Costs of General Zia’s Dictatorship in Pakistan

[To understand the context of this post, please read At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions]
This post lists major cost elements of General Zia’s Dictatorial 11-year rule from 1977-1988. It identifies five major cost categories: costs related to ideology of Pakistan, economic costs, governance costs, foreign policy costs and costs of political engineering. This post is in response to mostly naive comparison of dictatorial rules in Pakistan with some of the political regimes. Such comparison often ignores the long term economic and social costs accruing due to the polarization engendered by the dictatorial rule in which short-term agendas often dominate the long term strategic blunders:

To understand the context of this post, please read At What Cost! Why Compute Economic Costs of Faulty Political Decisions: Pakistan History 101

There is a need for research to ascribe an economic cost to each of the elements described below.

Abuse of Islam: Costs of Religious Intolerance

Perverted use of Islam to perpetuate the rule has now brought into dispute the ideology of Pakistan. Ideas about nationhood and what binds together a nation can not be imposed from above.

  • Establishment attempts to gain legitimacy by defining its role beyond the protection of geographical borders to the defense of “ideological borders” had created several long term implications and imperatives that led to the development of the concept of “strategic depth” and the disastrous Taliban doctrines. 
  • Costs of getting rid of the jihadists culture in establishment would have to go in this area. 
  • The participation in Afghanistan Jihad and the development of Jihadists through external funding of madrassahs has created a problem of violence and a rentier class among the madrassahs. Under a religious cover, the rentier class transformed itself into pressure groups, land grabbers and even gangs involved in extortion. Land grabbing of public places, parks and then even residential areas became prevalent with no one able to take on these vicious groups. These problems are plaguing us even in 2016. 
  • Religious polarization led to the sectarian killings and demonstrations. All associated costs need to be included in this category. 
  • Farcical measures like PLS led to nothing except making fun of a serious effort in defining Islamic Finance. No serious concerted effort was made to establish an Islamic economy. 
  • Use of Islam for political witch hunt eventually led to the discrediting of the reform of the legal structure. Hurriedly made laws without a proper mechanism of enforcement and quick dispensation of justice led to the existing machinery playing with the Islamic laws they way it was playing with the British era laws i.e. exploitation of the poor people. 
  • Coming out of the Fauji Cornflakes, establishment the largest employer and the biggest commercial enterprise of the country. 
  • Inter-provincial inequity in development led to the cultivation of major discord of the provinces. 

Economic Costs

Institutionalization of corruption for developing entrenched rentier classes:

  • Use of plots for doling out largess for buying loyalty became common place. Plots were alloted at throw away prices whose market prices were astronomical. This became an art form. [Who Owns Pakistan]. 
  • Load write-off was another popular mechanism for buying loyalty of the business class. [Examples from Who Owns Pakistan]. 
  • Powerful personalities from establishment made name in smuggling and corruption. 
  • Power concentrated into a few families. From 22 families, the power concentrated into one single big family of bureaucrats-politicians-establishment where everyone was connected with every one. 

Costs of Weakening the Bureaucratic Institutions

Centralization of powers led to actually the bureaucracy abdicating its responsibility in doing any thing and became a rubber stamp of the whims and fancies of the dictator. A legacy that is still with us.

  • Deterioration of educational institutions nationalized in Bhutto’s time. Gradual withdrawal of government from the education sector started as the private institutions started filling in the vacum. 
  • Deterioration of banking sector became acute. The banks became institutions for corruption and nepotism where the loans were given and written off at will. Factories were setup through over inovoiced machinery. The money was withdrawn. The factories were then allowed to go bankrupt because the money had already been taken out. 
  • Nationalized sector started withering. First the manufacturing units stopped working, then their machinery started disappearing and then most of them became sick. The sick units started to become a liability. They will eventually be sold out at throw away prices. 
  • Wapda and other utilities started showing the impact of corruption. This problem would then exacerbate for the next twenty year leading to their divestment. 
  • PIA became Punjab International Air Line. 
  • Railways performance deteriorated as NLC was propped at the expense of Railways. 
  • Centralization of power disabled provincial decision making and also withered away the local institutions. System of delegation of power and assignment of responsibility at the lower level 
  • Costs of breakdown of all civic services; passport, identity card, licensing, land ownership and transfer, etc.
  • Costs of deterioration of health services

Foreign Policy Debacles

Costs of the bravado of the dictator general has led to unimaginable costs in our foreign policy relations. It lead to the spoiling of the name of Pakistan everywhere and its association with terrorism and support of terrorists.

  • Costs of becoming a tool of US Policy in Afghanistan
  • Costs of Afghan Jehad during Zia regime
  • Costs of Subsequent fallouts of the Afghan Jehad
  • Costs of strategic depth doctrine running afoul of US Policy after Zia
  • Costs of turning Russia against Pakistan through strategic depth
  • Costs of Chinese concerns of Strategic depth
  • Costs of Indian Siachin occupation
  • Costs of supporting Khalsa movement
  • Costs of supporting Kashmiri dissidents. Fathering of Bleed India in Kashmir doctrine. 

Political Engineering Costs

  • Costs of MRD suppression
  • Costs of Al Zulfiqar suppression
  • Costs of JI suppression in Karachi
  • Costs of promotion of MQM as a counter force to PPP
  • Costs of promoting religious extremism
  • Costs of Afghani refugees influx; Gun culture, heroin culture
  • Costs of illegal occupation of land 
  • Costs of political manipulation of judiciary
[Work in Progress]

Analyzing the Costs of Dictatorial Regimes and Sham Democracies: Pakistan History 101: 

See Also


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