Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on Dawn.com.

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience

.
Facebook Count
Twitter Share

Email

Special Report: Darkness Descends 1977-1988

The one person who single-handedly changed Pakistan, perhaps forever, was the military dictator, General Ziaul Haq.
Updated Nov 01, 2017 01:28am

The photographs above show Habib Jalib, a poet known for his revolutionary zeal, being attacked by policemen during a demonstration organised by the Women’s Action Forum against the Law of Evidence that was promulgated by General Ziaul Haq. The photographs were taken on February 12, 1983, by Dawn photographer, the late Azhar Jafri, and symbolise the tyranny and repression that characterised Zia’s reign over Pakistan.

Despotic Islamisation

By S. Akbar Zaidi


OF the numerous Pakistani rulers, the one person who single-handedly changed Pakistan, perhaps forever, but certainly for some decades, was the military dictator, General Mohammad Ziaul Haq. In his speech to the nation on taking over power on July 5, 1977, Gen Zia said he had done so only to defend democracy and for the well-being (baqa’a) of Pakistan, that he had no political ambitions whatsoever, and that he would leave his post of Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) after three months – the infamous 90 days – and hand over power to Pakistan’s elected representatives.

Moreover, the Constitution was not in abeyance, Zia told the listening public, but certain parts of it were to be put on hold. No judicial authority could challenge the proclamations of the Martial Law setup, and the CMLA seemed to be above the law. He said he had discussed the matter with the Chief Justice, who seemed to be in agreement with him, and the Supreme Court some months later invoked the Doctrine of Necessity to allow Zia to continue with his actions for years to come.

The last few sentences of the 14-minute speech of this self-styled ‘soldier of Islam’, ended with the following statement: “Pakistan, which was created in the name of Islam, will continue to survive only if it stays with Islam. That is why I consider the introduction of an Islamic system as an essential prerequisite for the country.” As Shuja Nawaz argues, Zia became a “ferocious instrument of change for Pakistan”.

GENERAL Ziaul Haq, flanked by senior officers, is seen smiling at the traditional soldiers’ feast held at the Army barracks. At least in public, Zia was all smiles all the times. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
GENERAL Ziaul Haq, flanked by senior officers, is seen smiling at the traditional soldiers’ feast held at the Army barracks. At least in public, Zia was all smiles all the times. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

If one were just to list the numerous changes Zia brought about in his 11-year rule, what stands out as his legacy to Pakistan would be a type of Islamisation – of a particularly severe kind – based on Saudi Wahabism, which was quite alien to Pakistan when it came into being. Moreover, this Islamisation, supported by a severe despotic, military dictator, led to the rise of Islamists within the military, which at the time was Pakistan’s most powerful and dominant institution. He and his government gave what can only be called state sponsorship to militant Islamic Sunni sectarian groups, which resulted in a strong anti-Shiaism in Pakistan. His tenure saw the state-sponsored export of Islamic jihad to several parts of the world.

Saudi Arabia began to play a far greater role in the religious, cultural and political life of Pakistan, and has continued to do so. Zia benefited immensely from Bhutto’s overtures to the Gulf countries in the mid-1970s, as the Gulf boom solved many of Pakistan’s economic problems. Often not considered, but equally important, was the rise of the petit bourgeois trading and lower middle classes that benefitted from the dominance of a Punjabi/Arain from Jullundur who could speak the language of a constituency which had otherwise not had a voice.

Moreover, this socially conservative petit bourgeois class, which was hurt by Bhutto’s 1976 nationalisation of rice-husking and cotton-ginning factories, found in Zia a voice which strengthened the anti-Bhutto constituency. With petit bourgeois capitalism and a Saudi-Wahabi Islam, Zia gave representative voice to new social classes that became powerful over subsequent decades.

LONDON was a favourite spot for intellectuals who tried to stay away from Zia’s Pakistan. Seen here is the iconic Faiz Ahmed Faiz at the Urdu Markaz Mushaira that was organised by the BBC in the 1980s. He is flanked here by Ahmed Faraz and Zehra Nigah on the right and Gopi Chand Narang on the left. | Photo: Faiz Ghar Archives.
LONDON was a favourite spot for intellectuals who tried to stay away from Zia’s Pakistan. Seen here is the iconic Faiz Ahmed Faiz at the Urdu Markaz Mushaira that was organised by the BBC in the 1980s. He is flanked here by Ahmed Faraz and Zehra Nigah on the right and Gopi Chand Narang on the left. | Photo: Faiz Ghar Archives.

Although many liberals are uncomfortable with Zia’s Islamisation, they often ignore his gift to the lower middle classes: a political stake in the mandi towns, mainly of the Punjab. Bhutto had undertaken certain reforms that had allowed the small and medium entrepreneurs to emerge and consolidate their economic condition; Zia gave them further impetus to build their vision on Islam.

CHANGING FORTUNES

There were at least three clear phases in Zia’s endless 11 years: from July 1977 to April 1979 when the two-men-one-grave chatter became part of public conversation; from December 1979 to around 1985 when Pakistan became a frontline state in the Afghan war; and then from March 1985 to May 1988 during which he experimented with praetorian democracy and when his own system came back to challenge him.

Although all political leaders except Begum Nasim Wali Khan had been arrested, once Bhutto was released, it became evident to Zia that Bhutto was still very popular across the country as he began his campaign for the promised elections. He always had a large public following, but after being imprisoned, his status grew further. He would probably have won the elections whenever they were held.

The case related to the murder of a political opponent was registered in 1975 when Bhutto was still the prime minister, and had been settled. Once Bhutto had been removed, Zia reopened it in September 1977 in far more hostile circumstances. And, as time passed, Zia kept postponing elections, saying it was not ‘written in the Quran’ that elections were to be held at a given date.

Election activity continued as Bhutto was arrested on murder charges, and Zia decided to do what all the three military dictators have done; hold Local Body elections, rather than national or provincial elections. The PPP won the 1979 Local Body elections, and it became clear to Zia that if ever Bhutto were to be released, he would win the general elections and was bound to hold Zia accountable for what the general had done in 1977. One grave, two men. We know what happened next. Despite clemency appeals aplenty from across the world, Zia insisted he would follow the orders of the court.

Bhutto’s judicial murder was not the only event of significance which happened in 1979 which had a huge bearing on regional and domestic circumstances. In February 1979, the Iranian Revolution gave a greater sense of identity to the global, and particularly Pakistani, Shia community, which had earlier felt marginalised in world developments. Imam Khomeini’s revolution made it difficult for a Sunni Zia, who already had close ties with Saudi Arabia, to continue to marginalise the Shias of Pakistan. While still ostracised in dominantly Sunni Pakistan, the Shias fought many battles against the ‘Sunnisation’ of Pakistan, and made their political presence felt. Yet one sees the beginnings of a marked, organised, violent, sectarian divide which still has not abetted.

In October 1979, Zia moved further towards converting Pakistan into a totalitarian state, clamping a ban on political activities and gagging the press with imprisonments and the flogging of journalists.

Public floggings became a common sight during General Ziaul Haq’s tyrannical reign, especially in its early part. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
Public floggings became a common sight during General Ziaul Haq’s tyrannical reign, especially in its early part. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

The economy did not do exceptionally well in the 1977-79 period, and one wondered, despite Bhutto having gone and the PPP in some disarray, if organised politics would contest this unfamiliar, severe, despotic government. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 put to rest all such speculation and made the way possible for many long years of Zia’s rule.

