Everything is NOT Zia’s fault – here are 6 reasons why

Published: July 8, 2014

As of July 5, 2014, it has been exactly 37 years since he took charge and 26 years since he died, but we still blame him for most of the issues pertaining to the country today. PHOTO: AFP

As of July 5, 2014, it has been exactly 37 years since he took charge and 26 years since he died, but we still blame him for most of the issues pertaining to the country today. PHOTO: AFP As of July 5, 2014, it has been exactly 37 years since he took charge and 26 years since he died, but we still blame him for most of the issues pertaining to the country today. PHOTO: AFP

In the 1980s, there was a grocery store in H-Block, Model Town Lahore, called ‘Blueberry Bakers’. Now that I think about it, I wish I had asked the owner, known to me only as ‘uncle’, why his establishment was named as such, especially since I am 100% sure the store did not have a bakery and neither did it ever offer any blueberries. Blueberry Bakers was one of my go-to points for Super Crisps and RC Cola

While I might enjoy waxing nostalgic about where I bought junk food from as a 10-year-old, I’m guessing that’s of little interest to the readers.

What might, however, be of interest is one of my rather vivid memories at Blueberry Bakers; my mom and I were standing in the store, the TV in the store was on and a small crowd had gathered in front of it. All of a sudden (while I was eyeing a packet of Choco Chums for consumption), my mom grabbed my arm and shoved me out of the store.

“Jaldi ghar chalo!” she whispered into my ear.

(Let’s go home now, fast)

“Kyun Amma?!” I wailed.

(Why mother?)

Her response,

“General Zia marr gaya hai.”

(General Zia is dead)

“Toh kya farak parta hai?!” I protested (by this time I could already taste the Choco Chums melting in my mouth).

(So what difference does that make to us?)

“No,” she replied whilst dragging me out, “halaat kharab ho saktay hein.”

(The city’s situation might become bad.)

As a 10-year-old, I couldn’t understand why someone important dying in a plane crash in Bahawalpur would result in ‘halaat kharab’ 400km away in Lahore. It’s nice that children today are much more appreciative of the concept and realise the long arm of namaloom afraad’.

Long story short, Ziaul Haq had died in a plane crash. Some mangoes may or may not have been involved. There were conspiracies abound about how the usual suspects had plotted against the citadel of Islam (USA, Israel, India) and the Reader’s Digest and Vanity Magazine accused a not-so-usual suspect: the Soviet Union. In the meantime Azhar Lodhi lost his job at PTV for crying on air at Zia’s funeral.

Fast forward a couple of decades and the country has experienced several rounds of stunted democracy, almost another decade of dictatorship, followed by a somewhat enduring democratic setup. Pakistan suffers from unemployment, lawlessness, an electricity shortage, sectarianism, religious extremism and a decline in the arts. As of July 5, 2014, it has been exactly 37 years since he took charge and 26 years since he died, but we still blame him for most of the issues pertaining to the country today.

It makes me wonder, has Ziaul Haq become a scapegoat that the media and public conveniently pin all our issues on? Let’s see…

1. GDP growth:

Pakistan had the highest ever rate of GDP growth rate during Zia’s era (stand alone as well as compared to the competition, India). During Pervez Musharraf’s much touted growth era (2000-2008), our average GDP growth rate was 4.7% while India grew at 6.7%. On the other hand, Zia delivered GDP growth (from 1978-1988) of 6.9% as compared to India’s performance of 4.7% during the same period. Our growth rate during this period is ranked 19th in the world (India is at number 46), ahead of 239 other countries.

2. Arts and culture:

Maula Jatt, an icon of Punjabi cinema, came out in 1979. Unforgettable TV shows like TanhaiyaanDhoop Kinaray, Waris, and Fifty-Fifty all aired in the early 80s.

Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan entered the global spotlight in 1985 when he performed for an international audience in London.

Nazia Hassan sang Aap jaisa koi in 1980 and Disco Dewane in 1981.

Alamgir was all the rage in the 1980s.

Abida Parveen received the pride of performance award in 1984.

The Vital Signs released Do Pal Ka Jeevan in 1986. Ironically, the birth of the Pakistan pop music scene that we all enjoyed during the 1990s actually took place in General Zia’s time.

3. Extremism and militancy:

Flashback – the world’s most powerful army had invaded Afghanistan. If we did nothing, the worst case scenario was that the Soviets would annexe the Pakistan coastline to access the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf. Best case, we would have an Indian military ally on our western border. Neither option was acceptable.

Zia used foreign money and weapons to create a fighting force that defeated the powerful Soviet army, with virtually zero Pakistani casualties. We achieved ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, created a second line of defence against any military threat and (as an added bonus) the Kashmiri jihad got the Indian army bogged down in a war of attrition. It was a brilliant solution that almost every Pakistani endorsed. Yes, it back-fired 20 years later. Could it have been managed better? Maybe we should pass the blame around equally on this one and not put everything on Zia.

4. Electricity shortage:

In Zia’s era, ‘load shedding’ took place for 15-30 minutes, once a day, for a few weeks a year.

Need I say more?

5. Conservatism and intolerance:

The objectives resolution first (con)fused religion and state in 1949. We became the ‘Islamic’ Republic of Pakistan in 1956. The first anti-Ahmadi riots took place in 1953 in Lahore. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s 1973 constitution made Islam the state religion, which Bhutto amended in 1974 to classify Ahmadis as non-Muslims.

