In the year 1947, India and Pakistan both have born as independent countries within a gap of a few hours. But in the last almost 76 years, India has been thriving as a democracy, and Pakistan is ruled almost by military rulers; However, there have been only three military coups in Pakistan in the last 76 years (1958, 1977, 1999), and four military rulers of Pakistan have significantly impacted the country’s social, economic and religious identity.
Let us briefly look at all these four military rulers of Pakistan and know who they were and how they became the country’s dictators.
Four Military Rulers of Pakistan
General Ayub Khan (1958 to 1969)
Pakistan’s democracy was just 11 years old when President Iskandar Mirza repealed the nation’s constitution and declared Martial Law. General Ayub Khan was made the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Just a few weeks later, General Ayub Khan took over the presidency from Iskandar Mirza and became the first military ruler of Pakistan.
That martial law existed for 44 months, under which most political activities were banned. General Ayub Khan concentrated on strengthening the country’s bureaucracy to rule the nation smoothly. General Ayub Khan has consistently been credited for making Pakistan a solid economic nation. The GDP was Pakistan in 1958 and 1959 touched 14%. But later, the economists revealed that this economic growth was just a bubble as it was rooted in income inequality.
General Yahya Khan (1969 to 1971)
After General Ayub Khan resigned in 1969, his protégé and left-hand General Yahya Khan took over power and became the country’s second military ruler. Yahya Khan’s entire education was done in India before the partition. At age 34, Yahya Khan became the youngest brigadier general of Pakistan.
After taking office in 1969, Yahya Khan directly conflicted with the Awami Party of the then East Pakistan and its leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Rahman demanded autonomy in East Pakistan, and Yahya Khan, in response, sent an army that conducted some of the most brutal acts in the history of mankind. Later India intervened, and East Pakistan became Bangladesh. Yahya Khan had to resign on 20th December 1971 and was replaced by his foreign minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto then put him under house arrest. Soon after his house arrest Yahya Khan suffered paralysis and took no further part in active politics.
General Zia Ul Haq (1977 to 1988)
After Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto won the first-ever general election, General Zia Ul Haq put him under house arrest and dissolved the parliament. Later Bhutto was also executed by the Zia administration. General Zia is known as one of Pakistan’s most brutal military rulers. He suspended the constitution and promised to hold elections in 90 days after snatching the office from Bhutto.
But Zia’s iron hand was controlling Pakistan with brutal force. He censored politicians and journalists. Not only that, newspapers like Daily Musawat and Daily Sadaqat were banned by his government in 1971. The Pakistan military even lashed journalists who opposed his government.
In 1985, General Zia Ul Haq finally allowed elections in the country. Muhammad Khan Junejo became the country’s Prime Minister and was declared the President of Pakistan. General Zia Ul Haq remained Pakistan’s President till 1988, when he died in a plane crash.
General Pervez Musharraf (1999 to 2008)
After the defeat in a semi-war against India in Kargil in 1999, the architect of the same, Pervez Musharraf, executed a bloodless coup and threw the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif. Strange enough, Nawaz Sharif superseded many senior army officers to appoint Pervez Musharraf as Pakistani army chief.
During the Pervez Musharraf regime, Pakistan saw few structural reforms and a show-off like cracking down heavily on terrorism. After implementing a state of emergency in 2007 and suspending the constitution, Musharraf resigned in 2008 and later formed a political party.
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