The story of the first Afghan war is well known, as are its consequences for Pakistan. Four million refugees from Afghanistan, millions of new heroin addicts amongst the Pakistani youths, billions of dollars in aid to the military to fight the American war in Afghanistan – backed with Saudi funding – and Jihad becoming a profession. While the CIA helped strengthen the ISI, the broader mullah-military alliance became entrenched for many decades, and probably still is.

Pakistan’s frontline status was milked to the core by Pakistani generals, with the emergence of categories of ‘millionaire generals’, many of whom were accused of siphoning off CIA funds meant for the Afghans, or then having made money from lucrative narcotic deals. Pakistan during its Islamisation phase under its own soldier of Islam was the single largest supplier of heroin globally.

Along with the trade in narcotics came the trade in arms that gave rise to the ‘Kalashnikov culture’ still on display in the country. The military, like never before, had become a corporate entity, involved in all kinds of activities; legal and illegal. Perhaps never before had Pakistan’s armed forces been drawn into a nexus of military might, money, corruption and privilege.

Despite all this and more, Zia needed to find some civilian or constitutional cover to prolong his rule after a certain time. An orchestrated Majlis-e-Shura was followed by an ill-worded referendum seeking the electorate’s approval of his Islamic reforms – getting an embarrassing approval rate in return. Then came the praetorian democracy in the form of partyless elections in 1985 that led to the elevation to prime ministership of a relatively unknown politician from Sindh: Mohammad Khan Junejo who was chosen by Zia to become his subservient prime minister.

THOUGH he came from nowhere in the wake of the partyless polls of 1985, Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, donning a Jinnah cap here, tried to be his own man. He raised and pointed the finger a few times too many and paid the price on May 29, 1988, with the dismissal of his government – and the National Assembly. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
THOUGH he came from nowhere in the wake of the partyless polls of 1985, Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, donning a Jinnah cap here, tried to be his own man. He raised and pointed the finger a few times too many and paid the price on May 29, 1988, with the dismissal of his government – and the National Assembly. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

Even Junejo grew in confidence in this short span, and insisted that martial law be lifted. He disagreed with Zia on the end-game in Afghanistan, and, following the Ojhri Camp blasts in April 1988 which exposed the growing relative independence even of a partyless legislature, the National Assembly stood dissolved in May 1988; Zia using the Eight Amendment which was inserted into the Constitution as a prerequisite for parliament to proceed and for martial law to be lifted in 1985, and allowed Zia to dismiss parliament under Article 58-2(b). Like Islamisation, the Eighth Amendment was Zia’s gift to the Pakistani pubic, and determined all political and electoral activity for a decade after his death. Unlike his Islamisation programme, however, parliament was eventually able to rid itself of 58-2(b) although, as the recent dismissal of Nawaz Sharif shows, key elements of the Eighth Amendment still determine the fate of politics in Pakistan.

RESISTANCE

The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), starting in August 1983, was up against a government which was trying its best to convert the very concept of democracy into something abhorrent and objectionable. Right across the country, activists came under brutal attack by police as a matter of routine. And yet, they had the last laugh, even if a rather muted one, when partyless polls were announced in 1985. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
The Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), starting in August 1983, was up against a government which was trying its best to convert the very concept of democracy into something abhorrent and objectionable. Right across the country, activists came under brutal attack by police as a matter of routine. And yet, they had the last laugh, even if a rather muted one, when partyless polls were announced in 1985. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

No matter how despotic a ruler, and no matter how well the economy did – under Zia the economy grew on average 6.7 per cent, with remittances playing a strong distributive effect – dictatorship always gives rise to resistance. The MRD movement of 1983 and 1986, and Benazir Bhutto’s triumphant return to Pakistan in 1986 were all expressions of defiant protests. Religious minorities, in particular Ahmadis, suffered the most and were made third class citizens with few rights. Still worse, they were often unable to even protest since the environment had turned hostile against them.

Not fully recognised is the role of women’s groups, particularly that of the Women’s Action Forum, which took on the might of a misogynistic state. The punitive measure and restrictions imposed on women included the Law of Evidence, Hudood Ordinance as early as 1979, and Zina Ordinance which obscured the distinction between rape and adultery. The struggle for women’s rights provided further sustenance to the demands for greater democratic and universal rights, and women, perhaps led by Sindhiani Tehrik and WAF, symbolised resistance to a despotic dictator more than any other constituency, social, political, ethnic or religious. Women became the symbols of resistence and played a key role in the revival of democracy under Zia.

BUSHRA Aitzaz, a human rights activist, was one of the women who were arrested during a protest organised by the Women’s Action Forum in Lahore in February 1983. The protestors were subjected to brutal violence at the hands of policemen armed with batons and teargas.| Photo: Aitzaz Ahsan Archives.
BUSHRA Aitzaz, a human rights activist, was one of the women who were arrested during a protest organised by the Women’s Action Forum in Lahore in February 1983. The protestors were subjected to brutal violence at the hands of policemen armed with batons and teargas.| Photo: Aitzaz Ahsan Archives.

One wonders what would have happened if Zia’s plane had not fallen from the sky on August 17, 1988, because we really don’t know who killed the general. Jo Epstein, in a very interesting article in Vanity Fair, gives a list of a number of elements that had reason to see Zia go. The fact the list is long only highlights how unpopular Zia really was. It included such diverse and divergent forces as the Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad, Soviet KGB, Afghan KHAD and right down to the Al-Murtaza branch of the PPP.

Perhaps elements in the American CIA might have wanted to tackle Zia, but since he was such a sycophantic ally, one wonders why they would have gone this route. Quite possibly, there were some in the military who by then had felt tired of Zia’s ways. They knew they could not just wish him away, and must have hoped for some miracle from the skies. We will never know.

But it cannot be denied that many people must have looked up to the heavens on August 17, 1988, and raised their hands in prayer.


The writer is a political economist based in Karachi. He has a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, and teaches at Columbia University in New York and at the IBA in Karachi.


This story is the ninth part of a series of 16 special reports under the banner of '70 years of Pakistan and Dawn.' Visit the archive to read the previous eight reports.


HBL has been an indelible part of the nation’s fabric since independence, enabling the dreams of millions of Pakistanis. At HBL, we salute the dreamers and dedicate the nation’s 70th anniversary to you. Jahan Khwab, Wahan HBL.


Click on the buttons below to read more from this special feature

The legendary Ahmed Ali Khan

By Zubeida Mustafa

AHMAD Ali Khan (extreme left) at a reception hosted by Mian Iftikharuddin, the publisher of Pakistan Times, Imroz and Lail-O-Nahar, in honour of the visiting Chinese political dignitary, Madame Soong Ching Lee (centre), at his house in Lahore in the early 1950s. Standing next to Mian Sahib (from left) are Hajra Masroor, Khan Sahib’s wife, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Hameed Akhtar. Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Mazhar Ali Khan are standing next to the Chinese guest of honour, while Zaheer Babar is seen next to Khan Sahib. | Photo: Ahmad Ali Khan Family Archives
AHMAD Ali Khan (extreme left) at a reception hosted by Mian Iftikharuddin, the publisher of Pakistan Times, Imroz and Lail-O-Nahar, in honour of the visiting Chinese political dignitary, Madame Soong Ching Lee (centre), at his house in Lahore in the early 1950s. Standing next to Mian Sahib (from left) are Hajra Masroor, Khan Sahib’s wife, Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi and Hameed Akhtar. Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Mazhar Ali Khan are standing next to the Chinese guest of honour, while Zaheer Babar is seen next to Khan Sahib. | Photo: Ahmad Ali Khan Family Archives

THE Dawn Karachi is 70 this year. Over the decades, scores of people have joined hands to help the paper sustain its standing and standards. But there is one man whose contribution was singular. Without the direction he provided, Dawn could not have risen to the heights to which it has, notwithstanding the numerous crises it has had to weather in its eventful life.

