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Munir Commission Report-17: The Disturbances -- (From 27th February to end of Disturbances)

PART III

THE DISTURBANCES

 

(From 27th February to end of Disturbances)

 

ACCOUNT OF DISTURBANCES.

 

The members of the Action Committee were arrested in Karachi on 27th February. On instruction’s received over the telephone in Lahore from the leaders of the movement who were in Karachi, some batches of volunteers had already left Lahore for Karachi. The one that left on 27th February under the leadership of Ghazi Ilm-ud-Din was intercepted and detrained by the Punjab Police at Railway Station Lodhran, while the other two, one of which had left on the 25th under Miraj-ud-Din Salar and the other on the 26th under Sahibzada Faiz-ul-Hasan, succeeded in reaching Karachi and were arrested there.

 

Action decided upon in Karachi on the night of 26th/27th February was taken by the Punjab Government and persona whose list had been prepared by the Inspector-General of Police on his return from Karachi were arrested. These arrests generated a wave of resentment and lawlessness throughout the Province, more especially in Lahore and the district towns of Sialkot, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Lyallpur and Montgomery.

 

The mounting wave of disorder became so uncontrollable in Lahore that on 6th March the military had to step in and put the town under Martial Law.

 

LAHORE.

 

27th February 1953—In compliance with the decision arrived at in Karachi a warrant for the arrest of Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan was issued but when it was shown to him by the police officer who had been entrusted with its execution, the Maulana offered to give an undertaking that he would sever his connection with the agitation if he were not arrested. He was taken to the Civil Lines Police Station where he wrote out the following apology:—

 

“I consider the turn taken by the present movement harmful for the integrity of Pakistan and think that if this movement continues like this, the enemies of Pakistan would take undue advantage of it and every Pakistani would disapprove any such movement as jeopardises the integrity of Pakistan.

 

The present trend of this movement tends to engender discord and chaos in the country. If, God forbid, disturbances increase and the Government is compelled to use force, it shall be highly derogatory for both sides. In my opinion, even a single drop of a Musalman’s blood is more valuable than the whole of the Universe. We should, therefore, further consider the matter in order to straighten the situation. I am not connected with the present ‘direct action’. I have never advocated violence, nor was I in favour of reproaching and abusing the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and other dignitaries of Pakistan or taking out their (mock) funeral processions or picketing their houses. What to say of doing such things, in my view, even to think of such things is not right for a right thinking Pakistani. In order to stabilise the inner administration of our country and to enhance its prestige and dignity in the eyes of foreign countries, we should abstain from committingr any such act as might result in making us an object of ridicule in the eyes of the world.”

 

According to this document one drop of a Musalman’s blood was more precious to the Maulana than the entire creation; the Maulana had nothing to do with ‘direct action’; the shape that the movement had taken carried in it a threat to the solidarity of Pakistan; the Maulana was against violence and disorder of every sort; he could not possibly think of putting up with such things as mock funerals of the Prime Minister and other leaders or picketing of their houses ; and he was against everything which was calculated to expose Pakistan and her people to the ridicule of the world. In view of this abject apology, Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan was not arrested and no action was taken against his paper, the ‘Zamindar’, until it misbehaved again on 28th February.

 

28th February 1953—With the arrest of the leaders in Karachi on the 27th and in the Punjab on the night of 27th/28th February, shops were closed in Lahore and small demonstrative parties walked in the streets forcing unwilling shopkeepers to close their shops. In the afternoon a public meeting was held in the garden outside Delhi Gate where some volunteers who had prepared themselves for arrest were garlanded and taken in procession towards the Civil Secretariat. On the way, however, the crowd changed its mind and marched on The Mall with Government House as its objective. The crowd numbered five to six thousand but there was no apparent tendency to violence, the processionists contenting themselves with shouting anti-Government, anti-Police and anti-Ahmadi slogans. The procession was stopped and asked to disperse near the Charing Cross where the Commissioner, the Inspector-General of Police, the Deputy Inspector- General of Police, the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police had arrived. The garlanded volunteers came out and offered themselves for arrest. They were, however, told that since there was no ban on public assemblies or processions, they had committed no offence and could not be arrested. The volunteers, however, insisted on their being arrested and in order to clear the road for traffic, thirty-four persons were arrested under section 107/151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, put in a truck, driven away and dropped at some distance from the town. The crowd then dispersed and scattered in different directions.

 

Shortly after this the Commissioner, the Home Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police conferred together in the Civil Lines Police Station and after discussing the situation decided against the banning of public meetings and processions.