And for those who wish they could have a Mojito at a bar in Karachi: it was ZA Bhutto who passed laws banning gambling, clubs and alcohol. Once again, it’s ironic that the ‘Islamisation’ of Pakistan that Zia took to great heights was actually born in Bhutto’s era.

6. Crime and lawlessness:

The Afghan refugees came in the early 80s. It’s been 30 years – the Kalashnikovs they brought have rusted! Lawlessness is driven by lack of economic opportunity, fostered by official support to militant and criminal organisations (be it the establishment continuing to support jihadists, or political parties supporting extortionists and gangsters). It’s too old a problem to pin on Zia now.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Zia bashing on account of everything bad he did (killing Bhutto, Hudood Ordinance, encouraging militant sectarianism etcetera). However, it’s equally important that we stick to the facts in our zeal to badmouth the dictator and spread the blame (or credit) fairly.

Blueberry Bakers has since been sold and is now known as ‘Clifton General Store’. I’m sure if we think hard enough we can find a reason to blame that on Zia as well.

Nzaar Nzaar

Nzaar Ihsan

A banker by day and aspiring journalist by night, he has lived in Pakistan and across the Middle East. He currently lives and works in Doha, Qatar. He tweets at @nzaar (twitter.com/nzaar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • shah

    Zia made himself rich, fought a war for America and sowed the seeds for Pakistan’s eventual destruction. by the way this “Soviets wanted to access warm water in the Gulf” is propaganda that made no sense in 1980’s and doesn’t today. Soviets invading and occupying Pakistan just to get to “warm waters” was nonsense.Recommend

  • Younis

    I agree!Recommend

  • Syed

    I am surprised that you as a banker can say what you have said about GDP. It has been written multiple times that the reason why initially GDP grew both in Zia and Musharaf’s time was due to the performance of previous governments.Recommend

  • Imran Khalid

    This was Z.A. Bhutto who introduced the Afghan Policy in 1975 and we still go the same way.Recommend

  • Amir

    Good one. Have lots of memories with Blueberry BakeryRecommend

  • Feroz

    I do agree that no single ruler can be blamed for the decline of Pakistan, all are culpable since none had the courage to usher in change that could benefit the country. All of them also pandered to the basest instincts of citizens, rather than leading people to a better tomorrow.Recommend

  • Hassan

    Agree with youRecommend

  • Asad Khan

    The Author has spoken to my Heart.


  • Ansh

    Agree everything is not Zia’s fault. in-fact mr. Jinnah deserves greater credit for present mess. A state can not run by religion and foundation of Pakistan was based on religious ground. which later used by politicians/Army/Mullahs as per their convenience.Recommend

  • shiraz

    wow…what an irony…the newspaper gives space for write up which rightly emphasizes that a single person (dictator or other wise) can not be blamed for all the evils….accordingly why should Musharraf be tried for treason and all other charges for all the evils in his era. Any answer for that?Recommend

  • khan

    That time Pakistan was getting paid in $ for commercial jihaad composed by ISI and CIA: this was the reason to boost economy and our economy was getting fueled by US Dollers for our commerical jihaad.
    load shedding 15-30 minutes? what a joke
    do you know the total population that time? have you heard something called capacity management?
    I am just surprised by your intellect level!!Recommend

  • Ali

    government before Musharaf, PML-N… GOVERMNENT NOW= PML-N
    if the intial growth was due to the performance of previous govts why is down the drain now? (Govts are same)Recommend

  • Raza Ali

    I don’t know the writer, but publications, which render space to such uninformed opinions, need to reconsider their policies. For the author: 1: The GDP rate shown in Zia’s time was just as much cooked as was the rate of exchange of Pakistani rupee and 90% of that GDP went into one hole. 2: If the author of this piece thinks that MOLLA JUTT was some advancement in Pakistani cinema, then this person needs to see earlier movies and also needs to understand that MOLLA JUTT was the beginning of the JUTT and GUJJAR culture. Nazia Hasan did not start singing in Pakistan. She was able to sing AAP JAISA KOI MERI ZINDAGI MEIN AAE, becasue she lived in UK. 3: The Afghan-Soviet conflict was in fact a US-Soviet conflict and this myth about WARM WATERS show geographical ignorance of the author. Pakistan was never the aim and this can be seen from declassified Soviet documents, but documents need to be read. 4: The term LOAD SHEDDING was coined in Zia’s era and it was a couple of hours everyday. It was not as acute as it is now, but it could had been avoided if the “great general’s” regime had minimum amount of brains and would first plan to produce more power, before electrifying the rural areas. 5: ISLAMIZATION of Pakistan was a necessity for Zia’s regime, because that was the only way of recruiting JIHADIS. PTV never gave air time to MULLAS before Zia’s time and religious intolerance was groomed as a state policy by Zia ul Haq. 6: Crime and violence did not start in Zia’s time, but it was his regime, which paid zero attention to public affairs, because they had the Afghan war on their minds and then after that they had only enough energies to create thug groups to legitimize their rule. It was the Afghan war and MOLLA JUTT, which brought AK-47 to Pakistani streets. People should read at least or do some research before trying to spread their unfounded opinions. I wish this person to be able to some day think rationally and on the basis of reality.Recommend

  • Critical thinker…!!!

    ahhahaa..nice one performance of previous governments…Recommend

  • Kiran

    Wow, for once a very different and interesting article on ET. I completely agree and also it’s high time someone said it out loud ” we can’t pin everything bad that has ever happened on this man and let everyone else go clean “. Seriously, even after Zia ( the period that I have witnessed ) how many honest, sincere, visionary political leaders our country has seen ?