That one man was Ahmad Ali Khan, the longest serving professional editor of an English-language newspaper in Pakistan. Khan Sahib, as he was respectfully called, remained associated with the paper for 41 years; 28 of them as the editor. When he came to the helm in May, 1973, the newspaper was going through a severe financial crisis. To display its displeasure against the paper for its bold and independent stance, the government had been resorting to all kinds of measures to twist its arms. With his ingenuity, Khan Sahib not only pulled the paper out of troubled waters, but his enduring presence also provided Dawn the stability it needed to grow and expand. This was done gracefully without a hint of surrender.

Ahmad Ali Khan modestly described himself as a survivor, but he was more than that. A survivor thinks only of saving himself. Khan Sahib’s mission was to keep the paper afloat, albeit without surrendering the paper’s, his own and his colleagues’ dignity or soul, to use his own words. For those of us who worked with him, it was important that we could all hold our heads high because we were made to feel a part of a big team working with a sense of purpose.

The fact, however, remained that, as the leader, Khan Sahib’s was the brain that framed the purpose and set the tone. Under him, Dawn had to be a newspaper that upheld the highest principles of ethical journalism. It unswervingly stood for democracy, peace, tolerance, human rights and social justice. And while it adopted this stance, it was expected never to let go of truth at any cost.

AT the launching ceremony of Dawn’s Islamabad Edition in April 2001, Ahmad Ali Khan is seen sharing a light moment with his long-time colleagues Saleem Asmi (centre), who was Dawn’s Editor at the time, and Muhammad Ziauddin (left), the Resident Editor at Islamabad. | Photo: Ahmad Ali Khan Family Archives
AT the launching ceremony of Dawn’s Islamabad Edition in April 2001, Ahmad Ali Khan is seen sharing a light moment with his long-time colleagues Saleem Asmi (centre), who was Dawn’s Editor at the time, and Muhammad Ziauddin (left), the Resident Editor at Islamabad. | Photo: Ahmad Ali Khan Family Archives

This was by no means an easy undertaking, if one remembers that the press has never been free in Pakistan. For the editor it has involved the delicate act of testing waters and doing tightrope walking in order to come as close to first-rate journalism as possible. This was accomplished without letting the axe fall on the paper’s unwritten but strictly observed code of ethics. Ahmad Ali Khan had the integrity, selflessness and courage to do this and succeed. He often said, “I am not here to have the paper shut down, which is very easy for me to do. The real challenge is to keep the paper going without compromising its principles.”

And what were those principles AAK (as he signed his initials on the memos we used to receive) stood for? Of course, reporting the truth and widening the horizons of freedom with responsibility were the top priorities as should be the aim of every media outlet. But in the process, Dawn adopted its own characteristic approach in the Walter Lipmann style which stood for fairness and balance in reporting and restraint in commenting. Woe betide him who resorted to lampooning, ranting or mudslinging and still somehow managing to get the piece printed in the paper. Dignity was the hallmark of the paper and every issue had to be argued out logically and elucidated for the benefit of the reader and also the authorities. This gave the paper credibility that became the strength of Dawn.

What I found remarkable about Khan Sahib was his staunch sense of fair play which he did not allow to be swept aside by personal considerations. He was quick to admit any error of judgment if one had been committed and to even rectify it. A misreporting was always followed by a correction. A person who felt he had been wrongly accused of a wrongdoing was always given space to give his own version of the story.

Above all, for AAK the newspaper constituted sacred ‘public space’ that was for the readers, never to be used to promote his own personal/family interest. Even in running the paper Khan Sahib adopted a democratic and participatory style. On his own part he was self-effacing and never tried to steal the limelight. All attention had to be focused on the newspaper.

There was the occasion when some hooligans from an ethnic political party got provoked by an innocuous news item in the paper and came to his office to confront him. The ugly verbal fracas that developed edged very close to physical violence. Yet the next day’s paper breathed not a word about it.

That was how he saw the division between the personal and the professional. Khan Sahib insisted that as journalists we should have two compartments in our mind – one for our own private opinions and beliefs on various issues, with another one reserved for Dawn’s official position on them. This held true chiefly for politics.

True to his Leftist leanings, Khan Sahib showed unlimited concern for education of the masses, healthcare for all, fairness and employment for labour, rights of the child and empowerment of women. These issues had to be contained in one compartment that saw the world through the prism of social justice. Under him, Dawn, whose forte had been political analysis, came to excel in its reporting and analysis of social issues as well.

I could not really fathom his relationship with technology. Once when I presented him with a tiny pocket calculator, he was fascinated. For quite some time he sat exploring it with almost child-like curiosity and interest as I sat waiting to discuss whatever I had gone to talk to him about. But the big computer that sat on the side table beside his desk never interested him and he didn’t bother to even touch it. Yet his most brilliant achievement can be said to be his success in navigating Dawn through the shoals of technology when we entered the digital age and computerisation became indispensible.


The writer is a former Dawn staffer.


Click on the buttons below to read more from this special feature

Journalism then & now

The following are excerpts from an article carrying the same headline that appeared on January 24, 1988, as part of a Dawn Special Report marking 40 Years of Mass Media in Pakistan.

By Ahmed Ali Khan

WHAT Ahmad Ali Khan was to Pakistani journalism, his wife Hajra Masroor was to Urdu literature; a leading protagonist. Here they are seen sharing their common interest in their younger days. | Photo: Ahmad Ali Khan Family Archives
WHAT Ahmad Ali Khan was to Pakistani journalism, his wife Hajra Masroor was to Urdu literature; a leading protagonist. Here they are seen sharing their common interest in their younger days. | Photo: Ahmad Ali Khan Family Archives

THOUGH weaker than the Hindu Press in material resources and in terms of the professional and intellectual abilities of its journalists, the subcontinent’s Muslim Press in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s was easily the former’s equal in the quality of its commitment to political and public causes. These causes, though, were not always identical.

The relative backwardness of the Muslim Press was, however, compensated for by two factors – political idealism of the editors, also of the owners in some cases, and the publication of a very large number of small newspapers and periodicals serving groups of neighbouring cities.

It may be mentioned in passing that taking out a declaration in the days of imperialism was no bother at all. There were no qualifications required. The District Magistrate did not have to ask the Governor-General or the Governor. It took less than a week to have a declaration authenticated in the normal course. No fresh declaration was needed if the printing press was changed. The imperialists recognised it as a citizen’s right to publish a newspaper at will.

Most organs of the Muslim Press lived from hand to mouth. There was no industry as such in existence. The sponsor of a periodical could consider himself lucky if working alone as a motivated editor and his own accountant and circulation/advertising manager (with occasional help from friends) he managed to earn enough to keep body and soul together. Often a sponsor editor did not have the resources to pay a full-time manager. But many owners, unless journalism was their passion, chose professional journalists to edit their newspapers and periodicals. In many such cases, however, where an illustrious editor also happened to have a financial interest in his newspaper, the fact of the ownership was entirely incidental. Who cares today whether Saiyyid Ahmad Khan, Abul Kalam Azad, Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Zafar Ali Khan and Abdul Rahman Siddiqi had any financial interest respectively in Tahzibul Akhlaq, Al Hilal, Hamdard, Comrade, Zamindar and The Morning News (Calcutta).

The professional journalists (‘professional’ because, being preoccupied with politics, they were generally not too good for any other profession) were rather poorly paid. All the surplus the present writer could exact from his poor little weekly called Tarjuman in 1945 was equal to the price of two packets of cigarettes a day which he shared with a friend. But it needed an average working day of 10 hours to earn this kind of money. (But, of course, food, clothes and everything else was on the house of my mother, my financier. As she gave me Rs.1,000, she said the money was entirely mine because this had been saved from what was earmarked for my education.)