 

1st March— This was a day of processions and arrests.

 

The news that Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan had apologised went round the whole town. The public became furious and besieged his house on the McLeod Road. A posse of police, however, arrived and on an assurance by the Maulana’s son that he was in his village in Karamabad in the Gujranwala district, the mob dispersed. At about the same time Maulana Ahmad Ali organised a big procession outside the Delhi Gate. The crowd appeared. to be in a violent mood and damaged a police vehicle by throwing brickbats Maulana Ahmad Ali was arrested under section 3 of the Punjab Public Safety Act and thirty-two other persons were arrested under section 107/151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Another procession appeared near the High Court Building, intent on marching on the Government House. It was stopped and twenty-nine persons were put under arrest by the Additional Superintendent of Police. The same officer faced another procession on the Mall where he arrested twenty-three more persons. la the afternoon a large procession set out from the Delhi Gate for the Government House but was stopped near the Charing Cross in the presence of the Commissioner, the Home Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police and the District Magistrate. Many men came out and offered themselves for arrest. They were put into trucks and, as on the previous day, dropped away from Lahore. The crowd then dispersed without showing any signs of violence.

 

2nd March— It appears that on hearing that Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan had

 

deserted the cause and closeted himself in his house in Karamabad, some local men went to him there and taunted him with cowardice. The Maulana denied the accusation and came to Lahore on the evening of the 1st or the morning of the 2nd March. He went to Wazir Khan Mosque where he attempted to explain his position to the public and asserted that he was still as true to the movement as he had been before. He also announced that he would offer himself for arrest in the afternoon. Accordingly a procession, 10,000 strong, set out from the mosque in the evening. This time the crowd was hostile and rowdy. The procession was stopped near the Charing Cross, where the Commissioner, the Home Secretary, the Inspector- General of Police, the D. I. G. Police and the S. S. P. were present, and declared an unlawful assembly. The Maulana and some others were arrested and collected in a place which was cordoned by the police. Suddenly a crowd of about 1,000 attacked the police cordon with brickbats, tins, bottles and other odd missiles. In the attack eleven police officers, including two Superintendents of Police, namely, Mr. Zulqarnain Khan and Mr. Taylor, were injured and the crowd had to be lathi-charged. The Maulana was removed to the jail and forty-one persona were arrested for assault and rioting. The persons who had been arrested earlier with Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan were taken away from Lahore and released as before. The crowd thereupon dispersed. After the mob had cleared off, the Commissioner, the Home Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, the District Magistrate, the Senior Superintendent of Police and the Superintendent of Police, C. I. D. held a conference at the Civil Lines Police Station. As the situation had been rapidly worsening, it was decided to inform the General Officer Commanding, the 10th Division, and to request him to come over and stand-by with troops in aid of civil power. The General did not come himself but sent his G. S. O. 1 (Lt. Col. Sheereen Khan) and two other officers who explained that if military aid was needed a requisition from the Provincial Government was necessary. This led to some argument, the civil authorities contending that the District Magistrate, without any reference to Government, was competent to ask for aid from the army and the military officers sticking to the position that as the question of the cost of troops was involved, requisition for military aid should formally come from the Provincial Government. During the argument the Inspector-General of Police offered to make a written requisition on behalf of the Punjab Government. A letter was, therefore, drafted which was signed and handed over to the military officers by the Home Secretary. The letter stated that as an outbreak of serious disorder was apprehended in Lahore and it was felt that civil authorities may not be able to cope with the situation, the Home Secretary was desired by the Provincial Government to request for the aid of troops to help the District Magistrate in the prevention and suppression of disorder. The written requisition left the number of troops, the period for which they were to be employed and the manner in which they were to be posted, to be communicated in due course to the G. O. C. by the District Magistrate, Lahore. At the conference a decision was also taken to promulgate an order under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, prohibiting processions in specified parts of the Lahore Corporation. The same evening a meeting of the Cabinet was held at the Chief Minister’s residence which was attended by the officers who had met at the Civil Lines Police Station and by the Chief Secretary. The steps taken at the Civil Lines Police Station were approved by the Cabinet and a little after midnight the District Magistrate issued an order under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, prohibiting an assembly of five or more persons from collecting within the Corporation limits of the City of Lahore ‘excluding the area surrounded by the Circular Road’.

