Operation Fair Play

Operation Fair Play

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Operation Fairplay was the code-name for the coup d'etat
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 conducted at midnight on July 4, 1977 by the Pakistan Army
Pakistan Army
The Pakistan Army is the branch of the Pakistani Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. The Pakistan Army came into existence after the Partition of India and the resulting independence of Pakistan in 1947. It is currently headed by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. The Pakistan...

's 111th Infantry Brigade
111th Infantry Brigade (Pakistan)
The 111th Infantry Brigade or 111th Brigade or Triple-1 Brigade, is an infantry brigade of the Pakistan Army notable for its frequent involvement and fast response in military coup d'etats since Pakistani independence...

 led by Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq
Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq
General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq , was the 4th Chief Martial Law Administrator and the sixth President of Pakistan from July 1977 to his death in August 1988...

 against the elected civilian government of then-Prime minister
Prime Minister of Pakistan
The Prime Minister of Pakistan , is the Head of Government of Pakistan who is designated to exercise as the country's Chief Executive. By the Constitution of Pakistan, Pakistan has the parliamentary democratic system of government...

 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was 9th Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1973 to 1977, and prior to that, 4th President of Pakistan from 1971 to 1973. Bhutto was the founder of the Pakistan Peoples Party — the largest and most influential political party in Pakistan— and served as its chairman until his...


1977 election

The coup was conducted at the height of the political crisis stemming from the 1977 general election
Pakistani general election, 1977
General elections were held in Pakistan on 7 March 1977. The result was a victory for the Pakistan People's Party, which won 155 of the 200 elected seats, including 19 that were uncontested as the Pakistan National Alliance boycotted the Balochistan elections due to ongoing military...

. The leaders of the opposition Pakistan National Alliance
Pakistan National Alliance
The Pakistan National Alliance was a nine-party alliance in Pakistan, formed in 1977 in which the alliance agreed to run as a single bloc to overthrow the rule of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the first elected leader of that country. It was a major and largest alliance formed against...

 alleged that the Pakistan Peoples Party
Pakistan Peoples Party
The Pakistan Peoples Party , is a democratic socialist political party in Pakistan affiliated with Socialist International. Pakistan People's Party is the largest political party of Pakistan...

 of Prime minister Bhutto had rigged the elections to guarantee its victory—the PPP had won 155 seats to the PNA's 36. One opposition leader, retired Air Force
Pakistan Air Force
The Pakistan Air Force is the leading air arm of the Pakistan Armed Forces and is primarily tasked with the aerial defence of Pakistan with a secondary role of providing air support to the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Navy. The PAF also has a tertiary role of providing strategic air transport...

's Chief of Air Staff
Chief of Air Staff (Pakistan)
The Chief of the Air Staff of the Pakistan Air Force, abbreviated as CAS, is typically the highest ranking 4-star rank officer in the Pakistan Air Force, unless a four-star officer is appointed as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. The CAS is a senior and permanent member of the...

 Air Marshal
Air Marshal
Air marshal is a three-star air-officer rank which originated in and continues to be used by the Royal Air Force...

 (retired) Asghar Khan
Asghar Khan
Air Marshal Asghar Khan is a Pakistani 3-star rank general and politician who was the first native Air Force Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Air Force. A politician and world war II veteran fighter pilot, at the age of 36, he served as the youngest and first Pakistani head of the Pakistan Air Force...

 appealed to Pakistan's Defence Forces's Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Pakistan
The Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee , is a military administrative body of high-ranking and senior uniformed military leaders and officers in the Pakistan Defense Forces who advises the civilian Government of Pakistan, National Security Council, and Defence Minister on important military matters...

 to end support for Bhutto. Having initially ordered the arrest of opposition leaders, Bhutto backed down in face of rising protests and violence and opened talks. However, the military intervened before any agreement could be reached between the two parties.


Near midnight on July 4, 1977 the army chief General Zia ordered the GOC of 111th Brigade Rawalpindi to encircle all major federal and provincial Government buildings, police stations and the National Assembly and to order the Police to arrest Bhutto, his ministers and other leaders of both the Pakistan Peoples Party
Pakistan Peoples Party
The Pakistan Peoples Party , is a democratic socialist political party in Pakistan affiliated with Socialist International. Pakistan People's Party is the largest political party of Pakistan...

 and the Pakistan National Alliance. In a nationally televised address, General Zia announced that the National Assembly of Pakistan
National Assembly of Pakistan
The National Assembly of Pakistan is the lower house of the bicameral Majlis-e-Shura, which also compromises the President of Pakistan and Senate . The National Assembly and the Senate both convene at Parliament House in Islamabad...

 and all provincial assemblies were dissolved, and that the Constitution of Pakistan
Constitution of Pakistan
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the supreme law of Pakistan. Known as the Constitution of 1973, it was drafted by the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and, following additions by the opposition parties, was approved by the legislative assembly on April 10, 1973...

 was suspended. However, he also promised to hold elections in 90 days. Zia appointed active and retired military officers to head government agencies and tribunals.

Although Zia had been appointed army chief over several senior generals as he was believed to be politically unambitious, Zia soon consolidated power and proclaimed himself Chief martial law administrator
Chief Martial Law Administrator
The office of the Chief Martial Law Administrator was a senior government post created in countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia that gave considerable executive authority and powers to the holder of the post to enforce martial law in the country. This office has been used mostly by...

. Having released Bhutto on July 29, Zia's regime re-arrested him on September 3 and announced that Bhutto would stand trial on charges of corruption and for the conspiracy to murder an opposition politician Ahmed Raza Kasuri
Ahmed Raza Kasuri
Sahibzada Ahmed Raza Khan Kasuri is a former Pakistani politician from the Punjab province.-References:...

. Although he had held talks with the leaders of the PNA, Zia suddenly postponed elections. On September 16, 1978 Zia declared himself president of Pakistan
President of Pakistan
The President of Pakistan is the head of state, as well as figurehead, of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Recently passed an XVIII Amendment , Pakistan has a parliamentary democratic system of government. According to the Constitution, the President is chosen by the Electoral College to serve a...


Bhutto's trial and execution

On March 18, 1978 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was sentenced to death for the murder of the father of an opposition leader. Zia-ul-Haq was accused of influencing the court decision and the subsequent failed appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan
Supreme Court of Pakistan
The Supreme Court is the apex court in Pakistan's judicial hierarchy, the final arbiter of legal and constitutional disputes. The Supreme Court has a permanent seat in Islamabad. It has number of Branch Registries where cases are heard. It has a number of de jure powers which are outlined in the...

. Despite the appeals from 55 heads of state, Zia refused to stop Bhutto's execution, which was carried out in 1979.