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


On 20th May 1952, Mr. Anwar Ali wrote an exhaustive note recapitulating Ahrar doings and their effect since 1950. They may be summarised as follows : (1) At Okara, in October 1950, Ahmadi preachers were waylaid and their faces blackened. (This, it must be conceded, was the result of “aggressive sectarianism”.) A school-master was killed. (2) At Pindi, about the same time, an Ahmadi was killed, though the immediate cause had no reference to religious differences. (3) At Sialkot, in January 1951, the Ahrar broke up an Ahmadi meeting. (4) At Chak Jhumra, in February, a son of M. Ismatullah, an Ahmadi, was stabbed on the railway station by Ahrar workers. (5) At Gujranwala, in March, an Ahmadi shopkeeper was attacked, but the police saved him. (6) In April at Lyallpur following a threat by Ghulam Nabi Janbaz, an Ahmadi shopkeeper was attacked. (7) At Samundri, in May, an Ahmadi mosque was burnt down. (8) In November, at Lyallpur again, an Ahmadi meeting was broken up, resulting in casualties on both sides. (9) In the same month, at Multan, the Ahrar tried to break up an Ahmadi meeting. (10) In March 1952, at Sargodha, an Ahrar procession was taken out in defiance of a ban. We have already noticed it. (11) In April 1952, at Rawalpindi, a youth got up in a meeting and urged people to kill Chaudhri Zafarullah Khan. (12) In the same month, at Gujranwala, two mock funerals of Chaudhri Muhammad Zafarullah Khan were taken out with the accompaniment of a humiliating chorus—“Zafarullah puttur chor da; Na’ra maro zor da”. (13) In May 1951, at Lyallpur, Sayyad Ataullah Shah Bukhari promised large-scale demonstrations. (14) According to a letter intercepted by the C. I. D., paradise was promised to whosoever should kill the Foreign Minister.

Mr. Anwar Ali observed that the Ahrar, who could not show their faces after the Partition, were on the offensive now. They tell people they have made up with the “high-ups” of the Muslim League. Warnings had been administered to them from time to time by the Governor, the Chief Secretary and the Inspector-General, but without producing effect. They had now opened branches in many places, and their total membership was 1,046. If they were allowed to gather strength and popular favour, it would become increasingly difficult to deal with them. He concluded by saying that as a result of discussion with the Home Secretary and the Inspector-General, he was making the following recommendations:—

1. The Ahrar should be declared an unlawful association, as recommended by him in 1950. D. I. G., again recommends that Ahrar be declared an unlawful association. 20-5-52.

2. Sayyad Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari, Qazi Ehsan Ahmad Shujabadi and Maulvi Muhammad Ali Jullundri be detained or restricted.
3. At any rate, Ahrar meetings should be banned for a year or two.

Mr. Qurban Ali Khan then wrote a prophetic and penetrating note which shows Mr. Qurban Ali Khan’s prophetic warning. how correctly he appreciated the situation and the political reluctance of the Government to take a decisive step. We reproduce below only its substance:—

“How long should we remain at the stage of writing notes? I am convinced that if Government continue with its present policy of leaving the Ahrar alone, they will sooner or later perpetrate such a horrible crime that Government will find it difficult to explain its failure to take action upon what the C.I.D. has been repeatedly and vehemently reporting to it. It is a difficult decision to take, I know, but someone has to take it. The Centre is not likely to share the responsibility of getting involved in a matter which has the remotest chance of raising another opposition, especially on an issue which may be exploited as a religious one. But some Government somewhere must give the masses a correct lead. If every party is afraid that the Ahrar will join hands with the opposition, it will be difficult to maintain law and order. The Ahrar are today no power; tomorrow they may become one. If Government is convinced that their conduct calls for action, this is the most opportune time.”

