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Home Critical Analysis/Archives Report on Punjab Disturbances of 1953
Report of The Court of Inquiry

PRELIMINARY MEASURES

Since its very constitution the Majlis-i-Amal, Punjab, had commenced making preparations for large-scale operations if a clash with Authority became necessary, and the whole paraphernalia for civil disobedience—volunteers, funds, bases of operation, committees of action, lists of dictators, a population charged with hatred of Government and Ahmadis and a complete absence of any ideological resistance—was ready when the ultimatum of direct action was given to the Prime Minister on 22nd January 1953. The decision to launch direct action was actually taken in Karachi by the ulama on the night of 26th January, and in the small hours of the following morning the Central Government found itself compelled to pick up the gauntlet.

On their return to Lahore on 27th February, the Punjab representatives communicated to their Government the decisions taken at Karachi. Mr. Anwar Ali, Inspector-General of Police, drew up his own proposals to implement the decisions taken and the policy laid down by the Central Government. These proposals which were discussed and approved in a meeting attended by the Chief Minister, the Minister for Revenue, the Home Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, A. D. I. G. (C. I. D.) and Superintendent of Police (A), C. I. D., were :

“(i) All active Ahrar workers and other individuals who have been responsible for espousing the ‘direct action’ movement (vide list attached) should be arrested to-night throughout the Province.

(ii) The arrests should be made under section 3 of the P. P. S. A, initially by D.M.s/S.P.s (other than Lahore) on their own initiative. At Lahore the orders of detention should be issued under the authority of the Punjab Government. Orders for further detention of the individuals in outlying districts will be sent in due course by Government.

(iii) The following newspapers should be banned :—

(a) The ‘Zamindar’;
(b) The ‘Azad’;
(c) The ‘Alfazl’.

(iv) Khwaja Nazir Ahmad, who controls the policy of the ‘C. & M. G.’ should be sent for by H. S. and told that he should see that the arrests are not made a matter for jubilation and that utmost restraint is exercised in the next month, or two.

(v) Khalifa Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud should be warned personally by D. M., Jhang, and told that he should advise members of his community, particularly his secretariat staff, to avoid causing provocation.

(vi) Information about volunteers who leave Lahore should be sent to the Sind as well as to the Karachi Police so that arrangements for their arrests en route can be made.

(vii) H. S. should hold a Press Conference on the 28th and explain the Government point of view and appeal to the newspapers to emphasise the need for patience and restraint.

(viii) A circular letter should be issued to all District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police giving the background of the action taken by the Central and Provincial Governments. These officers should also be asked to enlist the help of the sane elements in making the public appreciate the importance of maintaining law and order” .

The following wireless signal was immediately sent by the Home Secretary to the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Lyallpur, Montgomery, Multan, Sargodha and Sheikhupura districts:—

“In view of the worsening of the anti-Ahmadi agitation please arrest the following under section 3 Public Safety Act for a period of fourteen days(.) Orders for further detention will be issued by Government and sent in due course(.) Action should be taken on night between 27th & 28th February by either of you whoever is at headquarters and compliance report sent(.) Letter follows(.) For S. Ps. only(.) Until further orders you should signal daily sitreps to D. I. G., C. I. D(.) The sitreps should be brief and shall contain all important available information and general reactions to the action taken by Government particularly if there is any active attempt to organise and send volunteers to Lahore or Karachi or to launch civil disobedience locally or to collect funds in this connection(.)

Rawalpindi
M. Ghulam Ullah Khan, Khatib Purana Qila Mosque, Rawalpindi.
Gujranwala
M. Muhammad Ismail of Gujranwala city.
Sialkot
1. Qazi Manzur Ahmad of Rangpura, Sialkot city.
   
2. Wali Muhammad Jernail, Sialkot city.
Lyallpur
1. Ghulam Nabi Janbaz of Lyallpur.
   
2. Ghazi Muhammad Husain salar of Tandlianwala.
   
3. Maulvi Obeidullah of Lyallpur.
Montgomery
1. Maulvi Habibullah of Jamia Rashidia, Montgomery.
   
2. Maulvi Lutfullah Khan of Montgomery.
Multan
1. Muhammad Ali Jullundri of Multan.
   
2. Qazi Ehasan Ahmad Shujabadi, District Multan.
   
3. Sh. Muhammad Saeed of Khanewal, District Multan.
Sargodha
Maulvi Abdullah of Sargodha.
Sheikhupura
Qazi Muhammad Amin of Sheikhupura”.

