Qaddafi: From hero to devil

Published: October 22, 2011

The 27 year old who abolished monarchy in Libya saw a brutal death at the hands of the very people who once loved him. PHOTO: REUTERS

The late Moamer Qaddafi was regarded a hero in Libya till the uprising started against his regime in February this year. People respected him as one of their spiritual and even revolutionary leaders. Nobody in Libya thought even in their wildest dreams that one day Qaddafi would not only be removed from power, but also killed ruthlessly and that too at the hands of Libyans themselves.

Early on Thursday, Qaddafi was killed when new regime forces launched a final assault on his home town Sirte. The former dictator was wounded as he tried to flee the scene, with injuries to his head and legs. Video footage showed his bloodied body being dragged by freedom fighters and loaded in to the back of a pick-up truck. Such humiliation and disrespect saw the end of the life of the once-loved dictator.

Qaddafi was regaled as national hero of Libya when in 1969 he led a bloodless coup against the monarch and deposed him. He was then just 27-years-old and a junior officer in the Libyan army. Through different welfare steps and development projects, he succeeded to win the confidence of his people and continued to rule them with complete impunity. Nobody ever dared to speak or stand against him even when he was utterly wrong in his decisions.

The economy of the country thrived under his rule and  people were provided with all the basic needs. However, then came the dark side where they were deprived of their basic rights; Libyans were not allowed to enter politics, make unions and speak against Qaddafi. There was no parliament, no civil society and no non-governmental organizations in the country, let alone freedom of speech. These flaws ultimately led the people to rise against the absolute ruler, Qaddafi, and they finally succeeded on Thursday with his death.

Qaddafi ruled Libya for around 42 years and saw many ups and downs. He remained at loggerheads with different developed countries over many issues including the United States, especially in 1970s. During the 70s, Qaddafi enjoyed very close relations with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto the then prime minister of Pakistan, and they both wanted to build an Islamic bloc against the West and America. The then Saudi monarch Shah Faisal also supported them with the idea and wanted to make an Islamic Bank for the welfare of the people of their countries.

The fuel supply to the United States and some other western countries was also halted for a few days to show them the power of the Islamic bloc. The consequences of this move were severe as Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged in Pakistan in 1979 and Shah Faisal was killed by his own nephew. So the west took its revenge, but surprisingly, Qaddafi survived for a long time. However, he did not prove to be invincible and suffered the same fate after 30 years.

After the uprising against his rule, Qaddafi said in one of his speeches:

“I live in the hearts of millions.”

He said some foreign hands were conspiring against his rule and wanted to colonise his country but:

“the people of Libya, the true Libyans, will never accept invasion and colonisation.”

It was perhaps wishful thinking, on his part, if he believed that people would finally support him and he would continue to be the absolute ruler of Libya. For his most ardent of supporters, the hero  Qaddafi had turned in to the devil Qaddafi and people were thirsty for his blood. With the support of NATO, the dissidents continued fighting forces loyal to the dictator and soon succeeded to lay their hands on Tripoli – the capital of Libya. For weeks, the rebels fought with his supporters to gain control of Sirte – the stronghold native city of Qaddafi.

The devil is no more in the country. The Libyans were also shown footage of the armed men dragging Qaddafi out of his hiding place, battered and bleeding. If we look at history, it transpires that dictators and tyrants usually meet the same fate, but who on earth ever learns from history?

The real test for Libyans and the National Transitional Council starts now. They must succeed in establishing democracy, rule of law, and other state institutions in their country for which they have sacrificed their lives. Their struggle has not ended yet, this is just the beginning. Thus, they have to carefully devise their future course of action, lest they are betrayed, like the people of Tunisia and Egypt, in the name of revolution.


Aamir Saeed

A freelance journalist based in Islamabad who is doing M.Phil in peace and conflict studies from National Defence University.