Mr. Qurban Ali Khan was questioned by interrogatories as to the exact meaning of this note with reference to the relative Mr. Qurban Ali Khan explains his statement to court. responsibility of the two Governments. The following passages from his written deposition may be reproduced with advantage. (1) “A straight answer would have definitely embarrassed the Central Government, and embarrassed the Provincial Government even more. This was because the question did not relate to Punjab alone”. (2) “My emphasis was not on how the demands should be answered, but I urged the local Government to give the people a correct lead as to how in an orderly Government public demands should be presented. What I tried to impress upon Government was that severe punitive and effective preventive action should be taken against those who were preaching and adopting violence in order to coerce Government to a particular decision. The question of the Provincial Government taking the responsibility of giving a straight answer without the approval of the Central Government was never in my mind.” (3) “I had no occasion to feel that the Provincial Government wanted the odium of the situation to be faced by the Central Government. To my mind, both were avoiding to face the odium.           *          * What I was submitting in my notes was that Government should deal promptly and firmly with each occasion of lawlessness as it arises irrespective of how the Central Government disposed of the demands. A firm decision on their part would have been of immense help, but the absence of it did not absolve the Provincial Government of its responsibility of maintaining law and order.”

Mr. Qurban Ali Khan thus brought the following matters pointedly to the notice of Government. (1) “You are repeatedly ignoring the advice of the C. I. D. and will find it difficult to explain your failure if something should happen.” (2) “If you are not acting because it embarrasses you, the Central Government is equally embarrassed.” (3) “But you being responsible for law and order, should deal with the situation as it arises without reference to the Centre.”

This resulted in a conference of officers with the Chief Minister on the 25th May, and their decisions Conference of Chief Minister with officers. 25-5-52.

Policy letter of 5th June.
found expression in the third policy letter, dated the 5th of June 1952. It required District Magistrates to ban all Ahmadi or Ahrar meetings without exception, imposing section 144, Criminal Procedure Code, whenever a meeting was proposed to be held. It superseded the letter of 24th December 1951, which left discretion to District Magistrates. In a way it was an admission of the fact that District Magistrates were not in all cases capable of exercising discretion. The membership of 1,046, however, was not declared unlawful, nor was anybody muzzled or restricted. It can reasonably be argued that if the desired result could be achieved with the least offensive action on the part of Government, why take any drastic step? But it will presently appear that the desired end was not achieved. The Ahrar withdrew to the mosques, and as Juma-tul-Wida was fast approaching, Government issued a Letter of 19th June. wireless message on 19th June that if the Ahrar wanted to hold meetings in mosques before or after the Juma-tul-Wida prayer, prohibitory orders should be passed without mentioning the venue of the meeting and the local imams warned. If, however, a meeting did take place notwithstanding the ban, it should not be interfered with, and arrests for defiance be made later.

On 28th June 1952, another letter was issued, directing that if the ban has been defied, prosecutions Letter of 28th June. should be confined to the Ahrar, and among them also the prominent ones, the intention being to isolate them.

We do not say the action taken in May and June 1952, was altogether inadequate, but since Mr. Daultana says this was the only action possible, the position might well be examined further. Mr. Daultana’s version of the conference : Why Ahrar could not be declared unlawful. According to him, the first matter for consideration at the meeting was whether the very putting forward of the demands should be prohibited, the second whether propaganda in support of them should be checked, the third whether unilateral action against the Ahrar could be taken. The first two matters depended on whether the demands were justified and it is clear that a decision on merits could not be taken by the Provincial Government. As regards the third point, there was “no definite knowledge or overwhelming suspicion that the Ahrar were conspiring against the State or were agents of an enemy power or were openly advocating violence. We could not, therefore, take preventive or punitive action against them without consulting the Centre, but on the law and order side we decided to take strict action.” The consensus of opinion at the conference was that no action could be taken unless the Central Government had formulated a policy.

