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Munir Commission Report- Part 38: The Final Phase

This phase opens with the Chief Secretary’s letter of the 21st February, 1953 to Mr. G. Ahmad, Secretary for the Interior. After dwelling on the sins of the Ahrar during the recent past, it informs the Centre that direct action is supposed to start at Karachi on the 23rd February

in the form of picketing of Ahmadi shops, and that volunteers will be sent from the Punjab and other provinces. On the 16th February, the Prime Minister was greeted with a hartal and black flags, and at a public meeting the same day, while the speakers were careful to emphasise that violence should not be resorted to, they were at pains to excite and inflame public feeling. The police were being reminded to remember the Day of Judgment when dealing with civil disobedience. Shopkeepers had been forced to close shops against their will and those who did not do so had their faces blackened. Two incidents resulting in violence had taken place. Law abiding citizens could not disapprove of demonstrations for fear of being labelled as Ahmadis. A depot holder in Lahore refused to sell wheat to an Ahmadi woman until she had given an undertaking to take part in an agitation against her own people.

But, concluded the letter, as the agitation was not confined to this province and the demands did not fall within the provincial sphere, the Government feel “very handicapped in dealing with the situation effectively” and think that it will considerably strengthen their hands if the Central Government could enunciate the firm policy that they want to adopt with reference to these demands. Whatever this policy may be * * * * * the Provincial Government feel that they are strong enough to implement that policy within the province”.

We have not reproduced all the instances of lawlessness mentioned in the letter, but what we have reproduced should suffice to indicate the gravity of the situation at least in February. It is evident that even at this stage the Government of the Punjab is not willing to control the law and order position effectively unless the Centre announce their policy in respect of the demands. But was it not clear enough that the policy of the Centre was to make no declaration one way or the other and to insist that aggressive sectarianism should be suppressed with a heavy hand? Is there any instance of suppression available, to say nothing of suppression with a heavy hand, up to the 26th February? The Azad and the Zamindar had become shrill-throated with calumny and Mir Nur Ahmad waited till the agitation should take the form of law-breaking.

Chief Secretary’s letter to Centre on

21-2-63 asking for “firm policy”.

But Centre’s policy was known.

On receipt of the letter Kh. Nazim-ud-Din summoned a meeting of Governors and Chief Ministers for the 26th February, and both Mr. Chundrigar and Mr. Daultana excused themselves for different reasons. Whether the reasons were good or bad, Kh. Nazim-ud-Din was not convinced and spoke to Mr. Daultana on the telephone. It was then decided that the Punjab Government’s views would be placed before the Central Cabinet by the Revenue Minister, Ch. Muhammad Hussain Chatha, who would be accompanied by Mr. Ghias-ud-Din Ahmad and Mr. Anwar Ali. We are not interested here in all the details of the conferences which took place on the 26th evening and during the small hours of the 27th, except to the following extent. In the evening conference, Mr. Chatha said the Punjab Government’s view was that it could not yield to the movement and that whatever be the decision, it would be implemented by Punjab. It might be necessary to resort to shooting and firing, and this could be done only with the full backing of the Centre. Khan Abul Qayyum Khan “backed” the view of the Punjab and said that the movement should be crushed.

Khawaja Shahab-ud-Din “supported” him and said that Government should not give way to mullas on a definitely wrong issue. Kh. Nazim-ud-Din did not agree to crushing the Mullas and offered to resign. No decision could be taken and the meeting was postponed to the following morning. At 1-15 a.m., however, everybody was roused from sleep and Kh. Nizam-ud-Din told them that he had received an ultimatum that his house would be picketed at 7 o’clock. He had also learnt that the Ulama were not all agreed, and for that reason mainly he had decided to accept the challenge and to order the arrest of the Council of Action before daybreak. He refused to make any declaration about the demands and said he would deal with the question on the purely law-and-order level. This is the report of Mr. Chatha to his Government on return from Karachi, and forms Appendix No. 55 to Mr. Daultana’s written statement.

Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din agrees with most of it except that according to him Mr. Chatha was quite definite that the demands should be rejected. He adds that even Mr. Daultana had told him

during the telephonic conversation of the 25th February that his Cabinet had decided that

the demands should be rejected. Mr. Daultana insists, however, that Mr. Chatha’s authority was confined to submitting, not that the demands were reactionary, but that the manner of presentation of the demands was reactionary. But if that was the view of the province, why did Mr. Chatha insist on a pronouncement as to the demands? If this distinction between the merits of the demands and the manner of their presentation had not been sought to be drawn now, Mr. Chatha’s memorandum would have led us to think that he objected to the demands themselves. For his view was that the Punjab Government could not yield to the “movement” and Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan, “backing” the view of the Punjab, said that the movement should be crushed. Khawaja Shahab-ud-Din “supported” him and said that Government should not give way to the Mullas. Consequently, the view of the Punjab, which was “backed” and “supported” by two other gentlemen, would be Karachi Conference 26-2-53

Mr. Chatha’s version.

Interpretation of Mr.

Chatha’s version.

Kh. Nazim-ud-Din.

 

Mr. Daultana. the view that Government should not give way to the Mullas, which means that the demands should be rejected. Khan Sardar Bahadur Khan says nothing about this conference, but speaking about the conference of the 8th, 9th and 10th August 1952, he ascribes to Mr. Daultana the view that the demands were unreasonable and should be rejected. Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar says both Mr. Chatha and Khan Abdul Qayyum Khan strongly expressed the view that the “movement” should be put down. It depends on what the “movement” means. If it means the anti- Ahmadi movement, as it should, it consists of nothing but the three demands; but if it

means the more recent development—the Direct Action—then it leaves the demands out. For the purpose of our enquiry, we do not see anything that Mr. Daultana gains by this insistence, and if there is a political advantage in making it clear to the people that Mr. Daultana still believes in the merits of the demands, or at least that he does not disbelieve in them, then we do not know.

Therefore we proceed. Now although Kh. Nazim-ud-Din was reluctant to make a public declaration that he was rejecting the demands, he agreed, on the same day, to the issue of a secret telegram, to all provinces defining the attitude of the Central Government towards the demands. It said that neither could a section of the people be declared a non-Muslim minority against their wish nor could an Ahmadi official or the Foreign Minister be removed from their offices on the ground of religion. It added that the Central Government did not propose making an official declaration, but that Provincial Governments should organise intensive publicity on these lines immediately and give proper guidance to the press. At the same time a communique was issued to the press, explaining the history of the Ahrar and making it clear that it was not the intention of Government to allow itself to be coerced by direct action and that law and order would be maintained with all the resources at its command.

Two things should be borne in mind at this stage. The first is that Mr. Chatha and the two officers accompanying him made it clear that they could deal with the situation in the Punjab; the second is that on the 27th February they knew the express attitude of the Centre towards the demands and that other officers and Ministers in the Punjab knew it a day later.

When Mr. Chatha and his party returned to Lahore, a meeting was held at Mr. Daultana’s house and certain decisions taken in the light of undertakings given at Karachi, (Annex. J. to Home Secretary’s written statement). All active Ahrar were to be arrested under section 3 of the Public Safety Act in accordance with a list furnished to each District Magistrate, and the ‘Zamindar’, the ‘Azad’ and the ‘Alfazl’ Khan Sardar Bahadur Khan.

Sardar A. R. Nishtar

A distinction without difference.

Attitude of Centre to Demands. 27-2-53.

Decisions at Chief

Minister’s house on

28-2-1953.