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

  • Parvez

    Man proposes but only God disposes.
    Another way to look at it : I did it my way for 42 years – not bad !!Recommend

  • Sohail Sukhiani

    First of all there is no point in calling him a devil, please go back and refer to Islamic History for it. Whatever our Caliphs and Muslim Rulers would do was for the prosperity and welfare of the whole society, fulfilling their basic needs, provide them with shelter and education, this guy was also providing them interest free loans and jobs right after graduation, what else do you want and if you are talking about entering into politics and stuff, please you are talking about something that is also almost impossible to do in our country as well if one is a normal human being who does not wish to kill anyone or spend time at jails or maybe have some sort of links in the government. But just notice how materialistic all of us have become and yes – hungry for power and for the Americans hungry for oil. How is it possible that only the Muslim Rulers are being overthrown and not others like the Queen of England and Wales and the King of Thailand.
    The problem with us is that we are never happy in what we are getting and we have become materialistic and always hungry for more forgetting the real factor of the life here-after we want everything in this world only. A lot more can be said on this topic but I would just want to ask you one single question, If the benefits that he used to provide to his people were not enough just tell me – are you even getting all these luxuries in Pakistan even ? If not, why are we quiet then and not fighting our government ?Recommend

  • Noor Ali Shah

    I will like like to go to support Sohail brother in his stance on the hero and not a devil. yes, of course, he should not be called a “DEVIL” when he was struggling to show off Muslim Ummah Strength by joining hands with our Pakistani hero, Zufikar Ali Bhutto and Saudi King Shah Faisal through forwarding an Islamic block. Secondly, the masses of a nation dont want anything except of basic needs. And the hero had provided his masses with, at all. Only “magarmach” dictators want power and not the public, so he had blocked way only for capitalists to the throne.
    yes he was a dictator but a good dictator. According to our earlier dictator, Musharraf, who had disclosed on Thursday during an interview in the US that there were two types of dictators one is good and second is bad.
    the masses dont know whether their ruler is a dictator or has public mandate but just wanna life needs.
    Ok Look at our own Pakistan….we have a democratic government, right. but what is the fate of our people? Musharraf was a dictator but what was the destiny of the nation!!!!Recommend

  • Hamid Hussain

    Yes Qaddafi was an oppressor and did many wrongs during his rule but who has given the right to NATO and America to attack Libya just to kill Qaddafi. Two-day before the killing of Qaddafi, Hillary Clinton has said they want Qaddafi either alive or murdered. So her wish has been fulfilled. will the murder of Qaddafi was in accordance with the international rules, which bar from killing a person in captivity.
    The last moments of his helplessness were aired across the world as scenes.It was a clear message for those ruling the oil-rich Arab world not to go against the interests of west and America or face the music.
    The near future is tough for Pakistan and the Arab world. America and India are on the same over Afghan issue. The next few months are decisive. The killing, chaos, anarchy has reached Pakistan from Middle East. Feel the venom behind the smiles.Recommend

  • shafiq chughtai

    Feel the venom behind the smiles.
    i like that and i have to agree with u but what can we do… there was a striking discovery i made … may be not as much striking for others i think… saddam hussain qadafi mubarik ….. the chaos is spreading and definitely this will make muslims in particular fragile and weak ……. then may be the remaining assets of muslims(oil and nuclear assests) will be taken away and nothing would be left with us.
    may be radicals like talibans and iranians are right… they are not afraid and yet united ….. they have faith ,,,, we have no faith no unity no direction.talibans have all three… yes we need a revolution and a major change in our ideation , or this hypocrisy will disgrace before killing us allRecommend

  • Ghulam Mustafa

    Thursday, 20 the worst day of the middle east specially the Libyan people after the death of their king. Their are two sides of the picture that why these people closed their eyes and believe 42 years ago of this dictator and secondly now after a long time what happened the Libyan community. Public of Libya happy with their king and no any single problem because fulfilling their basic needs, provide them with shelter and education, of the public but suddenly a one group of the people stand against of their king because the paid killers NATO behind of these bloody peoples.We should keep in mind the Hungry America want to control entire the world specially the middle east countries and Pakistan because a lot of oil resource in Arabs and the area of Pakistan specially FATA and Baluchistan full of natural resources. In my point of view if the Libya does not dismiss their neculer program possibility is their the American and NATO think a twice before a attack on Libya. As well as if i talk about that this the revolution, no a single law would be change, only ruler change. I have no problem to say that with the passage of time we see that these peoples will suffer now which is helping the American only a few money or benefits and want to do famous. So, think about it that how the Muslim countries can play their vital role unanimously in this time. Recommend

