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Military coups in Pakistan began in 1958 and there have been three successful attempts. There have also been numerous unsuccessful attempts since 1951. Since its creation in 1947, Pakistan has spent several decades under military rule (1958 – 1971, 1977 – 1988, 1999 – 2008).

1958 coup[edit]

In 1958, the first Pakistani President Major General Iskander 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 deposed by Ayub Khan, who appointed himself president.[1]

1977 coup (Operation Fair Play)[edit]

Main article: Operation Fair Play

Codenamed as Fair Play, the program was executed at the 4 July 1977 by the unified Pakistan military.[2] Chief of army staff General Zia-ul-Haq, with the support from the Chairman joint chiefs Admiral Mohammad Shariff oversaw the coup d'état against the government of then-Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.[2][3] Near on July 4, 1977 the Chief of army staff General Zia authorized orders to confined Prime Minister Bhutto, the marxist leaders of the PPP, and other figures of the rightist alliance, the National Alliance.[2] In a nationally televised address, General Zia announced that the Parliament and all provincial assemblies were dissolved, and that the Constitution of Pakistan was suspended.[2]

The martial law enforced by President General Zia, it introduced the strict but modern form of conservatism which promoted the nationalistic and religious programmes.[4]

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.[5]

Indirect intervention[edit]

The death of Zia-ul-Haq 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.

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.[1] Prominent poet-intellectual Faiz Ahmed Faiz was suspected of involvement.[6] 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.[7][8] In 1995, a coup attempt against the government of Benazir Bhutto led by Maj. Gen. Zahirul Islam Abbasi with the support of Islamic extremists was foiled.


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b c d Pakistan, Zia and after. Abhinav Publications. 1989. pp. 20–35. ISBN 978-81-7017-253-6. 
  3. ^ Rafiq Dossani (2005). Prospects for Peace in South Asia. Stanford University Press. pp. 46–50. ISBN 978-0-8047-5085-1. 
  4. ^ Cohen, Stephen P. (2004). The idea of Pakistan (1. paperback ed.). Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 0815715021. 
  5. ^ "World: South Asia : Pakistan army seizes power". BBC NEWS. 1999-10-12. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  6. ^ Muhammad Yusuf Abbasi (1992). Pakistani culture: a profile. National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research. ISBN 978-969-415-023-9. 
  7. ^ Tajammul Hussain Malik (1991). The Story Of My Struggle. Jang Publishers. pp. 220–280. 
  8. ^ World Focus, Volume 2. H.S. Chhabra. 1981. 

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