EducationPakistan Studies

Reforms of Zia-ul-Haq and their Impact on Economy

This post discusses Zia-ul-Haq’s reforms that he introduced during 1977 and 1988. The impact of the reforms is also described in detail in the following lines: 

What were the important reforms of General Zia-ul-Haq?

The main reforms that Zia-ul-Haq introduced in Pakistan during his rule from 1977 to 1988 included privatization and Islamization. Zia’s reforms were actually a reversal of the policies of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. 

1. Privatization of institutions  

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had nationalized major institutions i.e. industries, insurance companies, banks, schools as part of his socialist reforms during his rule from 1972 to 1977. When Zia-ul-Haq took over the power, he reversed the nationalization by declaring it un-Islamic. 

Zia returned the institutions to their former owners. The military regime also sold many of the nationalized companies to new people when the original owners did not buy them. Additionally, Zia banned nationalization in the future by introducing a new law. 

What was the impact of privatization undertaken by Zia ul Haq? 

Bhutto’s nationalization had closed doors for national and foreign investment in Pakistan. Why would one invest in a country where their business potential was to end up in the hands of the government. Consequently, the economy started to degrade with a negative impact on the quality of living of the people of Pakistan. 

The reversal of nationalization and legal ban on nationalization in the future encouraged both local and foreign investors to start businesses again. As a result, the reforms brought the economy of Pakistan back into a stable position.


Islamization was an important part of Zia-ul-Haq’s reforms. In 1979 and 80, Zia-ul-Haq introduced a series of Islamic laws, e.g. establishment of the Shariat Court, Hudood Ordinance, Zakat and usher Ordinance, etc.  

1. Federal Shariat Court and appointment of Ulema as judges 

  • He formed the Federal Shariat Court in 1980 which enjoyed the authority to take decisions whether existing laws were in alignment with Islam or not. 
  • He appointed three Ulema as full-time judges to the Federal Shariat Court who acted as advisors previously. 
  • In 1982, Zia ul Haq appointed religious scholars (ulema) to the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.  

2. Hudood Ordinances 

Hudood ordinances were the presidential ordinances that Zia as President promulgated in the country. These ordinances paved way for the implementation of the strictest fundamental Sharia laws. Violation of any ordinance resulted in punishments as guided in Sharia. 

  • The ordinance banned the use of alcohol. A Muslim found drinking it would face  80 strokes of the cane.
  • Individuals involved in adultery would face stoning to death. 
  • Anyone found disrespecting the Holy Prophet (PBUH)  was punishable by imprisonment, fine, or both.
  • The law encouraged women to dress in Islamic attire, avoid sports, etc. The government did no encourage the appointment of women in certain professions i.e. banking sector, public service.
  • Zia issued Zakar Ordinance according to which Muslims will 2.5% of all their savings as zakat. Zia formed a Zakat committee in order to use the zakat funds to help needy and poor people.
  • He also introduced an agricultural tax, Ushr on agricultural income.
  • Local Zakat Committee would also use the ushr funds. 
  • As part of larger Islamization efforts, candidates knowing Quran by heart would get extra marks in civil service examinations.

What was the impact of Islamization on Pakistan? 

There are conflicting views with regard to the impact of Zia ul Haq’s reforms on Pakistani society. Some bitterly criticize Zia for his religiosity getting translated into governmental policies. Some appreciate the introduction of sharia and feel it their duty to defend some of the laws that still exist in Pakistan.

Following are different perspectives concerning the impact of the Hudood Ordinance on society. 

1. Impact on the international image of Pakistan

The liberal and religiously moderate sections of the society bitterly criticize Zia ul Haq’s Islamization efforts. For them, Islamization was a major roadblock in the realization of fundamental human rights in the country. His religious policies tarnished the image of Pakistan internationally.

2. Impact on the status of women

Islamization policy most adversely impacted the female folks in society. According to the law of evidence 1984, the evidence of one man would be equal to the evidence of two women. People asked how is it possible for a person to commit adultery in presence of two just and honest people.

3. Living an Islamic life

Those supporting Zia-ul-Haq’s reforms related to the introduction of Islamic laws and Sharia argue that Zia created an environment to emphasize observance of Islamic values. Muslims started to live a life as per the teachings of Islam. For them, the punishment awarded to violators of law prevented people from committing many moral and social evils. 

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