The Muslim-owned Press not only fought for the cause of Muslims of India. It also showed a deep involvement with the cause of the Muslims who were resisting the inroads of imperialism in Northern Africa and West Asia. Since Turkey was seen as almost the last bastion of Islamic political power, Indian Muslims became firmly attached to Turkey. The Muslim Press became an enthusiastic advocate of the Khilafat Movement. Involvement with the fate of the Islamic world is a trait which the post-independence Press inherited from the past.

Truly can the Pakistan Press be said to have descended from the Muslim-owned Press of pre-1947 South Asia. These last four decades (1947-97) have brought changes – some good and some not so good. Idealism became less and less important in politics, and public life increasingly came to be characterised by a ruthless scramble for power, profit and privilege. It will be idle to pretend that this environment has not affected the Press. Over the years the Press has grown into a multi-million-rupee enterprise.

Coming to the state of the profession, the change is no less noticeable here than in the domain of ownership. Basically, journalism is now thought of as a career opening like any other. It is thought there are no great political battles to be fought and no ‘glory’ to be won. Those new entrants who still consider the newspaper as a vital public institution involving social commitment must be in a minority. Today, the educated young men and women demand their market price. Also, the journalistic profession is now a fairly unionised one. Unfortunately, today the profession is no longer in a position to attract the best educated persons coming out of our universities. The rapid increase in the number of owner-editors is also bound to act as a major disincentive to prospective newcomers to the profession from among bright and ambitious young men.

There have been quite a few occasions when newspapers have, on grounds of ideology or for personal, commercial or factional reasons, supported attacks on the freedom of their contemporaries or of journalists or even demanded that action be taken against such and such newspaper, or against journalist whose description easily identified them. It is an irony that newspapers with a proclivity towards witch-hunting within the profession have at some time or other themselves been overtaken by nemesis in the form of arbitrary governmental action.

SUFFOCATION

Politicians out of power have nearly always been protagonists of a free Press. They have promised the end of suffocation. Yet when elevated to power they have resiled from these commitments. As the Press slowly emerges from 30 years of generally ruthless regimentation and control, it is not in very good shape spiritually or professionally, even though it is immeasurably better off financially and in terms of technical resources. The media’s sense of improved material well-being is something to be thankful for. But it is as well to remember that the capacity of the Press as an agency of opinion formation and as a catalyst for transforming politics and society is very limited.

The role of the Press is circumscribed not only by its narrow readership base, but by the enervation and its concomitant of routinism that has become its lot after years of persecution and self-censorship. An inhibiting factor of very great importance is the prevalence of a lot of bigotry and anti-intellectual tendencies which are inimical to rational argument. Sometimes one finds there is more tolerance for the raffish and yellow variety of journalism than for the sober kind, if it means the other side of the argument.

I can do no better than to end with an appropriate quotation from a book by Prof John Hohenberg of Columbia University (The Professional Journalist). He writes: “The reason for (this) intermingling of the precepts of journalism with the public interest is not hard to find. For the strength of the journalist inevitably depends on the extent to which he merits public support, and not from the advertiser, the counting house or a censorious government ... Whenever the journalist practises his profession with skill, courage, honesty and resolute independence, he is a primal force in any open society … by his very nature, he becomes deeply involved in social change, in the fundamentals of public service and the struggle for progress toward a better life.”


Click on the buttons below to read more from this special feature

MARTIAL LAW IS PROCLAIMED; ELECTIONS IN 90 DAYS

DAWN July 7, 1977 (Editorial)

A bridge over an abyss

From left to right: Outgoing Air Chief Marshal Jamal A. Khan, Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, President Ziaul Haq and incoming Air Chief Marshal Hakeemullah Khan Durrani after a brief ceremonial parade in Rawalpindi on March 8, 1988. The characteristic Zia grin is hard to miss. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
From left to right: Outgoing Air Chief Marshal Jamal A. Khan, Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo, President Ziaul Haq and incoming Air Chief Marshal Hakeemullah Khan Durrani after a brief ceremonial parade in Rawalpindi on March 8, 1988. The characteristic Zia grin is hard to miss. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

WITH the assumption of the country’s administration by the Armed Forces and the promulgation of Martial Law, Pakistan has entered a new phase in its chequered political career. The perilous confrontation that began with the falsification of the popular verdict on March 7 is now behind us. After stumbling from deadlock to deadlock, the nation is now able to look forward to the future without trepidation. A tranquil mood already seems to have descended upon the country with the Chief Martial Law Administrator’s solemn undertaking that elections will be held in October next [1977] followed by the transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people. The Armed Forces have stepped in only to provide the country with an interim administration. In his address to the nation, Gen. Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq made it “absolutely clear” that he had no political ambition and that he was obliged to step in to fill the vacuum created by politicians. His sole aim, he said, was to organise free and fair polls. That, essentially, is the heart of the matter and the only legitimate way of resolving the crisis.

The crisis had already lingered too long. The movement launched by the Pakistan National Alliance was unprecedented in its reach and intensity, and the collision with Authority cost the country dearly in terms of human lives, property and economic well-being. Not only this. The unending confrontation brought about a national split and led to a loss of sense of direction. For a while, there seemed no way out of that crisis. According to Gen. Zia, the Armed Forces resisted the temptation to take over and bought valuable time for the Government by maintaining law and order so that a political settlement could be reached.

Political activity has been banned for the time being and this should contribute to the creation of a proper atmosphere for the political debate and disputation that will inevitably and rightly commence when political activity is revived before the elections. But if the forthcoming elections are correctly to mirror the state of feeling all over the country and provide the people with an opportunity to make their choice freely, it is necessary that those who have been kept out of the political arena by virtue of imprisonment or some other restriction should be set at liberty.

The demand for fresh elections lay at the root of the crisis, and though they were divided by deep mistrust, Mr. Bhutto and the PNA had both agreed that fresh elections should be held in October. These elections will now be held under the auspices of the Armed Forces and in that sense the seemingly jarring interruption of Martial Law is the smoothest possible ride over an abyss that politicians were unable to bridge. We may cool our nerves and get ready to vote.

***


ALL POLITICAL ACTIVITIES BANNED

DAWN October 2, 1977 (News Reports)

Elections postponed

General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, tonight [October 1] postponed the general elections “till a new announcement is made in this regard” and prohibited political activity in the country. Gen Zia-ul-Haq said the polls, earlier scheduled for October 18, had been postponed to “save the country from a dangerous crisis and to place full facts before the public through the process of accountability”. He said the political activity had been prohibited through a Martial Law Regulation issued by him to rid the country of “all physical and mental strains and to allow passions to cool down”.

***


DOCTRINE OF NECESSITY JUSTIFIES TAKEOVER

DAWN November 11, 1977

THE Supreme Court today [November 1] unanimously upheld the imposition of martial Law in the country on July 5, 1977, by the Chief of the Army Staff, terming it as a State necessity. In its judgment dismissing Begum [Nusrat] Bhutto’s petition challenging the detention under Martial Law of former Premier Z.A. Bhutto and 10 other People’s Party leaders, the nine-member Court, headed by Chief Justice Anwarul Haq, observed that after massive rigging of elections followed by complete breakdown of law and order situation bringing the country on the brink of disaster, the imposition of Martial Law had become inevitable.

