Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq Biography

(Former President of Pakistan)

Birthday: August 12, 1924 (Leo)

Born In: Jalandhar, Punjab, British India

Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was the sixth President of Pakistan who became the longest-serving head of state (1978-1988) in the country. He was also the Chief of Army Staff (1976-1988), a position to which he was appointed by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. A year after taking over as army chief, Zia deposed Bhutto in a bloodless coup, declared martial law and became chief martial-law administrator. The following year, he became the President after the term of President Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry came to an end. He is considered to be a polarising figure in the history of the country. During his presidency, with US backing, he played a key role in Soviet-Afghan War and provided the Afghan mujahideen both monetary and military support. It prevented wider Soviet incursions into the region; however, it also resulted in millions of refugees entering Pakistan's frontier province with weapons and heroin. His eleven years tenure saw him embarking on Islamization of Pakistan’s political, cultural and legal system. Economy progressed, but democratic institution lost their power and religious intolerance grew. Earlier, born in British India, he studied at Delhi’s St Stephens College and then joined the Royal Military Academy in Dehradun. He fought in the WWII as part of the British Indian army and later moved to Pakistan after India’s partition in 1947.

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Indian Celebrities Born In August

Died At Age: 64


Spouse/Ex-: Shafiq Jahan

father: Muhammad Akbar

children: Ijaz-ul-Haq, Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq, Quratulain Zia, Rubina Saleem, Zain Zia

Born Country: India

Dictators Presidents

Died on: August 17, 1988

place of death: Bahawalpur, Punjab, Pakistan

City: Jalandhar, India

Cause of Death: Plane Crash

Founder/Co-Founder: Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League (N), Defence Housing Authority, Karachi, Defence Housing Authority

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education: Command and General Staff College, Indian Military Academy, St Stephen's College

Childhood & Early Life

Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq was born on 12th August 1924, as the second of seven children of Muhammad Akbar Ali, in Jalandhar, Punjab Province of British India. Muhammad Akbar Ali was highly religious and ensured that all his children offered their morning prayers and read the Qur’an.

He received his school education in Shimla and later joined St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi and completed his graduation in history with distinction in 1943.

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After completing his college studies, he enrolled at the Royal Military Academy in Dehradun. He then fought for the British Indian Army in Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia in the Second World War.

After the partition of India in 1947, Zia and his family shifted to Pakistan and he joined the Pakistani Army as a Captain in the Guides Cavalry Frontier Force Regiment. He was also a part of 13th Lancers and 6 Lancers.

He attended the Command Staff College in Quetta in 1955 followed by training at two military schools in the US-Fort Knox (1959) and Fort Leavenworth (1962–1964). Upon his return, he was appointed the Directing Staff (DS) at Command and Staff College, Quetta.

He was on active duty in the 1965 India-Pakistan war after which he received a promotion and became a colonel.

In 1969, he rose to the rank of a brigadier and till 1971 served as advisor to the Royal Jordanian Army in their conflict with Palestinian guerrillas.

He was the Deputy Division commander during the 1971 India-Pakistan war that ultimately led to the creation of Bangladesh.

In 1972, Major General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq presided over the military courts that tried numerous Army and Air Force officers who were accused of plotting against Zulfikar Ali Bhutto government.

In 1975, Prime Minister Bhutto elevated him to the rank of lieutenant general (three star) and the following year appointed him the Chief of Army staff (four star). He was selected by Bhutto over seven senior officers.

A year later in 1977, following political and civil disorder after the March 1977 parliamentary elections, Zia deposed Bhutto in a bloodless coup (Operation Fair Play) and imposed martial law in the country. He appointed himself the Chief Martial Law Administrator, while continuing as the Chief of Army staff.

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After the coup, he assured the people of free and fair elections soon; however, he postponed the elections later.

He took over the office of Pakistan President after the then President Fazal Ilahi Chaudhry’s tenure ended in 1978.

He extended the martial law, suspended political parties, banned labour strikes and introduced severe censorship on the press.

Bhutto was charged with a conspiracy to assassinate his political opponent Nawab Muhammad Ahmed Khan Kasuri and, after a controversial trial, was executed in 1979. The hanging of an elected prime minister was condemned both globally as well as in Pakistan.

In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Zia began to systematically aid the Afghan mujahideen in their struggle against the Soviet occupation. Throughout the 1980s, backed majorly by the US, Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq helped the Afghan battle by providing monetary and military support.

The Soviet withdrew in 1989 but left behind millions of Afghani refugees who entered Pakistan and brought along heroin and weapons.

His regime saw the beginning of the Islamisation of Pakistan. Islamic penal and fiscal injunctions were introduced into the legal system. Educational curricula were revised and Islamists were appointed into the army, judiciary and bureaucracy. Numerous institutions led by Islamic clerics were created to monitor government affairs.

He also embarked on a program to strengthen Pakistan's economy and backed foreign and domestic investment. Pakistan's economy, at the time, became the fastest-growing in South Asia with the country witnessing the highest GDP growth.

He strived to maintain a good relations with China, United States and Arab nations; however, relation with India worsened due to Siachen conflict and Khalistan movement.

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In 1984, he held a referendum to judge the acceptance of his Islamisation policies. Only 20% of the electorate participated in the referendum and he won overwhelmingly, though opposition insisted that the vote was rigged.

In 1985, martial law was lifted and general elections took place. Major political parties were not permitted to take part. Zia appointed Muhammad Khan Junejo as the Prime Minister.

He introduced constitutional changes that gave more powers to the president and allowed him to dissolve the Parliament. The changes also protected his martial law from judicial review.

In 1988, Zia dissolved the Junejo government after the latter signed the Geneva Accord for peace and announced an inquiry into the Ojhri Camp blast. The government was accused of being incompetent, corrupt and indifferent to Islam.

Zia announced holding of fresh elections; however, before that he died in a plane crash.

Family & Personal Life

Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq wedded Shafiq Jahan in 1950 and had five children with her including two sons – Muhammad Ijaz-ul-Haq and Anwar-ul-Haq – and three daughters – Zain, Rubina Saleem and Quratulain Zia.

In August 1988, after reviewing a field demonstration of the M-1 Abrams tank in Bahawalpur, he boarded the C-130B Hercules aircraft to return to Rawalpindi.

However, just minutes after take-off, the control tower lost contact with aircraft which soon exploded. Everyone on board, including Zia and U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad Arnold Raphel was killed in the crash.

The crash gave rise to numerous conspiracy theories; however nothing conclusive came out of investigation.

After his death, Benazir Bhutto, daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, assumed power as the Prime Minister of the country.

Zia was portrayed in various films and novels including Mohammed Hanif's 2008 critically acclaimed satirical novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes which was loosely based around the plane crash.

A year earlier, he was played by veteran Indian actor Om Puri in an American biographical comedy drama film Charlie Wilson's War.

Still earlier, Salman Rushdie based his character General Hyder in the 1983 novel Shame, on Zia.

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