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

THE ALL PAKISTAN MUSLIM PARTIES CONVENTION, KARACHI, AND ALL MUSLIM PARTIES CONVENTION, LAHORE.

Responsibility for the disturbances must primarily rest on the members of the All Pakistan Muslim Parties Convention, Karachi, and All Muslim Parties Convention, Lahore, and the numerous religious organisations which were represented at these Conventions by the members of these organisations. The resolution to resort to direct action was passed at a meeting of the All Pakistan Muslim Parties Convention held on 18th January 1953 in Karachi and the decision to constitute a Central Majlis-i-Amal to give effect to this resolution was also taken at the same Convention. The constitution of the Majlis-i-Amal was completed on the evening of the same day and the ultimatum to Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din to accept the demands or to resign from his office was communicated on 22nd January by a deputation appointed by the Majlis-i-Amal. The nature of the action to be taken if the demands were not conceded had not till then been determined; nor did Khwaja Nizam-ud-Din in the course of his interview with the members of the deputation who delivered the ultimatum, question them about it.

The ultimatum was nothing short of a notice of civil revolt to be initiated, organised and conducted by the Majlis-i-Amal in case it was not satisfied by the reply to the ultimatum. It has been contended by the Majlis that the action to be taken if the demands were rejected was not direct action, nor barah-i-rastiqdam but only rast iqdam that it was to be a perfectly harmless, peaceful and constitutional demonstration of popular dissatisfaction with the rejection and was never intended to be anything like or in the nature of a civil rebellion or civil disobedience and that the disturbances would not have been a natural consequence of ‘direct action’ if the leaders of the movement, who were to control and supervise the action, had not been arrested. It is further urged that the arrest of the leaders was an ill-advised step, that subsequent protests and demonstrations were a direct result of these arrests and that, therefore, responsibility for the disturbances which came in the wake of such protests and demonstrations, is directly referable to the arrests and consequently to the Central and the Provincial Governments. This contention is wholly untenable. If a threat is held out to a Government that in case certain demands placed before it are not accepted by a certain date the party putting forward the demands would resort to direct action, and the Government, not agreeing with the demands, arrests the leaders of the party holding out such threat and disturbances follow directly from such arrests, the party cannot be permitted, and it does not lie in its mouth, to say that but for the arrests there would have been no disturbances. Threat of direct action is threat to constituted authority and no Government worth the name can look with unconcern at such threat, unless finding itself unable to meet the threat it is willing to surrender or abdicate. In the present case, however, Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din, who appears to have been fully cognizant of the strength of feeling against the Ahmadis and of the plausibility of the grounds on which the demands had been put forward, tried as much as he could to argue with the ulama and to explain to them the difficulties lying in the way of acceptance of the demands and the implications arising therefrom. Though there appears to have been a good deal of mutual understanding and perhaps common feeling between Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din and some of the ulama, neither Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din’s nor the ulama’s ingenuity could discover a way out of the impasse, with the result that on 26th February the Majlis-i-Amal decided upon the course of sending batches of volunteers to the residences of the Governor-General and the Prime Minister. The arrest of the ulama, therefore, now became inevitable though a firm and determined Government, convinced of the folly and mischievonsness of the course the ulama had decided to embark upon, would have been fully justified to effect such arrests earlier. The arrests were followed by protestations, demonstrations and disturbances.

That even if no arrests had been made, there must have been disorder and lawlessness can be denied only by the sponsors of the movement. Such result was certainly anticipated by all who were associated with, and responsible for, the movement. In the Punjab, which was the centre of the movement, thousands of volunteers had already been enrolled, the number exceeding the figure of fifty thousand which Sahibzada Faiz-ul-Hasan had undertaken to enrol, pledges taken from them, enormous funds collected and District Committees of Action with lists of dictators one taking the place of another on arrest appointed. The organisers of the movement had before them the precedents of Multan and Karachi, and most of them their own experience of what happens on such occasions. Public speeches made by the leaders indicate quite clearly what was expected to be the natural result if Government did not bow down to the threat of direct action. And exhortations made to the masses both before and after the delivery of the ultimatum contained significant references to bullets, blood, lives to be sacrificed in defence of the honour (namus) of the Holy Prophet, burial clothes, fire and holocaust and to days reminiscent of Hindu-Muslim riots before the Partition. Those who gave expression to these feelings cannot now claim before us to accept the view that they never expected things to take the turn that they actually did, or that they never apprehended the consequences which, in fact, followed from their conduct.

It is urged that the batches of volunteers were to go stealthily so as not to attract any crowds with them. This is a position which can hardly be put forward by those the very basis of whose activities was public agitation and propaganda as is evident from the large gatherings which they collected at the time of the meeting of the Convention in Karachi, not only from 16th to 18th January but also on the eve of the direct action, when notice was given of a public gathering on the following morning at which the result of parleys with Government, and in case of failure of such parleys, the actual programme to be adopted, was to be announced.

We find on the evidence that the members of the Majlis-i-Amal, when they decided to serve Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din with an ultimatum, knew that if the demands were rejected and the threat of direct action was put into execution, large-scale disturbances involving firing, bloodshed and general disorder of a very serious character would be the result, and since the events precisely took the anticipated course, the responsibility for the disturbances directly lies on the members of that Majlis. And since the Majlis-i-Amal was acting merely as an agent of the several religious organisations and leaders, the persons or parties who were members of the Karachi Convention which passed the direct action resolution are all responsible for the disturbances and their consequences. The members of the All Muslim Parties Convention, Lahore, are responsible because they adopted the direct action resolution, endorsed the ultimatum to the Prime Minister and organised the whole paraphernalia for the direct action, programme.

In determining the responsibility of the numerous religious organisations and preceptors we have acted on the well-recognised principle of vicarious liability and the law governing the relations of principal and agent. The Majlis-i-Amals appointed by the All Pakistan Muslim Parties Convention at Karachi and the All Muslim Parties Convention at Lahore were representatives and agents of their respective Conventions and for anything that either Majlis did its principal, provided the act done was within the scope of the Majlis’s authority, is responsible. Having passed a direct action resolution and appointed a Majlis-i-Amal to carry into effect that resolution, the members of the Convention gave to the Majlis full authority to determine the means by which that resolution was to be put into execution. Accordingly the acts done by the Majlis were the acts of the Convention which appointed that Majlis. Unless, therefore, any member of the Convention publicly dissociated himself from the direct action, he is as much responsible for the natural consequences of the direct action as the Majlis itself.

In his speech during the general discussion on the budget in Parliament Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din appeared to suggest it as a pertinent fact that some eminent ulama belonging to various religious organisations, though they were members of the Majlis-i-Amal and supported the demand for the declaration of Ahmadis as a non-Muslim minority, had dissociated themselves from the direct action programme and that if this fact had been given sufficient publicity, some ulama, and imams of mosques would not have taken part in the movement. Before us there is no evidence that any organisation or person who was a member of the Convention at Karachi or Lahore publicly dissociated himself from the movement of direct action, and in the absence of any such public dissociation it is not at all pertinent to consider whether any, and if so which, of the ulama members of either of the Conventions differed from the programme of action which was settled by the Majlis-i-Amal, a body which they themselves had appointed for the purpose and for whose actions they are not only liable under the law but also on general principles of human conduct.

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