were to be banned. A circular letter was issued by the Chief Secretary to all District Magistrates on 28th February, asking them to keep a vigilant eye on the situation but not to order “further arrests” unless local circumstances create an absolute necessity for such action and there is no time for previous consultation. There has been a good deal of argument over this restriction placed as regards further arrests, but Mr. Daultana claims that this was not what was decided at the meeting, and since it is not mentioned in the decisions of the 27th February, wa agree that Mr. Daultana cannot be asked to account for this part of the letter, which was issued by the Chief Secretary without being seen by Mr. Daultana. The issue of a letter can certainly be entrusted to a Chief Secretary and if it contain matter in excess of instructions, the responsibility is not that of the Minister. Next, there is some controversy about the stoppage of volunteers from proceeding to Karachi, but we do not attach much importance to it as any failure to take action on this score did not lead to any serious consequences. Mr. Anwar Ali says that it was decided at Karachi on the 27th February that the Provincial Government should stop volunteers from proceeding to Karachi and that on return to Lahore he recorded the various decisions and handed them over to the Home Secretary for issuing necessary directions to District Magistrates. This was apparently done, and it seems to have been left to District Magistrates to use persuasive methods or to arrest them. On the 2nd of March, however, he received instructions from the Chief Minister through the Private Secretary, Mr. Zakir Qureshi, that as the stopping of volunteers had caused excitement in these districts, arrests should be avoided and only persuasive methods used. He therefore telephoned to the D. I. G. at Multan, that if persuasive methods failed, volunteers were to be allowed to proceed to Karachi. In that case, they would be arrested by the Karachi and Sind administrations. Mr. Daultana says his instructions were misunderstood. What he meant was that arrests in big towns were not advisable and should be carried out at wayside stations between Lahore and Lodhran. On the 3rd March, when the Home Secretary told him these instructions had caused confusion, he made the position clear. It is true that Malik Habibulla, S. P. (C. I. D.’s) note, which conveys the instructions as Mr. Anwar Ali has described them, was signed by the Chief Minister on the 9th March, without any objection as to their accuracy, but Mr. Daultana says by that time it would have been infractuous to point out the mistake.

Mr. Anwar Ali stated that so far as he was aware, only two jathas left for Karachi.

The first under Sahibzada Faiz-ul-Hasan had left before the instructions of the 28th February were issued; the second was stopped at Lodhran. Now although Kh. Nazim-ud-Din says the Karachi and Sind administrations were repeatedly complaining of the flow of volunteers from the Punjab, his evidence is based on hearsay and should not be used for any firm decision. This, however, must be said that for a time the instructions as to volunteers were relaxed at the instance of the Chief Minister.

Volunteers. Mr. Daultana’s revised instructions.

The telegram conveying the attitude of ‘the Centre towards the demands was not used by the Punjab Government in the manner desired by the Centre, and this failure was almost solely the result of Mir Nur Ahmad’s invisible effort. It will be recalled that Provincial Governments were requested (1) to organise Intensive publicity “on these lines” and (2) to give proper guidance to the press. The Home Secretary sent for prominent editors and spoke to them what attitude should be adopted towards the demands, without disclosing the source of his inspiration. He then sent a copy of the telegram to the Director of Public Relations “for necessary action”, with the following note: “I addressed also a body of press conference to which the editors of various local dailies had been invited and in consultation with the Chief Secretary. I spoke to them about the attitude of Government without of course revealing the source and made it clear to them that this talk was strictly off the record”.

Mir Nur Ahmad merely communicated the contents of the telegram unofficially to newspaper editors. But when he was asked whether, after reading the Home Secretary’s note, he did not feel that this was what the Home Secretary himself had done, and that the reason why the telegram had been forwarded to him for necessary action was with a view to organising “intensive publicity,” he replied: “I did nothing beyond communicating the views of the Centre to the editors of the newspapers”.

Nor were contents of the telegram communicated to District Magistrates to enable them to know what the much-longed for attitude of the Central Government was, but that, as Mr. Daultana rightly contends, was the business of the Chief Secretary.

Nor did Mr. Daultana himself make any effort to mobilise “the enormous influence, prestige and organisation of the Muslim League which was throughout the agitation immobilised and in confusion.” The words are Mr. Daultana’s own. The reason he gives for this omission is that there was no time for mobilising public opinion. He admitted that it was not expected on the 27th February that something very drastic was going to happen in the near future, “but it is quite possible that if we had called a meeting of the League Council, we might not have been able to influence and convince them”. We believe this is quite true and it was as true on the 27th February 1953 as on the same day a year earlier. It was, therefore, idle to contend that an earlier declaration by the Centre would have made all the difference to the peace of the province, so far as it lay with the efforts of the Muslim League. But Mr. Daultana gives another reason for inaction. “Further, every Muslim Leaguer was bound by party discipline to hold himself aloof from civil disobedience and it would have made no difference to him if he had been told in addition that the policy of Government was to reject the demands”. It is overlooked that this was merely a negative and individual duty: the positive duty would be to organise a collective effort to persuade others also to adopt the same view. Publicity was not given to the attitude of Centre on desired lines.

D. P. R. did nothing.

Nor did the Chief Secretary.

Nor did Mr. Daultana.

