Muhammed Zia-ul-Haq was born in 1924 to a poor family in Jalandhar. In 1938 he joined the Indian Army by lying about his age. In 1940 he deserted the Indian Army and joined the Muslim Free League guerrillas in the northern mountains, he participated in terrorist activities for the next 7 years. In 1947 the MFL was reformed into the Pakistani army and Zia was given the rank of sergeant. He fought in the War of Independence and in 1950 was given a commission as a 2nd Lt. Due to the rapid expansion of the Pakistani Army throughout the early 1950's Zia was promoted rapidly becoming a Capt. (1952) and Major (1955). He served at minor border guard postings throughout this time until 1958 when he was promoted to Lt Colonel and sent to Islamabad as adjutant to the Chief of Staff, General Musa Khan. He participated in the coup that ousted General Ayub Khan and was rewarded with a promotion to Colonel and was given command of the elite Presidential Guard Regiment. In 1963 he was promoted to Major General and commanded a Division during the Indo-Pakistani war of 1963-64. In 1966 he became Lt. General in command of the 4th Corps and in 1968 he was promoted to General in command of the Western Military District. Finally in June 1970 Zia was made Chief of the General Staff.
However, Zia was not happy with General Yahya Khan's government and so conducted an elaborate plan to seize power. He ordered several special forces units to attack army installations in northern Pakistan in January 1972. Zia blamed the attacks on Hindu rebels. Yahya Khan replied by launching a major crackdown and launched massive sweep operations to search for an enemy that wasn't there. This caused massive public outcry and by July the country was on the brink of revolution. On August 3 Yahya Khan went on state television to try to calm the situation but his motorcade was attacked on the way back to the Presidential palace. This event caused General Khan to arrest over 4000 people and killed over 80 in reprisals over the next week. On August 20 General Zia went on state radio and criticised Khan's techniques and on August 21 Zia proclaimed a state of emergency. On August 23 Zia declared General Khan mentally unstable and a madman and sent guards to put him under house arrest, three days later Khan was forced to resign and General Zia was appointed interim President. On September 26 a Presidential Election was held but Zia was the only candidate. Zia was now officially President. Zia proclaimed the state of emergency over on October 2. However Zia didn't release these prisoners and in fact ordered the execution of over 5000 people between October and December. But by 1973 the situation was much calmer.
In 1974 Zia negotiated an arms deal from the Soviet Union and bought 100 MiG fighters, 180 T-62 tanks and over 20,000 of the last Soviet sub-machine guns. In 1972 the Pakistani Army consisted of 250,000 men, by 1974 it was over twice that number and rising. By 1976 however, Zia changed his allegiance to the west. In 1982 he flew to Washington and signed a vast arms deal with President Reagan. However in 1984 Zia changed his mind again, and brought Pakistan into the non-aligned movement.