    We blame this one man for everything, we should give the devil his due ( for lack of a better term ), in his time period there was no chaos or lawlessness like today. People felt much safer. So, there was good stuff as well as bad.Recommend

  • M Ali

    A point by point analysis:

    1.) Yes, Pakistan did have very good GDP growth under Zia, but a major factor for that were ridiculous amounts of petro-dollars being pumped into the economy by Saudi Arabia and USA so the Pakistani establishment could equip the Mujahideen.

    2.) You have a valid point here. PTV’s output in the 1980s is still unrivaled despite today’s media ‘freedom’.

    3.) You admitted that ‘strategic depth’ proved to be suicidal for Pakistan in the long run, so why try to justify it?

    4.) It might also have something to do with the fact that hardly anyone had air conditioners in Zia’s era.

    5.) You’re right that successive governments set up the stage of Zia’s ‘Islamisation’ of Pakistan, but the Hudood Ordinance is when the nation jumped the shark.

    6.) I strongly disagree here. As someone from Karachi, heroin and Kalashnikovs were virtually unknown until hordes of Afghan refugees descended upon the city in the 1980s. The Zia regime’s aggression against MRD activists in Sindh are well documented. Also, MQM was initially supported by Zia’s regime (they later broke off though).Recommend

  • haroon

    tell that to Nadeem Farooq Paracha. Not withstanding the fact that he is an excellent scribe, he seems hell bent on blaming everything on ZiaRecommend

  • haroon

    PS. Three cheers for Blueberry Bakery (and the bandkebab/burger sold next door)Recommend

  • Nzaar

    Shah, thank you for comments. What you’re saying might indeed be true. That doesn’t change the fact that having the Soviet Union (an Indian military ally) on our western border was also not a situation the army could have accepted.Recommend

  • Syed

    Then you said Zia fought with worlds largest army without any Pakistani casualties. Sir what are we facing today don’t you think our current situation is because of our past association and unrealistic agendas. How many Shia or Sunni killings used to happen before Zia?
    Now we are over 179.2 million in population so yes at that time we had no power failure. Most of Pakistani started using AC and what not in 2000s.
    You can write what ever you want that’s your freedom but please do not try to change the facts.

  • Sami

    In Pakistan the glass is always half full. Interestingly the secular Bhutto started the God-God game and dragged Fatwas that you are a Muslim or not into the Constitution but somehow many so called Fake Liberal authors with Affiliation to PPP in the past are bound to write it otherwise.Recommend

  • Haris

    yeah they were just here to drink Afghni tea…… right? you take down Pakistan completely what else do you need.Recommend

  • Nzaar

    Syed, you might have a point, but I don’t necessarily agree. Bhutto was in power for 6 years (71 to 77) – the growth rate was 7.1 in 1973 and 3.9 in 77. In 1978, it suddenly hit 8. That could indeed be the Zia effect.

    Similarly, the growth rate was constantly rising from 86 to 88 (in 88 it was 7.6%). In 89 (BBs first year) it fell to 5%. Such large variations every time the govt changes can’t be attributed to a previous govt, in my opinion.

    The government is held responsible (blamed, or given credit, as the case may be) for ongoing bad or good growth rates across the world. Nobody blames George W. Bush for the payroll or GDP numbers in the USA today.Recommend

  • Danish

    Cannot agree more with you mate. I have the same view at the point no. 3 .Had we managed it better the situation, we could have done wonders.
    Zia was way better than Bhutto.
    And these are Bhuttos socialist and communist ideas that have destroyed our economic growth and industry not Zia and others policies.Recommend

  • Ahsan

    wow .. crystal pure non-sense .. taken out of context … “In Zia’s era, ‘load shedding’ took place for 15-30 minutes” like before Zia it used to be hours? For heaven’s sake journalism and journalism why so naive?Recommend

  • Hassan

    Murder of History… Thanks for the article… I think you should have blamed Sectarian too on somebody else shoulder…Recommend

  • Bangash

    It is very sad to see Educated People sympathizing with a dictator like Zia( who is not just notorious for what he did to us, but also to Palestinians in Jordan- google Black September Jordan). The Warm Water Joke keeps excessively repeated in the case. The author mentioned some “strategic depth” and “added bonus”. He forgot to mention the Siachin Glacier, and also that that brilliant plan had no well thought (if there was any thought involved) ending. If I am not wrong Zia invented Mohajir QM and look what this tradition did to Karachi. The rise of SSP is another worth mentioning. Zia intervened in Afghanistan, but thought nothing about the Refugee in-pour, which gifted us with Kalashnikov and Heroin Culture. It will take quite a space if I continue.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I call this intelligent mischievous selective mis-direction.