Mr. Anwar Ali or Mr. Qurban Ali Khan did not say in their notes that the Ahrar should be made Mr. Daultana’s premises are wrong. an unlawful association because they were conspiring against the State or were agents of an enemy power. A number of incidents of violence and lawlessness had been brought to the Chief Minister’s notice as justifying the proposed action. The argument that preventive or punitive action could not be taken without the Centre’s consultation but that on the law and order side it was decided to take strict action presumes two things; firstly, that preventive or punitive action is not taken on the law and order side: secondly; that the Centre has to be consulted before an association can be declared unlawful. Both these presumptions are incorrect.

Next, at the time when the conference of 24th May 1952 took place, the thought of consulting Centre’s decision was not thought of until 7th July. the Centre was in nobody’s mind. It crossed Mr. Daultana’s mind for the first time on the 7th of July 1952, when he was at Nathiagali and a file was sent up to him in relation to certain suggestions made by the Home Secretary, Mr. Ghias-ud-Din Ahmad, provoked by a letter from the Ministry of Interior, dated the 2nd July 1952. We have already referred to this letter as the second of the two circular letters issued by the Central Government for the guidance of the provinces. It, drew attention to previous instructions that militant or aggressive sectarianism should be suppressed with a heavy hand and ended by noting with satisfaction the action taken by the Punjab Government “recently”—the very action which we are examining now. Thereupon When Home Secretary commented on Centre’s letter of 2nd July. Mr. Ghias-ud-Din Ahmad expressed the opinion that the time had come when the Centre should be asked at high level to formulate a policy. “The fanaticism and philosophy of hatred preached by the Ahrar, if not killed, will not remain confined to the province. As regards the Khatm-i-Nubuwwat movement, the Centre should tell us what line to pursue. Should we connive, at activities which aim at the physical or religious annihilation of a minor section *          *          *          *          ?            They should decide whether considerations of law and order should receive priority over religious beliefs. As regards Chaudhri Muhammad Zafrullah Khan the common man was gaining an impression that some of his own colleagues were behind the agitation.”

The Home Secretary suggested a letter by the Chief Minister personally to the Prime Minister.

The Chief Secretary, Hafiz Abdul Majid, forwarded the file with a note containing Chief Secretary’s appreciation an appreciation of the situation which, in our opinion, cannot be excelled. He said in substance : “We don’t need support from the Centre for action taken to maintain law and order. But the Ahrar having given an impression that their Agitation is endorsed by the Centre or some Ministers or officials, we might suggest that this impression be removed by a statement. The Home Secretary has omitted to mention that the policy of the Centre has already been explained in the Ministry of Interior’s letter of 7th September 1951 and repeated in the P. U. C. (the letter of 2nd July 1952)—that The Centre has expressed its mind. controversies should not be allowed to exceed reasonable limits, etc. The Centre has also approved the ‘recent action’ of the Punjab Government. The other questions—declaring the Ahmadis a minority and removing the Foreign Minister—do not concern us. We cannot possibly expect the Centre’s decision on the first, as it rests with the Constituent Assembly, and we cannot suggest to the Prime Minister to say that the Foreign Minister enjoys his confidence.”

We have been fooling the same way throughout the inquiry whenever we came across a note or statement—or when it was argued—that the Centre should have expressed its mind. The Centre knew what was happening, and said: Allow them to carry on religious propaganda to the extent which is legitimate, but if they become aggressive, put them down. What you have done in May and June 1952, by way of banning meetings and launching prosecutions, meets with our approval.

However, when the file went to Mr. Daultana at Nathiagali, he wrote a lengthy note on 7th July, which may be reduced as follows: I am already taking steps to secure the formulation of consistent and definite policy by the Centre, and probably a Mr. Daultana agreed that the Centre had expressed its mind and that law and order was his concern. conference will be held at Karachi towards the end of the month. It is unnecessary to make a formal reference to the Centre in view of the Ministry of Interior’s letter of the 2nd July 1952 (P. U. C.) and of the obvious and overriding fact that we need no guidance to make us realize our obvious duty to maintain law and order. We should pursue with a heavy hand all those who incite to violence and make our impartiality clear by publicity; we should continue the present ban on meetings, but not interfere with mosques owing to the “sensitivity” of the people. This policy—relating to mosques—is illogical, but “too technical legalistic an attitude” will inflame people, and besides, meetings in mosques have little agitational value.

