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A chronicle and a critique of the legislative and the judicial events leading to a gradual denial and erosion of religious freedom to Ahmadis in Pakistan. This work is intended to provide an insight into the background of the Supreme Court judgment in the Ahmadis' case.
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Report of The Court of Inquiry
The effect of the wide publication of the ‘Ash-shahab’ and the campaign, of hatred which the Ahrar were strenuously carrying on against the Ahmadis, brought definite and natural results. Muhammad Ashraf, a youth of 19, murdered an Ahmadi schoolmaster named Ghulam Muhammad at Okara. The following is the story of this murder :—
On 1st October 1950 Maulvi Nur Din, who was an Ahmadi, together with seven other Ahmadis, went on a propaganda (tabligh) expedition to Chak No. 5. The propagandists were surrounded by the non-Ahmadis of the locality who started throwing mud on them, blackened their faces and had them driven through filthy water to Railway Station Okara. The incident was reported to the police and one Maulvi Fazal Ilahi was arrested under sections 147 and 342 of the Penal Code. As a protest against this arrest, shops closed down in Okara and a public meeting was held on the night of 3rd October which was attended by several thousand people. The audience was addressed by several speakers who made highly inflammatory speeches. One speaker appealed to the young men present in the meeting to get rid of the Mirzai nuisance. On the following day Muhammad Ashraf who was listening to the speeches, armed himself with a knife, pursued Ghulam Muhammad while he was on his way to Okara, overtook him near a canal and stabbed him. Ghulam Muhammad was seriously injured and expired before he was taken to the police station. Muhammad Ashraf was produced before a Magistrate and made the following confession : —
“In September, again said, on the third day of October, a meeting was held at Okara, in which Rizwani Bashir Ahmad, Maulvi Zia-ud-Din, Qazi Abdur Rahman, Ch. Mahbub Alam and the President of the meeting who was probably Qazi Sahib delivered enthusiastic speeches that the Mirzais call Prophet (peace be on him) by bad name. We shall die on his grandeur. It was said in the speeches that those who would differentiate them (Ahmadis) and try to remove them should raise their hands. In the meeting the name of Ilam Din Ghazi was also mentioned and his history was told. I had also read before the history of Ilam Din Ghazi, and once I had been to his shrine. After that the meeting was over. I returned home. The words of the speeches resounded in my mind all night. Getting up in the morning I went to Chak No. 48 on a cycle where the master had gone to his house in recess. I stayed in the Chak till he came to school. At a shop in the village ckowk I smoked a cigarette. When I came out, master was not in the school. I was convinced that the master was a Marzai and I had come with this intention. In the Chak I inquired from a Sayyad as to whether any kafir was teaching our children in the days of Holy Prophet. What right he has that he is staying in our Chak and has got the land allotted and teaches the children. After that I inquired from a boy as to where master had gone. He informed that he had gone to Chak No. 40/3-R. I inquired whether on cycle or foot. He replied, on cycle. I had a knife at that time. I overtook him at a distance of two miles. There I got down from my cycle and felled him by pushing his cycle. I inflicted a knife blow to master and he went running in the water of canal minor. The knife gave way and I set it right and gave him blows in the water. At the time of my beating some persons collected. They stopped me. I told them that they should not check me as I was killing a kafir. Another stranger met me and questioned me, I replied that I had killed a kafir, I went to Okara.”
The Sessions Judge sentenced Muhammad Ashraf to transportation for life and when the case came up on appeal to the High Court, a petition for enhancement of the sentence was also put in by the widow of the deceased. Dealing with the question of sentence, the bench of which one of us was a member made certain observations which are relevant to the present occasion and need reproduction in extenso. The bench said : —
“The question of sentence in this case presents real difficulty and for several days we have anxiously, pondered over it to take a decision. whether the young man, who is proved in this case to have been guilty of the premeditated murder of a completely innocent man, should live or die. The learned Sessions judge has given him a life sentence but a petition for enhancement of the sentence to that of death has been made by Mt. Daulat Bibi, the widow of the murdered man. It is urged in support of the petition that both on principle and precedent the sentence should have been that of death and that the imposition of the lesser sentence in this case has led to a miscarriage of justice. Reliance in this connection is placed on Ilam Din v. Emperor, A. I. R. 1930 Lahore 157, and Aziz Ahmad v. Emperor, A. I. R. 1938 Lahore 355. In the first of these cases, a youth of 19 or 20, prompted by feelings of veneration for the Prophet of Islam, had been guilty of the premeditated murder of a Hindu who in a vulgar and scurrilous publication had attacked the Prophet. Broadway and Johnstone JJ. who heard the appeal, held that neither the age of the offender nor the motive for the murder was an extenuating circumstance, and confirmed the sentence of death. The second case relates to the murder of a revolting Ahmadi by an orthodox Ahmadi because the leader of the orthodox sect had been attacked in, a poster by a party to which the murdered man belonged, While considering the propriety of the death sentence. Young C. J. observed : —
‘We consider it would be dangerous in this country to give cause for belief that death would not as a rule result from murders even when they are committed for attacks on leaders of religious communities, or under their influence unless they are committed in circumstances which do amount to grave and sudden provocation.
