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Books and Documents ( 13 Apr 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Munir Commission Report: PART-30: The part played by the Muslim League leaders

Now the conclusions to be drawn from the evidence of these three persons are these. In the City Muslim League, Gujranwala, there are two rival groups, namely, the party of Mr. Aftab Ahmad and Mr. Manzur Hasan and the party of Sheikh Barkat Ali and Sheikh Muhammad Ashiq. The first party is in power and, reading between the lines, wishes to acquire control in the administration of the district. The second party which is not in power in the League but is in favour with the district officers wishes to oust the first party. Therefore, the first party in order to maintain itself in power must do something to enlist popular support, and could there be any better occasion for this party to make itself popular than khatm-i-nubuwwat and the consequent agitation against the Ahmadis? This party, therefore, considers it quite right to condemn the Government for having promulgated orders under section 144 to ban public meetings in mosques; it considers persons accused of having contravened such orders as heroes and demands, their immediate release; and it demands of the Government to withdraw those orders because they amount to interference in religion. In other words the City League instead of supporting the Muslim League Government and explaining to the people that mosques were being defiled by their being converted into places of public meetings by a political party opposed to the League, decides to condemn the Government because such condemnation was expected to make the party in power more popular and to defeat the designs of its opponent. For that purpose Mr. Manzur Hasan, the Secretary of the City League, would sign the Ahrar pledge, collect funds, lead processions and engage in every other activity under the programme of direct action. We don’t believe a word of this witness when he says that he did all these things under duress.

Qazi Murid Ahmad was a nonentity in Sargodha, paying no income-tax and owning only twenty kanals of land. Anyhow, the Muslim League had him elected to the Legislative Assembly. Being thus a creature of the Muslim League, he considers nothing improper in his becoming a dictator of the district council of action and leading in his district a revolt against the Muslim League Government. Nor does he feel anything unbecoming in his collecting a large gathering around him and jeering at the Prime Minister of Pakistan and his wife and abusing everybody in office. Such things are justified to him in the name of khatm- i-nubuwwat.

The part which is proved to have been taken by the Muslim Leaguers, both before and after the commencement of the disturbances, is not at all surprising. In fact, such activities on the part of the members of the Muslim League were a natural consequence of the Muslim League resolution and the speeches made by the President of the Provincial Muslim League. The word ‘canalise’ has been used in the evidence in reference to the activities of Mir Nur Ahmad, Director of Public Relations, but it can be used quite aptly to describe the effect of the Provincial Muslim League resolution and its repeated exposition in speeches and newspapers. When ceaseless propaganda in the press in favour of the demands and emphasis therein on their constitutional nature came to the notice of Dr. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, who happened to be on a visit to Lahore in July, 1952, and it was complained to him that this propaganda was being carried on in newspapers which had received large sums of money from Government and that the propaganda was being carried on by Mir Nur Ahmad, he sent for this officer who admitted before him that his object in doing what he had been doing was to ‘canalise’ the movement. This admission, though denied by Mir Nur Ahmad, must be held to be proved, and the only meaning that can possibly be attached to this quaint metaphor is that Mir Nur Ahmad had created a channel for the movement to run in and that the natural flow of this channel could only be towards Karachi, because Karachi was the centre both of All Pakistan Muslim League and the Central Government. All the evidence, oral as well as documentary, of which there is a mass, including numerous articles from newspapers and speeches, shows that, after the Muslim League’s resolution of 27th July, every one interested in the movement had come fully to comprehend the constitutional position that propaganda in the Provinces was useless and that unless the demands were brought in the regular manner before the Constituent Assembly, no tangible result could be expected from the agitation. All the energies of the parties, who were clamouring for the acceptance of the demands, were, therefore, diverted to the Central Government of which Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din was the head. If, therefore, Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din found himself unable to accept the demands, with the result that ‘direct action’ had to be resorted to and the disturbances broke out, the responsibility for what happened must as clearly be put on the Muslim League as on the All Pakistan Muslim Parties Convention which had formulated the demands and presented them to Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din at the point of pistol. During all this period, nothing was done by the Muslim League or any of its leaders to resist the movement or to offer to the people any counter-ideology. On the other hand, the Muslim League by its resolution had committed itself in such an irrevocable manner that, without bringing itself into utter contempt and unpopularity, it could not have subsequently gone back upon the view that it had formally expressed in its resolution and of which the best exponent was the President of the League himself. We have not the slightest doubt that there was more than one convincing reply to all this fuss and that if the Muslim League leaders had been able fully to comprehend the consequences following from the demands and had the capacity and the desire to save the Province from disgrace and ruination, they would have been able to do so. The Gujranwala and the Sargodha prosecutions and the Kup incident were object lessons, which, if properly taught, would have opened the public eye and weaned away people from an agitation that was being carried on by a few political adventurers to defeat the Government. We believe that our common man is essentially sound and that, though he is, as other people in the world are, religiously disposed, perhaps more than anyone else in the world, he is capable of understanding things in their true perspective if those things are properly placed before him. Honest and patriotic citizen of a new State as he is, he would have listened to our leaders if any effort had been made to explain to him the dangerous possibilities that underlay the current of popular feeling which had been aroused by a few politically frustrated men to wash their past sins. The man in the street could have understood, if properly told, that a political party, who were attempting to come into the field as a rival of the Muslim League, were using religion merely as a lever to raise themselves in the popular estimation and that they were making a fool of him.

