Zia was stationed in Jordan from 1967 to 1970 as a Brigadier, helping in the training of Jordanian soldiers, as well as leading the training mission into battle during the Black September operations as commander of Jordanian 2nd Division, a strategy that proved crucial to King Hussein’s remaining in power.
September 1970 is known as the Black September in Arab history and sometimes is referred to as the “era of regrettable events.” It was a month when Hashemite King Hussein of Jordan moved to quash the autonomy of Palestinian organizations and restore his monarchy’s rule over the country. The violence resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people, the vast majority Palestinian. Armed conflict lasted until July 1971 with the expulsion of the PLO and thousands of Palestinian fighters to Lebanon.
On September 15, King Hussein declared martial law. The next day, Jordanian tanks (the 60th Armored Brigade) attacked the headquarters of Palestinian organizations in Amman; the army also attacked camps in Irbid, Salt, Sweileh, Baq’aa, Wehdat and Zarqa. Then the head of Pakistani training mission to Jordan, Brigadier Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq (later Chief of Army Staff and President of Pakistan), took command of the 2nd division. In addition, the Iraqi army in Jordan after 1967 war serving as a reserve forces supported the Jordanian army.
Amman experienced the heaviest fighting in the Black September uprising. The American backed Jordanian army shelled the PLO headquarters in Amman and battled with Palestinian guerillas in the narrow streets of the capital. Syrian tanks rolled across the Yarmouk River into northern Jordan and began shelling Amman and other northern urban areas. Outdated missiles fired by the PLO struck Amman for more than a week. Jordanian infantry pushed the Palestinian Fedayeen out of Amman after weeks of bitter fighting.