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Dear General Zia

This is the second installment of three sample documents dredged up from my old Brother WP-500 disks. I think this letter more or less explains itself. I wrote a number of such letters, inspired by author Bruce West, and in fact that was my original motivation for purchasing the WP-500 in the first place. With its daisywheel printer, it produced documents that looked like they were typed the old-fashioned way. Thus, I think it has maximum impact when viewed in its original format. I’m embedding the document here; please use the “full screen” toggle button in the upper right corner to make it legible.

And here’s the full text of the letter just in case that didn’t work.

422 East 11th Street
Apartment 8
Bloomington, IN 47401

His Excellency
General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq
President’s House

May 4, 1988

Dear Gen. Zia-ul-Haq,

First off, I would like to personally congratulate you on a number of recent triumphs which have added to the luster of your brilliant regime. In just a few short years you have accomplished more than many leaders do in decades.

Your economic campaigns have succeeded in creating an unorthodox hybrid system of Islamic-capitalist values such as the heathen world has never before seen. Your excellent diplomatic relations with India are to be praised, as are your relations with China. Refraining from building those horribly destructive nuclear bombs is also quite commendable. (We Americans are a peace-loving people, and as such we appreciate the mature attitude that engenders such restraint.)

Furthermore, you have wisely incarcerated those extremist political leaders who might otherwise have led the country to ruin, a necessary step in your admirable struggle to make the world safe from democracy. And above all, Pakistan is at peace, which is extraordinary accomplishment, especially in your part of the world.

But I’m afraid that when I look to the future my vision is not as positive. Indeed, there are some storm clouds on the horizon. You are aware, I’m sure, of India’s plans to develop a nuclear arsenal, a contingency which would surely upset the stability of the region. Your problems with Afghanistan are not solved yet. Quick action is required to crush the Soviet puppets and establish an Islamic-capitalist government in Kabul which would adhere to the Pak-American ideologies (under your esteemed guidance, of course). The continuing violence between ethnic groups in your country also requires urgent attention, as does the issue of Behari repatriation.

But perhaps the most pressing crisis that faces you now is that of the upcoming election. The question of how to lead a successful campaign by the Pakistan Muslim League against the Pakistan People’s Party (not to mention all the others) must be a particularly confounding one for you, as I imagine that elections are quite outside your ordinary sphere of experience.

Well, to tell the truth, Zia, that’s why I’m writing you this letter. We Americans are rather familiar with elections. I myself am a student of Political Science here at Indiana University, and as it happens, elections are my specialty. In fact, I have most recently completed a personal analysis of Albert Gore’s campaign for the Democratic nomination. I assure you that if only Al had followed my recommendations more closely, it would have been a different story indeed!

In addition to studying Political Science, I am involved with Indiana University’s department of Religious Studies. I don’t want to sound immodest, but I am considered something of a guru here. As such, I am sure that my aid in the upcoming election would be an invaluable asset to you, spiritually as well as strategically.

I know that you will want me to begin work immediately, so if you wish you may send the plane tickets without delay. I will be ready to go at a moment’s notice. We can discuss the matter of my salary when I arrive. I am very reasonable; I’m sure that you can afford to hire me. (Can you afford not to?)

In the mean time, please give my best wishes to your wife and family. I am looking forward to meeting them soon.

Yours very sincerely,

Astute historians will note that Gen. Zia was killed a few months after I posted this letter, but I didn’t have a thing to do with that. I swear.

Published inLettersPolitix


  1. Lee Lee

    Did you actually send this? Or were you being purely artistic and ironic at the same time? I’m unfamiliar with Bruce West, I guess I should google him.

  2. I guess I should have clarified that. Yes, I sent this letter. At least I think I did; 21 years is a long time. Unfortunately I never heard back from the general. As for Bruce West, he published a book of similar letters called Outrageously Yours.

  3. Remember, David, this was 1988. The print technology in my price range was pretty low quality. This was the only “letter quality” tech I could afford.

    Also, somehow, to me anyway, the typewriter look seemed more serious and conservative. I know at least one recipient was under the impression that I had a personal secretary.

  4. Robyn Robyn

    Hell yes the typewriter look was more serious! The other option was block letters on paper with perforated edges. And only computer geeks would settle for that. NOT serious correspondents!

    This is brilliant. I wonder if your letter played any role in the investigation of his murder.

  5. PJ PJ

    Reminds me of the Laszlo Letters. The book that Don Novello of The SNL skit Father Guido Sarducci wrote in support of the Republicans in the early 70’s.

  6. Anne Anne

    I just can’t believe that the General didn’t jump at your magnificent offer. Such a loss to the cause.

  7. Am I getting my stories crossed, or were you around this time corresponding with a certain frozen yogurt chain and discussing your ideas about a local franchise? Any of that mail still around?

  8. Yes, Jon, that’s correct. Those letters were amongst the treasures decoded from my old Brother diskettes. Now I’m just trying to figure out what to do with them. They could end up on this blog but I’m trying to think if there’s a more interesting way to present them.

  9. Jack Schick Jack Schick

    I’d enjoy seeing examples of your current critique of your
    younger-self writings (Brother diskettes). Maybe some expressions of how your
    key life experiences
    have changed earlier points-of-view…
    You might have a marketable book in there somewhere.

  10. Jenny: You have a remarkable memory. Amongst these same old files there are some letters to a sock manufacturer.

    Jack: Your thoughts are somewhat similar to mine. Reading some of these old documents is a trip — I feel like I’m investigating someone else’s life.

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