The Gujranwala and Sargodha contraventions of the order under section 144 were very apt illustrations of the manner in which religion was being exploited for political purposes. At Sargodha a regular public meeting had been held in a mosque on a Friday at 10 o’clock, and nothing more was needed than a challenge to the organisers of that meeting to show that Juma prayers could be said at 10 o’clock, with the name of the President of the meeting and the list of speakers having been previously and formally announced. The same had been the case in Gujranwala. This meeting also had been announced by posters and loudspeakers on the preceding day by the Ahrar; it had been stated in these announcements that Ahrar leaders whose names were mentioned were coming from different places to address the gathering. The meeting was again announced by a person while the khatib was delivering the Khutba, and it was actually held after Juma prayers were over. If any effort had been made by the leaders of the Muslim League to expose these tactics of the Ahrar, we have not the slightest doubt that people would have revised their attitude and understood and appreciated the Government’s view.

Repeated appeals to democratic principles were made before us by learned counsel of the parties and it was vehemently urged that the demands were unanimous and that in a democratic country when a particular demand has such strong and universal support, the Government is bound to accede to it, irrespective of the consequences of its acceptance. It was said that our political leaders, who are elected by popular suffrage, are in their present positions merely because people have put them there and that therefore they are bound to act as their voters require them to do. The same principle has been reiterated before us on behalf of the Ministry and the Muslim League and it has been urged that in a representative form of Government a political leader can be described to be a representative of the people only if he respects and carries into effect the feelings, prejudices and aspirations of the people. We think that it is a poor ideal for our leaders to adopt. In a country where the bulk of the people are uneducated and only a small percentage of them is literates a recognition of this position would lead to the disconcerting result that our leaders must remain an embodiment of popular ignorance and prejudices and completely devoid of higher ideals. Where the elector knows the value of his vote and has the requisite sense and intelligence to understand problems peculiar to his country and broad world events and currents and has a sufficiently developed mind to form a right judgment on all matters of national concern, the leader has got to abide by the popular judgment or quit his office. But in a country like ours, we have little doubt that the true function of the leaders is to lead the people and not throughout be driven by them, as Mr. Qurban Ali Khan rightly put it: “at the head of the herd all the time”. It was this fear of becoming unpopular if anything bold or courageous was done that was mainly responsible for a complete absence of the ideology that was necessary to resist or prevent the movement which by its apparently religious appeal so rapidly permeated the masses.

We are, therefore, of the opinion that our leaders failed in their duty and that they found themselves completely unable to rise to the occasion which demanded foresight, wisdom and all the qualities of true statesmanship. Throughout the period not one popular leader dared appeal to the common sense of the citizen. Even when the conflagration was in its fury, not one of them condescended to talk to the people and to explain to them that they ware being misled to a course, the only immediate result of which could be the shattering of the country to pieces. The President of the Provincial Muslim League says that if it had depended on his will he would have done his beat to see that the demands were not raised because they were not fundamental in themselves nor immediately necessary and that it was inopportune to raise matters of domestic controversy till Pakistan was secure. But there is no evidence before us of any serious effort having been made to place this view before the public prior to the resolution of 27th July; nor is there any proof of any effort having been made to discourage or dissuade the Muslim League branches from giving prominence to this issue. On the contrary, the Provincial Muslim League itself called its annual meeting at an inopportune time and the President himself drew up the resolution that was adopted by the Councillors.

