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July 5, 2015

July 5, 1977: Pakistani PM overthrown

On this day in 1977, the Pakistani military overthrew Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the country’s socialist prime minister.

Bhutto had been thrust into the role of president after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which resulted in the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). His primary focus was developing a nuclear arms program to counter that of India.

He also renegotiated the country’s constitution, and moved into the more-powerful prime minister’s role in 1973. But the results of the 1977 election were unbelievable: Bhutto’s socialist Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) won 155 of the 200 seats in the legislature, despite a huge wave of support for the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), a right-leaning Islamic coalition.

General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq staged a bloodless coup called Operation Fair Play. The military government then tried Bhutto for conspiracy in the 1974 murder of an opposition leader. Bhutto was found guilty and hanged on April 4, 1979.

Zia remained the head of Pakistan until his death in a plane crash in 1988, during which time Pakistan underwent rapid Islamization. Just four months later, the PPP won elections, and Zulfikar’s eldest daughter, Benazir Bhutto, became prime minister. (Some suspected her brother was behind the plane crash.)

As for Bangladeshi independence, perhaps as many as 3 million civilians died in just nine months, a rate unparalleled in the history of warfare.

From a recent LearnedLeague infographics quiz. The deaths attributed to the nine-month war for Bangladeshi independence were labeled with the black box.

Image: official portrait, via Pakistan Probe

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