 

3rd March— This was comparatively an uneventful day. The military moved to the Jinnah Garden and in the morning started patrolling the Civil Lines and the city area of the Corporation except the walled city. The Border Police also moved about. Some unimportant processions were taken out in the walled city and other areas covered by the order under section 144. Thirty-one persons were arrested in Anarkali for defying the order under section 144 and a defiant procession coming from Nila Gumbad to the Mall was dispersed near the Tollinton Market by a lathi-charge ordered by Mr. M. A. K.

 

Chaudhri, Assistant Superintendent of Police. Two other crowds were halted and dispersed by lathi-charge by a police party led by the Inspector- General of Police himself. The only serious incident that occurred on this day was the stoning of a police party led by Inspector Agha Sultan Ahmad of Naulakha by a mob of about a hundred persons which was moving from the McLeod Road towards the Charing Cross via Montgomery Road. The police fired three rounds without causing casualty.

 

In the evening it was noticed that the troops had ceased patrolling. 4th March— On 4th March a meeting of the Cabinet was held which was attended by the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police and the Deputy Inspector-General of Police. The Inspector -General of Police read out the report of a speech delivered on the preceding night by Maulana Abdus Sattar Khan Niazi at the Wazir Khan Mosque. The speech was highly inflammatory, and an order of his arrest under section 3 of the Punjab Public Safety Act was passed by the Home Secretary but it could not be executed because the mosque where Niazi had enthroned himself had become an impregnable strong-hold of the agitators.

 

The military, apparently under orders from headquarters, stopped patrolling, and one or two Companies even returned to the Cantonment from the Jinnah Garden. Several processions were taken out and dispersed. One of these surrounded the Ahmadiya Buildings and was dispersed by a mild lathi-charge by A. S. I. Muhammad Akram.

 

Streams of volunteers had now started pouring into Lahore by rail and by road. A batch of volunteers from Sargodha was dispersed by Sub-Inspector Muhammad Hamid near the Naulakha Police Station. Another batch of 110 Ahrar volunteers on the Brandreth Road was met by Sayyad Hasanat Ahmad, City Magistrate, Malik Khan Bahadur,

 

Superintendent of Police and Sayyad Firdaus Shah, Deputy Superintendent of Police. The volunteers refused to disperse and reached Chowk Dalgran where they were tear-gassed. They would still not disperse and sat on the ground. A lathi-charge proving ineffective, they were lifted bodily, put into trucks and taken away. False rumours about this incident began at once to be circulated. It was given out that the police, in dispersing the volunteers, had profaned the Holy Qur’an by kicking and tearing it, and killed a small boy. At a meeting held outside Delhi Gate a boy was produced, holding in his hand some torn leaves of the Holy Book, who said that he was an eyewitness of the sacrilegious incident. A maulvi, probably Maulvi Muhammad Yusuf, took these leaves of the Book in hand, held them out to the audience and made a violent speech, infuriating the already excited crowd. The faked incident became a public topic for excited crowds and spread like wild fire throughout the city within a few hours, creating feeling of anger and hatred against the police.

 

The above-mentioned account of the Dalgran incident has been taken by us from the written statements and the evidence of officers. The version given of this incident by the Ahrar and the Majlis-i-Amal, however, is entirely different, and it is alleged that during that incident a police officer did kick at the Holy Qur’an, and beat to death a young boy, and in support of this allegation Muhammad Nazir witness No. 32, Muhammad Hanif witness No. 33, Sheikh Muhammad Rafiq witness No. 34 and Siraj Din witness No. 37 have been examined. The Court also examined Sayyad Hasanat Ahmad, City Magistrate, Lahore, and Malik Khan Bahadur Khan, Superintendent of Police, Punjab Constabulary, who were present on the occasion. According to the nonofficial witnesses, a batch of volunteers was coming from Chowk Dalgran side towards

the railway station when it was stopped by the police. The volunteers were asked to disperse but they sat down and when an attempt was made to remove them to some trucks which were standing near by, they laid themselves on the ground and had to be dragged.

 

Among the men who were so dragged was an old man who had on his person a hama’il. When he was being dragged; the hama’il came off his person and a police officer of short stature and with a goitre in his neck kicked at it. The witnesses differ whether the hama’il was pushed into the drain or remained lying on the ground and whether it was in a cover or without a cover. The man who was wearing it has not been called and his particulars have not been given; nor have the particulars of the boy who is said to have been beaten to death been given. We cannot imagine that a Musalman police officer, however irreligious he may be, would kick at the Holy Book, and thus be guilty of the grossest blasphemy. This is conceded in the arguments before us but it is suggested that the Book might have been trampled upon unintentionally. Sayyad Hasanat Ahmad and Malik Khan Bahadur Khan have both denied the allegation and since non-official evidence about it is hopelessly discrepant, we cannot hold that anyone kicked at the Holy Book or beat any boy to death.

