PRECIOUS little happens in Pakistan that cannot be traced to the man who ruled over this country for 11 dark years of its existence. On the morning of Aug 17, exactly 24 years after his death, Gen Ziaul Haq’s presence was felt all the more poignantly. ‘Terrorists attack Kamra airbase’, ‘19 pulled out of buses, shot dead in sectarian attack’ at Babusar Top, ‘Zardari seeks Muslim countries’ assistance’ on Afghanistan. Rulers either side of Zia have contributed to this mad, unending dance of death that Pakistanis have been subjected to. But while the dictator may have found the soil fertile for cultivating his brand of hatred, he was so thorough in his execution of the self-assigned job and so heartlessly committed to his creed that he ensured that generations after him will find it impossible to escape his influence.

Zia’s figure looms large over a Pakistan where, ostensibly, no popular political party stands by his ideals — just as none has dared to declare a war against his legacy. The parties which he fathered, and the ones which were born of circumstances of his making, have all turned their back on their mentor. Yet, the ghosts of intolerance the general let loose on society with a ferocity previously unseen are not only very much around and kicking, they have spread far and wide and today use various disguises. Zia used Islam, originally, as a tool to secure the moral high ground against the politicians he had thrown out and that tool later became his convenient ideology, a justification for his rule. Most dangerously in the present context, he played an able facilitator to a process which was destined to superimpose the interests of the people of the country with the perceived interests of the Islamic ‘millat’. Inevitably, this was a prelude to a long, violent campaign for the hegemony of an interpretation, a sect over others. This cannot be effectively countered unless those who now disown Zia — and this includes almost all political parties here — gather the courage to actively fight his legacy. The standard catharsis through Zia-bashing will not be enough.

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Comments (52)

August 18, 2012 3:23 pm
For your knowledge no noncristian can become American President but they hide this anomaly with cunning and blame pakistan for its name when 98 percent to muslim live here. While in usa. 85percent are blame America and start a campaign about this.Can you?
August 18, 2012 10:09 am
Yes Haji Sb. Zia the major culprit, and look what was his end.
August 18, 2012 3:05 pm
i agree ... i had not heard of curfew, firing in colleges, strikes, bombs or anything before 1989, the year ppp came into power.
August 20, 2012 10:22 am
Well, Zia is dead; that's obvious, but in a way he is not. It's his fruits, that are now pandemic in Pakistan and also in Afghanistan, that is what this mesage is talking about: 'Zia’s legacy' are they callled. Of course, to undo it, we need to act not only on the national level but also on a personal and individual; for example when we talk less of religion (Islam) in public, wouldn't it be better? Treating it purely once private matter and refuse to discuss it. Wouldn't then the things would have started curing the wounds of Zia's dark ages! Obviously he wasn't alone but he has to take the blame becuase he was one in charge....... Notably, however, the thing which is missing is to forget and forgive the man behind the gun, while gun fires the man behind often gets away with his cruel acts. Were JI and IJT not behind Zia's theaterics? And they are not dead! Why are they not then being made equally responsible for the fuits that this country is presented with. There was no acountability of their horrendous acts in the former East Pakistan...That is where one should be honest to start reforming. Is that easy? Well, it is when we do it as it has alreay done by Bangladesh...No? ..and if you have any repect for Jinnah's words, ' ...state has nothing to do with religion...' ...Is JI/IJT not then Nemesis to Jinnah's fine legacy of secular state?
August 18, 2012 9:59 am
whats in a name...? most of the countries dont use their religious labels but in truth practice in daily affairs of the state.
August 18, 2012 3:25 pm
Extreme of corruption can only be tamed by extreme of terrorism. It has been proven in history
August 18, 2012 3:26 pm
you grew up in post-Bhutto era, we are living in post-Zia.
Karachi Wala
August 18, 2012 3:25 pm
"Rulers either side of Zia have contributed to this mad, unending dance of death that Pakistanis have been subjected to ". It has become almost impossible to undo what Zia plus the rulers either side of his rule have done to Pakistan. As the situation currently stands, there are three possible outcomes that come to mind. 1) The breakup of Pakistan. 2) All political parties agree to amend the constitution and separate state from religion. 3) An Ataturk and his company, who will ruthlessly undo each and everything what Zia and the rulers either side of his rule have done to Pakistan.
August 18, 2012 2:24 pm
You are right mate, Pakistan should also remove religion from politics, army, employment, media, schools and colleges; only place for religion is in the house and never in the streets.