‘We feel it our duty to say that, conditions being as they are in India, it is most dangerous for leaders of religious communities to attack publicly their opponents from the pulpit, and, in particular, to use the language that has been used by the Khalifa Sahib with regard to Misri Abdul Rahman and his followers; someone may easily be influenced thereby to commit murder. This is not the first time in India that death has followed hard on the heels of similar denunciations. Even if we accept, as contended by counsel for the appellant, that the Khalifa Sahib referred to punishment in the spiritual sense, it must be remembered that some zealous followers of any religious leader have difficulty in distinguishing spiritual from corporal punishment. In any event there are always in this country fanatics who believe that they are the instruments of God in carrying out such punishments. We must confirm the sentence of death passed upon Aziz Ahmad and dismiss his appeal.’
“On the other hand. it was quite seriously contended for the appellant, and we refer to this argument not because it deserves any serious consideration but merely to illustrate how religious controversies may engender hate and anger, that the Ahmadis are an outstanding provocation to non-Ahmadi Muslims and that any public and aggressive propaganda in favour of the doctrines of that sect may amount to grave and sudden provocation so as to reduce the offence of murder to that of culpable homicide, and, in any case, should be treated by the Court as an extenuating circumstance Justifying the withholding of the capital sentence.
“If we were to follow the principle laid down in the two cases cited above, there would be no alternative for us but to enhance the sentence to that of death. But both these are pre-Partition cases and the actual decision in each of them was influenced by administrative considerations. In the present case, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the murder was not committed with any sordid motive and that the offender, who is a youth of impressionable age, was made to believe that in the circumstances the murder had become an obligation by discharging which he could earn religious merit. In the speeches made in the meeting of 3rd October, the Ahmadis were denounced as a menace to Islam and death followed hard on the heels of that denunciation. Where a youth commits murder under the influence of his elders, we have always taken the view that a sentence of death need not be imposed on him, and we are unable to distinguish that class of cases from the present one where learned religious divines take the place of elders and publicly preach violence as a religious duty. There is yet another category of murders where Courts do not generally give the capital sentence, namely, where the offence is committed under the influence of some mental derangement which does not in law amount to insanity, and the case of a religious megalomaniac does not seem to us materially to differ from that category. For these reasons we do not think enhancement of the sentence is called for in this case. We must not, however, be understood as laying down any general rule, and any recurrence of this species of crime, which tends to bring religion into disrepute and to make it the laughing stock of the world, might induce us to take a different view and revert to the normal sentence for murder."
The Okara murder was followed by the murder of another Ahmadi in the same month, the interval between the two being only a few days. In Bagh Gowalmandi at Rawalpindi, Badar-ud-Din who was an Ahmadi was shot dead by one Wilayat Khan. The motive for the murder in that case remained obscure but one of the eyewitnesses, who was believed both by the Sessions Judge and the High Court, had deposed that on being arrested on the spot the accused himself had confessed that he had murdered Badar-ud-Din because he was an Ahmadi.
Indignant protests over these murders were made by the Ahmadiya community and some representations were sent to the Central Government in this connection. By its letter No. 109-S(1)/50 dated 2nd November 1950, the Ministry of the Interior sent the following resolution which had been passed by the Ahmadiya Muslim Association, Karachi, on. 20th October, 1950, to the Chief Secretary to Punjab Government for that Government's comments : —
“This general meeting of the Ahmadiya community, Karachi, strongly condemns the murder of Master Ghulam Muhammad Ahmadi in Okara and of Chaudhri Badar-ud-Din Ahmadi in Rawalpindi which have been caused by the inflammatory speeches of the Ahrar leaders against the Ahmadiya community. The meeting expresses deep concern at the failure of the Provincial and the Central Governments to take notice of the mischievous activities of the Ahrar against a section of Pakistan citizens and invites the attention of the two Governments to the dangerous situation which has been created by such activities and urges upon the Governments to take suitable action in the matter.”
The Central Government also inquired from the Punjab Government whether there was, in their opinion, any danger of a general dead set being made against the Ahmadis in this Province. To this the Punjab Government's reply was that there was no danger of any violent upheaval against the Ahmadis, that the two murders were being inquired into in Court, and that if the Ahrar, as reported, agreed to co-operate with the Muslim League, the sectarian propaganda in which they were engaged would end automatically.
In March 1951 a plot, to which high-ranking military officers were parties, was discovered, the object of which was to overthrow the Pakistan Government. One of the accused persons in that case which came to be called ‘The Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case’, was Major-General Nazir Ahmad, who was an Ahmadi. In a speech delivered by Maulvi Muhammad Ali Jullundri at the annual meeting of Jami’ Rashidia, Montgomery, on 15th April 1951, he alleged that eighty per cent pilots in the Air Force were Ahmadis, that the treachery of the Ahmadi officers had been revealed by the discovery of the Rawalpindi conspiracy, that this conspiracy had awakened the Government to realities, that he was in possession of documentary evidence to show the complicity of Ahmadis in tins conspiracy and that Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan had purchased with State money a luxurious mansion in America just opposite to the palace of President Truman, with the object of preaching Ahmadiyat there. When the report of this speech came up before Mr. Anwar Ali, D.I.G., C.I.D., he remarked that speeches of this kind would have a thoroughly bad effect on public tranquillity and might stir up indignation and wrath against the Ahmadis. He proceeded to add that if propaganda of this sort continued, the Majlis-i-Ahrar will have to be administered a formal warning. This note was placed before the Chief Secretary and then before the Chief Minister who initialled it but when the file went back to A.D.I.G., he noted that no orders in the case had been passed but that he presumed that it was not intended that any action should be taken.