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Because of its proximity to Sialkot and of its being the home town of Sahibzada Faiz-ul-Hasan, an Ahrar popular speaker, Gujranwala is an important centre of the Ahrar.
The Ahrar held their Tabligh Conference here early in 1949, but the Conference was not much of a success as the sincerity of the Ahrar to the new-State of Pakistan was still under serious suspicion. They held another Conference in 1951 in the garb of Defence (difa’) Conference. This proved a great success because arrangements for this Conference were made by the President of the City Muslim League. Sayyad Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari spoke at this Conference and is reported to have given expression to his belief that it was an act of piety to kill the Ahmadis and to burn their property. A third conference was held in the same year in which the Ahmadis were described as kafirs and their social and economic boycott was advocated.
On 20th June, 1952, which was Yaum-i-Mutalibat, the Ahrar held a public mooting inside Sheranwala Bagh Mosque in contravention of an order under section 144. This meeting was addressed by Sahibzada Faiz-ul-Hasan, Sheikh Husam-ud-Din and Master Taj-ud-Din, who were all arrested but subsequently released under the orders of the Chief Minister. At another conference in July 1952, Sahibzada Faiz-ul-Hasan is said to have declared that to kill an Ahmadi was to gain the pleasure of God. After the conference was over a tea party was arranged in honour of Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan, which was attended by the Deputy Commissioner and the Muslim League leaders. The Ahmadis subsequently complained to the Deputy Commissioner that at the conference a speaker had incited the audience to murder the head of the Ahmadiyya community. The feeling created against the Ahmadis resulted in the Wazirabad Municipal Committee’s terminating the services of two male and four female Ahmadi teachers. Sahibzada Faiz-ul-Hasan, Maulvi Abdul Wahid, Khatib of the Sheranwala Bagh Mosque, and Maulvi Muhammad Ismail took prominent part in the agitation against the Ahmadis and in canvassing the support of other religious and political parties. A public meeting under the auspices of the Majlis-i-Amal was held at Gujranwala on 2nd and 3rd November, 1952, which was also attended by Mian Tufail Muhammad, a representative of Jama’at-i-Islami. The Majlis advocated social and economic boycott of the Ahmadis, and after this eating houses began to display notices on their premises to the effect that Ahmadis could have their food in separate utensils at those houses. One Abdul Ghaffar Asar, B.A., who earlier had succeeded in his drive against the prostitutes, also joined the movement to widen his sphere of influence. Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan of the ‘Daily Zamindar’ addressed three public meetings in which he collected Rs. 2,000 for the movement. At another meeting held in his home town Karamabad, he made an appeal for contribution of a sum of one crore of rupees to the same cause. After the ultimatum was presented to the Prime Minister in Karachi, intensive preparations commenced for the direct action and maulvis intensified their propaganda in different towns of the district-Comrade Abdul Karim and Maulvi Abdul Ghafur Hazarvi at Wazirabad, Maulvi Abul Hasan Muhammad Yahya and Maulvi Fazal Ahmad at Hafizabad, Latif Ahmad Chishti and Hafiz Abdush-shakur at Kamoke and Maulvi Abdul Wahid and Maulvi Muhammad Ismail at Gujranwala. Volunteers began to be enrolled and the quota for Hafizabad, which, was fixed at 500, was completed within a week of the formation of the Majlis-i-Amal. Total enrolment for the district was 4,500 and Mr. Manzur Hasan, the Secretary of the City Muslim League was one of the signatories to the volunteers’ pledge.
Agitation commenced with the arrest of Maulvi Muhammad Ismail, Khatib of the Ahl-i-Hadith Mosque, under the orders of the Provincial Government; Processions of volunteers before their departure for Lahore and public meetings became a daily feature. The Majlis-i-Amal was dissolved and Hakim Abdur Rahman, Vice-President of the Majlis-i-Ahrar, Gujranwala, was appointed a dictator of the movement.
On 2nd March D. O. letter No. 2514-29/B. D. S. B., dated 28th February 1953, from the Chief Secretary was received by the District Magistrate, prohibiting further arrests, but on 1st March 1953 the Superintendent of Police had received instructions from the A. D. I. G., C. I. D., to prevent batches of volunteers from proceeding to Lahore and Karachi, which meant arresting them at Gujranwala. The two instructions were contradictory to each other, and since owing to shortage of Magistrates and police force and accommodation in jail the district officers were not in favour of making any arrests and intended to watch the situation for another day or so, a reference was made to the superior police officers at Lahore as to what to do in the circumstances and the reply received was that the earlier instructions to arrest volunteers had to be carried out and that if there was not sufficient accommodation in jail, the persons arrested could be dumped in distant villages.
