Pakistan’s military messiahs

Pakistan's military dictators

Since its independence, the Pakistan Army’s generals have disturbed the democratic system of the country various times in the name setting the country on the right path. Awam always looks towards a change every time they get fed up of rulers and that gives a chance to a new messiah.

First such messiah was General Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s first military dictator from 1958 until his forced resignation on 1969. After the death of Liaqat Ali Khan in 1951, the country was engulfed in political turmoil that further destabilized it. In 1958, retired Major General and President Iskander Mirza took over the country and declared first martial law on October 7, 1958. President Mirza personally appointed his close associate General Ayub Khan as the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army. This closeness would later turn into a rift and

General Ayub Khan’s downfall was his policies of concentrating political power in his own hands, his rule over the press and media, imposing state of emergency in the country, and his interference in religion. Demonstrations and agitation swept the whole country and law and order got out of hand as well. He was also despised by East Pakistanis and as the public resentment against the Ayub’s regime touched a boiling point which forced him hand over charge to his loyal officer, General Yahya Khan.

The second Messiah came in shape of General Yahya Khan who brought with him the second martial law. But he too was responsible for further increasing the rift between east and west Pakistan. Yahya Khan ordered a crack down to restore the writ of the government after the elections of 1970 and thus started Operation Searchlight began on 25 March 1971 which later took the shape of Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. General Yahya is often “credited” with being the personal responsible for Bangladesh Liberation War within Pakistan the scars of which can still be felt till this date.

The dust had not settled from this tumultuous scenario when we saw yet another dictator rise to power. General Zia-ul-Haq was the third military dictator of Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s reign was under increasing scrutiny by political opposition and people plus there were rumors fraud in voting ballot. This gave way to allegations and demonstrations by PNA, the allied opposition against Bhutto’s government.  This because the reason for Gen Zia’s coup on 5th July 1977. The then Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq appointed himself Chief Martial Law Administrator in 1978. General Zia’s legacy speaks volumes. He gave us proxy wars against the USSR using the Mujahideen, a form of fighting that still haunts us till this date. He also further Islamized the country and his interpretation of Islam further contributed to the rise of fundamentalism, obscurantism and retrogression. It is no surprise that since this death in 1988, Pakistani laws have taken a turn for the worse.

Finally comes the turn of the fourth military dictator of Pakistan, General Pervaiz Musharraf most famous for his coup of 1999. It took Pakistan’s military just 17 hours to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and at 0250 on Wednesday morning, Gen Musharraf addressed the nation in a pre-recorded message, bringing the Sharif era to a close. There were no organised protests within the country to the coup and in fact, Musharraf was welcomed with open arms.

By 2007 it had become that people had had too much Musharraf. He was surrounded by controversies involving the using too much excessive force for Lal Masjib incident, his stance on war on terror but the thing that became his downfall was his orders for suspension of the famous CJ Iftikhar Hussain. He was also widely criticized in public and political circles and hence he officially resigned on 18th Aug 2008 bringing an end to his reign.

And now we see Tahir-ul-Qadri, a self declared religious cleric singing to the same tunes again. With Musharraf’s aide on his side for his long March, and having clearly stated in the past that Army needs to be present during elections, he too has the same message that the past four dictators had; that democracy does not matter. Should we stand for it? Let us not forget that democracy forces both voters and leaders to be more mature, because they have to value the system more than any particular result. Every few years we look towards the sky searching for an answer. Maybe the answer is right in front of us. And no, it is not Tahir-ul-Qadri.