The rest of the story leading to Martial Law is that although procession-staging started in Lahore right on the 28th February, 1953, when the “leaders” were arrested, prohibitory order under section 144, Cr. P. C., was not promulgated until after the events of the 2nd March and even then the “walled city” was left out. Earlier the same day, the Home Secretary requested the G. O. C. 10th Division, Lahore Cantonment (Major-General Muhammad Azam Khan) “for the aid of troops to help the District Magistrate of Lahore in the prevention and suppression of disorder. The troops came and struck camp in Bagh-i-Jinnah, and military patrols, accompanied by Magistrates, began patrolling the city. On the evening of 3rd March, the Inspector-General reported to the Chief Minister that “half the battle was won”, but this proved to be an over-optimistic estimate, for on the following evening a Deputy Superintendent of Police was stabbed to death with numberless blows at the foot of Wazir Khan Mosque, an important institution within the walled city, where Maulana Abdus Sattar Niazi had entrenched himself a few days earlier and from where he preached violence and lawlessness, unmolested by authority. The civil officers, who generally waited for processions to meet them at the Charing Cross (apparently to prevent them from proceeding to the Government House) and who used to hold consultations in the evening at the Civil Lines Police Station, rushed this time to the Kotwali—which is a different place from the Wazir Khan Mosque and is outside the walled city. Almost daily, and sometimes more often, the civil and military officers met the Ministry and the Governor at the Government House, which was regarded as the safest place next to the Civil Lines Police Station. On the 5th March, following the murder of the police officer, there were held at the Government House three different meetings—in the forenoon, afternoon and evening—and some important decisions were taken in the first of these. It was decided that the police should use force more lavishly, and in certain circumstances might hand over a particular situation to the troops. The second meeting was a conference with prominent citizens, including Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi, who insisted on a statement being issued that negotiations will be resumed with the Ulama. What exactly he said is again the subject of controversy, which, however, does not concern the present subject. The third meeting is understood by some officers to have resulted in an order to relax firing—the word used is “let-up”. Almost every officer including the Chief Minister says that Mr. Chundrigar presided over this meeting also, as he did over the other two, but according to Mr. Chundrigar, if any such meeting did take place, it must have been in some part of the Government House where he was not present. This difference in evidence affects only the question whether it was Mr. Chundrigar or some one else who suggested a “let-up” in firing. It is supposed to have been acted upon and to have demoralised the police force.

Meanwhile, in the city, people were burning public vehicles, post offices and shops; railway employees themselves prevented movement of engines from loco-shed to station, clerical staff, principally in the Secretariat and the Accountant-General’s office Events after 28th February.

Abdus Sattar Niazi at Wazir Khan mosque.

Three meetings at Government House, 5th Match (two very religious bodies) struck work and became insolent, a threat to cut off electricity from the Government House was brazenly communicated on the telephone, and, in the name of the Prophet of Islam, a few Ahmadis were also killed. Some said firing should cease; others said a statement should be issued.

Then somehow, notwithstanding the confusion in the Government House and the city, there dawned upon most of us the morning of the 6th of March, and every important person went to the Government House. We know that before midday Mr. Daultana issued the famous statement conceding the demands so far as he went and recommending to the Centre to act likewise. Within an hour, the Centre imposed Martial Law in Lahore, and law-abiding citizens breathed with relief. The most important points which arise for discussion during this period are the following:—

I. Whether a prohibitory order should have been issued earlier than the evening of 2nd March;

II. Whether it should have been applied to the walled city also;

III. Whether the situation at Wazir Khan Mosque was properly handled;

IV. Whether any “let-up” in firing was decided upon, and if so, with what effect;

V. Whether there was proper liaison with the troops, and whether the troops showed any unwillingness to act;

VI. Whether Martial Law could be avoided.

I. Use of section 144, Cr. P. C.

We made it clear during the progress of the enquiry to most of the civil officers that in our opinion the very first thing that should have occurred to them after arresting the leaders was the imposition of a prohibitory order, but since they contended, expressly and impliedly, that the situation had no appearance of seriousness until the evening of the 2nd March, we proceed to give in brief the version of the Senior Superintendent of Police as to the incidents of the 28th February and the 1st March.

