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Muhammad Zia ul-Haq

General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (1924-1988) ruled Pakistan 1977-1988.

Zia-ul-Haq was the person who enforced Martial Law for the third time in the history of Pakistan. He was commissioned in the British Army in 1943 and served during World War II. At independence, Zia joined the Pakistan Army. He trained in the US 1962-1964. On April 1, 1976, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto appointed Zia-ul-Haq as Chief of Army Staff ahead of a number of more senior officers. On July 5, 1977, Zia carried out a coup overthrowing Bhutto's government and enforced Martial Law. He promised elections within 3 months. Zia released Bhutto and asserted that he could contest new elections in October 1977. However, after it became clear that Bhutto's popularity had survived his government, Zia postponed the elections and began criminal investigations of the senior PPP leadership. Bhutto was sentenced to death. Despite international appeals, Bhutto was hanged on April 6, 1979.

In the mid 1980s, Zia decided to fulfill his promise of holding elections. But before handing over the power, he decided to secure his position. Referendum was held in December 1984, and the option was to elect or reject the General as the future President. The question asked in the referendum was phrased in a way that Zia-ul-Haq's victory was related to the process of Islamization in the country. More than 95% of the vote was cast in favor of Zia-ul-Haq, thus he was elected President for 5 years.

In early 1988, rumors about the differences between the Prime Minister and Zia-ul-Haq were rife. The President, who had enjoyed absolute power for 8 years, was not ready to share it with anybody else. On May 29, 1988, Zia-ul-Haq finally dissolved the National Assembly and removed the Prime Minister under article 58(2) b of the amended Constitution.

After 11 years, Zia-ul-Haq once again made the same promise to the Nation to hold fresh elections within next 90 days. With Benazir Bhutto back in the country and his popularity at all time low, Zia was trapped in the most difficult situation of his political life. The only option left was to repeat history and to postpone the elections once again. However, before taking any decision, Zia-ul-Haq died in an airplane crash on August 17, 1988.



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