***


UNANIMOUS HIGH COURT VERDICT IN MURDER TRIAL

DAWN March 18, 1978 (News Reports)

Bhutto sentenced to death

FORMER Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was sentenced to death today [March 17] by a full Bench of the Lahore High Court for the murder of Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan, father of Mr Ahmad Raza Kasuri, ex-MNA, on Nov 11, 1974. Four other accused in the case – Mian Mohammad Abbas, Director Intelligence and Operation of the defunct Federal Security Force, Sufi Ghulam Mustafa, Inspector, Arshad Iqbal, Sub-Inspector, and Rana Iftikhar ASI, FSF, were also sentenced to death.

***


APPEAL AGAINST HIGH COURT VERDICT DISMISSED

DAWN February 7, 1979

THE Supreme Court today [February 6] dismissed the appeal of Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and upheld the convictions and sentences recorded by the Lahore High Court in the Nawab Mohammad Ahmad Khan murder case by a majority of four judges against three. The judgement was announced by the country’s chief justice, Mr Justice Anwarul Haq, in a packed-to-capacity court room with the other six judges sitting beside him. The appeal of Mian Mohammad Abbas was also accorded the same treatment. However, all Judges were unanimous in dismissing the appeals of Ghulam Mustafa, Arshad Iqbal and Rana Iftikhar Ahmed, and upholding the convictions and sentences recorded by the High Court against them.

***


MEASURES FOR NIZAM-I-ISLAM

DAWN February 12, 1979 (Editorial)

Historic announcement

BY taking a major step towards Islamisation of the Pakistani society, President Zia-ul-Haq has not only kept the promise he had made to the nation but also responded to popular aspirations for a new social order based on the principles of Islam. Needless to say, this popular yearning formed the initial impulse for the Muslims of the subcontinent in their desire to create a separate homeland.

The present drive towards Islamisation has to be appreciated in the perspective of our historical experience and the present state of our society. The recent years have borne ample testimony to the impairment of strength suffered by our vital institutions in social, economic and political spheres. Against this background of gloom, the hope of advancing towards a clean and just society proceeding from the Islamic inspiration is our guiding light. Soon after it took over, the present Martial Law regime made its unequivocal commitment to enforce Islamic measures. Though it was also confronted with grave economic and political problems, its attention towards this vital aspect remained unwavering. Two aspects of the President’s announcement stand out prominently: the scheme for the introduction of Zakat and Ushr later this year and the immediate enforcement of penal laws for the four offences which are subject to Hudood, that is, intoxication, theft, Zina and Qazf (imputation of Zina). These two moves, of course, should be viewed in relation to other measures taken for the enforcement of Nizam-i-Islam. By embarking on the road to Islamisation, we have accepted a great challenge. May God Almighty grant us courage, wisdom and strength to remain steadfast in our covenant with Him.

***


FORMER PRIME MINISTER BURIED IN NAUDERO

DAWN April 5, 1979 (News Report)

Bhutto hanged in Rawalpindi Jail

MR Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged to death at 2’O clock this morning [April 4] in the Rawalpindi District Jail. An official handout released nine hours later in the day said his “dead body was flown in a special aircraft from Rawalpindi and handed over to the elders of his family who buried him after Namaz-i-Janaza in the ancestral graveyard at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh near Naudero, Larkana, at 10.30am in accordance with the wishes of the family”.

The funeral was attended by relatives, friends and residents of the area. Begum Nusrat Bhutto and their daughter Miss Benazir, who are detained at Sihala, about 16 miles from Rawalpindi, had been informed that all the mercy petitions had been rejected. They had a three-hour meeting with him yesterday in jail.

According to one of the officials, who was present at the hanging, Mr Bhutto was approached in his cell about an hour before the execution and told to prepare for the final act. He was told to have a bath if he wished. He replied in the negative and said that he had already had bath during the day. However, he wanted to shave his face. Permission was granted and he shaved his face by himself. The Deputy Superintendent stayed on to see his two hands tied together at his back. He was then told that his cell was about a furlong and half from the gallows, a distance which may be difficult for him to walk, and he should, therefore, lie down in a waiting stretcher to be carried by the jail warders. He protested and said that he would like to walk the distance himself. But he was made to lie down on the stretcher. Mr Bhutto was unloaded from the stretcher and he climbed up the stairs himself.

Earlier in the evening he was contacted by a jail official with a query if he wanted to make a will. He said that he would like to write it down. Writing material was supplied to him and he busied himself in writing. But later before the hanging when a Magistrate came and asked him to hand over his will so that it could be countersigned by the Magistrate, Mr Bhutto said he had no will in writing and that he had already conveyed his wish to his wife.

He was completely calm and quiet thereafter. He did not misbehave or talked loudly till the end. Mr Bhutto was handed over to the hangman who tied his legs with a cord, placed the traditional veil on his face and fixed the hanging cord round his neck. His body remained hanging for half an hour. Before it was removed the Medical Officer checked it and certified that it was lifeless.

***


TRAGIC END ON ALL COUNTS

DAWN April 7, 1979 (Editorial)

Bhutto: the end of a great promise

TIME alone can provide the necessary detachment for an objective assessment of the life, achievements and failures of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. No one – not even the most impenitent of his political foes – could have wished Mr. Bhutto to have ended as tragically as he did. The judicial verdict notwithstanding, concern over the fate of man of Mr. Bhutto’s political stature and importance was only to be expected. It is possible to have more than one opinion on Mr. Bhutto. The key to a proper understanding of this highly gifted and dynamic political figure perhaps lies in his feudal background which was often at odds with his modern vision and outlook, his populist brand of politics, and his penchant for change and modernisation.

Some of his outstanding qualities as a leader – his brilliance, his capacity to sway the masses and his enormous capacity for work – must be weighed against some of his glaring weaknesses – his despotic manner, and, most of all, his total intolerance of any dissent. He set out to bring about fundamental and far-reaching socio-economic change – without a coherent philosophy or a proper scheme of priorities and without having the necessary cadre or any defined concept of social control. Perhaps the most tragic of Mr. Bhutto’s failure – and in a way the country’s – was the historic opportunity he missed for giving Pakistan a viable and well-adjusted democratic system which was, and still remains, the country’s foremost need. It was perhaps in the area of external relations that the former Prime Minister was at his best. He was eminently qualified for the job. He generally pursued a correct policy, except that his drive for a leadership role in the Third World was overambitious, with its target greatly transcending the limitations of the country’s political, economic and diplomatic potential.

The fact needs to be acknowledged that there was a positive aspect to the populism that he preached. He promised too many things to too many people and could not deliver the goods. But the fact that as head of government he confirmed the people in the correctness and legitimacy of their aspirations for a better life gave the ordinary people a sense of power and dignity they did not possess before. Many people, rightly or wrongly, thought it to be a gift from him and were willing to cherish a post-dated cheque that they knew could not be encashed in the immediate future.

How history will judge him is difficult to visualise. But when it does, it will be possible to have a complete picture of the man, who dominated Pakistan’s political scene for long years and who, with all his drawbacks and failures, remained a towering figure till the end of his life.

***


HONOUR SHARED WITH TWO OTHERS

DAWN October 16, 1979 (News Reports)

Prof Salam gets Nobel Prize

PROFESSOR Abdus Salam of Pakistan and two Americans won the 1979 Nobel Physics Prize today [October 15] for work in a field which baffled Albert Einstein, the search for one common force which he suspected binds together the entire universe. Salam told PTV from London that he was very proud to be the first Muslim who has been awarded the Nobel Prize. The 53-year-old Professor said that he is the first scientist to receive this honour in the developing countries over the last 15 years. Expressing his pride for Pakistan, the recipient said he hopes to spend the proceeds from the prize on the educational uplift of the people of Pakistan, specially his home town district Jhang.

