Mysterious assassinations no new thing: the example of Zia-ul-Haq

January 14, 2008 at 12:30 am (History, Islamism, Israel, Military, Pakistan, The United Nations)

An event and issue that continues to generate considerable amount of debate is the assassination of General Zia-ul-Haq, the military dictator before Musharraf. (There was a interregnum, if you will, of politicians between Zia-ul-Haq and Musharraf.)

One day, all of a sudden, Zia’s plane blew up. To this day, there has been no conclusive finding as to who was responsible. Of course, the various people who would have wanted him dead makes pinpointing the culprit extremely difficult. Was it the Americans (and, if so, which entity therein)? The Soviets? The Indians? The Israelis? Other Communists? Afghans? How did they do it?

Although Zia-ul-Haq was instrumental in allowing the Americans to fund and supply the mujahidin in Afghanistan, who were fighting the Soviets, Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamization of Pakistan posed a considerable risk to the greater stability of the region, not to mention how unwieldy he (and his Islamized nation) was getting. It would have made sense to off Zia-ul-Haq before he became more of a liability than an asset. (The example of Saddam Hussein demonstrates how this can become so, although the Americans then had no idea of such a scenario: if they did it and this was why, it was simple foresight.)

Zia-ul-Haq’s vital support for the mujahidin was crucial in letting the mujahidin drive out the Soviets, thus inflicting on the previously invincible Soviets and crushing blow, one which may be credited to contributing greatly to the unraveling of the Soviet Union and fall of the Soviet Communist empire. They would have had good reasons to want Zia-ul-Haq dead; taking out America’s ambassador to Pakistan at the same time would have also served their purposes. (But then was it military intelligence or the KGB that orchestrated the explosion?)

Zia-ul-Haq was a threat to India not only because he was an Islamist and Islamizing general (both of which contribute to a very unfriendly attitude to the secular or Hindu state) but also because of his efforts behind the scenes to secure the technology to built a nuke. (Although the groundwork was laid by Zia-ul-Haq’s civilian predecessor, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whom Zia executed, Zia was very instrumental in the nuke plan’s success and development. He saw it as “the Islamic bomb”, which many other Islamist and/or Muslim allies identified with and which led to their secret assistance to Pakistan’s nuke plan.) Perhaps they thought taking him out might stall the nuke plan, if not derail it, or would put a stop to the Islamization which was souring relations between Pakistan and India even more. Similar reasons and issues could determine why the Israelis would want to take Zia out.

Perhaps Afghan nationalists were upset with the constant encroachment of Pakistani or Pakistan-funded entities upon the sovereignty of Afghanistan, and they wanted no more of it and so sought to take out Zia. Perhaps Afghan Communists, smarting from the Soviets’ defeat and unable to do anything, sought to exact revenge by assassinating Zia.

No one knows.

Obviously, there is a whole plethora of theories (more often than not conspiracy theories) regarding who did it and why. And so such a state of affairs, which now exists to some extent with Benazir’s assassination, is nothing new to Pakistanis. (Indeed, such a state of affairs is not new regarding assassinations: consider the many theories and opinions regarding the culprits the motives thereof for the assassination attempts on Kennedy, John Paul II, Liaquat Ali Khan of Pakistan, and King Birendra of Nepal.) Whereas some assassination attempts, such as those on Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Reagan, Yitzhak Rabin are clear-cut with regard to culprits and motives (Hindu nationalists, Sikhs, Tamil nationalists, star-struck idiot, and Israeli far-right nationalist, respectively), others are not.

But in Pakistan, violence is simply a part of life, political or otherwise.


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