  • faraz

    Shah Faisal was killed by his nephew whose brother was killed in anti-television riots. US was behind Bhutto’s death but not Faisal’s.Recommend


    I am least concerned with what happened to a tyrant and his cronies in Libya but the actual test of Libyans begins now, as you mentioned in last paragraph of the article. Libyans should now establish rule of law and democracy in the country at the earliest and do not allow anybody to hijack thier ‘revolution.’
    New rulers of Libya should also avoid retribution and vengeance acts against their compatriots and start a new era of progress and development.Recommend

  • Asif Ansari

    cannot believe the rocks that the people commenting on here live under. The arab rising is a reflection of the people and masses of the arab people. They are overthrowing dictarors, whether they are propped up by America or NATA or not. That’s what happened in Egypt where a pro american dictator was overthrown by the people of Egypt. In libya it was the libyans that rose against Qaddafi. I cannot believe the delusional state of mind of pakistanis. Everything is not a conspiracy you idiots.Recommend

  • ahmednawaz

    Qaddafi: From hero to “Greatest Leader of 19th,20th century Muslims”Recommend

  • Riaz

    I don’t see any change in this sorry bloody game of interests. The NTC, which took power after over-running the Qadhafi regime two months ago with NATO’s assistance, has said he was shot in crossfire between its forces and his loyalists. But reports from the ground suggest he was executed in cold blood. Libya has failed its first democratic test, with vengeance and bloodlust triumphing over due process, the rule of law, and justice. NATO is deeply complicit in this. The role of western powers, especially the United Kingdom, France, and the United States, through this sorry saga of violent regime change reiterates the question that has been asked ever since NATO began bombing Libya, ostensibly as a “humanitarian intervention” authorised by the United Nations Security Council: does the West want democracy in Libya or just any friendly regime that will give it access to the country’s oil? It is disappointing that India, which opposed external intervention in Libya, has expressed no concern at Qadhafi’s violent end.Recommend

  • Ittifaq Shah

    The four decades of Qaddafi ruling Libya indubitably show a chequered history replete with his good deeds and wrong-doings. However, it is a fact that, whether one loves him or hates, he was a man unlikely to be undervalued. Now its really the time for Libyans to strive hard for establishing a democratic setup, as history pleads that the worst form of democracy is better than the best dictatorial regime.Recommend

  • Urooj

    No one is perfect in the world everyone has some defect in his personality, although Qaddafi also had some flaws, but one thing that is most important is, it is difficult job to provide each and every thing including shelter, food and such other facilities to the nation, and Qaddafi did it very well as compared to our rulers. Our rulers just have a slogan like “ROTI KAPRA AUR MAKAN” but practically their effort are not so good!!!!!!!!!!! So in this sense Qaddafi is better. But on the other hand, he deprived the basic right of freedom. Freedom is the right of every one…. Freedom is the basic right. No body like to live bounded life and freedom is present in the nature of human being. So Qaddafi should developed the democracy in the country……….. for better future. Our country has also such Qaddafi……. SO OUR LEADERS SHOULD LEARNS LESSON FROM QADDIFI’S DEATH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Recommend

  • Saqib Hameed

    I think he was a great leader,not only of Libiya but also of the whole Ummah.He served his country at least for 42 years so he didn’t deserve such a cruel and ruthless behaviour from his own country fellow.Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    Gaddafi was never a hero for god sake. It is a well known fact, that Libyan government was involved in a number of acts of sabotage and terrorism in Pakistan during Zia ul Haq rule, one of which included the famous “Hathora Group” (Hammer Group) that murdered dozens of people across Pakistan. The link to this heinous crime was finally established with the Libyan Embassy in Pakistan and the whole issue was hushed up because it involved a brotherly Muslim country. The director of Pak Libya Holding company from Karachi was apprehended.

    Also, he was one of the a sponsors of AZO, a terrorist organization that worked against Zia’s regime at the expense of people of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Asif ghazi

    Libya was country that for the past 41 years prospered and was never in debt. However in the last 6 months Libya has become a debtor not to mention the number of infrastructure destroyed by NATO bombs. If care is not take the new Government… of Libya will have to borrow from the west to repair their infrastructure.

