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By Sabir Shah
LAHORE: Apropos the fresh statement of MQM Chief Altaf Hussain that Martial Law should be imposed in Punjab to curb crimes and apprehend the criminals; annals of history reveal that the last time this province had come under military rule alone was in March 1953 when the then Governor General Ghulam Muhammad had handed over administration to Lt General Azam Khan to oversee the suppression of anti-Ahmadiyya violence.
Following increased violence against the Ahmadiyya Community and the ever-surging incidents of torture, murder attempts and arson, Governor General Ghulam Muhammad had to request the Army to intervene and quell the aggression.
This was the time when known criminals of Lahore were given a very tough time by General Azam Khan and all such elements were arrested and tried by speedy courts for their alleged involvement in the unlawful activities.
On March 6 1953, after a mosque and houses of Ahmedis were set ablaze in Rawalpindi by an unruly mob, Ghulam Muhammad finally ran out of patience and was left with no other option but to impose a Martial Law in Punjab on the same day to control the popular wave of civil disobedience.
Earlier in February 1953, a few Ahmedi preachers were murdered all over Punjab, their leaders were handcuffed and newspapers like “Daily Alfazal” and “Farooq” were banned for supporting this sect.
The 69-day-long army deployment in Punjab between March 6 and May 14 1953 also saw the Jama’at-e-Islami Chief Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi and then Secretary General of the Awami Muslim League Maulana Abdul Sattar Khan Niazi getting arrested and convicted to death for spearheading and inciting the riots, though the sentences of both these top religious clerics were subsequently commuted to life terms due to last-minute intervention of a few brother Islamic countries.
While Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi was given death by a military court on May 7 1953, Maudoodi was convicted four days later on May 11 of the same year for writing ‘provocative’ material against the Ahmedis.
Both Maudoodi and Niazi had threatened to take direct action after February 22 1953, if their demand to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslim were not met by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad’s regime.
Although General Azam Khan (1908-1994) had served as the Governor of East Pakistan during Field Martial Ayub Khan’s regime, he is also known to have strongly supported the presidential candidacy of Fatima Jinnah, instead of siding with his boss in army.
The Lahore riots of 1953 had also created political difficulties for Governor General Ghulam Muhammad, as he had to dismiss the then Punjab Chief Minister Mian Mumtaz Daultana in March 1953 on charges of patronizing the religious elements leading the anti-Ahmadi violence.
A month later on April 17 of the same year, Ghulam Muhammad dissolved the cabinet of country’s first Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin and had sent the premier packing. Pakistan’s then Ambassador to the United States Mohammad Ali Bogra was asked to replace Khwaja Nazimuddin as the next prime minister.