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

KHWAJA NAZIM-UD-DIN’S REACTION TO DEMANDS

We have stated in earlier parts of the Report how the three demands in respect of the Ahmadis came to be formulated and presented to Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din under the threat of direct action. In view of the long and frequent discussions Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din had with the ulama, the correctness and justification of the demands on theological grounds must have been discussed. Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din is a devoutly religious man, and since he did not straight away reject the demands, he must have been impressed by their plausibility. At the same time, he must have realised that the demands were merely a thin end of the wedge and that if the principle that such religious matters were to be discussed and determined by the State were conceded, he might be confronted with some more awkward demands. He must also have thought of the possible repercussions of the acceptance of demands not only on the Islamic world but also on the international world. The essential assumption underlying the demands was that in an Islamic State there is a fundamental difference between the rights of the Muslims and non-Muslims and that in such State it is one of the ordinary duties of the State to decide whether a community or an individual is or is not Muslim. The demand relating to the removal of Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan and the other Ahmadis, who occupied public posts of importance in the State, presented a still more complicated problem. Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan was widely known and respected in the international world. His removal was bound to be widely publicised and to lead to international comment, and an explanation which would have satisfied the international conscience, would have been difficult to discover. Under the Constitution Act, neither Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan nor any of the Ahmadis occupying a public position could be removed from his office on the ground of his religious belief and the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan had, as early as 6th October, 1950, adopted an interim report on fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan, by which every duly qualified citizen was declared to be eligible to appointment in the service of the State, irrespective of religion, race, caste, sex, descent or place of birth and every citizen’s right to freedom of conscience and to profess, practise and propagate religion was guaranteed. The Draft International Covenant on Human Rights prepared by a Commission on Human Rights appointed by the General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation, of which Pakistan is a member, had provided by Article 13 that every person shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to change one’s religion or belief and to manifest such religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. The acceptance of the demands would, therefore, have created a flutter in international dovecots and the attention of the international world would have been drawn in one way or another to what was happening in Pakistan, because the acceptance of the demands would have amounted to a public commitment that Pakistan was basing its citizenship on grounds basically different from those observed by other nations and that non-Muslims were debarred from holding public offices in Pakistan merely for their religious beliefs. India never misses an opportunity to revile and ridicule Pakistan and she would not have let this opportunity go un-availed. She also has a communal problem and would certainly have charged Pakistan, of going back on the agreement, which was concluded between the Government of India and the Government of Pakistan on 8th April, 1950 according to which members of the minorities were guaranteed by both States equal opportunity with members of the majority community to participate in the public life of their country, to hold political or other offices and to serve in their countries’ civil and armed forces, rights which that agreement recognised to be fundamental. While concluding that agreement, the Prime Minister of Pakistan had pointed to the Objectives Resolution adopted by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan as guaranteeing to the minorities the right to hold public posts and offices in civil and armed forces, but now this very Objectives Resolution was being used by the ulama as an irrefutable argument in support of their claim, that the distinction between the Muslim and non-Muslim subjects of an Islamic State was, according to the injunctions of the Qur’an and sunna, fundamental and that neither according to the Qur’an nor according to the sunna the Ahmadis, who were alleged to be non-Muslims, could be permitted to hold any important post. India was not interested in Ahmadi religion or the Ahmadis; nor with such religious squabbles of which she had steered clear. But she must have immediately realised the implications of the acceptance of the demands and rightly contended that if Ahmadis could not be permitted to hold public offices in the State, a fortiori the Hindu community, in which India was interested, could not. These implications must obviously have been present to the mind of Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din and he must have felt a troublesome conflict between his own religious convictions and the implications resulting from the acceptance of the demands. He, therefore, protracted his negotiations with the ulama, hoping against hope that they would abandon the demands or that some unexpected event would solve the issue or human ingenuity discover some solution of the problem. He hardly expected that the ulama, who had had long conversations with him and his colleagues on this theological topic, would revolt against his Government and start what was nothing short of a rebellion.

Eventually Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din rejected the demands and gave reasons for the rejection. Simultaneously he ordered the ulama to be arrested. The arrests led to demonstrations, processions, public meetings and disorders which we have described in full in Part III of the Report. Sayyad Firdaus Shah, D.S.P., was murdered on the evening of 4th March in or just outside the Wazir Khan Mosque where Maulana Abdus Sattar Khan Niazi had virtually made himself the sole director of the agitation. On 5th March incidents of loot, arson and murders began to be reported and the police had to do a lot of shooting. The military could do nothing, the arrangement with it being that it was there in aid of the civil power and was merely to accompany the police and not to do anything independently unless a particular situation was handed over to it. Despite repeated firing, the situation not only showed no signs of improvement but it went on deteriorating. In the meeting of citizens at the Government House on the afternoon of 5th March no leader, politician or citizen was willing to incur the risk of becoming unpopular or marked by signing an appeal to the good sense of the citizen. The Kotwali was beleaguered by riotous mobs and the decisions taken in a meeting of Ministers and officers on the evening of 5th March were taken by the police as a direction to stop all firing. The Kotwali therefore remained besieged by riotous mobs and the machinery of Government showed signs of a total collapse on the morning of 6th March when the Government publicly announced its surrender to anarchy. The Chief Minister’s statement of that morning was intended to be a piece of mere Machiavellianism, but the trick had hardly been tried when the situation went completely out of control and the citizen realised the imminence of the danger to his life and property. The military could wait no longer and took over.

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