Military coups in Pakistan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Military coups in Pakistan began in 1958 when military officer Muhammad Ayub Khan overthrew and exiled president Iskandar Ali Mirza.[1][2] Since its creation in 1947, Pakistan has spent several decades under military rule (1958–1971, 1977–1988, 1999–2008).

Inelligible Generals and officers of Rawalpindi Corps of army were allegedly involved in all the military take overs or martial laws violating the constitution and destroying democratic system in the country, killing and torturing of senior politicians, citizens and journalists inside Adiala jail in Rawalpindi. There was no involvement reported of whole army or any other Corps of Army in military take overs that are based in several major cities of the country.

Establishment of Rawalpindi Corps was allegedly involved in murder of Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and previously Liaquat Ali Khan in 1952 in Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi city. The Corps was also involved in murder of journalist  Arshad Sharif in 2022 and further torturing many journalists, as well as torturing Nawaz Sharif and his family and the Bhutto family. They were also involved in attempt of murder on Imran Khan. Moreover they were involved in Lal masjid incident in 2007 in which 100 individuals were killed.

1999-2008 martial law was the most destructive one which resulted in more than 80,000 casualties of Pakistani nationals including security forces and civilians. Financial losses were estimated at Trillions of Rupees.[3]

After their respective terms in office, each of the past five prime ministers of Pakistan has faced convictions or imprisonment. This trend highlights a significant aspect of Pakistan's political landscape: the prevailing rule that the Pakistani military exercises influence wherever it deems necessary, often persisting despite potential repercussions. Throughout Pakistani history, the military has played a prominent role in governance, with periods where it has directly ruled the country.[4]

1953/54 constitutional coup[edit]

In 1953, the Governor-General Ghulam Muhammad dismissed the government of the Prime Minister Khawaja Nazimuddin despite it enjoying the support of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan; then in 1954 he dismissed the Constituent Assembly itself to prevent it changing the constitution to restrict the Governor-General's powers. The failure of the courts to support representative institutions in Federation of Pakistan v. Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan provided a pattern which later led to more open military intervention against elected governments to be justified using a doctrine of necessity.[5]

1958 coup[edit]

In 1958, the first Pakistani President Major General Iskandar Ali Mirza dismissed the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan and the government of Prime Minister Feroz Khan Noon, appointing army commander-in-chief Gen. Ayub Khan as the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Thirteen days later, Mirza himself was exiled by Ayub Khan, who appointed himself president.[6]

1977 coup (Operation Fair Play)[edit]

Operation Fair Play was the code name for the coup d'etat conducted at midnight on July 4, 1977, by the military, led by Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq, against the government of then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. General Zia ordered the arrest of Bhutto, his ministers and other leaders of both the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan National Alliance.[7] In a nationally televised address, General Zia announced that the National Assembly of Pakistan and all provincial assemblies were dissolved, and that the Constitution of Pakistan was suspended.[8]

The martial law enforced by President General Zia introduced the strict but modern form of conservatism which promoted the nationalistic and religious programmes.[9] Under Zia's dictatorship a heavy islamization of the country took place (the emblem of which were the so called Hudud Ordinances), which steered the country away from Muhammad Ali Jinnah's non-sectarian vision.

1999 coup[edit]

In October, 1999 senior officers loyal to army chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf arrested prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his ministers after thwarting the Sharif regime's attempt to dismiss Musharraf and prevent his plane from landing in Pakistan as he returned from a visit to Sri Lanka.[10]

Indirect intervention[edit]

The death of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq in August 1988 led to the appointment of Ghulam Ishaq Khan as President. Khan had vast, unchecked Presidential powers and was known to be close to the Pakistani military. Khan had dismissed both Benazir Bhutto in 1990 and Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister in 1993, though the latter resulted in his own resignation and is known in Pakistan as the Waheed Kakar formula.[11][12]

Unsuccessful coup attempts[edit]


There have been numerous unsuccessful coup attempts in Pakistani history. The first noted attempt was the Rawalpindi conspiracy in 1951 led by Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan along with left-wing activists and sympathetic officers against the government of Liaquat Ali Khan, Pakistan's first prime minister.[6] Prominent poet-intellectual Faiz Ahmed Faiz was suspected of involvement.[13]


In 1973 Brig. Ali, Major Farouk Adam Khan, Squadron Leader Ghous, Colonel Aleem Afridi and Lt. Colonel Tariq Rafi plotted a coup against the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to establish a revolutionary military junta. However Colonel Aleem Afridi backed down and informed the government against the plot. The coup plotters were court martialed and arrested.[14][15]


In 1980, a plot by Maj. Gen. Tajammul Hussain Malik to assassinate Zia-ul-Haq on Pakistan Day on March 23, 1980, was exposed and thwarted.[16][17]


In 1984, Zia ul Haq regime faced another attempt of coup d'etat just four years after the 1980 attempt. This time the coup attempt came from leftists who wanted to overthrow Zia and establish a populist military regime in the country. The attempt was foiled by Inter Services Intelligence and all the plotters were arrested.[18][19]


In 1995, a coup attempt against the government of Benazir Bhutto led by Maj. Gen. Zahirul Islam Abbasi with the support of Islamic extremists failed.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The curse that no Pakistan ruler has ever escaped". The Times of India. 26 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Pakistan - Constitutional Beginnings". Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  3. ^ "Pakistan - Constitutional Beginnings". Retrieved 13 May 2024.
  4. ^ {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Pakistan - Constitutional Beginnings, Country Data
  6. ^ a b Hassan Abbas (2005). Pakistan's drift into extremism: Allah, the army, and America's war on terror. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 16–40. ISBN 978-0-7656-1496-4.
  7. ^ Hyman, Anthony; Ghayur, Muhammed; Kaushik, Naresh (1989). Pakistan, Zia and After--. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications. p. 30. ISBN 81-7017-253-5. Operation Fair Play went ahead … as the clock struck midnight [on 4 July 1977] ... [Later,] General Zia [told Bhutto] that Bhutto along with other political leaders of both the ruling and opposition parties would be taken into what he called 'protective custody'.
  8. ^ Dossani, Rafiq; Rowen, Henry S. (2005). Prospects for Peace in South Asia. Stanford University Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-8047-5085-1. Zia-ul-Haq, however, chose not to abrogate the 1973 Constitution. Rather, Zia's government suspended the operation of the Constitution and governed directly, through the promulgation of martial law regulations … Between 1977 and 1981 Pakistan did not have legislative institutions.
  9. ^ Cohen, Stephen P. (2004). The idea of Pakistan (1. paperback ed.). Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0815715021.
  10. ^ "World: South Asia : Pakistan arm". BBC News. 12 October 1999. Retrieved 22 April 2009.
  11. ^ Service, Tribune News. "The end game". Tribuneindia News Service. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  12. ^ "1995 coup attempt: 15 years on, SC takes up key case". The Express Tribune. 13 August 2012. Retrieved 11 April 2022.
  13. ^ Muhammad Yusuf Abbasi (1992). Pakistani culture: a profile. National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research. ISBN 978-969-415-023-9.
  14. ^ "Men on horseback,a history of coups".
  15. ^ "fallen horses the coups that failed in Pakistan".
  16. ^ Tajammul Hussain Malik (1991). The Story Of My Struggle. Jang Publishers. pp. 220–280.
  17. ^ World Focus, Volume 2. H.S. Chhabra. 1981.
  18. ^ "Men on horseback,a history of coups".
  19. ^ "fallen horses the coups that failed in Pakistan".