 

Other tactics resorted to by the agitators to spread hatred of authority were:

 

(1) Circulation of leaflets to the effect that more than a thousand persons had been shot down in Jhang and Sargodha whereas the truth was that not a single bullet had been-fired that day in either of these places;

 

(2) Spreading the rumour that Ahmadis were going about in cars shooting down people indiscriminately;

 

(3) Announcement from the Wazir Khan Mosque that Government servants had struck work and joined the movement; and

 

(4) Spreading reports that the district police had refused to fire and that it was the Border Police and the Constabulary Police alone who were firing. The allegation that some Ahmadis clad in military uniform went about in a jeep indiscriminately shooting people has been made the subject-matter of proof before us and several witnesses have been called in support of it. But though some mysterious vehicle with some unidentified men in it seems to have moved about on this day, there is no evidence before us that the occupants of this vehicle were Ahmadis or that the vehicle itself was the property of an Ahmadi.

 

At 4-30 p.m. a public meeting was held outside Delhi Gate with an audience of about 5,000 where references to a child having been shot and the Holy Qur’an having been trampled under foot by the police in Chowk Dalgran were made. After the meeting a procession was formed which moved towards the Wazir Khan Mosque. The crowd was stopped by Assistant Sub-Inspectors Manzur-ul-Haq and Muhammad Sadiq near the mosque. Information was received over the telephone by Sayyad Firdaus Shah, Deputy Superintendent of Police, that these two Assistant Sub-Inspectors had been kidnapped and taken inside the mosque where they had either been killed or were on the point of being killed. The Deputy Superintendent of Police took an armed reserve led by S. I. Muzaffar Khan of Police Station Kotwali and marched towards the mosque. Just outside the mosque he was met by a furious mob and when he inquired about the whereabouts of the two police officers, he was surrounded and attacked by the rioters with knives and sticks and killed on the spot. He had as many as fifty-two injuries on his-person. His own revolver and two muskets of the policemen who were accompanying him, were snatched and Sub-Inspector Muzaffar Khan was injured. The D. S. P.’s body was conveyed by someone to the Kotwali where the Home Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police were present. Col. Alam, Officer Commanding 1st Baluch Regiment, also arrived with some other officers and the General Officer Commanding joined a little later. While these officers were reviewing the situation, the District Magistrate disclosed that on hearing the news of the murder of the D. S. P. he had decided to hand over the town to the military and communicated his desire to the military officers. This action was not approved by the Inspector-General of Police who thought that there was no necessity of surrendering control to the army at that stage. If the District Magistrate had in fact handed over control to the army we would have considered him as having acted sensibly and wisely, but that officer himself is not willing to take the credit for any such action and in his evidence before us he has completely denied having ever decided to hand over to the military.

 

The officers present decided to impose the curfew and the necessary order was promulgated by the District Magistrate. The police patrolled the town and came across several crowds which were dispersed by firing. Thus a mob which was defying the curfew was contacted near the Bhati Gate and it dispersed on a few rounds having been fired. Firing was also opened at a crowd in the Naulakha Bazar who had come out of their houses in contravention of the curfew. A mob of Ahrar volunteers which had collected on the Circular Road near the Ahrar office, began to advance towards the Kotwali and after being given the necessary warning, was fired upon, one of them having been killed and another wounded. Another crowd was dispersed by Chaudhri Muhammad Husain, Superintendent of Police, at the McLeod Road by rifle fire which resulted in some casualties. Firing was also resorted to on the Nisbet Road by Inspector Agha Sultan Ahmad who fired four rounds; twice in Gowalmandi by the Sub-Inspector; by the Inspector-General himself at a crowd which was heading towards the Kotwali, causing some casualties; and by Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police, Police Post Mochi Gate, on rioters who were brickbatting the Police Post. The whole city was literally in a state of tumult and throughout the night weird and dreadful noises could be heard over long distances.

 

A little after midnight a meeting was held at the residence of the Chief Minister which was attended by the Home Secretary, the Inspector-General of Police, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, the District Magistrate, the Senior Superintendent of Police and the General Officer Commanding and some other military officers and continued till 3 a.m. The Inspector-General of Police apprised the General Officer Commanding of the events that had happened and were expected to happen so that it might be decided how the military could be effectively employed.