***


ZIA CONGRATULATES PROF. SALAM

DAWN October 16, 1979

President Zia-ul-Haq has congratulated Dr Abdus Salam for winning the Nobel Prize for Physics. In a congratulatory telegram, the President said: “It is a matter of great pride and happiness. It speaks of your relentless research and enviable scholarship. Please accept heartiest congratulation from me and the people of Pakistan on this distinction. You have certainly added a new luster to the glory of Pakistan.”

***


PASSENGERS AND CREW SAFE

DAWN March 3, 1981 (News Report)

PIA jet hijacked to Kabul

Al-Zulfikar activist Salamullah Tipu, alias Alamgir, waving arms and flashing a ‘V’ sign at Damascus Airport in Syria, leaving the PIA plane that he and his colleagues had hijacked while it was on its way from Karachi to Peshawar in March 1981. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
Al-Zulfikar activist Salamullah Tipu, alias Alamgir, waving arms and flashing a ‘V’ sign at Damascus Airport in Syria, leaving the PIA plane that he and his colleagues had hijacked while it was on its way from Karachi to Peshawar in March 1981. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

A PIA Boeing 720 aircraft has been hijacked while on its way from Karachi to Peshawar and forced to land at Kabul Airport. A PIA spokesman says PK-326 which left Karachi at 2.45pm today [March 2], was due to arrive at Peshawar at 4.25pm. It has 148 passengers and crew aboard. The spokesman said that earlier when the plane was in the vicinity of Mianwali at 4pm, the pilot sought permission to descend which was granted. Soon after, however, the pilot was heard saying that a man had entered the cockpit and was demanding to fly the plane to Kabul. The plane was later observed changing its direction and seen crossing into the Afghan air space. The plane landed at the Kabul Airport at 4.57pm. The spokesman said Aviation authorities established contact with the Kabul authorities who confirmed that the crew and passengers are safe.

The PIA spokesman said a PIA official has also talked on wireless to the hijacker who calls himself Alamgir, belonging to the defunct PPP. The spokesman further said that in the manifest there is no person by the name of Alamgir supposed to be travelling by the plane. He said either he is using a fake name now or he did not disclose his identity at the time of booking.

***


HIJACKING DRAMA COMES TO AN END

DAWN Monday March 16 1981 (Editorial)

Free at last!

THE end of the drama which began on March 2 with the hijacking of a PIA airliner to Kabul and ended with the release of the remaining hostages, numbering over a hundred, will be universally greeted with a sense of relief. All the elements of tension, excitement, human tragedy and courage were present throughout as the grisly events unfolded themselves. In the context of the ramifications of the plot behind the hijacking, the point cannot be stressed too much that the plot’s success owed itself to the total failure of security at the Karachi airport.

There can be no reservation whatsoever in condemning the latest act of terrorism. The use of violence against innocent people cannot be condoned under any circumstances. It is to be deprecated first on grounds of humanity and justice, since it amounts to a use of force against defenseless people who have nothing to do with the real or imaginary grievances of the terrorists and who are in no position to satisfy the demands of their captors. Terrorism as a means to a political end is impermissible morally, besides being counterproductive as a political strategy. The statesmanship and cooperative spirit displayed by Syria is to be highly commended. Incidentally, the episode has also served to demonstrate how events having their origin in the internal situation of a country can spill over into the domain of international diplomacy.

***


NAMES OF SWAPPED DETENUES RELEASED

DAWN March 17, 1981 (News Report)

The Pakistan Government today [March 16] released a list of 27 of the 54 political prisoners swapped for the hostages of the Pakistan jetliner at Damascus airport on March 15, which indicated that most of those released belonged to the defunct Pakistan People’s Party. It is expected that the list of the remaining 27 prisoners will be the issued by the Government tomorrow [March 18].  

***


PRESIDENT TO NOMINATE MAJLIS-I-SHOORA

DAWN March 25, 1981 (News Report)

CMLA enforces Constitution Order

THE Chief Martial Law Administrator tonight [March 24] promulgated the Provisional Constitution Order 1981 which comes into force with immediate effect. The Order provides for the appointment of one or more Vice-Presidents to be appointed by the CMLA. It also provides for the appointment of a Federal Council (Majlis-i-Shoora) consisting of such persons as the President may determine. The Order says when political activity is permitted by the President only such of the defunct political parties shall be entitled to function as were registered with the Election Commissioner on Sept 13, 1979. All parties other than those referred to in this clause shall stand dissolved and all their properties shall be forfeited to the Federal Government.

The order further provides that a person holding office immediately before the commencement of this Order as Chief Justice of Pakistan or other Judge of the Supreme Court, or Chief Justice or other judge of the High Court, or Chairman or Member of the Federal Shariat Court shall not continue to hold that office if he is not given or does not take oath in the form set out before the expiration of such time from such commitment as President may determine or within such time as may be allowed by the President. It says that a Judge of the Supreme Court and the Chairman and a Member of the Federal Shariat Court shall take the oath before the President or a person nominated, and a Judge of a high Court shall take the oath before the Governor or a person nominated by him. 

***


WAF PROTESTS AGAINST EVIDENCE ACT

DAWN February 13, 1983 (News Report}

Lahore processionists lathicharged

ABOUT 150 women were today [February 12] subjected to lathicharge and teargassing by the police as they tried to take out a procession from Hall Road to the Lahore High Court to register their resentment against the proposed changes in the Evidence Act. The police rounded up 31 women and took them to the Civil Lines police station but released them after about three hours. Those arrested included Miss Hina Jilani, Aasima Jilani, Bushra Eitzaz Ahsan, Begum Umar Asghar Khan, Mehnaz Rati, Madiha Gauhar and Miss Saleha Minto.

The women, who had announced to take out a peaceful procession to the High Court where they proposed to present their memorandum on the Evidence Act to the Chief Justice, started gathering on Hall Road at about 10am. At half-past 10 they tried to march in files of two carrying placards. The lady police, however, did not allow them to do so. In the meantime, noted poet Habib Jalib appeared on the scene and recited his poems. After some time the women processionists broke open the police cordon and came up to The Mall where they staged a sit-down. The male police force, which also tried to stop them, resorted to lathicharge and teargassing.

Mr Habib Jalib was also severely beaten up while the Secretary of Lahore High Court Bar, Mr Wasi Zafar, was arrested but later released. Soon after the teargassing and the arrests, the processionists dispersed while about 30 women succeeded in entering the High Court premises.

***


MOVEMENT FOR THE RESTORATION OF DEMOCRACY

DAWN August 16, 1983 (News Report)

MRD movement begins

THE MRD began its movement on Aug 14 at the Quaid-i-Azam’s Mazar with a pledge to continue its struggle for the revival of democracy, restitution of the rule of law and restoration of the 1973 Constitution without any amendments. The MRD leaders made this pledge before a sizeable audience that had gathered to pay homage to the Father of the Nation on the Independence Day.

The Quaid’s Mazar, for several hours remained the scene of intense political activity. Various political groups led by their respective leaders came in strength raising divergent slogans.

The Zia Himayat Tehrik showed up in force waving flags and shouting “Pakistan Ka Matlab Kia, La Illaha Ill-ul-Lah”. Its leader, Mr. Yusuf Qureshi, spoke briefly, supporting the Government in its efforts for Islamisation of society. The MRD workers came in two groups – one led by the MRD acting convener, Mr. Abid Zuberi, and comprising Prof. N.D. Khan, Qari Sher Afzal and Mr. Alamdar Haider, and the other led by Mr. Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Khwaja Khairuddin, Mr. Mairaj Mohammad Khan, Mr. Fatehyab Ali Khan and Mr. Iqbal Haider. They were joined later by Mr. Musheer Ahmad Peshimam and Mrs Shahida Jameel. Maualan Ehtramul Haq Thanvi, who came last of all, also spoke on the occasion.