At 10 o’clock on 2nd March a meeting was held in the Court Room of the Deputy Commissioner, which was attended by officials and non-officials. The office-bearers of the City Muslim League, however, made this meeting an occasion to denounce their opponents in the League and refused their active co-operation to the district authorities. The trains to Lahore began at this stage to be interrupted by the crowds which collected at the railway station to see off the volunteers entraining for Lahore. The Additional District Magistrate with a police party went to the railway station and arrested and detrained a batch of 50 volunteers. On this the crowd became excited and held up the train twice. When the Additional District Magistrate made a second attempt to get the train steamed off, he was attacked and injured together with five policemen including a Sub-Inspector. The same evening the Sind Express was held up at some distance from the railway station by an excited mob of 5,000. The Superintendent of Police reached the scene with six foot constables, but the party was pelted with stones and brickbats. It had grown dark and as the mob, if not dispersed, would have resorted to violence and annoyed the passengers in the train, the Superintendent of Police ordered three foot constables to fire twelve rounds in the air. This dispersed the crowd without causing any casualties. After this a meeting of respectables of the town was called at the railway station but though every one condemned hooliganism, none was prepared to give any practical help lest he should be termed a kafir or Mirzai.
As the Muslim League office-bearers had pledged their support to the Majlis-i-Amal, the dictator of the Majlis-i-Amal called upon Mr. Manzur Hasan, M. L. A., Secretary of the City Muslim League, to lead a batch and to court arrest. Sheikh Aftab Ahmad, the President of the League, suggested that in order to avoid the impression that the movement had the support of the League, a mock arrest of Mr. Manzur Hasan should be staged. This was agreed to, and Mr. Manzur Hasan was arrested, taken in a police jeep and dropped in a remote corner of the district on the understanding that he would not return to Gujranwala for some days. People, however, came to know of the stratagem and on the following day some 200 men went to the house of Sheikh Aftab Ahmad and asked him to join a procession. He was taken out of the house and was made to march with a procession to the Sheranwala Bagh Mosque. By this time Mr. Manzur Hasan had returned to Gujranwala and joined the agitators in the Sheranwala Bagh Mosque, where he made several speeches against the Ahmadis and the Government and led a procession with seven other City Muslim League councillors. They were all arrested.
The statement of the Chief Minister on 6th March was, as directed from Lahore, proclaimed throughout the town. According to information received by the Superintendent of Police, on 7th March attacks were apprehended on the lives and properties of Ahmadis. The situation was discussed with the army who suggested promulgation of an order under section 144 prohibiting public meetings and processions, but the proposal was not accepted by the Superintendent of Police and the Deputy Commissioner, and instead it was decided to arrange joint police and military patrols. After this no incident of lawlessness was reported in the town, except an attempt to loot an Ahmadi’s shop.
On 7th March a frenzied mob of agitators in village Nandpur murdered one Muhammad Husain in the belief that he was an Ahmadi. The investigation showed that this murder was brought about by a trick by one of the enemies of the deceased.
On 8th March the local M. L. As, were called to the Sheranwala Bagh Mosque and requested to go to Lahore for instructions. The M. L. As, met the Chief Minister but brought no definite instructions.
A company of the Army arrived at Gujranwala on 5th March, a battalion on the 6th and the Deputy Inspector-General of Police with two Punjab Constabulary Reserves on the 8th.
When the military arrived, it was welcomed with shouts of ‘Pakistani fauj jis ne Sialkot goli chalane se inkar kar diya zindabad, Pakistani fauj zindabad’. It was being announced by the agitators throughout that they were engaged in jihad, a crusade against infidelity, and posters appealing to the police and the military not to fire but to join in the jihad were put up in several places.
About a dozen Ahmadis in the district were made to renounce their creed.
The Muslim League in this district was actively associated with the movement. The Muslim League, Gujranwala City, passed a resolution supporting the khatm-i-nubuwwat movement, and Mr. Manzur Hasan, its Secretary, sent the same resolution to be moved at the meeting of the Provincial Muslim League Council at Lahore. He also attempted to table a similar resolution at the Dacca session of the All Pakistan Muslim League.
A deputation of Ahmadis waited on the Superintendent of Police on 20th March but he expressed his inability to do anything for them as on the previous day he had asked for instructions from the Chief Minister who had refused to give any because the Centre had not taken any decision in the matter.
With the arrival of reinforcements a round-up of goondas and search for illicit arms commenced. Maulvi Abdul Wahid, who was at the back of the agitation, and Hakim Abdur Rahman, the dictator, were arrested on 11th and 12th March respectively. Some other maulvis then came forward and they were also arrested. Eventually it was decided to raid the Sheranwala Bagh Mosque with the assistance of the military. This was done and the mosque was cleared of the agitators and a sum of Rs. 10,100 recovered from Qari Abdul Karim. This amount is said to have been collected by Sheikh Aftab Ahmad, Mirza Sharif Beg, Muhammad Din. M. A. Aziz Ansari and some councillors of the Gujranwala Muslim League.
Orders for the arrest of Safdar Ali and Naseer Din alias Naseeria, two notorious leaders of goondas, were issued by the District Magistrate. The former managed to slip out, of the district and was subsequently arrested at Jhang. Naseeria evaded arrest for some time but was eventually traced and arrested.
Other centres of agitation in the district were :—