  • ali.xaidi

    You probably forgot to mention what happened to Riaz Shahid’s “Yeh Aman”. Maula Jutt was allowed to be aired because it didn’t challenge the government or wasn’t in contradiction with the government policy. On the other hand, Yeh Aman attacked Indian policy in Kashmir while the government’s policy was of friendship with India atthat time.
    3 hours movie was cut short to a mere hour and twenty minutes by the censor board.
    The religious extremism that he created and the the extremist religious and sectarian outfits that were the offshoot of this religious extremism were his gifts. Just try and imagine how much the musicians and showbiz people were abused by these Mullahs everywhere around?
    Topics like Zarqa and Shaheed were touched by Pakistanis during 60’s and 70’s but what we got out of Zia era was Maula Jutt. Though Maula Jutt was a masterpiece, it instilled in human brains the misconception that “One man can solve it all”.
    And what about the ban on Nighat Chaudhry’s dance? While it was allowed in the red-light areas of Lahore to watch women dance their vulgar steps to please the mentally sick Pakistanis, a woman who actually did what we call “poetry by body” was banned to appear on TV. In fact she was forced to quit the country and leave for India.
    Fact is that it is the social strata which creates artists in a society. While the youngsters who grew up during Bhutto and Ayub era were much calmer in their nature, some excellent music was produced by them in 80’s when they had grown up.
    But the legacy left over by the Zia era was that of calling artists as “K**j*r”
    Nazia Hassan lived most of the time abroad when zia ruled yet the youth Zia era created knew nothing of art and culture. It was injected into their brains that Sharia Law was all they needed to strive for. Free-thinking was caged while dogma ruled the society.
    How can you vindicate Zia of this worst crime of his? He killed the art, the most powerful weapon of our society against extremism.Recommend

  • Monte Albert

    I have to say, you got all wrong about entertainment industry.
    Alamgir, what efforts he had to put through to get his songs
    broadcasted. Otherwise Zia-ul-Haq mostly banned most of the Bhutto era
    entertainment industry. Lollywood was booming until end of Bhutto era.
    3. Soviet taking over Pakistan (the major US base) is much bigger of a US paranoia than Pakistani.
    “4. In Zia’s era, ‘load shedding’ took place for 15-30 minutes, once a day, for a few weeks a year.

    Need I say more?”

    is responsible of serious population increase since then? Definitely
    islamization. Nobody gave a crap about Family Planning campaigns.
    when you are increasing population at an alarming rate but not keeping
    up with electricity production, you will get short of electricity.
    5. I can give you that.Recommend

  • Asad Khan

    Rich? The Surrey Palace was in Zia’s name? The Swiss Accounts holders are Zia’s family members? The biggest land owners in Pakistan is Zia’s family? The biggest loan defaulters are the Zia’s Children ?

    Oh, Soviets did not want a direct rout to Germany / Central Europe they invaded Czechoslovakia for its fair weather? Soviet empires loves the Afghani food that is why they invaded Afghanistan? and they hated the Indian Ocean and swear on oath that they never sent canoe let alone their nuclear Submarines in Indian Ocean.

    Dude, Epic failure of rationality!!


  • Farzan Saeed Khan

    It was the need of time to support Afghan Jihadi groups. Zia handled the situation remarkably. However, lack of subtle handling of the matter by succeeding Governments (and foreign Governments too!) resulted in the crisis we -by we I mean not only Pakistan but also the West- are facing today.
    GDP growth was result of the foreign aid.Recommend

  • Spin Han

    Who brought #Zia
    to this stage? We support Democracy but sometimes we exaggerate
    Democracy against Martial Law yes, it is unconstitutional, but we have
    to admit both were equally involved in this. If the intentions are just
    for Power, you’ll loose East Pakistan and your life might as well.Recommend

  • Fay

    Electricity? Really?
    With half the population, it is well imaginable.

    I understand the literature produced in those times is marvellous.
    Subtle writing under hardcore censorship was a job well done but
    you giving a general the credit makes me doubt your merit.

  • khurram

    I agree!Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    GDP in Zia’s era can be equated to be a product of ‘gimmicks’ same way as Musharraf’s economic initiatives are regarded. We did get heavy AID from US in those times just as in Musharraf’s. It’s interesting how most famous Art and cultural developments were made in Zia’s era while Salman Ahmad recalls a private event where some Islamists bashed in and ripped apart his guitar etc.

    I’m no Zia ul Haq fan but I guess his ‘strategic depth’ was a well-outlined plan. Things got worse when in 90s, Benazir and Nasrullah Babar, set up Taliban’s govt. in Afghanistan. Personal opinion, that’s when Afghanistan became our enemy.

    I repeat I’m not at all Zia ul Haq’s fan but thanks a zillion for reminding that it was Bhutto who took concrete measures at radicalizing the society.Recommend

  • Aamna Hassan Fasihi

    Lol, no! It was because both regimes had one thing in common. Massive in flow of dollars due to participation in US’s wars.Recommend

  • taz

    nice article.. actually its the indian lovers among us who blame zia too much.Recommend

  • Ashfaq

    haha I wish we all were so naive .
    @performance of previous government. Recommend

  • Ashfaq

    yes you are right. They didn’t wanted to reach the warm waters but were only having a picnic across the border.Recommend

  • Hunaid

    Zia is left very little for his family; especially when you compare it with the other democratic leaders.Recommend

  • Hunaid

    It was possible for Zia to achieve all that you have mentioned because of the hefty amounts of money pumped by Saudi Arabia and the US of A to build the Taliban and eradicate Commies. The Taliban are a major problem of today, which can be accredited to Zia.