One more thing, which is of great importance, we must mention at this stage. By some peculiar arrangement, the principle of which we have not followed, the leader of the Provincial Muslim League is also the Chief Minister of the Province. It may, therefore, happen, and in this case it did happen, that the leader of the Muslim League was also incharge of the department of law and order. If the same man occupies two different positions, then it is inevitable that the decisions taken by him or his party on the political side should, if they have reference, direct or remote, to matters to be determined on the law and order side, influence his policy in the latter sphere. But the functions of a politicians are essentially different from an administrator. As a politician a person or party merely lays down the policy. An administrator, however, has to use, irrespective of any political considerations, the existing machinery of law in order to maintain peace and order and to repel all attacks on the safety of society. This point has been demonstrated in the inquiry to a degree which leaves no room for doubt that grave consequences may follow from such arrangements. One of the points mentioned in the election manifesto of the Muslim League was its abhorrence of the Punjab Public Safety Act and an undertaking by the League that this piece of legislation, which is generally supposed to be repressive, would be repealed. Now the Punjab Public Safety Act was enacted because in the existing circumstances abnormal legislation of this character was considered to be necessary, so that the executive may have sufficient reserve powers to act in an emergency, should it be pregnant with a serious threat to the public safety or the maintenance of order. Section 3 of that Act empowers the Government to detain a person if such course is considered by Government to be necessary to prevent the person concerned from acting in any manner prejudicial to the public safety or public order.

Section 5 of that Act, with the same object, enables the Government to make an order restricting the movements or activities of a person, including the order to restrain him from making public speeches. Section 6 of the Act gives to the Government extensive control on press and newspapers, but this control is only to be exercised to prevent a printer, publisher or editor of a newspaper from engaging in any activity prejudicial to the public safety or the maintenance of public order. Section 12 empowers a District Magistrate to prohibit the holding of any processions or demonstrations in any public place, or any public meeting. Section 21 declares it to be a punishable offence for a person to make any speech or to publish any statement, rumour or report, if such speech or publication causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm to the public, or if it defames or is likely to defame any Government in Pakistan or any servant of the Crown or if it furthers or is likely to further any activity prejudicial to the public safety or the maintenance of public order. Section 23 punishes the performance of any mock ceremony resembling any ceremony associated with or consequent upon death. Lastly, section 25 punishes a person who induces or attempts to induce any public servant or any servant of local authority to disregard or fail in his duties as such servant. These provisions of the Punjab Public Safety Act are in the nature of emergency legislation in the sense that they are to be used where the ordinary law fails and a grave danger to the peace and safety of the public is apprehended. The Act is intended to be used whenever a case for the use of these extraordinary powers exists because the ordinary law is insufficient to deal with the situation. Therefore, even though the Muslim League was against this piece of legislation, it was the duty of the leader of the League when he was incharge of law and order to use this extraordinary machinery if its use was considered by him to be necessary to remove any apprehended danger to public peace and order. Ever since the Ahmadi non-Ahmadi controversy began to assume the form of a threat to public peace and safety, action under one or the other provision of the Punjab Public Safety Act was recommended to the Ministry by officers who thought that recourse to such provisions was necessary, but when the matter came before the leader of the Muslim League in his capacity as Chief Minister of the Province, he took decisions which were dictated by the-Muslim League ideology, but which, looked upon from an administrative point of view, were wrong.