Kamran Mirza
August 18, 2012 2:17 pm
Zia = pakistan army - let us remove the veil!
Iftikhar Husain
August 18, 2012 12:03 pm
The legacy has been put very nicely in this editorial.
August 18, 2012 1:43 pm
You were obviously too young to remember the gradual insinuation of the Klashnikov and the paid Mullah into the fabric of our society. It was the calm before the storm, nothing else.
August 18, 2012 1:38 pm
No single person's name comes to my mind, other than Zia, of present sectarian problem. The present religious intolerance among the people has torn the country apart.
August 18, 2012 12:51 pm
Typical Zia bashing! I grew up in Zia's eras and that has been the best era in the Pakistan that I remember; peaceful, Islamic, simple, and we actually did progress in the right areas; unlike fashion and vulgarity that seems to be the current trend.
Agha Ata
August 18, 2012 12:37 pm
What puzzles me is that was Zia really such a fanatic Muslim, or was he an shrewd-control freak who wanted to rule?
August 18, 2012 11:06 am
Lol. These extemist liberals leave no chance of cursing and bashing zia. O bhai he is dead. Stop cursing him for everything bad happening in the country. Talk about this present government.
August 18, 2012 10:58 am
Just don't blame Zia only there is a whole institution which helped him and still perprtuate his legacy.
A Bajwaa
August 18, 2012 10:37 am
The basic mistake was to encourage/support Americans in their war against Soviets, and then to use religious groups in that.. Pakisyan should have take over Pashtoon areas when Soviets took over Kabul. That is how the great game is to be played.
August 18, 2012 10:17 am
I guess 24 years have passed. which is like quarter of a century. what has been done to improve the situation. It is easy blaming it on somebody but has anyone after him given it a serious thought.?the like of Musharraf and Benazir or Sharifs. We as a nation shift our blame on to people who are no more and do not take responsibility of any thing .
Nasser Ali Khan
August 18, 2012 9:59 am
While Zia was the main culprit and started this business of hatred amongst human beings, it is everyone who perpetrates such crimes or believes in them who is equally to blame. That makes a sizeable minority of our population. Remember, in Islam each individual is responsible for his and her action. On the Day of Judgement each one of us will be on our own.
August 18, 2012 4:39 am
Zia = Extreme of Terrorism as Pakistani Political Parties= Extreme of Corruption. Pakistani's need to decide which is worse for them and vote accordingly.
Haji Ashfaq
August 18, 2012 8:01 am
For this MESS - only Zia is responsible ? You think.
Muhammad Yaqub
August 18, 2012 8:22 am
All Pakistani's must hand their heads in shame. It all started when Bhutto succumbed to the pressure of the Mullahs. It is also a shame that the country is called an ISLAMIC REPUBLIC: Please change the name. Please do not disgrace the religion. Have you ever heard of a CHRISTIAN REPUBLIC OF ... or a BUDDHIST REPUBLIC? Please stop yapping and do something before it is too late .
August 18, 2012 8:34 am
who else ... the drug ,Kalshankov, militancy and all other things related to taliban and afghan are his legacy . Ayoub Khan had told yahya Khan what ever happens never open afghan border or else all Pakistan will lose her identity
August 18, 2012 8:48 am
He is the 'Root Cause' . . . and the rest is, several times over, a 'fruit' of his labour!
August 18, 2012 8:48 am
yes Zia is truly and wholly responsible Hai Asfaq..
Mustafa Razavi
August 18, 2012 4:43 pm
Our current rain of darkness is darker than anything that happened in Pakistan before.
August 18, 2012 5:01 pm
Mr Haroon I fully agree with you...It is the institution of the Pakistan Army which is to be blamed for all the ills Pakistan is facing today...
August 18, 2012 5:03 pm
The seeds of terrorosm were sowm by the army during his regime...those seeds are now full grown trees..
August 18, 2012 5:22 pm
You all can keep harping about Zia and his diabolical impact on Paksitan but he was one man and he is dead. Do some thing to destory his evil leagacy and just don't keep crying.
August 18, 2012 5:52 pm
What can I say...EXACTLY MY THOUGHTS. The day Bhutto declared it "ISLAMIC REPUBLIC", it all started going downhill. Can you imagine how children of our Hindu, Christian and Sikh brothers and sisters feel when they see that on their passports....PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE CHANGE THE NAME BACK TO JUST "PAKISTAN".
August 18, 2012 6:32 pm
Hey, all you guys need to stop blaming one man for the current mess we have in Pakistan. He is dead for almost 25 years; he is not personnaly here to guide any one. Is the rest of the nation a fool to undo his legacy, if any?
