Ghost of Gen Ziaul Haq still haunts seculars

Asif Haroon Rajaziaul haq

Ziaul Haq’s ghost still haunts the liberals and seculars, which means his legacy is winning. They see him as the vilest man ever born in Pakistan and responsible for the malaise in the society. What a big joke and travesty of truth. None can deny that unlike stiff-necked Pakistani Generals, and that too with all powers in his hand; he was humble, courteous and led a simple and austere life. He neither indulged in corruption nor encouraged others to do so. He never missed his prayer and tahajat. He forbade obscenity, vulgarity, immorality and tried hard to implement Islamic laws in the country to the best of his ability. ZA Bhutto wanted to turn Karachi into another Lebanon not knowing the fate awaiting Lebanon. The society that had started to drift towards secularism under ZA Bhutto was checkmated and put on Islamic path by Zia.

His strong belief in Allah and strong character gave him courage to stand up to the Soviet challenge. Any secular leader in his place would have panicked and either ignored the occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet forces or lent support to their aggression against a Muslim neighbor. We have a living example of Gen Musharraf who buckled under pressure and to this day Pakistan is suffering. The US, western world and Saudi Arabia promoted religious extremism in Pakistan by backing holy warriors to fight atheists. In the aftermath of Afghan war, both Saudi Arabia and Iran fomented sectarian war in Pakistan. Non-resolution of Kashmir issue and outbreak of armed uprising in Indian occupied Kashmir gave fillip to religious extremism. So, how come only Zia is held responsible for militarizing Pak society?

Zia introduced clauses of Articles 62 and 63 in the 1973 constitution to prevent corrupt and immoral politicians from entering the legislature. Despite sustained propaganda campaign launched by seculars and PPP to project him as a bigoted Mullah and a hypocrite who misused Islam to prolong his stay in power, they have utterly failed to wish away his legacy. It has rather gained in strength and Islamic fervor is on the rise. The true worth of democracy has been exposed by the coalition government of liberal parties led by PPP.

While the people are demanding strict scrutiny of contesting candidates in accordance with Articles 62 and 63, the status quo lovers and liberals want the two Articles to be scrapped from the constitution. They see these Articles as a code of morality in their charter of national duties too embarrassing and exposing. They are cursing Raza Rabbani Parliamentary Committee authoring 18th Amendment for failing to do away with these upsetting Articles, which gives no room to tax dodgers, loan defaulters, fake degree holders, cheaters, plunderers and fraudsters.

The liberals also crib that Zia had put an end to the overt merrymaking of the drunkards, ignoring the fact that Bhutto in his bid to appease the Islamists had prohibited hard drinks. Officer messes in armed forces went dry under orders of Gen Tikka Khan. Bhutto declared Friday instead of Sunday as weekly holiday and also declared Ahmedis as non-Muslims. Bhutto made Zia COAS despite being seventh number in seniority.

Zia is blamed by secular writers including Ayaz Amir for setting in motion darkness of religious extremism. This is not true since this phenomenon started gaining strength after passage of Objectives Resolution in 1949 and constant bickering of a tiny group of liberals wanting the constitution of Pakistan to be made secular. Islamists presented Quaid-e-Azam as Islam loving while seculars projected him as secular and repeatedly quote his August 11, 1947 speech out of context. His dozens of speeches and statements he made before and after creation of Pakistan reflecting his inner desire for an Islamic welfare state are ignored. Cold war between Islamists and seculars led to anti-Ahmedia riots in 1953 spearheaded by Jamaat Islami under Maulana Maudoodi. Martial law had to be clamped in Punjab to restore order. Lt Gen Azam dealt with the Islamists ruthlessly.

Unresolved Kashmir dispute and unabated India’s antagonism together with steady widening of gap between rich and poor during Ayub Khan’s golden era, which gave birth to 22 richest families were other reasons for growth of religious extremism. Rise of Awami League under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in East Pakistan and PPP under Bhutto in West Pakistan, both espousing secularism but at loggerheads with each other in 1970-71 led to division of Pakistan.

Bane of secularism and socialism promoted by ZA Bhutto under the garb of Islamic socialism, his autocratic style of governance and rigging in 1977 elections gave rise to Nizam-e-Mustafa spearheaded by religious parties. The PNA movement of nine parties became so powerful that on occasions the troops refused to fire on the protestors chanting Allah O Akbar. High pitched fervor of the Islamists joined by centrist parties built lava of hatred against Bhutto. They hated him so intensely that they refused to break the logjam even after Bhutto conceded to all their demands including fresh elections. They didn’t want re-election which was their initial demand but ouster of Bhutto since they knew that in open contest they would lose. They kept nudging Gen Zia to step in and save the country from getting secularized.

The political impasse impelled Gen Zia to step in to break the impasse and defuse the volatile situation. His intentions were to give a pause of three months and then hold elections. Had Bhutto confined to a Rest House in Murree not threatened visiting Zia that he would deal with the generals the way Hitler treated them, Zia would have remained his humble servant. Being a practicing Muslim, Zia chose to ride on the crest of Nizam-e-Mustafa and decided to reverse the trend of secularism and to revert to basics of Quran and Sunnah as prescribed in the 1973 constitution framed by Bhutto.

When Bhutto was implicated in Raza Kasuri murder case, the entire lot of politicians wanted him hanged and none showed any mercy when death sentence was pronounced by the Supreme Court. Sweets were distributed by some political parties when he was hanged to death on the fateful day of 4 July 1979. This tragic event alienated the Sindhis in particular and divided the society.

The Religious parties extended full support to Zia’s efforts to Islamize the society. However, due to difference of opinion among the religious Ulemas and Mashaikhs, particularly those belonging to Shia community, consensus on Islamic model of democracy and governance couldn’t be arrived at. Despite the tug of war among Islamic clerics and between Islamists and liberal groups, Zia managed to introduce wide ranging Islamic laws.

Once he declared his intentions to introduce SHARIAH in the country sometime in June 1988, he became a marked man. He along with many senior Army officers died in a mysterious C-130 air crash on August 17, 1988. 24 years have lapsed since his death; neither the cause of crash has been ascertained nor Zia’s legacy has got washed away. During this period, his chief antagonist PPP was in power thrice but his ghost couldn’t be buried. Even Gen Musharraf’s enlightened moderation which was a cover name of secularism, and expansion of media to project soft image of Pakistan through liberalism, couldn’t subside Islamic passions. Rather, ardor has increased in intensity. Ironically, Musharraf espousing secularism fell from grace of secularized lawyers and media and are these days advocating his trial under Article 6 of the c Constitution ion.

Seculars got perturbed when PML-N and Tehrik-e-Insaf made parleys with Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) for seat adjustments. For them JI is intolerable not realizing that it is one of the oldest and most organized political party with roots in all provinces. It is to the credit of this party that none of its elected member has ever been implicated in a corruption or immorality case. The seculars devoid of Islamic flame are advised to refresh their knowledge of history and stop demeaning Islam and spreading falsehood by maligning Zia for his uncommitted sins as a dictated ritual. For promotion of secularism they make Zia as the convenient scapegoat.

The writer is a retired Brig, a defence analyst and columnist.

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