Many of us who grew up in the late 70s and early 80s (I was 8 when the coup of July 1977 took place) often wonder if that period in Pakistan’s history scarred us for life. There are the larger impacts of course – the political activists who went to jail and suffered torture and long periods of incarceration; the writers and intellectuals who were forced to go underground but who continued to find ways to be heard; the journalists who were lashed in public or otherwise harassed; the people who lost their jobs because they wouldn’t toe the line; the women who suffered the rigors of the Hudood laws. But then there are those of us who can’t claim to have been through any of that per se, but who grew up in a time when Pakistan changed from an open, liberal society to one where repression became omnipotent. Overnight, our parent’s stories became un-relatable. Stories of going to clubs in Karachi to hear jazz and dance the night away; of going to Shia, Ismaili, Hindu, Christian households for their religious festivals; of being able to go to (albeit cordoned off) restaurants in Ramzan, while fully cognizant of the sanctity of the month; of wearing sleeveless kameezes to university and girls cycling around big cities with no one bothering to comment or even look etc etc. Overnight, for them, it became another country while for us, a new normal took hold. In school, the chapters in the Social Studies book explaining how the National and Provincial Assemblies functioned were suddenly left out of the syllabus and were actually pulled out in later editions. The chapters on national heroes now featured the army jawans who had won the Nishan-e-Haider rather than scions of the Pakistan movement or poets and philosophers. Separate Islamiyat books were issued for Sunni and Shia students. Our missionary school steadfastly refused to enforce the rule that senior school girls should carry chadors as part of the uniform, but the government run college I later went to did prescribe the garment, which we all carried rolled up in our book bags and produced only when a uniform inspection was held (which was once a year, probably). Nevertheless, that was the first time we were made aware that the wearing of a certain garment could indeed be prescribed by authorities. There is some level of consensus in Pakistan that martial law was a particularly brutal period with the Zia period being one that is to be looked back on with regret if not outright horror The Nadeem-Shabnam starrers of our youngest years began to peter out to be replaced by graphic Punjabi films that we were not allowed to see. Entertainment in general became confined to homes for most of us and our parents took to meeting at dinner parties and talking politics in hushed tones. Every night at 8:00 p.m., in our house at least, there was a ritual wherein the BBC Urdu service was tuned into with the radio being adjusted at multiple angles to catch a relatively crackle free voice. That was the only reliable news one heard — PTV was even more laughable than it is now. I remember my parents flinching at the news of the public lashings (or koras as they were called in Urdu) that had taken place that day, and I, as a child, being bewildered at the starkly different reaction of the Islamiyat teacher in school who told us that this was all a part of imparting “ibrat.” I was 20 when for the first time in Pakistan, a pop music show, Music 89 was broadcast on TV. Young people these days would be amazed at the sensation that caused, both for those dancing for joy in front of the TV, and those who supported the Jamiat activists for dumping cow dung in front of the TV station. One could go on and on about those eleven years. And having grown up in Rawalpindi amongst Army families, I do realize that mine is not the only perspective on those years. Nevertheless, at least from reading the papers it seems that there is some level of consensus in Pakistan that that martial law was a particularly brutal one and the Zia period is one that is to be looked back on with regret if not outright horror. Maybe that’s why I was disconcerted by the article by General Zia’s grandson in the New York Times of 4 July — a light hearted view of a young man’s evening out in a raunchy restaurant chain. There is a rational part of me that says that the sins of the grandfather cannot be visited upon this generation. And that the article was really aimed at Americans celebrating their independence day — therefore the 4th of July publication. Nevertheless, that name appearing in the press in the first week of July — on the 40th anniversary of that fateful day, discussing a visit to a restaurant famous for waitresses who display their assets – it all leaves one stone cold. An irrational response maybe, but one that perhaps some of us will relate to. The writer is an economist and policy analyst based in Islamabad Published in Daily Times, July 6th , 2017.