By another wireless signal the District Magistrates and Superintendents of Police of Gujrat, Jhelum, Campbellpur, Jhang, D. G. Khan, Mianwali and Muzaffargarh districts were informed that certain members of the Ahrar organisation as we’ll as some non-Ahraris had been ordered to be arrested in connection with the anti-Ahmadi agitation in other districts and that these officers should remain vigilant and immediately report to Government if any-thing of importance happened or was expected in their districts.

By a most immediate top priority secret O. T. P. cypher telegram dated 27th February 1953, the Central Government communicated their views on the demands to the Punjab Government. Defining their attitude, they said :—

“2. (i) The Ahmadis or indeed any section of people cannot be declared a minority community against their wishes. It is not part of functions of Government to coerce any group into becoming a minority community.

(ii) Ahmadis cannot be removed from key posts under Government only on the ground that they are Ahmadis. Nor can demand for the removal of Honourable Minister for Foreign Affairs be entertained on the ground that he is an Ahmadi. There is a constitutional machinery provided for the removal of any Minister from office. So long as he continues to enjoy confidence of his colleagues and elected representatives of people in the Central Legislature he cannot be removed from office. No Minister can be removed from office merely because a section of people demands under threat of direct action that this be done. No Government servant whether Muslim or non-Muslim can be removed from any post under Government because of the religion he professes.

(iii) The demand for the removal of Ahmadis from key positions in the Government arises apparently from an apprehension that they might misuse their positions to propagate their particular religious creed. To remove this apprehension, Government have already issued strict instructions prohibiting the propagation of any sectarian creed by any Minister or any officer of Government.

3. Central Government do not (repeat not) propose to make an official declaration on the lines of paragraph 2 above unless the situation demands that such a declaration should be made. But Provincial Governments are requested to organise intensive publicity on these lines immediately and to give proper guidance to the press.

4. A press communique is being issued today following the arrest of prominent leaders of agitation in Karachi. It is necessary to isolate the Ahrar from other comparatively lukewarm sponsors of agitation and to concentrate attack on Ahrar for the present. The line taken in communique in respect of Ahrar should be reinforced by full publicity of their past misdeeds and present disruptionist activities”.

The press communique issued by the Central Government explained that the anti-Ahmadiya agitation had been organised by the Ahrar who, as was apparent from their past, had, before the Partition, worked in close cooperation with the Congress and other bodies which were arrayed against the Quaid-i-Azam in his struggle for the freedom of Muslims, that this party had not yet reconciled themselves to the establishment of Pakistan, that their object was to create dissensions among Muslims and to undermine public confidence in the stability of Pakistan, that the agitation was clearly designed to destroy Muslim solidarity by fomenting internecine dissensions under the cloak of religion, that the sponsors of the agitation had decided to embark upon direct action and planned disturbances on a large scale with a view to forcing the Government to yield to their dictation, that no Government worthy of the name could allow itself to be coerced by direct action on the part of any section of the community, that Government was resolved to maintain law and order with all the resources at its command, and that if public peace were disturbed, the law will have its course and those responsible for flouting it will have to bear the consequences. The communique also appealed to all sections of the people not to countenance any unlawful activities and to see that nothing was done that might in any way prejudice the safety or stability of Pakistan.

