Zia ul Haq’s legacy: An inconvenient truth

In 2015, Pew Global research published a comprehensive report that showed the support for relationships between tenets of Islam and laws of government in 10 Muslim countries across the world. When the question was put to respondents about how strictly should the Islamic law be applied to their countries an overwhelming 78% of Pakistanis responded ‘very strictly’ topping the charts. Of the remaining, 16% believed it should be implemented in true spirit loosely. Palestine follows with 65% and Jordan with 54% people believing it should have a government that follows Islamic laws strictly. Unlike prevalent notions of magnified cherry-picked aspects of Islamic law e.g. stoning, etc., the concept of justice stands at the very center of Islamic jurisprudence. This encompasses education, healthcare, housing, economics, civil law and of course the severe criminal law. Despite all differences in diverse Islamic schools of law the fundamental principles of Islam remain same and applicable to all Muslim countries around the world. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, invited a lot of hate speech when he suggested that Islamic sharia should be implemented in the UK to solve many of its problems. Amidst the verbal carnage, what lacked was a serious debate on how can sharia law help so-called ‘civilized’ societies. Apparently, crime, violence, suicide, rape and hate mongering has been consistently on the rise throughout the last century in the western world which for sure needs a credible explanation given their cumulative wealth and GDP gains. All one hears is the Goebbelsian propaganda of the virtues of neo-liberal economics.

Russian occupation was probably the most intense period in Southeast Asia’s recent history given its ideological underpinnings. The beast of red atheism was about to devour a smaller country on its way to the warm waters. Like all unstable nations Pakistan had spawned a class of traitors and bohemian rebel Marxists who would see to it that era of the beards end and only beard venerated afterward be of Karl Marx. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, a completely westernized secular Marxist, capitalized on public bereavement and penury by portraying a rosy picture of a country with ‘Food, clothing and shelter’. The catch-22 of making Godless Marxism marry the Islamic tenets was a formidable task, to say the least. Caving into public pressure he banned alcohol, gambling and nightclubs quite opposite to what he visioned. To gain further support for his cause he outlawed Ahmadi sect, a west-sponsored mouthpiece of secular Islam. One does not expect this to fly when one drinks himself and preaches abstinence. He was overthrown by Zia ul Haq, the most cherished and controversial military dictator of Pakistan in annals of history.

Zia ul Haq was no demagogue and certainly had no soft corners for western style democracy. He was a staunch adherent of Islam and zealous believer in prophecies of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. In 1977 at the behest of popular public support, he overthrew the secular Bhutto to change the course of Pakistani and Islamic history. His era was marked by tremendous upheavals of Afghan War, Siege of the Grand Mosque, rise in Marxist mutiny and internal problems.  In 1980 he established an Islamic Shoora, a consultative cabinet that oversaw the process of islamization.  He gained 95% public approval in a referendum gaining the support of Pakistani people for his reforms. He implemented the Hudood ordinance that curbed the growing fornication in the society which Marxist liberalism had brought to an already demoralized country.  Ian Talbot notes in his book ‘Pakistan, A modern history’ that this was the era when Pakistan underwent industrialization, GDP increased and growth rate was stable well into the 90s.

Ordinance entailed the procedures and Islamic punishments for the crime. Sharia courts were brought into force to judge between people according to Quran and Sunnah. One of the most foresighted decisions was the enactment of Blasphemy laws that prevented the onslaught we today see in western media where Christian holy figures are derided in the name of freedom of expression. Very few know that these laws extended beyond Islam and punishments were applicable for all religions! Clause 295A of the ordinance states that ‘Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs is punishable by 10 years of imprisonment or fine or both.’ A fact liberals conveniently forget when describing his legacy. A system for deducting Zakat and Usher the only Islamic taxes was founded. Interest in banks was forbidden.

Separate electorates were formed for Hindu and Christians. First time in history, women parliamentarians were welcome in the political process. Islamic laws for Qisas and Diyat were formed in line with Quranic injunctions. Prayer timings were regulated, Ramadan laws restricted public eating during the holy month and women were obligated to wear moderate clothes in public spheres. Monumental work was on the educational front, however. The Islamization of education took place after centuries of English influence and restrictions on Madrassas in the subcontinent. Between the crisis of Communist Russian agents and saviors of Islamic tradition, this state support came as a window of relief for the oppressed nation for whom the slogan ‘What does Pakistan mean? There is no God but Allah’ meant everything. For which 14 million people migrated across newly and unfairly created borders, making it the largest mass migration in human history.  Less than 50 years later it became the country with the largest number of refugees in the world after accepting 3 million Afghan refugees.

Zia ul Haq was assassinated in 1988 when his plane blew up in the air near Bahawalpur. Many generals and American ambassador on the plane perished in a popularly believed conspiracy against him. Emissaries swooned from all over the world to partake in his funeral along with the devastated nation. Conspiracy theories are there about who might have contributed to this tragic event. Russians, Americans or secularists? It is irrelevant because the country was about to take a new turn, one it would regret for years to come. For liberals, this marked a day of celebration. Each year you get to hear this small fifth columnist class organize ceremonies to spout off hate speech against the one man that undid all that they’d built for decades.

The clock kept ticking. Tides of corrupt, nepotist, malicious and venomous democracies reminded the nation with nostalgiathe main opponents considered ‘despotic’ and ‘puritanical.’ After flirting with western style democracies and martial laws, Pakistan is at another crossroads of its history. Media is filled with content many would deem inappropriate for even western audiences. Islamic values and principles are being vilified day and night on mainstream media using public taxes while government agencies are digging hideouts for their looted money. It has become a nation where public outcries and waves of demonstrators on Qadri’s funeral are censored, and strippers are being glorified as artists. Religious scholars are being marginalized, and clowns are being promoted as savants. 78% of these people who find Islam as their hope, identity, solace and Quran their reference, celebrate 5th July each year as the holy day when Zia ul Haq took over the government in 1977. The Same day some mourn it as the black day, the handful protégées of the west and offspring of the Kremlin. Zia ul Haq remains the only president of any Islamic country who had the honor to lead the prayers in Grand Mosque after the Imam offered him to lead the prayers. The ground is set again; Legions are forming, and the temperature is high. It’s time for another Zia to set in and like his name spread the ‘light’ that is being darkened by the Wild West and its underdogs.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Lahore Times.

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