General Zia-ul-Haq, a dictator and unscrupulous political actor, used Islam as a pretext for waging war in Afghanistan and adopting an aggressive stance towards India. By advancing a more orthodox version of Islam, he was able to hold on to a repressive regime and quell any opposition.

– Asma Jehangir


The plane carrying the dictator is lying in pieces few miles from the Bahawalpur airfield.


Former military dictator, General Ziaul Haq, died in a plane crash at Bahawalpur thirty years ago on August 17. With him died the American ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel and senior US military attaché Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom as well. Even after thirty years, the mystery of Zia’s plane crash has to be solved.

Zia’s death brought dictatorship to a close. Many political commentators remember the Zia era as a watershed event in the turbulent history of the country. Zia imposed and nurtured a lifestyle that had intolerance as its main defining feature. Under the veil of national security, the state curtailed all kinds of liberties. An Islamisation drive was initiated to give legitimacy to Zia’s rule. The truncated understanding of Islam by the state and erecting parallel Islamic legal structures to the legal system of Pakistan created confusion in understanding the law of the land. Public flogging was a familiar sight during Zia’s era. Political opponents and dissenters were flogged on a routine basis.

However, the decision of participating in the Afghan war that Zia and his cohort made was the most disastrous one. Pakistan is yet to recover from the negative impacts of this decision as the Asia Pacific Group has shown dissatisfaction over Pakistan’s measures against terror financing only a day ago.