A copy of this communique was circulated by the Chief Secretary on 28th February 1953 to all District Magistrates and Commissioners of Divisions in the Punjab informing them that Government had ordered the arrest of the ringleaders of the Ahrar party and some other persons who were taking an active part in the agitation, that the publication of the ‘Azad’ and the ‘Alfazl’, the party organs of the Ahrar and the Ahmadiya community respectively, had been banned, and that District Magistrates were to keep a vigilant eye on the situation in their districts. The accompanying letter also directed the District Magistrates to acquaint the public with the Government’s stand-point on the basis of the Central Government’s communique and to put special emphasis on the fact that the agitation had been created and fomented by the Ahrar for their own ends and that the action taken by Government was mainly directed against them. The letter also conveyed to the district authorities the Provincial Government’s desire that no  ‘further arrests’ were to be made unless local circumstances made it absolutely necessary and it was felt that there was no time for prior consultation with the Provincial Government. As it was feared that the agitators might start sending volunteers to Lahore or to Karachi to offer themselves for arrest, the District Magistrates were directed to take the following steps immediately:—

“(a) You should enlist the help of the saner elements in your district to influence public opinion and thought on the right lines. It should be impressed upon them that whereas the Government do not in any way want to interfere with or curb the legitimate rights—religious or secular—of  the citizens, they will not give any quarter to those whose intention is to jeopardise the public peace or embarrass Government.

(b) You should also warn the leading members of the Ahmadiya community in your district that they should scrupulously desist from saying or writing anything which may tend to aggravate the situation or provoke the followers of the other sects. They should particularly be asked to refrain from expressing any jubilation over the action which has been taken by Government, as it may create an erroneous impression of partisanship against the Government.

(c) The Superintendents of Police are being asked to send daily situation reports to the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, C. I. D. In addition to these situation reports, if anything of importance or unusual nature in this connection comes to your notice, you should immediately inform the Home Secretary either on the Police Wireless or on the telephone.

(d) Until the situation sufficiently calms down, you should, as far as possible, remain at your headquarters.”

On 1st March 1953, the Home Secretary addressed the following letter to all Superintendents of Police excluding Senior Superintendent of Police, Lahore, all Deputy Commissioners excluding District Magistrate, Lahore, Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Lahore Range, Commissioners of Divisions excluding Lahore Division, and all Deputy Inspectors-General of Ranges excluding Lahore, for information:—

“The Ahrar agitation is now taking the shape that volunteers are being sent from the outlying districts to Lahore for the so-called ‘direct action’ (.) Government’s intention is that the agitation should, not be allowed to spread from the outlying districts to Lahore and that local action should be taken to suppress it at the source (.) You should, therefore, take firm action to ensure that volunteers do not come to Lahore(.) Government leave it to your discretion to take what steps you consider necessary including the promulgation of prohibition under section 144, Cr. P. C. (.) Mass arrests of volunteers should be avoided. (.) As already instructed you should enlist the support of saner elements of your district in influencing the public opinion in favour of Government’s action(.)”

Copies of this letter were also sent to D. M. and S. S. P., Lahore, for “similar compliance” and to D. I. G., Lahore, “for information” .

On the same day a wireless message No. 2563-82/BDSB, from D. I. G., C. I. D. to all S. Ps. and Range D. I. Gs. was sent containing, inter alia, the following direction : —

“No volunteers to be permitted to proceed to Karachi and if possible to Lahore as well”.

On 2nd March 1953, Malik Habib Ullah, A. D. I. G., C. I. D., addressed the following direction regarding volunteers : —

“As directed by the Inspector-General of Police, I informed the Superintendents of Police, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Lyallpur, Montgomery and Multan, on telephone that persuasive methods should be employed to desist volunteers from going to Karachi, but in case persuasion failed, they need not be arrested. ……………… It is proposed that batches of volunteers coming to Lahore from the outlying districts should, wherever possible, be intercepted a long way out of Lahore and dealt with on the spot. If this procedure succeeds, a good deal of pressure could be relieved from the public meetings and processions in Lahore proper. For the last two days a considerable number of volunteers have been, pouring into Lahore from Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Sargodha, Lyallpur and Montgomery districts. Similar arrangements to isolate volunteers will be made at the Railway Station Lahore. It might not be possible to intercept volunteers travelling by train on any of the intervening stations”.

On 4th March 1953, the Home Secretary, in continuation of D. I. G., C. I. D’s. signal 2563-82/BDSB, dated 1st March 1953, to all S. Ps. and Range D. I. Gs. sent the following directions to all D. Ms., S. Ps. and Range D. I. Gs. about volunteers :—

“Persuasion should be adopted in the first instance to dissuade batches of volunteers from proceeding to Lahore or Karachi. If persuasive methods fail, then appropriate preventive action should be taken”.

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