The record of the cases that were dealt with by the officers on the administrative side shows that recommendations were being made from time to time either to arrest a person under section 3 or to stop him from making speeches or to restrict his movements to a certain locality under section 5 or to prosecute him under section 21 for abusing high dignitaries of Government or for arranging their mock funerals, but the Punjab Public Safety Act was a hated Act to the politician and whenever any recommendation for taking action under that Act was made, it was looked upon with political spectacles and in the decisions taken the politician throughout dominated the administrator. An administrator in charge of law and order only looks at the law and order side of the step he is required to or wishes to take, while with the politician the first consideration is the effect of the proposed action on his own and his party’s popularity. An interesting illustration of this mentality is to be found in the view that the Adviser for law and order took on Mr. Anwar Ali’s recommendation of 30th December 1949 that certain Ahrar leaders be prosecuted under section 153-A of the Penal Code and section 21 of the Punjab Public Safety Act. Deciding against the proposed action Malik Muhammad Anwar, who was a politician, remarked that it was not advisable to take any action against the Ahrar “as the Muslims are very touchy on the point of Ahmadism and to prosecute the Ahrar for their vituperations against the Ahmadis would give them an air of martyrdom in the eyes of public which they do not deserve”. The same view was repeated by him subsequently, and Mr. Daultana throughout seems to have abhorred taking any action under the Punjab Public Safety Act where he thought that the action taken would be unpopular. In one of the cases he definitely ruled that he was not in favour of taking any action under the Punjab Public Safety Act and, thereafter, the officers to whom this Act came in handy for the preservation of public safety or the maintenance of public order ceased to bother themselves about it any longer. Now the principle of the politician, when he is acting as an administrator, that a certain action which is open under the law or which the exigencies of the case require to be taken under the law should not be taken because it would excite popular dissatisfaction, comes perilously near the proposition that if a murder is applauded by the public and the prosecution of the murderer would be resented by the public or would excite public sympathy with the accused, the murderer need not be punished. All suggestions or proposals for prosecution which came up before the Government in the course of the agitation appear to have been approached and decided on this principle. The case of contravention of orders under section 144 by organising public meetings in mosques is another instance. The Ahrar and the ulama could put up a plausible contention before the public that Government was prohibiting something being done in the mosques which was permitted or enjoined by their religion and that these orders of Government amounted to an encroachment on the religious rights of the people. We have already said that the allegation of interference with religion was false and an unfounded calumny on Government, but when no counter propaganda was done by Government agency to refute these allegations and the offenders became the object of public admiration and began to be considered as heroes, the Chief Minister concerned himself only with the possible reaction of this feeling on the position of the political party to which he belonged. And when the news of the Kup incident, in which the police had used force and caused some casualties, which use of force was subsequently found to be justified by a High Court Judge who held an inquiry into the incident, was received and public indignation over the incident gauged, the administrator completely surrendered himself to the politician and not only convicted offenders were released but pending cases and orders under section 144 were withdrawn, and after this no action of any kind seems to have been taken against the Ahrar or other agitators who were left free to carry on their propaganda in any form and to any extent that they liked.

The result, therefore, was that beyond warnings, which time out of number were administered to the Ahrar till their repetition became a joke, many warnings having been administered by different officers to the same man on different occasions, no effective action of any sort was taken.

Several prosecutions under section 153-A and section 295-A of the Penal Code were also recommended by several officers, and there can be no two opinions that offences under these two sections were committed by the parties whose prosecution was proposed, but no prosecution was ever ordered or launched, though there was at a very late stage a cryptic order that where an offence under the ordinary law has been committed the offender may be prosecuted. The result of the omission to take strong and effective action against those who were spreading a volume of hatred against the Ahmadis and their leaders is obvious. Faith is a matter for the individual and however, false, dishonest or ridiculous it may appear to be to another, it may still be held sincerely and honestly by the person who professes it, and we have not the slightest reason to doubt that the Ahmadis hold the founder of their community and its subsequent leaders including the present head in deep reverence. Any attack on these personalities must, therefore, have deeply wounded the religious susceptibilities of the Ahmadis. There can also be no doubt that the extent of propaganda, involving abuse and ridicule, that was being carried on on such a large scale throughout the Province, must have caused the Ahmadis to be looked upon with despise and hatred. Therefore, omission to take action against those who were responsible for poisoning the public feeling against a small community can only be attributed to a desire to avoid the taking of some step which might excite public dissatisfaction, however deep and grievous the injury to that community may have been. And all this was due to the Muslim League and its leaders’ desire to remain popular with the masses and not to do anything which by its repercussions on the electorate might throw the League out of office.

