5th July 1977: Doomsday for democracy in Pakistan

Web Desk
By Web Desk July 5, 2015 13:37

5th July 1977: Doomsday for democracy in Pakistan

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto

Iranian Publication Kayhan International once stated that General Zia-ul-Haq said, “What is the Constitution? It is a booklet with ten or twelve pages. I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow, we shall live under a different system. Is there anybody to stop me? Today the people will follow wherever I lead. All the politicians, including the once mighty Mr Bhutto, will follow me with their tails wagging.”

General Zia-ul-Haq

On July 5, 1977, General Zia-ul-Haq announced that martial law had been imposed and the national along with provincial assemblies have been dissolved . He had also pledged to hold elections withing 90 days but didn’t happen.

Many senior PPP leaders including its founder was also arrested during Zia’s regime.

However, Bhutto was released on 29 July and immediately started tours across the country, delivering anti-Martial Law speeches but was arrested again on the third of September and was charged for the murder of Nawab Mohammed Ahmed Qasuri , the father of lawyer Ahmad Raza Kasuri which took place on 11 November 1974.

Ahmad Raza Kasuri

Benazir Bhutto, Zulfikar’s daughter, in her autobiography ‘Daughter of the East’ writes, “The case against my father rested primarily on the confession of Masood Mahmood, the Director General of the Federal Security Force. Masood Mahmood was one of the public servants who was arrested soon after the coup and who we had been told was tortured to give false evidence against my father. After almost two months of detention by the military, Masood Mahmood had decided to become an ‘approver’, a witness who claims to be an accomplice in a crime and is pardoned on the promise that he will tell the ‘truth’ about the other participants. Now Masood Mahmood was claiming that my father ordered him to murder the politician Kasuri… There were no eye-witnesses to the attack.” So much so that the “FSF guns, which the ‘confessing accused’ claimed to have used in the murder attempt did not match the empty cartridges found at the scene”

Expecting a fair trial in the murder case was very much unlikely and the whole nation witnessed how the judicial process of the country was blatantly transgressed impartiality was trampled upon.

Stanley Wolpert wrote, “The acting Chief Justice Maulvi Mushtaq never so much as attempted to suppress or hide his personal animus. It never occurred to him that he should refuse himself from the trial.”

Benazir in her autobiography also wrote, “The witnesses were briefed on what they should say” and favorable answers were deliberately whittled down. “At the end of the trial, not one of the objections raised or the contradictions in the evidence pointed out by the defense appeared in the record 706 pages of testimony”.

As expected and feared, Maulvi Mushtaq and his full bench found Zulfikar Ali Bhutto guilty sentenced him to death on March 18, 1978.

Moreover, Zia’s regime proved to be one of the blackest in Pakistan’s history as it promoted an extreme viewpoint of Islam, women rights were trampled and the terrorist institution Taliban was formed during Afghan War. The effects of Zia’s steps are still being felt in the country.

We can say that the democratic process in the country ended on 5th July or not, but it marked the beginning of an end to a democratic and progressive Pakistan.

#5thJulyBlackDay trends on Twitter

Users of social media website Twitter took to the social media website to voice out their opinions on the 5th of July.

Twitter users in Pakistan posted tweets and graphics regarding Zia’s 11 year martial law regime, which is considered Pakistan’s worst 11 years.

Rai M. Azlan stated that Pakistan would have been different if this day hadn’t took place while Junaid Qaisar stated that Pakistan has still not recovered from the crisis it was put in by the former military chief.

Javed Nayab Leghari stated the people came out on the streets against Zia as a mass agitation movement started.

Murtaza Solangi highlighted the backgrounds of Zia’s announcement of his martial law.

Aryba Jalbani posted a picture of women protesting against Zia’s rule

Abid Hussain Qureshi posted that Pakistan’s prosperity is dependant on democracy



Web Desk
By Web Desk July 5, 2015 13:37
  • S.H. Khan, MD

    The problem with Pakistan’s democracy started way before 1977. Mr Bhutto himself (amongst others), was the product of martial law and rose through the ranks by sycophancy. He ingratiated himself to Sikander Mirza & succeeding generals, just like his father had been at the beck and call of the British ruling India. Just like Zia tried to use Islam to legitimize his rule, Bhutto pulled the same strings when needed e.g., switching weekend holiday from Sunday to Friday (as if it was ‘unislamic’ to have a day off on Sunday?) or, banning alcohol for muslims (as if, the intervention was necessary rather than an adult muslim’s own conscious & judgment, that had worked just fine till then). The seeds to undermine Pakistani democracy were sown much too soon after independence, leading to progressively lengthy dictatorships. Accidents also have a way of altering the course of history. If the chosen first Pakistani commander in chief had not died in an aircrash, Ayub Khan would not have been at the helm of the army (incidentally, Quaid-e-Azam disliked Ayub Khan when he met him!). If the rule of law and meritocracy had prevailed, Sikander Mirza, Ayub Khan etc would not have been able to conspire and take over as rulers. Bhutto would not have risen amongst the corrupted to break the country into two, Yahya Khan would not have heeded another General’s intervention and instead disciplined/fired Zia ul Haq for playing the part of Jordan’s mercenary (by waging war upon Jordan’s Palestinian refugees). Zia’s career would have been curtailed, so he would not have been available to Bhutto to be chosen as army chief (Zia too was chosen because he ingratiated himself to Bhutto, who thought he was a toothless person who would be at his beck and call!). Using the same considerations, Nawaz Sharif (Jilani and Zia ul Haq’s protegé) chose General Musharraf, an urdu speaker and seemingly without a powerbase in the army, thinking the general would be indebted to him! And so, it goes on. It is not a single event, rather a chain reaction leading to where Pakistan is today.
    No single person can undo or rescue a nation. For Pakistan to progress, the citizens need to realize their individual and collective responsibilities, re-embrace the traditional tolerance that the land had for all faiths and beliefs, disassociate themselves from flouting law when it comes to their own personal gain (it all adds up). The citizens will have to give up rationalizing their own lies and corruption by statements such as, “This is what happens in Pakistan”. Rather, they should actively protest and oppose, any flouting of law. Ultimately, it is the people not the leaders, who make the nation for what it is. The leader rises from amongst the people and is merely a reflection of them.

  • Iqbal Hussain

    though we remember the darkened era of 5th July 1977 but political leadership still has not matured – we are getting them at the same threshold – their non seriousness being priced by the countrymen & voters – we do election but do rigging in the election – we come to the power but don’t rule proficiently – do corruption at every economic fronts and get the country hefty with loan indebtedness – we gained money – we transfer money in personal account in overseas – we plunder national wealth – we loot national wallet – we take loan from internal banks and we get it written off – we acquire loan from lender agencies in overseas on the name of investment in economic development plans but we don’t do and keep in the pocket – so if our traits are like this then how democracy in Pakistan can survive – where 80% people are living below poverty line – increased mismanagement and unbridled corruption becomes cause of assembly dissolution then Boots come to take over.

  • sense

    I do not care what people says about Gen:Zia , i have seen his time and i would say it was Golden Period in Pakistan History ……………. Because we never had Democracy even up until now ………. i do not like when people put comments on social media those who born in 90’s……………… about Gen Zia………

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