    Also SSG commandos grew beards and wore shalwar kameez, and fought alongside the Mujahideen, they were martyred which negates your point that “virtually no” Pakistani lives were lost.

    Zia himself was a conservative, while ZA Bhutto was not. He built a casino and made public his fondesss for whiskey, which is why Zia is more commonly associated with Islamization.Recommend

  • desi

    your post is a nonsense post. Article makes sense. why did Soviet care to invade Afghanistan anyways??Recommend

  • TheAverageMoe

    Pakistan wanted to avert the Greater Afghanistan threat.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Agree……but show me a leader who has not damaged Pakistan’s interests and not enriched themselves. Zia sits very high on the list and who is top of the heap is debatable.Recommend

  • Asad Khan

    Zia made himself Rich?

    The Surrey Palace was in Zia’s name? The Swiss Accounts holders are Zia’s family members? The biggest land owners in Pakistan is Zia’s family? The biggest loan defaulters are the Zia’s Children ?

    Oh, Soviets did not want a direct rout to Germany / Central Europe they invaded Czechoslovakia for its fair weather? Soviet empires loves the Afghani food that is why they invaded Afghanistan? and they hated the Indian Ocean and swear on oath that they never sent canoe let alone their nuclear Submarines in Indian Ocean.

    Dude, Epic failure of rationality!!


  • akbar shad

    my comment one by one

    GDP Growth

    Due to heavy economic aid from USA military dictatorships always perform better in short term.

    Arts and Culture

    The vibrant film industry of the seventies died during Zia era.

    Extremism and Militancy

    Oh you are of those kind who seek strategic depth in Afghanistan and try to keep India bleeding in Kashmir.

    Electricity shortages

    Here you are right shortages were very low.

    Conservatism and Intolerance

    Yes here too you are partly right. Religious Intolerance is in the foundation of Pakistan. Zia completed what others started.

    Crime and Lawlessness

    With the arrival of Afghan Refugees lawlessness aggravated and its keep deteriorating day by day.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Dear Author,

    Explain Ordinance “XX”?Recommend

  • Proud to be Muslim

    Great writing and something different from our controlled media provides. I was so young at his death time that I only know that Zia-ul-Haq has been killed by some conspiracies. What I heard from my elders back in Karachi was, during Zia’s era their were no crimes, no corruption and all the criminals belonging to both now ruling parties in Sindh were caught by police and pulled in jails. The only era when some Islam was spread in Pakistan was during that time and due to which even after 30 years people are practicing the religion.Recommend

  • Kashif

    Prove to me Zia was corrupt. Show me the evidence. Where are secret bank accounts. He was the most principled and least corrupt man to rule this land. He saw the incompatibility of the setup in Pakistan with laws of Islam and he set out to make Pakistan a true Islamic state. This why the liberal fascists hate him. He was a man of deep principals and had no desire to enrich himself. He was interested in Islam above all else. That is why the western educated economists hate him becuase he wanted Shari’ah state rather than a state ruled by the money loving businessmen who care which country is the richest.Recommend

  • Vap

    So any improvement in PMLN era would be performance of PPP is that you mean to say ? Wow you must be an analyst sir.Recommend

  • Vap

    The criteria you are setting will null and void the rhetoric of strategic depth also, as there are no certain proofs of it. US bashed Pakistan just after Soviets left the pakistan, blaming everything on Pakistan. It wasnt only Zia but Bhutto was the same too, declaring ahmadies heretic gave inroads to takfiries and now you can see the way shias are being persecuted.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    You’re right. He’s a visible embodiment, when it really was decades in the making, only he amped it up. Really no decent Pak leader since creation. A few thoughts:
    -Does GDP include allowing the flood of heroine in Pak for the war effort?
    -Zia’s regime did influence art and culture. Radio, tv and a nosedive in literature. Be it held funding, censorship of even classical and Sufi, or the intro and promotion of his type of austere religious products and culture.
    -While miniscule in the overall 80’s Afghan war, there were Pakistani casualties.
    -If a plan backfires, it then never was a good solution to begin with. I’d argue it started as soon as it was implemented.
    -Curfews are another memory from those days.Recommend

  • marik

    GDP growth means nothing if the lions share of the wealth is ending up in the hands of plutocrats.Recommend

  • Hasan

    What about Ojhri Camp?Recommend

  • Dr asif

    Ridiculous article. Based on childish calculations and bases less facts. Recommend

  • Saima Qamar

    interesting Read. as the writer was a child at the time and media was muffled he may not have had the entire picture. I was in University when the Mangoes exploded allegedly. I also recall Rape victims being tried under Hudood ordnance because they were unable to produce requisite 4 male witnesses who saw the rape. ( if any such witnesses ever existed in any rape they should be tried for not stopping the rape.). I also recall not being able to criticize the Govt. or express any opinion on its policies for the fear of being captured. tortured and labelled traitor, worse not a good Muslim.

    I am no economist but the answer to load shedding is simple, no dictator had the guts to implement kalabagh dam or even smaller Dams to create more power and in the meantime, we electrified 400-600 villages annually, during each year of democracy.