    If you look at some of the good things Gaddafi as done as indicated below you will agree with me that Nigerians would have appreciated a leader like this. Don’t get me wrong, Gaddafi has got his faults but he was a leader that provided the basics for his people.

    Here are the GOOD and BAD of Gaddafi’s rule.

    The GOOD

    The government of Muammar brought the Libyan government from poverty and debt, to prosperity and debt-free status in 41 years
    Education from grade school through to college is free in Libya.
    Healthcare is free and Libyan pharmacies and hospitals are comparable to high-quality European facilities.
    Libya ranks No. 53 on the United Nations Index of Human Development.
    Libya has the highest standard of living in Africa (even better than South Africa,Mauritius and Seychelles).
    Libya gives free land and seeds to anyone who wants to farm that land.
    There is virtually no homelessness in Libya as everyone is given a home.
    Women in Libya have equal rights, not only as a philosophy, but in practice.
    Under Gaddafi’s oil-revenue-sharing program, each Libyan gets $500 (Dollars) deposited into his or her bank account each month.
    On marriage, each couple is gifted $60,000 to do with as they please

    I could list a few more but my point is that here in Nigeria we are yet to really enjoy any if not all of the the above.

    The bad:

    Lack of democracy, opposition movements have always been dealt with harshly

    The state was virtually family owned

    Military involvement and meddling in other North African countries as well as support for despots like Charles Taylor.

    My opinion is that the whole debacle over the West meddling in Libya has nothing to do with oil but more to do with control in the middle east as well as causing chaos in those countries that always had major issues with Israel.

    Read between the lines people. I do not condone dictators don’t get me wrong but it appears the West chooses which dictators to support ( Dubai has no democracy what so ever, they do not have elections), depending on who is willing to bend over
    The way by which the dead body of qaddafi was humilated is this the humanity?? , where are the so called human rights activists??.Recommend

  • Ishtiaq Rao

    Gaddafi could have easily averted his tragic end, if he would have stepped down from the throne and announced bey-election even in the last days.
    i cant understand why he failed to learn a lesson from the uprising in Egypt that toppled decades old rule of Husni Mubarak.
    But now what to see is whether the revolutionaries would be able to achieve for what hundreds of people have lost their lives. To my understanding, Libya would also face the fate like Egypt where the military might has hijacked the whole revolution. Recommend

  • Mobeen

    If he was a great leader of Muslim ummah why didn’t anybody in Pakistan protest against the way he has been killed? Why all the mullahs are silent? Why these fanatics show bravery when they have to persecute minorities and why are they silent when it is USA in front of them? Why PPP government didn’t protest against his killing – he was the one who was Bhutto’s best friend. I am not a great fan of Qaddafi but the way he has been murdered is shameful for the Muslim Ummah. Muslims killing prisdoner of war – Is it Islamic teaching? If some American soldier would have killed him in a similar way you would have seen Mullahs in the streets chanting slogans and showing their love for Islam. Recommend

  • Saqib Hameed

    Mobeen brother, your’re right Qaddafi was a close friend of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and one of the greatest supporters of Pakistan’s atomic bomb. So at least, the government should have registered the protest over Qaddafi’s brutal killing at the hands of rebels.Recommend

  • Hashmi

    The United Nations should hold a transparent inquiry into the killing of Qaddafi and bring facts to the world. The UN should also take notice of the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement which she issued two days before Qaddafi’s killing that the US want Qaddafi dead or alive.
    The US has financed the uprising against Libyan leader for its own vested interests.Recommend

  • Unknown

    Indeed, Qaddafi was a great leader and a stumbling stone in the way of US and other western countries interests who wanted to lood and plunder natural resources of Libya. Finally, they have succeeded in their nefarious designs and would secure contracts for their companies from Libyan ‘democrats’ and continue to plunder the country through their lackeys.Recommend

  • Majid Waqt TV

    Qaddafi was a dictator and dictators always met with the same fate as he did. Libyans should now move forward and establish a true democratic government that can ensure their basic needs and basic rights including freedom of expression.Recommend