The same desire prompted Mr. Daultana to issue his statement of 6th March 1953.

That this statement was dishonest in the sense that it was no more than a political move taken in desperation to avert the imposition of Martial Law is admitted before us. The same is the conclusion to be drawn from the fact that subsequently this statement was withdrawn on 10th March by Mr. Daultana himself. Why was this statement then issued at all, and at a time when Mr. Daultana knew that the decision to impose Martial Law had either been actually taken or was about to be taken? The only answer can be that it was the desire to remain popular with the masses that dictated this step. Mr. Daultana did not give a moment’s thought to the implications of this statement and the extreme embarrassment that it was bound to cause, and did cause, to the Central Government, whatever straits the Central Government might be put, thought Mr. Daultana, he himself should do something which might make him popular.

PRESS

We have described and commented at length on the activities of the press during the relevant period. The worst offenders in this respect were the ‘Azad’, the ‘Zamindar’, the ’Ehsan’, the ‘Afaq’ and the ‘Maghribi Pakistan’. The first of these was a purely Ahrar paper, but the other four papers were certainly susceptible to Government influence because of the large aid they had received from Government. The ‘Afaq’ was practically Mr. Daultana’s own paper. In any case, it was directly under the control and supervision of Mir Nur Ahmad, who, as Director of Public Relations, was in matters of policy subject to the control of Mr. Daultana. We cannot imagine, as Dr. Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi could not, that Mr. Daultana was not aware of the nature and volume of stuff that these papers were pouring out during this long period. If the article in the ‘Afaq’ of 1st June was representative of its past attitude towards the movement, then it was till then taking a sensible view of the controversy; but in early July there came a sudden change in its policy and it started not only devoting unusual attention to the agitation but entirely changed its views on the subject, and in their policy and argument its articles began to present complete coincidence with the resolution of the Muslim League and the speeches of Mr. Daultana. Probably it borrowed its views from the resolution and the speeches, but it is equally possible, though there is no direct evidence of it, that there was some collaboration between Mr. Daultana and Mir Nur Ahmad, who was controlling the policy of this paper, with the object of diverting the direction of the storm to Karachi. In any case, this was the natural effect of the articles which this paper wrote after the Provincial Muslim League's resolution of 27th July.

The “Zamindar’s” popularity and circulation is stated to have been due to its constant abuse and ridicule of the Ahmadis. We, however, do not believe that if the Director of Public Relations, in view of the substantial help that Government had given to this paper, had wished to control its activities, it would have persisted in its attitude, particularly in view of the relations that existed between Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan and Mr. Daultana himself. The ‘Ehsan’ and the ‘Maghribi Pakistan’ could certainly not have afforded to displease the Director of Public Relations. The Government aid to the former was a sheer windfall, and in view of its small publication the contribution to the latter was substantial. These papers also carried on a vigorous propaganda in favour of the demands, with the result that it began to be more and more clearly recognised that to have the demands accepted it was necessary either to convert Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din to them or to threaten him into submission.

In an earlier part of the report we have reproduced the substance of the articles which these newspapers wrote on the controversy. The unusual interest that they took in the subject by repeatedly writing on it and the manner in which they attempted to justify the demands clearly show that their intention was to fan the agitation and to make it as much widespread as they could. Not one word is to be found anywhere in the columns of these papers to discourage or disapprove of what was happening in the Province in this connection. Publication of long and argumentative articles to show that Ahmadis were a separate community, sensational news of events and incidents connected with the agitation, results of interviews, speeches made in meetings and of resolutions passed in mosques and elsewhere could only lead to the spread and accentuation of the agitation, and this result was not only known to these papers but must have been intended by them. Further, the point sought to be made by these papers that the demands were within the cognisance of the Centre could only have the effect of diverting the course of the

agitation to Karachi. Earlier we have accepted the allegation against the Director of Public Relations that he was a party to this policy of ‘canalising’ the movement towards Karachi, and all these papers who were, with the exception of the ‘Azad’, under an obligation to the Director of Public Relations and susceptible to his influence, seem to have borrowed their policy in this respect from him. They were, therefore, all responsible for the situation that was created by the rejection of the demands and, therefore, for the consequent disturbances.

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