In his written statement Mr. Daultana has given a separate heading to the “Efforts” No evidence that any reference to Centre was mentioned at Conference of 24th May. made by his Government to obtain a decision from the Centre, and the first effort that he mentions is the one that he made at Nathiagali, when be met Khawaja Shahab-ud-Din, Dr. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar and others, and was assured by the first two of these gentlemen that they would place his point of view before the Prime Minister. There is no indication on the file of the case which resulted in the decision of the 24th May 1952 or on any other file that at that meeting any reference was made to the fact that the matter was for the Centre to consider, and no question was put either to Mr. Ghias-ud-Din Ahmad or to Mr. Anwar Ali during the course of their lengthy statements whether any such subject came up for discussion. This reason for not declaring the Ahrar an unlawful association is consequently without substance.

Next, Mr. Daultana wants to show that notwithstanding their very strong notes, the two police officers and whoever else were present at the conference came to an agreed decision with him. “The whole position was discussed, and the final opinion of everybody was that to declare a political body as illegal was too drastic a step, and that as the Ahrar were an All-Pakistan organisation, such action would have to be taken on an Ali-Pakistan level and justified before the people who had accepted a democratic form of Government.”

Firstly, since the case made by the Punjab Government’s counsel was that Mr. Daultana generally put a cold blanket on his officers’ advice, it was for Mr. Daultana’s counsel expressly to question the officers in respect of each major occasion which arose for policy, D. I. G. thinks firmer action would have been taken in the “old regime”. and Mr. Anwar Ali was not asked why he had agreed to a whittling down of a proposal which had haunted him since 1950. It is true that in answer to a question he stated that “on the basis of my note, dated the 20th May 1952, Government took stern action and imposed a ban,” but in another place he also stated that “if the Ahrar had been declared an unlawful body, as I had suggested in 1950, nothing would have happened in 1952”, that “I suggested this again in 1952, and even then it was not too late”; further, that “the action taken from time to time at my suggestion made me feel that in the olden regime action would have been taken more promptly and effectively”. Unless it ia assumed that Mr. Anwar Ali has tried to reconcile two inconsistent positions—his own since 1950 and that of Mr. Daultana contrary-wise—ordinary interpretation encourages us to place a merely comparative meaning on the words “stern action”. That is to say, the action was stern in comparison with what had been taking place till then. It is also possible that Mr. Anwar Ali was in his mind placing emphasis on the first part of the sentence—“on the basis of my note”—because, primarily, he was concerned to clear his own position and to show how far he himself had tried to bring home to Government the gravity of the situation.

Secondly, we see no logical or causal connection between the circumstance that the Ahrar were an All-Pakistan organisation Nothing undemocratic in declaring a body unlawful. and the fact that action taken against them as a body would have to be “justified before the people who had accepted a democratic form of Government”. If they had belonged to a provincial organisation, would it not have been undemocratic to declare them an unlawful body ? As it is, their meetings were banned. Whatever served as a justification for this action could also be used to justify the more drastic action. The only proper argument in this context would be that the Ahrar had done nothing so serious as to justify their being declared unlawful, but in that case Mr. Daultana would have to say that the D. I. G. the Inspector-General were in the habit of indulging in prophetic pessimism—or pessimistic prophecy.

We sincerely believe that what Mr. Anwar Ali has said about the effect of declaring the Ahrar an unlawful Mr. Anwar Ali’s estimate of the Ahrar was correct. body represents a correct estimate of the situation. If this had happened in May 1952, the Ahrar would not have been in a position to extend a religious appeal to the Ulama, resulting in the convention of all Muslim parties in July 1952, and if the Ulama had not stepped in, the Ahmadi controversy would not have come to be placed on a different footing from any other sectarian controversy with which we are familiar.

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