***


SIACHEN STARTS HEATING UP

DAWN July 23, 1984 (News Report)

Concern over border clashes

FOREIGN Minister Sahabzada Yaqoob Khan has expressed concern over the recent clashes between Indian and Pakistani troops along the border in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. He told correspondents that the clashes had occurred some 120 miles from the Karakoram Highway at the point of Siasar [Siachen] Glacier, reported a BBC broadcast quoting Mark Tully’s dispatch from Pakistan.

Sahabzada Yaqub gave no details of the incident but unconfirmed reports said that a number of Indian and Pakistani soldiers were killed and wounded during the clashes. Both sides have alleged concentration of troops along with borders leading to a mounting of tension in the area.

***


THE ICON PASSES AWAY

DAWN November 22, 1984 (Editorial)

Faiz Ahmad Faiz

FAIZ has passed into history. Even in his lifetime he had risen to a height where words neither of praise nor of calumny could touch him. No superlatives are adequate to give a full measure of his personality. On Iqbal’s death he had written an elegy (as Iqbal had written one for Ghalib): ‘Aya hamaray des mein ik khush-nawa faqir, aya aur apni dhun mein ghazal-khwan guzar gaya’. Until another Faiz arrives to lift the sinking hearts of the Pakistani people, the lines Faiz wrote about Iqbal will serve as his epitaph as well. Like Iqbal, Faiz was not just a poet but a man of many noble traits. As he himself said in one of his most touching poems, Faiz had two loves – beauty and his motherland. He remained faithful to both – as a poet, as a journalist, as a campaigner for world peace, as a trade unionist and as an ambassador of love among all human beings. But more than an internationally acclaimed writer and poet, Faiz was the symbol of the best culture the soil of Pakistan has thrown up – one who answered to Ghalib’s definition of ‘Deeda-i-beena’. Millions of people throughout the world recognized in him a man of boundless love for the poor, an artist who could chisel their dreams into recognizable shapes, and a visionary who kept their hopes of a better day alive. Men who move the hearts of human beings never die. Faiz, the great son of Pakistan, will live forever.

***


ZIA AT HIS CONTROVERSIAL BEST

DAWN December 24, 1984 (Editorial)

Referendum and after

THE outstanding facts about the December 19 referendum are that the process was peaceful and that within the given scope of possibilities, a verdict has emerged on the composite proposition that was put before the people. Without going into an anatomical analysis and appraisal of the detailed aspects of the December 19 exercise, it must be accepted, however, that the crucial first step towards the promised restoration of representative rule in the country has been taken. Last week’s referendum, besides seeking the people’s authorisation on certain vital questions, was meant to be a prelude to that end. Having this as a long-delayed watershed, the national focus must now shift to the next phase of the promised transition — elections to the federal and provincial assemblies and the Senate which are to be completed by March 23 next. With presidential continuity now assured, the Government is now normally bound to address itself in all seriousness to its commitment to begin re-democratisation. Among the first things to be settled in this context is the long-deferred question of whether the forthcoming elections are to be held on party or a non-party basis.

***


PARTYLESS POLLS HELD; MARTIAL LAW TO CONTINUE

DAWN March 25, 1985 (Editorial)

On to a new phase

THE joint session of the newly elected National Assembly and Senate was something of a landmark, in the sense that it marked the formal inauguration of an elected government. Though Martial Law, which has held the field for a little less than eight years now, will continue to operate for some time more, a change has come about with the induction of an elected civilian set-up. As President Zia said in his inauguration speech, Martial Law will remain in force, presumably as a protective cover, until the new Government has settled down and established its ‘grip on the national affairs’. Prime Minister Junejo enters upon the responsibilities of his office at a crucial time. But armed with the kind of parliamentary go-ahead he has received, he should be able, first, to form a Cabinet capable of eliciting wide support within the House and, secondly, to strive to win credibility in the country. This, indeed, cannot be taken for granted. There are major constitutional, political and administrative matters that claim the attention of his Government in the immediate context. For his part, the Prime Minister has expressed himself as favouring the revival of the now-defunct political parties. 

***


AFTER 8TH AMENDMENT GETS PASSED

DAWN January 1, 1986 (Editorial)

The lifting of Martial Law

THE third and by far the most tenacious Martial Law in the nation’s history has at long last come to an end and in a manner calculated to confound much of the cynicism that had come to surround its lifting. For months on end speculation was rife that the lifting of Martial Law would change nothing in reality. In the light of the decisions announced, these doubts begin to look out of place. There are, of course, plenty of safeguards in the new democratic order. But this should hardly be surprising considering the fact that the military initiated the process of disengagement of its own volition and in the light of its own assessment of the situation — and not under pressure from a popular agitation.

How Parliament and the Government, on the one hand, and the forces of the Opposition, on the other, acquit themselves in the phase that now opens is going to be crucial. Decisions regarding the revival of political parties will have a vital bearing on the course of future political developments. President Zia who threw broad hints in his speech about the virtues of a partyless system, went so far as to suggest that the troubles of the past were largely traceable to the existence of political parties. But this is a selective interpretation of history. The crises and twists and turns that have marked our national life have occurred not because of too much democracy but because of too little.

The decision to lift Martial Law does not determine the outcome of the struggle to establish democracy on a firm footing. But it is a worthy beginning which it is for Parliament to take to its logical conclusion.

***


ALTAF ADDRESSES MASSIVE RALLY IN KARACHI

DAWN August 9, 1986 (News Report)

Call to recognise Mohajirs’ rights

THE Mohajir Qaumi Movement, led by its founder, Mr Altaf Husain, staged a mass rally at Nishtar Park to reaffirm its commitment towards recognition of Mohajirs as a fifth nationality in the country. At its first-ever big public display since its inception about a decade ago, the MQM demanded that the socio-political and economic rights of the Mohajirs be given a constitutional cover. Non-Mohajirs and non-Sindhis living in the province should not be considered as a part of the population of Sind, a resolution demanded.

Yet another resolution called for the appointment of Mohajir as Governor of Sind since the Chief Minister, it pointed out, was a Sindhi. In addition, the present I.G. of Police be replaced by a Mohajir or a Sindhi, it said.

The gathering could be compared to any big public meeting held previously at Nishtar Park by the MRD and other political parties. Mohajirs, who came in big and small groups from interior of Sind and from various parts of Karachi, marched in an orderly fashion to the venue. The big crowd, though frequently displaying exuberance, remained disciplined. Even when it started raining, the people did not move, and listened to the speech of their leader, Mr Altaf Husain, who was himself rain-soaked.

***


DEADLY BLASTS HIT DOWNTOWN KARACHI

DAWN July 16, 1987 (Editorial)

A tragedy & an indictment

KARACHI has suddenly suffered the most devastating blow in the crescendo of bomb blasts which had initially been restricted to the North West Frontier Province. That stakes in this diabolical game of terrorism were rising was evident from the blasts which occurred earlier this year in Lahore and Rawalpindi. But what happened in Karachi on Tuesday [July 14] is not just an extension in the area of terrorists’ operation. It also indicates a qualitative change in the aims and intensity of such attack. The blasts were obviously meant to kill a large number of people and create commotion. The toll of about 70 killed and more than 200 hurt is simply horrendous. Even by Beirut’s standards, it was a major attack and testifies to the reach and resources of saboteurs now operating in Pakistan. There is no clear indication of who the saboteurs are and what their designs are. What they have done in Karachi amounts to planned mass murder. And they chose their victims and the scene of carnage with the cynicism of compulsive killers. It is obvious that the intention was to create the maximum scare and insecurity through one dastardly attack. Karachi has understandably been stunned and stupefied. 

