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Home Critical Analysis/Archives Report on Punjab Disturbances of 1953
Report of The Court of Inquiry
PART IV
CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO PROCLAMATION OF MARTIAL LAW

With this more or less chronological statement of the case in the course of which we have stated relevant facts and events with our findings on points which were in issue between some of the parties, we proceed to sum up our conclusions and to return a reply to the terms of reference. By section 4 of the Act, Punjab Act II of 1954, we were commissioned to inquire into the circumstances connected with, and the responsibility for, the disturbances in accordance with the following terms of reference :—

(a) the responsibility for the disturbances;

(b) the circumstances leading to the declaration of the Martial Law in Lahore on the 6th of March 1953; and

(c) the adequacy or otherwise of the measures taken by the Provincial civil authorities to prevent, and subsequently to deal with, the disturbances.

The direction in clause (b) regarding the circumstances does not mean that we are merely to state the events which occurred before or during the disturbances; we interpret it to mean that we are to discover the causal connection, if any, between the events and incidents that occurred before or during the disturbances and the proclamation of Martial Law in Lahore. The Act also requires us to find where the responsibility for the disturbances lies and, therefore, from the very nature of the inquiry, there must be overlapping of discussion, reference and findings in coming to conclusions regarding the responsibility for the disturbances, the circumstances which led to the promulgation of Martial Law and the measures taken to prevent or deal with the disturbances. We have, as far as possible, attempted to keep these subjects separate and to avoid repetition but that the subjects are closely allied to, and mixed up with, each other cannot be denied. Though the term relating to responsibility occurs in clause (a) and that to circumstances in clause (b), we consider it more convenient and logical to deal first with the latter.

It is admitted by all the parties concerned that in the circumstances existing on 6th March, the handing over to the military and the subordination of the civil power to the army had become inevitable. The civil authorities, who in normal times are responsible for the maintenance of law and order, had become completely helpless and lost all desire and ability to cope with the situation that had developed on the morning of 6th March. The administrative machinery had completely failed and no one was willing or anxious to face the responsibility of enforcing the law, either by arresting offenders or preventing the perpetration of crime. Vast multitudes of human beings who in ordinary times were sane, sensible citizens, had assumed the form of unruly hysterical mobs whose only impulse was to disobey; the law and to bring constituted authority to its knees while baser elements of society, having taken advantage of the prevailing disorder, were behaving like wild beasts killing people, robbing them of their possessions and burning valuable property either for the sake of fun or to spite a fancied enemy. The whole machinery which keeps society alive had crumbled to pieces, making some drastic measure necessary to restore sense to mad humanity and to provide protection for helpless citizens. The disturbances were thus directly responsible for the promulgation of Martial Law. But how did the disturbances themselves come about ? Was their cause some immediate and unexpected event or had certain parties or individuals been deliberately planning for them since long ? Here again it is admitted that the disturbances were the result of protests and demonstrations that had begun to be staged in the various towns of the Punjab by the arrest of certain members of the Majlis-i-Amal in Karachi on the morning of 27th and in some towns of the Punjab on the night of 27th February or later. These arrests were effected because the threat to resort to direct action, notice of which had been given to the Prime Minister of Pakistan more than a month earlier, was to be carried into effect by sending batches of volunteers to the residences of the Governor- General and the Prime Minister from the morning of 27th February. We are asked to believe that these batches would have gone to their destinations in perfect discipline and without any ostentation of public indignation over the Government’s indifference to the demands and that these batches, each consisting of only five persons, were merely to offer a sort of satyagraha. But any one having an experience of what happens on such occasions would at once dismiss this expectation as a pious wish or a disingenuous argument. What the sequence of events in Karachi or elsewhere would have been or what course the agitation would have adopted if no arrests had been made, is not merely a matter of guess or speculation but of intelligent expectation and anticipation in the light of experience of mob psychology and administrative difficulties on such occasions. Even, therefore, if no arrests had been made on the morning of 27th, the disturbances must have come about with only this difference that arrests would have become necessary a little later both in Karachi and important towns in the Punjab, where long preparations for organising volunteer corps and direct action committees and for nomination of dictators had been made. When we come to deal with the question of responsibility we shall show that parties who conceived, initiated and planned direct action had knowledge of the natural consequences of such action and that members of the Majlis-i-Amal, each and everyone of them unless he were a fool, fully knew that the course of action on which they had embarked was fraught with dangerous consequences to the life and property of the citizens and to the very existence of governmental machinery. In fact, the notice delivered to the Prime Minister had required him to abdicate in ease he was not willing to accept the demands and direct action was threatened only if he persisted in his stubbornness and refused to accept them. This threat contained in itself the implicit admission that if the Prime Minister did not resign, he would be replaced by another person as head of the Government who would be willing to accept the demands. Accordingly the demands themselves must be held as having been the direct cause of the disturbances that actually came about. It, therefore, becomes necessary to examine what the demands were and what was the nature and reason thereof.