28th February 1953—A procession of five or six thousand persons formed outside Delhi Gate and marched to the Civil Secretariat, uttering anti-Government, antipolice and anti-Ahmadi slogans. They kept us engaged for half an hour or more and were dispersed with difficulty. The whole day small processions were coming and created a problem for the administration. Small bands of the Ahrar were joined by the riff-raff, forcing reluctant shopkeepers to close their shops. In one of the bigger processions, as the mobs surged towards the Charing Cross, shops on the Mall were closed, traffic came to a standstill and law-abiding citizens shut themselves up in houses and shops. This mob consisted mostly of the riff-raff and hooligans, though, as I have said in my written statement, they had a “high tone of religious sentiment”, by which I meant that they were shouting the kalma and the takbir.

1st March 1954.

There were at least four processions, two of them being pretty big ones. The first big one was taken from outside Delhi Gate. Maulvi Ahmad Ali and thirty-two other men were arrested. The crowd was hostile and furious and had damaged one of the police vehicles with brickbats. In the second procession twenty-nine persons were arrested. In the third, twenty-three were arrested. Small processions were taken throughout the city.

They melted away when police contingents arrived and reformed themselves when the police departed, thus keeping us on the run throughout the day. Lastly, a big procession was taken out in the afternoon from Delhi Gate, joined on its route by goondas, swelling to formidable numbers and giving itself the character of a mob intent to take the law into their own hands. Shops were again closed, business came to a standstill, traffic was paralysed and law-abiding people shivered with apprehension of their own safety. Section 144, Cr. P. C. was promulgated on the 2nd March in circumstances which are thus stated in Home Secretary’s telegram of 9th March to the Centre, giving the week’s events.

“On March 2 the agitators took out processions which converged on Charing Gross. The main procession was led by Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan of Zamindar against whom a detention order under Public Safety Act had been issued earlier but who could not be apprehended as he was most of the time in Wazir Khan Mosque. The demonstrators were very rowdy and in a threatening mood. They broke police cordon many times and mild lathi charge was made to repel them. A large number of people offered themselves for arrest. When eventually mobs withdrew, it was reported that some of them threw small stones at Shezan Restaurant owned by an Ahmadi. No damage, however, was done. It was decided at this to promulgate an order under section 144, Cr. P. C. banning public processions in the affected parts of the city.”

The difference between the happenings of the 2nd March and those of two earlier days appears to be this, that on the former day there was more display of lawlessness at the Charing Cross, where the civil officers waited as a befitting terminus. Hitherto, apparently, the procession had dispersed at the terminus, but as Mr. Qurban Ali Khan said somewhere, one lawlessness breeds another, and on the strength of the respectability which they had attained by reason of two previous performances, they refused to recognize the incidents of a terminus. But we do not see why the situation as a whole should have been viewed with sang-froid on the two previous days merely because at a certain point the processions were not so rowdy, though throughout the rest of the day they had caused considerable anxiety to the administration.

The most sanguine of the officers concerned was the District Magistrate, Mr. Ejaz Husain Shah, and if we ourselves had not been in Lahore on the 6th of March, we might well have believed after reading his statement, that Martial Law had not been in fact imposed. He 2nd March.

2nd March was not much worse than two preceding days.

District Magistrate’s estimates. started with saying that he did not expect trouble after the arrests made on the 28th February, and as this appeared to us to be a very light estimate of the 28th February, we put to him the following questions. We reproduce both the questions and answers, because they themselves are the best explanation of their own pertinency.

Q.—“You thought that after the arrests there would be no protests, no hartals, no public meetings, no processions and no rowdyism?”

Ans.—“Yes, I did.”

Q.—“Is it for this reason that you did not make an order under section 144?”

Ans.—“The main reason was that I was not advised to impose it. It was first considered on the 2nd March. If I had made an order earlier, it would have restricted civil liberties.”

This is not one answer, if you think of it. It means, firstly, if somebody had told him to impose it on the 28th February, he would have done so. It means, secondly, that no one thought of it until the 2nd March. It means, thirdly, that even if rowdyism is expected, the resultant lawlessness will be tolerated in the larger interest of civil liberties.

We think the Code of Criminal Procedure should define the vague line between liberty and licence.

 

Q.—“If Government decide to arrest the sponsors of a movement don’t you see any ground for stopping demonstrations in favour of that movement?”

Ans.—“It all depends upon the circumstances. If very popular leaders are arrested, there may be reaction warranting action, but if non-entities are arrested, there may be no reaction at all.”