    Ok lets assume that the number of households using the power remained the same but just compare your house today with that one in the 80’s, air conditioners, microwave oven, electric kettle, number of TVs, Computers etc. is our average consumption of electricity the same? of course load shedding would increase, no new resources of energy, number of users increasing and average consumption increasing.

    The Art and culture point you should talk to any artist, poet, writer where creativity was in that period.

    Bless your little source you should not base all your information on Quantitative data onlyRecommend

  • shah

    Zia’s son is a rich man today. Zia’s partners in crime such as Lt General Akhtar Abdur Rahman’s son is also a billionaire. I have not even mention other huge crimes during Zia’s tenure such as murder of Bhutto and Ojhri CampRecommend

  • shah

    Zia’s son is a rich man today. Zia’s partners in crime such as Lt General Akhtar Abdur Rahman’s son is also a billionaire. I have not even mention other huge crimes during Zia’s tenure such as murder of Bhutto and Ojhri CampRecommend

  • shah

    Soviets interfered in Afghanistan just like they did in Eastern Europe. Zia’s response was to become a mercenary for the Americans, which had disastrous results for Pakistan.Recommend

  • shah

    Soviets interfered in Afghanistan just like they did in Eastern Europe. Zia’s response was to become a mercenary for the Americans, which had disastrous results for Pakistan.Recommend

  • shah

    Not accepting it is different from following US instructions to fight.Recommend

  • shah

    Show me one iota of proof that the Soviets next planned to invade Pakistan or that it even made any geopolitical sense ?Recommend

  • Muhammad Saim

    There is no doubt that zia is not the only one to be blamed, Mumtaz Doltana & Bhutto equaly plundered the country in name of Islam, but of all Zia exploited religion most ruthlessly to further his personal agendas, he was one of the most corrupt personally as well as his cronies were among the top plunderers, sons of grade 19 & 20 generals became billionaires overnight, thanks to Afghan war and patronage from Zia his own kids and kids of other generals around him amassed billions.

    It will be unfair to credit zia for lesser load shedding, energy crisis is a progressive phenomenon, he did not add any significant energy units and the results appeared in later years, he had courage to interfere in matters between a man and Allah and claimed to challenge Soviets (as front man of Americans) but didn’t have courage to build Kalabagh Dam (what a goat he was).Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    @ Ansh: Equating Jinnah with Zia is like equating Mother Teresa with your PM modi.
    @ Proud to be muslim: i think you belong to the school of thought which considers the majority of Pakistan’s population as deviants. This explains your nonsense about spreading Islam as if we were all non-muslims. Second Zia’s era was the worst for Karachi he allowed the Afghanis to settle here. Please go to Saudia.
    @ people who think Zia is so Good: What about Ojhri camp? What about Bhutto’s hanging which alienated the Sindhis forever? You guys from Urban Punjab and Sindh don’t understand what he did to the smaller ethnicities. Pathetic logic.
    @ ali xaidi: excellent comment agreed 100%.Recommend

  • Rameez Arif

    Biggest contribution (good or bad) of Zia is Nawaz SharifRecommend

  • Rameez Arif

    During zia era afghanis loved pak and pak ppl after that they started hating usRecommend

  • Qamar Rajpoot Dana

    Yeh Aman (1971) Zarqa (1969) by Riaz Shahid ….

    Were blockbusters of the time , brainwashing whole nation , diverting their direction towards a fetal cage of Arabic mental slavery & that worked loud & clear .

    Military had their vicious doctrines in place many years before Bhutto or Zia Ul Haq .

    Plot was written long before Zia forced himself into power . You can very easily see that this horrible state of affairs in todays Pakistan . Every evil act is wearing boots at the end of the trail you will see GHQ .

    Now they have big share in pakistan business sector , still untouchable but bloody civilians are given their daily dose of hallucinations regularly .

    Anyone wanna play naive or ignorant , please do ,,, but not on my watch … lol .. cheers

    Qamar Rajpoot Dana
    Lahori Swedish BawaRecommend

  • Saima Qamar

    no crime?, no corruption? are we talking about the same country? The corruption was at its highest in the Army, and since Army was in civilian jobs it was the same. Lets not even mention F-16 and the fire at the Ordnance depot In Pindi and such deals, Medicine purchase for units and the Luxury cars that exchanged hands. It was not in the open because there was no Govt bashing by Media as seems to be the rule in today’s rating game. Ignorance is Bliss I seeRecommend

  • chinakagrohl

    If all these artists came to be in the 80’s how do we enjoy “the birth” of the pop scene in the 90’s? it makes you sense! ARE YOU DEAD?!Recommend

  • Umayr

    I’m all for freedom of speech but not for imbeciles like those who write something as nonsensical and poorly researched as this. Where is the other side of the story oh pseudo ‘journalist’? You do know there are two sides to a story and an opinion is based on analysing and criticising all aspects of the story. You’re still 10 years old aren’t you? Recommend

  • Asad Khan

    Zia’s son is not even in the category of rich if you know who is considered to be “rich” in Pakistan. Yes, Off course he is not a door salesman. Almost every Colonel family is in middle class let alone General rank.