***


ZARDARI ENTERS THE BHUTTO CLAN

DAWN December 19, 1987 (News Report)

Benazir’s marriage solemnised

After the 1985 elections, Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in April 1986 to a heart-warming reception in Lahore and subsequently in Karachi and T elsewhere. She is seen here addressing a mammoth rally in Lahore. In just about two years, she was going to be heading the government in Islamabad. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
After the 1985 elections, Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan in April 1986 to a heart-warming reception in Lahore and subsequently in Karachi and T elsewhere. She is seen here addressing a mammoth rally in Lahore. In just about two years, she was going to be heading the government in Islamabad. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

Ms. Benazir Bhutto, Co-chairman, PPP, was married to Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, son of Mr. Hakim Ali Zardari, Vice-President, ANP, on Friday [December 18]. Over 2,000 guests responded to the invitation for reception hosted by Begum Nusrat Bhutto soon after the ‘Nikah’ ceremony. Multitudes of PPP workers and supporters gathered at the Kakri Ground to round off the day’s celebrations till past midnight, to give an ‘Awami’ touch with joyous abandon in a display of fanfare and fireworks.

***


FAROOQ SATTAR ELECTED KARACHI MAYOR

DAWN January 11, 1988 (Editorial)

The task before the municipal leadership

Having won a decisive victory in the local polls, the Mohajir Qaumi Movement chose to greet the election with a populist demonstration of its strength. To some extent, the occasion coincided with the demonstrations occasioned by the release of the MQM leader, Mr. Altaf Hussain, and other party activists from jail on Thursday night [January 7].

That all this touched off some localised disorders points towards Karachi’s alarming potential for violence. Karachi’s civic management in the given circumstances is an awesome challenge, and the citizens’ attention is now claimed by a 28-year-old medical graduate, Dr. Mohammad Farooq Sattar. That he enjoys considerable grassroots support can be both an asset and a liability. That the new Mayor is so young, inexperienced and untrained may not necessarily be a disadvantage. Indeed, youth is the motive force of the MQM’s thrust and is reflected in the composition of the KMC and four ZMCs. If they are willing to learn, their idealism and energy should stand them in good stead. They do need humility and a willingness to learn and serve.

***


80 DEAD, 1000 HURT IN OJHERI BLAST

DAWN April 12, 1988 (Editorial)

Sunday’s catastrophe

SUNDAY’S [April 10] explosion in an ammunition dump in the vicinity of Rawalpindi and Islamabad has shattered us beyond belief or description – such is the grimness and magnitude of the tragedy. The entire nation has understandably been staggered by this catastrophic explosion which sent rockets and missiles flying into various areas of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. It amounted to a chain of bomb blasts, many of them simultaneous, and devastating in their total effect, and it is mindboggling to think that all this could have been triggered by one single explosion or a flicker of flame at a specific place. At least in a psychic sense, it has exposed us to all kinds of unforeseen and accidental possibilities. We had never before felt so vulnerable and helpless as now.

As the initial sense of horror and disbelief subsides, the mind is naturally assailed by many questions. Some of the obvious ones are: How did it happen at all? Why was the ammunition dump located in the midst of a populated area? How big was it?

The Prime Minister was understandably prompt in ordering a high-level inquiry into the incident. It is to be headed by the Commander of the Tenth Corps. But any inquiry and its findings will have first and foremost to reckon with the credibility factor. We have known the fate of many such exercises in the past. The relevant authorities must be required to explain why the ammunition dump was allowed to be located in a populated area and that too so close to sensitive installations in the capital.

Also intriguing is the apparent lapse in the safety precautions. If this was not an act of sabotage, what kind of departures were made then from the normal procedures to make Sunday’s catastrophic explosion possible? After all, the armed forces have to deal with ammunition as a matter of routine. Accidents because of human error are possible but this was obviously a lapse of gigantic proportions. 

***


NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, CABINET DISSOLVED

DAWN May 31, 1988 (Editorial)

The change

PRESIDENT Zia-ul-Haq’s action in dissolving the National Assembly and dismissing the Government of Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo has come as a total surprise. Significantly, the President has exercised powers that had been assigned to him by the now dissolved Assembly through the Eighth Amendment. The Presidential Order affirms the President’s opinion that “a situation has arisen in which the Government of the Federation cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and an appeal to the electorate is necessary”.

***


ANOTHER STEP TOWARDS ISLAMISATION

DAWN June 17, 1988 (Editorial)

The Shariah Ordinance

THE promulgation of an Ordinance making Shariah the supreme law of the land marks one more step in the direction of Islamisation after what President Zia-ul-Haq called “a painful interruption of more than three years.” The Ordinance makes the Islamic law, as the President put it, “the key factor in all policies of the Government, which will now be under obligation to seek guidance from the Shariah.” For that reason, the President called it “a revolutionary step” because the Ordinance will enable the superior courts to strike down any law if it is repugnant to the Shariah. What is more, every High Court has been empowered to take cognisance suo moto of all financial laws which had so far been kept out of the purview of the Federal Shariat Court.

***


ZIA DIES IN PLANE CRASH

DAWN August 19, 1988 (Editorial)

End of an era

General Ziaul Haq’s funeral cortege making its way on August 20, 1988, to the final destination of his mortal remains on earth; Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. He died in a plane crash on August 17. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives
General Ziaul Haq’s funeral cortege making its way on August 20, 1988, to the final destination of his mortal remains on earth; Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. He died in a plane crash on August 17. | Photo: Dawn / White Star Archives

HAVING presided over the destiny of Pakistan for over 11 years, across violent upheavals in the region and political triumphs and trauma at home, General Zia-ul-Haq has died in a plane crash near Bahawalpur. Nobody else has ruled Pakistan for as long and with such tenacity, earning sympathy and praise from some quarters and evoking antipathy and skepticism in others. With him in the ill-fated C-130 were quite a few army officers, some belonging to the top brass, and the American Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Arnold Raphel. This bolt from the blue has left the nation in a state of shock and disbelief. The dominant thought at present pertains to the sudden removal from the scene of President Zia who had come to be identified with a complex of policies and attitudes and had evolved his own style of leadership, involving an uncommon mix of the khaki and the mufti, to steer the nation through some of the most stormy stretches in its 41 years of existence. In his case the style assumed an importance all its own. A humble, unassuming and warm-hearted person, he put everyone he met at ease. The simplicity of his manner, indeed, contrasted sharply with the lofty bearing of some other ex-rulers of the country who were cast in the feudal mould. A devout Muslim, his passion for introducing Islam remained a constant feature of his rule. A mere novice in matters political and diplomatic in 1977, he was very quick on the uptake and came to demonstrate astounding insights into the mystifying arts of politics and diplomacy. He showed the capacity to create facts and take initiatives, sometimes controversial ones. His shadow will continue to fall on our polity for quite some time. Indeed, Pakistan will find itself living with the political legacy left behind by him for many years to come.


Click on the buttons below to read more from this special feature

Habib Jalib recites Zulmat ko Zia

*******

First-hand accounts of a protest by the Women’s Action Forum in February 1983

*******

Iqbal Bano and Zehra Nigah render Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poems; Ahmed Faraz recites "Mahasara"

*******

Arshad Mahmud recites Habib Jalib's poem written in memory of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

*******

Reading: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from his autobiography, ‘If I am assassinated"

*******

Muhammad Khan Junejo congratulates the country upon the lifting of Martial Law December 30, 1985

*******

TV coverage of General Zia ul Haq's funeral - 1988

*******

Click on the buttons below to read more from this special feature