  • Cynical

    It’s quite a surprise (or, may be not) that Qaddafi has such a legion of fans in Pakistan.
    Poor chap! Little that he knew that he was presiding over a wrong country!
    Someday in future, it wiil be a research topic for the students of History/Political Science that “Why Qaddafi was more popular in Pakistan than he was in Libiya?” Recommend

  • Thought-provoking

    The Arab uprising has cost three dictators so far and let’s see how many more are crushed by it. Syria, Yemen and Bahrain could be next in line but people of these countries must say no to foreign intervention because this way they would compromise sovereignty of their countries.
    On the pretext of democracy, America and other European countries have been securing their own vested interests in the Middle East. They love to have friendly governments instead I should say puppet leaders who can secure their interests.Recommend

  • Zaka

    Qaddafi was a tyrant and a ruthless dictator. He did nothing good for his people in his 42-year rule and Libyans were frustrated with his regime. So they rose against him and killed. Though, killing of Qaddafi cannot be justified but people did the act out of anger.
    New Libyan leaders, however, should avoid retribution acts and focus more on reviving law and order in the country.Recommend

  • Kamran Shahid

    “If we look at history, it transpires that dictators and tyrants usually meet the same fate, but who on earth ever learns from history?” I think this is crux of the article and a true depiction of the whole Arab uprising scenario.Recommend

  • abhi

    I think Pakistan should have given asylum to Gaddafi.Recommend

  • Danish Khan

    After the killing of Qaddafi, Pakistani government should now change name of Qaddafi Stadium to Martyred Stadium.Recommend

  • Gujjar

    It was shocking for me to hear killing of Qaddafi and that too at the hands of very people who once declared him Liberator and Saviour. Libyans should understand nefarious designs of their so-called supporters in the war.Recommend

  • Vincent David

    Whatever Qaddafi was it doesn’t make any difference to me but the writer of this blog is surely a fine journalist. Recommend

  • Yasir Naushad

    Pakistan still missing leader like him whatever he was dictator Biya was provided with all basic necessities in his tenure which Pakistan lacks even it is a “democratic” country. Recommend

  • bigsaf

    @Asif Ansari:

    I cannot believe the delusional state of mind of pakistanis. Everything is not a conspiracy you idiots.

    Believe it. I know a few celebrating Libyans who were shocked and saddened by what their Pakistani colleagues had told them and believe they’ve gone off the deep end in irrational anti-West hate and superstitious religious and historical revisionism.

    Amazing how they praise Gaddafi as a ‘Muslim hero’ despite his own retarded blaspheme statements .

    Besides his so many atrocities against Libyan citizens (supposed Muslim Ummah brothers we care about….not!) as recent as the protests from Ben Ghazi, and past terrorist activities that also affected Pakistan. It’s like they consider brutality a positive trait of religious faith for a good Muslim/Islamic leader….twisted and disgusting concepts.

    Pakistanis have warped superstitious ideas about Islam and Islamic rule, justifying every Muslim named leader no matter how horrible or evil, and if they’re perceived to be anti-West (which Gaddafi wasn’t at the end) even better!

    I couldn’t believe it myself when some Pakistanis actually cried for Saddam Hussain and claimed it ruined their ‘Eid’! But that’s the warped mindset that’s been cultivated… Recommend

  • Asma

    if NATO and US are so much aginst human suppression that they need to interfere into other country’s way of ruling then i guess the same shud be done to obama and bush for killing innocent ppl in iraq, afghanistan and isreal. they r the real suppressors of humanity.Recommend

  • KillAll

    Theres a saying in Sindhi. " Jehn Sijj Ubranday tavv na kayoo, lahanday chaa kando"..Trans: "If a day rising sun hadnt shown heat, it wouldnt burn U while drowning"..
    What i Observe from those dissidents is likewise, That
    s seeming a law abolishing,bewildered sub-human kind of group not aware even about single fact of exterior World, Just inspired by Westernization deceased MOammer Gaddafi..
    Must say, As they have`nt ever proved anything against Gaddafi till today except untamed haterd, what haterd possessing people will establish toppling Pakistan by getting threats from Us or a shivering Afghanistan… Those both countries, like Libya have extreme abhor and haterd embedded in their infrastructures…!!strong textRecommend