Operation Fair Play
|Operation Fair Play|
|Part of Cold war|
|Type||Strategic and Tactical|
|Location||Prime Minister Secretariat, Islamabad
|Planned by||General Headquarters (GHQ)|
|Objective||Relief of Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from the Prime Minister Secretariat|
|Date||4 July 1977|
|Executed by||111th Brigade, X Corps|
|Outcome||Success of coup d'etat led by General Zia-ul-Haq|
Operation Fair Play was a cold war military intelligence program ran under the secret directives of the Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq to remove Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto from the national power. Motives for the coup was to end the social unrest in the country and political crises erupted soon after the general elections in 1977.
It was a watershed event in the Cold War and in the history of the country. The martial law took place nearly six years after the war with India which ended with the secession of East-Pakistan. The martial law would continue to remain effective for eight years until the new elections were held in 1985.
Events and political background
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) came in power after the general elections held in 1970. The power was given to PPP after the country faced an intense war with India which ended with the secession of East-Pakistan. Proponents of social democracy, left-wing philosophy, and socialist orientation was encourage by the government and such ideas slowly entered in the ordinary lives of the people.
According to the political writers and historians there was a strong group of that was not ready to accept the PPP ever since it came in power in 1971. In 1972-74, the intelligence community had thwarted many attempts by the military officers of ousting the ruling PPP; all cases were heard by JAG legal branch of the Pakistan military. In 1976, Prime Minister Bhutto forcefully retired seven army generals in order to promote Lieutenant-General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq to four star rank and subsequently appointment as chief of army staff and General Muhammad Shariff as chairman joint chiefs. Reciprocating in the same period, General Zia invited Bhutto of becoming first and only civilian Colonel Commandant of the Armoured Corps.
1977 general elections and political crises
In 1976, the right-wing conservative parties formed a common platform, called Pakistan National Alliance (PNA). In January 1977, Prime Minister Bhutto called for new general elections and started his campaign immediately after the announcement. The PNA raised religious slogans and proceeded with a right-wing political agenda at the national level. The PPP, on the other hand, had raised the social justice on economic and industrial fronts. Despite PNA's rightist activism and Establishment on PNA's circle, the results of the general elections showed Bhutto subsequently securing supermajority in the Parliament.
The PNA leadership was astonished when the results were announced by the Election Commission (EC) and prudently refused to accept the results and accused the Government of systematic rigging. The PNA immediately called for street boycott and demanded resignation of Prime Minister Bhutto. The violence spread all over the country when PPP refused PNA's demands; a massive violent demonstration, civil disobidience, and confrontation with the Police ensued. The PNA used mosques to stimulate the masses and tried to create an impression that they were only working for the enforcement of Islamic theocracy.
Bhutto responded with the use of Federal Security Force (FSF) and Police to control the situation as many activists of PNA were imprisoned. One leader of the PNA secretly wrote a letter to chiefs of staff of armed forces and chairman joint chiefs to intervene to end the crises; thus inviting armed forces to enforce martial law.
In 1977, one official of the Military Intelligence (MI) had persuaded Prime Minister Bhutto that martial law was imminent, and to speed up the negotiations with the PNA. The PPP realized the seriousness of the crises and political negotiations were started in June 1977. The PPP accepted almost all demands of the PNA and the stage was set for a compromise. The negotiations were stalled when Bhutto took the lengthy tour of Middle East countries and the PNA termed his tour as dilatory tactics. Furthermore, there was an impression created in the print media that negotiations were falling apart.
Pakistan Military response
After the letter reached to the chiefs of staff of armed forces and chairman joint chiefs, there was a fury of meeting of inter-services to discuss the situation. When Bhutto returned to the country and in spite of the agreement was about to sign with the PNA. The military staged a coup against Bhutto to end the political crises. On 4 July 1977, Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Shariff imposed the martial law and dismissed Bhutto from the government.
In electronic media, General Zia and his military government portrayed the coup as a "spontaneous response to a difficult situation" and addressed the nation immediately:
I (Zia) am the only man who took this decision [Fair Play] .... And I did so on 1700Hrs on 4[th] July after hearing the press statements that talks and negotiation between Mr. Bhutto and the opposition had broken down. Had an agreement been reached between them, I certainly would never had done it....—General Zia-ul-Haq, statement given to Newsweek, 
Although, General Zia's statement was a complete contradiction, Bhutto and the PPP was persecuted on the charges of murder of political opponents. Soon after the martial law imposed, the new military government took over the government and the state's affairs.
A military government led by Bhutto's Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq eventually installed a military government, composing the Chairman Joint Chiefs, Chiefs of Navy and the Air Force, and took over government operations in the country.
Supreme Court's action
The Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar-ul-Haq legitimatized the military response after issuing the Doctrine of necessity orders. On October 24, 1977, the Supreme Court began the trial against Bhutto on charges of "conspiracy to murder" of Ahmed Raza Kasuri.
In 1977, the Supreme Court found Bhutto guilty of murder charges and condemned him to death. Despite appeals of clemency sent by many nations, the government upheld the Supreme Court verdict and followed the Supreme Court orders when Bhutto was hanged in 1979.
Soviet Union and United States position
When the martial law took place, the whole world was quiet, and regional countries (such as India and China) did not issue any statements. Only two countries issued the statements over this issue. The USSR did not welcome the martial law and Bhutto's subsequent execution. The USSR harshly criticized the coup and Leonid Brezhnev condemned Bhutto's execution as an act out of "purely humane motives".
When allegations were leveled against the U.S. by Pakistani historians and scholars, U.S. officials reacted angrily and held Bhutto responsible for his act. Despite U.S. denial, many authors, and the PPP's intellectuals themselves, held the U.S. responsible and suspected the U.S. of playing a "hidden noble role" behind the coup.
In 1998, Benazir Bhutto and the PPP publicly announced their belief in the electronic media that Zulfikar Bhutto was "sent to the gallows at the instance of the superpower for pursuing the nuclear capability [of Pakistan]."
Before the third martial law in 1977, Pakistan had been under martial law for nearly 19 years, and saw the wars with India which led the to secession of East Pakistan. The Martial law endured the toxic legacies of General Zia-ul-Haq's eleven years of authoritarian rule. The martial law was marked by numerous human rights violations. A weak insurgent movement against General Zia's government was maintained inside the country by elements sympathetic to the former Bhutto government, but was met with great hostility from the United States and General Zia.
The martial law ended in 1988 with the death of President Zia-ul-Haq and many other key military administrators in the government. Following this event, the country returned to democracy and the PPP again came in power. In 1999, martial law was again imposed against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the armed forces but this was short-lived as new elections were held in 2002.
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