    Abdur Rahman’s son is well off due to his excellence in Business Management. He is a US graduate and started his business in Pakistan after his father’s death by purchasing a defunct Cola factory.

    They both did not have enough wealth to beat the democratic leader Altaf Hussain “allege assets” let alone Bhuttos, Shariff, Zardari, Mengals, etc.

    Bhutto was sentenced by Supreme Court not any Military Court of General Zia, so sorry ur argument does not hold any water.

    About Ojhiri, So, you think Pak pick a fight with USSR & India, have differences with US over Geneva Accord and does not get wet in the process? are you really that naive my friend?


  • Saad

    1) GDP Growth – main reason for this was America. I dont think I need to say any more.
    2) Arts – Wasn’t Zia the one who later went on to ban Nazia Hassan from organising concerts? Also, it was during his rule that the film industry started to decline due to lack of funds.
    3) Extremisim and Militancy – Even though you are correct about Bhutto laying the seeds of extremisim in the society. In terms of militancy, you just said it yourself, he had a hand in creating the taliban phenomena, how is he not to blame for all that we are suffering today?
    4) Load shedding – I’ll give you this one, mainly because the demand for electrcitiy in the 80’s wasnt nearly as much as it is today so it’s rather pointless to compare.

    I don’t blame him for all the things wrong with pakistan today, but he did have a major part in it.Recommend

  • Khurram Ali Shafique

    Please allow me to say that this is one of the most sensible things I have read or heard in Pakistani media in a long time. Thank you, author, for writing this and for writing it in such a way.Recommend

  • Syed Sadaqat Shah

    Zia used foreign money and weapons to create a fighting force that defeated the powerful Soviet army, with virtually zero Pakistani casualties.

    Zia brought foreign money to fight SOVIET Union and lost its own economic power in the region, albeit it took years. The writer is I think novice that he does know how much Pakistani lost their lives in Afghan Jihad , how many were lost and disappeared. Most importantly how much money our Mullahs made during this period by transacting Mujahidin for dollars and hence today we are reaping what we sow in 80’s . One who used to go to their maddrassas by bicycle are now enjoying Land cruisers journeys to their religious schools.Recommend

  • Syed Sadaqat Shah

    In Zia’s era, ‘load shedding’ took place for 15-30 minutes, once a day, for a few weeks a year.
    This shows that he did nothing to boost energy production, but politicize Kalabagh dam. 15-30 minutes load shedding increased with the passage of time and today we are facing 15-18 hours power outage hence nothing done in the past 30 years.Recommend

  • Adnan

    It is well know that the USA was looking for allies in the cold war. The USA offered India huge amounts of aid to become part of NATO but India chose to stay neutral and keep out of other countries wars. We however chose to ally ourselves with the USA. This was our choice. And when Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan we chose to be the USA’s ally. I do not blame the USA or Saudis they we pursuing their objectives but I blame our short-sighted leaders who sold us out for offers of “Aid”. I respect the Indians who stood up for their self-respect and their national interest.Recommend

  • fahd

    Zia’s son did not even have enough money to send his mother for treatment abroad in early 1990s, Nawaz Sharif helped him out financially. If you look at Zia’s family home in westridge, rawalpindi, it is nothing more than a comfortable bungalow. And this after he had been the most powerful ruler in the history of this country.Recommend

  • fahd

    Dude the fight began much earlier than the US showed any interest whatsoever. US didn’t get involved until after Reagan’s election in 1982 ! In fact Hekmatyar was first adopted by Pakistan as a proxy against the soviet backed afghan government way back in 1974 by none other than Bhutto ! Bhutto was the father of ‘strategic depth’ ! I really wish people read history more closely..Recommend

  • Asim

    An myopic article that picks some events from that era while completely ignoring the overall scenario under the Zia regime. Arts and Culture was destroyed when everything that was being aired in the media (television, radio and newspapers) was being censured by the regime. The author should reread history and note that both 50 50 and Nazia and Zohaib were banned from PTV for a period of time because 50 50, ridiculed the regime’s policies and Nazia and Zohaib acted in ways that were not reflective of good muslims.
    Please also note the proliferation of Islamic seminaries in the country under the Zia regime. And have we forgotten the Hudood Ordinance?
    The list of Zia’s crimes is long and may he be admonished for it.Recommend

  • Ashar Pervez

    Even if they did not want to invade Pakistan did you really want India’s best ally and a super power of the time on our Western borders? Think logically.Recommend

  • Ashar Pervez

    So you would have been comfortable with USSR in the west and India in the East in late 70s and early 80s…. I salute your genius.Recommend

  • Bangash

    Come on, Grow up Kids. Zia was interested in Islam, reallly! Did he become interested after Black September, or when it showred Petro dollars? And lo if you point out to this horrendous person named Zia ( Zulmat ko Zia kya kehna), your loyalty to Pakistan is in question. Great Minds of Post Zia Sectarian Devoured, US-Saud dependent Pakistan. This is what happens when a person like Zia rules for 11 years.Recommend

  • shah

    Zia responded to it by importing killers and psychos from all over the world and fighting an American war, which benefitted only America. Yes Pakistan had to respond but Zia responded in the absolutely wrong mannerRecommend

