The Khateeb of President House mosque lamented that he could never come before him to the mosque for Tahajat.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, war veteran, author of several books, member Executive Council PESS, Director MEASAC Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Thinkers Forum Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org