The persons arrested, according to him, were non-entities; “The impression was that whatever was to be done, would be done in Karachi.” We think that shows the cat’s face some little way out of the bag. The Punjab administration was hopeful that the flow of volunteers would be to Karachi and, as the sword-arm, formerly of India, now of Pakistan, the Punjab will supply recruits, Mr. Ejaz Husain admits, however, that on 28th February at least he came to know that Lahore also would become the centre of trouble, though at the same time he knew that the agitators would not have any following worth the name, because the first meeting held on the 28th was attended by very few persons.

This would not appear to be consistent with the estimate of the Senior Superintendent of Police.

But even as regards the period preceding 28th February, Mr. Ejaz Husain’s memory had to be refreshed from his own fortnightly reports before he admitted that “fiery speeches calculated to excite the fanatic section of the audience” were made during the first half of February, when he counselled Government that “in the event of the slightest appearance of an ugly situation, strong counteracting measures to preserve peace and order” will have to be taken. These pious platitudes are generally expressed in confidential diaries to impress upon Government how jealously the situation is being guarded, but Mr. Ejaz Husain now agrees that this was the correct position. Consequently, it will be assumed that what happened! on the Situation was ugly even before 28th February.

28th February and the 1st March had not “the slightest appearance of an ugly situation.” It must be a big situation to be ugly enough. There must be a non-non-entity like Akhtar Ali Khan as the presiding genius of the situation before it becomes ugly enough for a prohibitory order.

To carry his point, he said there was only one procession on the 28th February and one on the 1st March. There must have been three or four hundred men in each. Then he was confronted with his confidential report for the second half of February, according to which the number of men was six thousand. “But this is merely an oral estimate of all persons collected at that place.” As though the present were a written estimate. And, after all, what is a procession, but a number of “all persons collected” at a place? Consequently it would have been better to say that his present estimate must be wrong due to lapse of time. Then as to the number of processions, when confronted with his written statement, he admitted that there may have been between five and eight on the 1st March “but there was one main procession. * * * * * The fact that thirty persons were arrested is no indication of an ugly situation.” But we do think this constant criticism of evidence, this halt at every line to test its veracity, itself creates an ugly situation. We are not used to such, obstruction. We are not amused by it.

Mr. Mazhar Ali Azhar, counsel for the Ahrar, believing that a procession, if stopped before it has time to get multiplied with numbers, does not lead to any appreciable lawlessness, questioned the District Magistrate as to why the procession which was born out of the Akbari Gate meeting was allowed to go to the mosque. The answer was that there was no point in arresting innocent persons before they contravened the law. We think there is such a thing as a preventive measure before the law is actually contravened, and that is more important for a District Magistrate to remember, but any obsession as to “civil liberties” and the previous “innocence of an intending law-breaker will seriously obstruct his important duties. Asked why thirty persons had been arrested later from the procession, he replied that they had obstructed traffic and were determined to commit a breach of the peace. He had not said so in his written statement because he did not consider it “worthwhile” to mention that they were arrested because they were determined to commit a breach of the peace. In respect of the incidents of the 2nd March, however, he did consider it “worthwhile” to say in his written statement that the processionists were “inclined to violence.”

But if the procession of the 1st March was determined to commit a breach of the peace, then in character it was not different from the procession of the 2nd March, and there is consequently reason to think that circumstances existed for the imposition of section 144 earlier.

District Magistrate (continued).

Duty of a District

Magistrate to know meaning of preventive action.

Mr. Anwar Ali says it was the opinion of the officers that if the processions were allowed to be taken out, although it was not unlikely that they would lead to violence, a contingency would not arise for sometime at any rate to use section 144. This view is in some degree on a par with that of Mir Nur Ahmad that action against a newspaper should be delayed until its conduct results in law-breaking. This, in our opinion, is not a sound idea of what is called “preventive” action. Asked why he did not ban processions, Mr. Anwar Ali resorted to a technical answer that this is the function of the District Magistrate, adding, however, that processions in Lahore were taken out quite frequently without causing serious thought. He was further asked whether it would not have made a difference if processions had been prohibited from the very outset, and he replied: “It is difficult to guess the situation that would have arisen. The movement was not under proper leadership. It was in the hands of irresponsible persons and therefore it is not safe to predict what course the movement might have taken.” We should have thought there was stronger reason for nervousness if even the leaders were irresponsible persons.