  • shah

    Indeed I am not as great a genius as Zia ul Haq or you, who responded to the USSR in Afghanistan in a manner which resulted in Pakistan’s own destruction. You seem to also forget Zia ul Haq’s judicial murder of Bhutto and his manipulation of the Constitution and political processes, which are still hurting Pakistan today.Recommend

  • shah

    “Greater Afghanistan” exists only in the paranoid minds of Pakistani khakis. Pakhtuns in Pakistan are not interested in joining Afghanistan and even the ANP accepted Pakistan in early 1970’s.Recommend

  • shah

    He was a criminal, a usurper and a murderer as well as a mercenary for the United States. He fought America’s war in Afghanistan and also ruined Karachi by creating the MQM.Recommend

  • shah

    What a naive little boy you are. I doubt Bhutto was planning on becoming America’s agent in Afghanistan and importing fanatics from all over the world to Pakistan. Defense policy of the country has been completely in the hands of Generals since 1958, most unfortunately.Recommend

  • shah

    Not only Zia’s family but of all his generals become billionares during his tenure. Money has a properly of multiplying easily itself once it is greater number, Humayun Akhar’s wealth has nothing to do with his business acumen. You must be seriously drinking the fauji kool aid to even make such ridiculous statements. Lets also not forget other crimes of Zia ul Haq such as Ojhri Camp, creating MQM to ruin Karachi and disfiguring the Constitution of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Hameedullah

    People were publically “flogged” in Zia era. You would do well to remember that before praising him.Recommend

  • Hameedullah

    Your last points are a joke. People were flogged and harrassed in Zia simply for diagreeing with the regime. You assumption that people felt much safer has no foundation. “No chaos and lawlessness”? What can I say to that except “read some history”.Recommend

  • Meenah

    Great article! Rarely do we come across a writer who actively tries to be objective, anymore. Good job!Recommend

  • bigsaf

    > 3 hours movie was cut short to a mere hour and twenty minutes by the censor board.

    3 long antagonizing wasteful hours of our lives down to 1 hour and 20 minutes….?
    Well…I guess there is some things Zia’s censor board got right against creativity..lol ;) jkingRecommend

  • salman ahmed

    The main reason we blame him now is because of the U-turn we made on 9/11 was not in coherence to policy we made in 80s. Since 80s things were settled down with the people of tribal areas. Yet the generals in our army used the people settled in Tribal areas to liberate kashmir and imposed a low cost war for Indian Army. A brilliant strategy…. but the world changed and Pak Army generals made a “swift” U-turn that what ever was sowed in the soil and souls of Pak nation had to be uprooted in the name of “Do More” policy…. In one part of our history we confronted Soviet Union and India with a official Jehadi policy yet in another part of our history we conducted a Jehad as per US wishes against what we sowed in the name of Jehad in the 80s……Recommend

  • Pankaj

    What is wrong if your father’s best friend visit your neighbourhood ? why are you so afraid ?Recommend

  • Hasan

    Electricity Shortages were low because the population wasn’t as big as it is now. (Neither was the industry)Recommend

  • mehreen

    Salute to you. In this country it is a fashion to talk against Zia blindly but you have dared to say truth. Truth cannot be hid behind hate and antagonism.Recommend

  • Max

    At zia’s time, our economy was smaller, our population wasnt this huge, so growth, crime rate and loadshedding as indicators arent tht convincing.. Also, around thattime, Pakistan still had a lot left in it (and still does today) despite corrupt politicians having done what they did, so it wasnt as bad as perhaps when Musharraf took charge. I think on an adjusted basis, zia’s performance wasnt even close. Lastly, extremism and militancy, well, having read this piece, i can safely say tht it makes sense who sowed the seeds, thr fruits of which we are reaping today.Recommend

  • Sam

    Oh please! Mr Zia was the son of a neighbourhood mullah – not traditionally the richest of occupations.
    His sons own half of Pakistan. His daughters in law are decked out in fancy big diamonds and his grand kids have attended the Islamabad International School, which accepts its fees in USD and gone on to expensive US universities. How did that happen?
    And please also tell us about how many properties the Haqs own in Isloo that we “allotted” to them during Zia’s tenure?
    Now consider the situation if General Zia had not taken over the country.
    Would the grandkids and great grandkids of the neighbourhood mullah be at this level of wealth?
    And, btw, I have no gripe against the mullah, just wish that my own lovely Moulvi Sahib who taught us the Quran, was similarly lucky. He still conducts Quran tuition – the only difference between him and Gen Zia’s dad that Gen Zia managed to occupy Pakistan.
    So Mr Asad Khan, dont even go there – you are defending the undefendable.Recommend

  • itsjawad

    Shah!.How on earth Zia made himself rich ?.. LOL!.. All Generals are well off in every corner of the world, its a high rank which you acheive after struggle. His son maybe well off but is never in even top 1000 richest people of Pakistan. The bhutto family, zardari and sharif family are all top 10 pakistani richest people. and If you think Soviets just want to have fun to reach deserted Afghanistan then I can only pity on your thinking. What Zia did yo repell and defeat soviets in Afghanistan was for survivial of Pakistan. Many pakistanis had started learning russian because they knew soviets are coming. If you ever had a chance to go to school and had a look on geography of the earth, you will see soviet union was struggling for an access to an accessible port in indian ocean. and I think everyone should know how important are the ports and trade routes for any country.Recommend