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Munir Commission Report -8: Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan’s Speech in Jehangir Park

A meeting of Anjuman Ahmadiya, Karachi, was advertised to be held. In Jehangir Park, Karachi, on 17th and 18th May 1952, and Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan, foreign Minister, was mentioned as one of the speakers. Though, the meeting was held under the auspices of Anjuman Ahmadiya, it was a public meeting as any member of the public could be present to hear the proceedings. A few days before the meeting, Khwaja Nazimud-Din, the Prime Minister, expressed his disapproval of Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan’s intention to attend a sectional public meeting. Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan, however, told Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din that he was committed to the Anjuman but that if he had been advised earlier he would have refrained from attending the meeting. In view of his commitment, he said, he felt it his duty to speak at the meeting and that if the Prime Minister insisted on his not attending it, he could have his resignation.


The first session of the meeting was held under demonstration of public resentment and there were attempts to interfere with the proceedings. On the 18th May, however, special arrangements for preservation of order were made and Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan spoke on ‘Islam as a Live Religion’ (Islam zinda mazhab hai). The speech was a learned discourse on the superiority and finality of Islam as a world religion and the speaker made it clear that the Qur’an was the last revealed book, that it contained the final code for humanity, that this code was not to be abrogated or superseded by any subsequent code, that the prophet of Islam was khatim-un-nabiyin, who had given the last Divine message to humanity and that no prophet would ever appear with any new law or any law in supersession, abrogation, or repeal of the law contained in the Qur’an. The only reference in the speech to the Ahmadiya creed was in connection with the promise of the appearance of persons who would be commissioned by God for tajdid-i-din, namely, for reforming or renovating the original religion, with a view to preserving its purity and originality, and if mistakes, errors or innovations had crept into it, to removing them. Such renovator, he claimed, had appeared in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.


Concluding his speech, he said, that Ahmadiyyat was a plant implanted by God Himself, that this plant had taken root to provide a guarantee for the preservation of Islam in fulfilment of the promise contained in the Qur’an, that if this plant were removed, Islam would no longer be a live religion but would be like a dried up tree having no demonstrable superiority over other religions.


The meeting of Anjuman Ahmadiya provided an occasion for riots in Karachi.


The authorities had received previous information that attempts would be made to create disorder at the meeting and necessary arrangements for the maintenance of order had already been made. Some persons began throwing stones at the audience in an attempt to disturb the meeting on 17th May. Fifteen police constables received injuries, but the situation was controlled, the rioters arrested and the proceedings continued. On the following day a crowd of men gathered round the meeting and they had to be dispersed by tear gas. A group of rioters went to Shezan Hotel, an Ahmadi concern, where they broke window glasses and attempted to set fire to the building. The show room of Shahnawaz Motors, owned by an Ahmadi, was brickbatted and one new car damaged.


Attempt was also made to burn the Ahmadiya library and the shop of an Ahmadi manufacturer of furniture on the Bunder Road. Sixty persons were arrested on that day. After the riots, Mr. A. T. Naqvi, the Chief Commissioner, called a press conference at which he explained that his administrative policy was that every citizen of Pakistan had perfect freedom of religious belief and that any future attempt to interfere with such freedom, would, not be tolerated.


Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan’s action was intensely and widely resented by the Muslim public in Karachi and the Punjab, and there were strong protests against it. The weekly ‘Star’, Karachi, in its issue of 24th May, 1952, published on its front page an article under the heading ‘Foreign hand? Who directed Karachi riots?’ hinting that the riots were the result of the machinations of a foreign power. Some Ahmadi gentlemen of Lahore, including Mr. Bashir Ahmad and. Mr. Siddiqi, brother-in-law of Mirza Bashirud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, in their private talks gave expression to the view that the responsibility for the incident lay on the Prime Minister Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din. Mr. Zulqarnain Khan, S. P. (A), mentioned in his report on 28th May 1952 that persons arriving from Karachi, including Abdullah Butt of the U. K. Mission, had given out in Lahore that the disturbances had been manoeuvred by the Americans because Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan was pro-British and anti-American, and that the article in the ‘Star’ had been inspired by Abdullah Butt at the instance of the U. K. Mission. Commenting on these rumours on 1st June 1952, Mr. Anwar Ali, D. I. G., C. I. D., remarked that the Ahrar leader’s had for sometime past been giving out that the agitation against Chaudhri Zafrullah Khan which they were carrying on had the support of some high-ups in the Government and the Muslim League and that the Government’s omission to take firm and determined measures had been giving cause for belief that some members of the Government were sponsoring this chauvinistic movement. Mr. Qurban Ali Khan’s realistic approach to the problem was as under:—


“I do not think any Foreign Power would attach or has any need to attach so much importance to Pakistan as to consider it worth their while to run the risk of being caught meddling with its domestic affairs. Nor do I think any local politician has anything in particular to gain by fostering agitation against Sir Zafrullah Khan in person. They are all experienced enough to know that people capable of doing all this against Sir Zafrullah Khan today would be equally capable of doing something worse against them tomorrow. I do not think any politician, worth the name will inculcate such tactics amongst the masses. What may however be happening is just the fear of becoming unpopular with the Muslim masses by challenging the Ahrar on an issue when the popular support will not be with them. But it is at times like these that the need of a real leader in a country arises to lead the people and not just to be driven at the head of the herd all the time. The recent order by the Punjab Government to all District Magistrates to exercise stricter control over the Ahrar-Ahmadi meetings may have the desired effect of crushing things down. If this attempt also fails something more of the type of hitting on the head shall have to be forged and used.”


The Home Secretary hoped that the recent decision of Government which was being communicated to the District Magistrates would improve the situation but hinted that if it did not, something more drastic shall have to be done.


The Central Government took note of the happenings at Karachi, and the Intelligence Bureau by its letter No. 9/B/52 (25), dated the 22nd May 1952, to D. I. G., C. I. D., Punjab, Lahore, drew the attention of the latter to the trend of events which showed that feelings of animosity were being insidiously fanned against the Ahmadis by the Ahrar and that the lathi-charge on the crowd which had tried to create a disturbance at the annual meeting of the Ahmadis on l7th and 18th May had further exacerbated the Ahrar’s feelings. The letter proceeded to say that these developments were by no means satisfactory, that special measures were needed to curb the activities of persons who were fanning the flame and that such activities dearly fell within the purview of section 153-A of the Pakistan Penal Code. In reply the Chief Secretary to the Government of Punjab by his letter dated 4th July 1952, informed the Ministry of the Interior that the Provincial Government had by circular letter No. 6469-84/BDSB, dated 5th June 1952, instructed the District Magistrates to ban all public meetings organised by the Ahrar or the Ahmadis.