 

5th March—The events that occurred after the murder of Sayyad Firdaus Shah, Deputy Superintendent of Police, and the awful eerie noises that were heard on the night of 4th proved to be ominous portents for the dawning day. Though everyone was guessing what would happen, the events when they came were beyond all prediction. That the order under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure prohibiting assemblies in public was not made applicable to the walled city and none of the responsible officers could go to Wazir Khan Mosque where the Deputy Superintendent of Police had been, murdered, was a tacit admission of the fact that the city had become out of bounds for the authorities responsible for the maintenance of order.

 

At 9 o’clock on the morning of 5th March the District Magistrate called a meeting of notables of the city with a view to persuading them to issue an appeal to the public to remain peaceful and to use their personal influence with the masses, but none agreed to be a party to any such course of action, and only a few women offered to go to the Wazir Khan Mosque. As the day advanced, incident after incident began to happen, involving attacks on the police and the Ahmadis and the looting and burning of property belonging to Government or to the Ahmadis. The order issued under section 144 prohibiting the gathering of five or more persons in public places was defied throughout the town and mobs collected everywhere, threatening and abusing persons in vehicles and in some cases pulling them out. Manzur Ahmad, an Ahmadi teacher of Baghbanpura, was stabbed to death and this was followed by some more murders and general loot and arson. Some Government omnibuses were completely burnt and two post offices were first looted and then burnt. One police vehicle was set on fire and six others damaged. Several private concerns were also looted. A police party which was taking some dead bodies for post-mortem examination to the Mayo Hospital, was met by a mob which attempted to seize the bodies in order to parade them before the public, and two constables received injuries in the fracas. Police were brickbatted in several and fired upon in two places, one head constable having been wounded with a bullet. A military patrol was also brickbatted outside Lohari Gate and it had to open fire. The police had to fire in several places during the day. Clerks of several offices including the Secretariat stopped work and came out.

 

The Islamia College students also left their classes and marched to the Dyal Singh College where they persuaded the students of that College to come out and join them.

 

They threw brickbats, breaking windows and panes and damaging the principal’s car. From the Dyal Singh College they went to the University Hall and from there to the Government College. No attempt was made to disperse them by force because the police appeared to be anxious to avoid a clash with students.

 

Cyclostyled posters appeared on the walls calling upon policemen to lay down their arms because the struggle against the Government was a jihad in which no Muslim could fire upon another Muslim.

 

Curfew was imposed by the District Magistrate prohibiting people from appearing on any road, street, lane, by-lane, thoroughfare or any other public place between 3-30 p. m. and 6 a. m. on 5th-6th March and between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. from 6th to 11th March 1953. This order applied to the whole town with the exception of a portion of the Civil Lines. The assembling of five or more persons in any public place and the carrying of arms at any time of the day or night within the aforesaid area were also prohibited in the aforesaid areas for a period of two months.

 

In the morning the Governor called a meeting of the Cabinet to which the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary, the General Officer Commanding the 10th Division and some Staff Officers, the Inspector-General of Police, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police were also summoned. To the Ministers and officers present at the meeting the Governor suggested use of force in strong measure as his experience in Bombay showed that if in the early stages of a disturbance a large number of rioters was killed, the trouble was nipped in the bud. After prolonged discussion the following decisions were reached at the meeting:—

 

(1) “In view of the deterioration of the situation in Lahore and a general flare-up in the city, in the first instance the police should take very strong action using any amount of force that may be necessary to quell disturbances.Police patrols will be supported by military contingents under their own Commanders”.

 

(2) “If the police cannot cope with any particular sector, the senior police officer present should hand over charge of the situation in that sector to the army Commander accompanying him”.

 

(3) “If the above measures fail to restore law and order and the police cannot keep the general situation under control with this partial aid by the military, the military will be asked to take over charge of the city”.

 

(4) “All steps should be taken to keep the morale of the Police Force high. They should be told that suitable awards will be given for gallantry and distinguished and conscientious discharge of duty. They should also be informed that in case of casualty while on duty, adequate compensation will be given to the next-of-kin. In the case of the late Sayyad Firdaus Shah, Government will award two squares of land in a colony district to his heirs”.

 

(5) “Efforts should be made, as far as possible, to isolate the students from the rioters”.

 

(6) “The public-spirited citizens representing all political parties will be addressed by His Excellency the Governor today and exhorted to use their influence to restore sanity in the city”.

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