Mirza Naeem-ud-Din, the Senior Superintendent of Police, when confronted with the written statements of Mr. Anwar Ali and Mr. Ejaz Husain that the processions of the 1st March were peaceful, remarked that this opinion could not be correct because at least one of these processions broke a police truck.

But he was of the opinion that it would have made no difference if section 144 had been promulgated earlier, because even when it was promulgated, it was disobeyed. When we put it to him whether it is not the correct position that when action is delayed, people begin to think that the right to take action is lost by laches, he replied that, looking at the matter in this perspective he did think now that if the prohibitory order had been passed on the 28th February, people would have believed the Government to be serious about its business. We are convinced that there is some force in what we suggested to Mirza Naeemud-Din. We are not relying merely on what is called mobpsychology.

This is a very common process of the human mind.

Action delayed is action impaired. Then it also happens that, in cases of the kind with which we are dealing, by the time you decide to take action, the other party has worked itself into such a frame of mind as to make it oblivious of the consequences. Lastly—and the report on the Multan firing also tried to impress this obvious fact—if the authorities are of the opinion that an order under section 144, Cr. P. C. is necessary, and promulgate such an order, “then failure to meet its disobedience is no evidence of a sound administration and is bound to lead, sooner or later, to disastrous consequences, such as were in evidence on the morning of the 19th of July.”

D.I.Gs. explanation

S. S. P.’s view.

Action, delayed is action impaired.

If an order under section 144, Cr. P. C. was necessary, whose duty was it to pass such an order? In other districts, clearly, it is the duty of the District Magistrate, and that is plain law. He would normally be guided by the advice of the Superintendent of Police. But in Lahore, there are also the Inspector-General of Police, who is responsible for internal security, the Home Secretary, the Chief Secretary, the Minister in charge of Law and Order, whose presence might almost make of the District Magistrate an obedient automaton who brings in his pocket a cut-and-dried order when he attends a conference, to be taken out and signed if necessary, to be retained in the pocket if not necessary. For the District Magistrate says: “When I went to the Officers’ meeting on the 1st March, I took a mere draft order under section 144, not because I thought it was necessary to impose it but because I thought occasion might arise for it”. In order words, he himself did not think there was any occasion for it, but if somebody said it should be promulgated, he would do so. “Section 144, was mentioned, but I cannot say who mentioned it. One thing I had clear in my mind, that under the Lahore Emergency Disturbances Scheme I should have been approached by the police for the imposition of section 144. On the 2nd March, the police did not approach me, but I did it entirely on my own initiative. I put it in the meeting and they all said ‘yes’”.

But that is not correct, and you will agree with us if you read the record of a meeting held at the Chief Minister’s house at 8 p.m. on the 2nd of March (Ex. D. E. 305), where the District Magistrate was also present. “The I. G. and the Home Secretary, who had witnessed the incidents at the Charing Cross gave a resume of the situation. The I. G. suggested imposition of section 144, in Lahore minus the walled city. This view was supported by every one and it was decided to promulgate the order”.

That is why we said in the introductory portion of this Part that the District Magistrate takes upon himself greater responsibility than the situation warrants. This should elicit admiration from us if only we could be certain that responsibility is not being assumed nominally, that it is not being assumed merely to avoid a greater responsibility—the failure to pass an order on the 28th February or the 1st of March. If he took a draft order with him on the 1st March, he either felt that there was occasion for it or went ready merely to act as an obedient automaton. In either case he has not discharged his responsibility. If he had said frankly, as Mirza Naeem-ud-Din did, that in a place like Lahore and in a situation like this, he would not pass an order under section 144, if the Inspector-General or the Home-Secretary disapproved of it, even if he thought it was necessary, we would have been prepared to accept his explanation as reasonable.

But in order to justify the failure on the 28th February and the 1st March he had to take an untenable position, which had consequently to be shifted as occasion arose. Mr. Daultana takes no responsibility for the order of the 2nd March or for the omission to pass it earlier. “I do not agree that beeause the District Magistrate and the Senior Superintendent of Police were

Section 144—whose duty?

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/munir-commission-report--part-38--the-final-phase/d/2757


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