The Black Day Of July 5

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The 5 July is the blackest day of our history which saw the imposition of the most oppressive and ruthless Martial Law in the country by General Zia ul Haq. This was the third Martial. General Zia’s coup détat was unprecedented in many ways. It took place after six years of the most humiliating debacle we faced in December 1971; in the midst of a raging military operation in Balochistan launched in July 1973 and was motivated by mere greed of power, vendetta, and an apprehension of the growing civilian supremacy in the state affairs.  

The loss of the bigger half of the country should have had a sobering impact on us. No, this did not.  We forgot everything. We didn’t pause to take stock of our mistakes and devise a course correction. We continued in our political and strategic waywardness. How can history forgive a nation that persists in forgetting its lessons? We have acquired notoriety in overlooking our blunders. Over the years, we have perfected the art of sidestepping unwelcome truths. 

Z.A. Bhutto was culpable in opposing the maiden session of the newly elected Assembly. But he was not the authority to take this crucial decision. The authority was vested in the military junta ruling the country. Did he use the military rulers to advance his political grand design to dismember the country? No, he was co-opted by the ruling Generals to deny power to the representatives of Bengal. He was saddled with power in the remainder of Jinnah’s Pakistan by the military, particularly by General Gul Hassan and Air Marshal Rahim. The conditions in Islamabad were getting worse after the ignominious surrender of 16 December. The junior officers were in revolt in many garrisons, and the people of Pakistan, feeling shocked and humiliated, were after the blood of General Yahya. 

No political leader in Pakistan or another group of coup makers would have addressed the political and constitutional challenges that had engulfed the truncated Pakistan than the maverick Z.A. Bhutto who was intelligent and popular enjoyed the overwhelming support of the people particularly in Punjab. He faithfully exerted himself to collect the broken pieces of the ship and put it to a smooth sail within two years. He worked with the speed of a hurricane – visible everywhere and audible every time in a whirlwind and constant tour of the country. 

Within two years, he restored the confidence of the people as a new nation; addressed the post-war issues with India bringing back the prisoners of war, retrieving occupied lands in Punjab and Sindh and restoring the sanctity of the LoC; framed the Constitution and set the new Pakistan on the path of parliamentary democracy which was the consensus demand of the political parties before the general elections of 1970. He restored the truncated Pakistan as a viable and vibrant country in the comity of nations. This Herculean task could have been completed only by this able son of the country. 

He was not invulnerable to making mistakes. He made mistakes and paid for them dearly. He didn’t make the Hamood Ur Rehman Commission Report public, probably to save the army from further humiliation. He did not honour his agreement with the National Awami Party and dismissed its elected government in Balochistan in July 1973. He ordered a military operation to suppress the protesting Balochs. The establishment of the Federal Security Force was taken as an affront by the army. He unnecessarily delayed signing of the agreement with the Pakistan National Alliance leaders. He had misplaced confidence in his apparently humble and courteous but shrewd and cunning chief of army. 

He was overthrown and detained. He failed to gauge the depth of the malice of General Zia against him. He was implicated falsely in the murder of a political opponent through FSF; went through a torturous process of court proceedings languishing in the death cell; and was finally sent to gallows leaving his family, country and people in the hands of a tyrant. General Chishti, in his book, Betrayal of Another Kind, unthreads the cobweb of the conspiracy weaved after two months of Martial Law to eliminate Bhutto. The FSF officials including the former Director General Masood Ahmed were induced and coerced to become approvers in the murder case.  

The crime of Bhutto was to stir the dormant power of the people against the ossified politicians and the rotted system. His tale signified the defeat of the genius by the unholy alliance of obscurant forces; of light by darkness; of enlightenment by dogmatism; of freedom by tyranny; of advancement by regression. This darkness, obscurantism, dogmatism and regression continue to stalk us.   

With the execution of Bhutto, the country was turned into a hotbed of religiosity, dogmatism and sectarian polarisation. To gain legitimacy for his unconstitutional regime, General Zia plunged the country into the US-led war against the godless communists in Afghanistan. We blindly accepted whatever the American leadership rammed through our throat. We took the responsibility of accepting Mujahids from all over the Muslim world; to train them in the use of modern weaponry on our soil and launch them into Afghanistan. We overlooked the relocation of drug factories and the smuggling of arms into our tribal regions. By the time, the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan; we had 85000 trained Mujahideen and 1.5 million drug addicts.  

The genesis of the religion/ideology-driven terrorism could be traced back to the rule of dictator Zia which has been haunting us for the past four decades. We have already carried out four full military operations against these militants – one by General Musharraf and three by his successors – and we are preparing for the fifth one. The earlier military operations displaced a big population of the tribal regions which took refuge in Karachi making it the biggest Pakhtun city in Pakistan. This time we will have to deal with a fully equipped and well-motivated enemy enjoying the support of our erstwhile children – the Taliban – called so by Late General Nasirullah Babar.       

 

     

   

    

              

 

M. Alam Brohi
M. Alam Brohi
The author was a member of the Foreign Service of Pakistan and he has authored two books.

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