Cyrus Howell
August 18, 2012 8:12 pm
How do they feel? Like how Palestinians in America feel about their income taxes going to help support Israel.
Cyrus Howell
August 18, 2012 8:15 pm
Considering that a nation should be unified and the people work towards a greater good. Homogeneous countries like Japan, Iceland and Norway have an easier time of it.
Cyrus Howell
August 18, 2012 8:16 pm
Fighting terrorism costs money.
Cyrus Howell
August 18, 2012 8:18 pm
A very wise man. "Good fences make for good neighbors."
Cyrus Howell
August 18, 2012 8:20 pm
Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever. Napoleon Bonaparte
August 18, 2012 8:37 pm
As long as the wisdom of Jinnah that politics and the religion is not to be mixed, is not followed and implemented, these zealots will continue as before untill they wipe out the country clean from the world map.
August 18, 2012 10:41 pm
I fully agree with Khalid. Pakistan should be named the "Republic of Pakistan" Period- no religious, political or ethnic add-ons needed! This is not a small point. Symbolisms for a nation are important. Why, oh why did we start to tinker the Quaid-e-Azams Concept of Pakistan?
August 19, 2012 12:39 am
it's not legacy actually. it's the policy of an institution. That is why it started in Bhutto's time. Army was back to strength in the mid-1970s. If it was a person, then the radicalization process would have stopped after Zia. But it was given boost even during the so-called liberal era of Musharraf because this is what suits the military establishment. And today is no different.
August 19, 2012 12:57 am
And, you should also mention, to help support many other nations (including Pakistan), and also nearly half of the entire budget of the United Nations organization. And beyond taxes, many Americans also give privately to world charitable organizations.
August 19, 2012 1:01 am
With respect ... Not fighting terrorism costs money too, and ultimately it costs much more than that.
August 19, 2012 1:04 am
With respect ... You might have forgotten that terrorism is fed and financed by corruption. That includes smuggling narcotics, and much more.
August 19, 2012 1:24 am
Zia had been educated in one of the best institutions in India - St. Stephen's college. How did Zia manage to negate everything he learnt at a liberal institution? Was he a schizophrenic? How could he convince himself that religion rather than science should shape of a young nation?
Asif Ansari
August 19, 2012 1:41 am
General Zia used Islam, no doubt. Current situation was the creation of his decisions, joined the Afghan war is too much danger, we Pakistani see the running situation, its history directly closed to Zia regime's decisions about Aghan war. Now, there is no path vacant, the Islamic fundamentalist leave the nation lifes.
Ajaya K Dutt
August 19, 2012 2:09 am
It is "blame somebody else" game. Pakistan needs to have an honest look at "the man in the mirror". Why Laskar-I-Taiba gets so much "ZaKat". It is an insult to Islam that Muslim think of charity while funding ancillary of terrorism.
August 19, 2012 2:24 am
If no one in political arena, including the almighty Pakistan Army, is willing to stand for anything but Zia(ism), it implies that somehow political parties tacitly accept what Zia had done for Pakistan. Only the Pak Army can undo Zia' legacy in one full swoop. The political parties do not have any spine to take a stand so far.
Komal S
August 19, 2012 2:53 am
Not sure this comparison is fair. Hindus, Christians and Sikhs in Pakistan are one the original inhabitants of the land. Whereas Paletinians approached America either as a refugee or immigrated on their own will. They always knew what country they are immigrating to. Also as an American you can express yourself, i mean you don't get killed for being a palestinian. Can you say the same for the Shias, Hindus, Ahmedi & Sikhs?
August 19, 2012 3:04 am
When you use Islam as an excuse to make an empire.... You are destined to lose big time... Zia is an example, alqeada another one and hopefully taliban will follow soon and will go extinct...wishful thinking I know but we should have faith in GOD to rid of the taliban menace... last of Zia's legacy
August 19, 2012 3:06 am
Fighting terrorism is money well spent
S. Khan
August 19, 2012 3:49 am
There is no doubt in the fact that he sowed the seed of hatred. Now the solution is to push all terrorists out of the country without any discrimination without saying that one group of terrorists is an assets and others are not. I think there are already enough laws in the country to take care of these terrorists. It is a humble request to the institution that is the custodian of the legacy for God's sake, clean the country from all kinds of terrorists and make this country a Democratic Republic of Pakistan in its terms.
August 19, 2012 4:08 am
What has Israel got to do with Bhutto's decision?
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