The demands were three in number. The first required the Government to have the Qadiani section of the Ahmadis declared as a non-Muslim minority, while the second and the third required the removal of Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan from the office of Foreign Minister and of other Ahmadis who held key positions m the State, from their posts. It is admitted before us by all parties that all the three demands were essentially religious and not political in nature. The only exception to this is the Shia divine Hafiz Kifayat Husain who says that the demand regarding the declaration of the Ahmadis as a non-Muslim minority was alone religious in its character, while the other two demands were of a political nature. Neither Jama’at-i-Islami nor its leader Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi has denied the essentially religious character of the demands, though the latter has added some more reasons for them. All other ulama have expressly stated that each of the three demands was a religious demand and that not one of them was political. Indeed none who was a party to the direct action could have admitted the political character of the demands without making himself directly responsible for the disturbances and the admission about their religious character had to be made perforce by everyone concerned in an attempt to avoid his being held responsible for the disturbances for a worldly reason. On this part of the case some of the important parties, as for instance, the Ahrar and the Jama’at-i-Islami, and some divines who at one time belonged to the Ahrar or Congress organisations and before the Partition were pronounced believers in nationalism and a secular State and opposed to the Partition and the Muslim League, have found themselves distinctly embarrassed and in a position of inconsistency and self-contradiction in view of their previous utterances, because if the demands were religious in their character, and religion is both immutable and inflexible, then it becomes somewhat difficult to comprehend how ideology which is based on religion changes from time to time and from place to place. Being fully conscious of the implications arising from, this position, they have adhered to the stand which they took before the public that the demands followed from their religious convictions.

Another point which at this stage we might mention about the demands is that they are alleged to be the unanimous demands of all religious sects in Islam and not merely of the persons who were parties to the resolutions passed at the All Pakistan Muslim Parties Convention in Karachi and the All Muslim Parties Convention at Lahore. It is not contended before us that each of the religious groups or organisations some of which have their own constitutions, discussed the subject independently and passed resolutions in respect of it under its own constitution. What happened is that some member or members, be they office-bearers or not, of each religious group, were selected to represent the group at the Convention, and when it is stated that the demands were the unanimous demands of all religious groups, the claim is true only to this extent that a member or members from the most important religions groups in the country had expressed their approval of the demands. It is in this sense, therefore, that the demands can be said to be the unanimous demands of all Muslim sects.

When it is alleged that the demands were unanimous and religious in their character, what is meant is that according to all sects in Islam they are clear deductions from some theological assumptions or doctrines. Almost all the ulama whom we questioned on the subject have stated that the demands are a corollary from the Objectives Resolution passed by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 12th March, 1949, and from that religio-political system which they call Islam. It has been most vehemently urged that Pakistan was claimed and was brought into existence so that the future political set-up of the new State may be based on the Qur’an and the sunna and that the actual realisation of the demand and the express recognition by the Objectives Resolution, of that ground for the demand, had created in the mind of the ulama and the citizens of Pakistan the belief that any demand which could be established on religious grounds would not only be conceded but warmly welcomed by the people at the helm of affairs of the State who had during the last several years been crying themselves hoarse over their intention to establish in Pakistan an Islamic State with a set-up of political, social and ethical institutions of the Islamic pattern. Some leaders, it is pointed out, had publicly declared the achievement of this objective as their life’s mission. What, therefore, was necessary for the ulama to get an acceptance of the demands was merely to prove by theological argument that the Ahmadis were a distinct and separate community outside the pale of Islam and not entitled to take any part in the public affairs of the country which were to be managed and conducted strictly in accordance with the rules of Islam. In order to comprehend the exact nature of the demands, it is necessary to state here that when it is stated that Islam is a religio-political system, what is intended to be conveyed is that it has a cultural complex embracing specific political structures and legal and social traditions as distinguished from the Islamic dogma, cult, ethics and family institutions. This conception of Islam is partly borrowed from European terminology, but is also based on the doctrine of Daurl Islam; a country with an exclusively peculiar outlook on life basing all its institutions on, and directing its activity to the attainment of ends enjoined by, Revelation. We will again have to revert to this subject, but what is of importance to comprehend at the present stage is that the demands professed to be based on the idea of an Islamic State.

With these preliminary observations let us try to understand how the demands are claimed to follow from religion. For that purpose it is necessary not only to comprehend the precise doctrinal differences between the Musalmans and the Ahmadis but also to have a clear conception of that religio-political system called Islam and of the idea of an Islamic State from which the demands are stated to flow as a necessary consequence.

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