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Munir Commission Report-Part 40: Liaison with the Troops

When we read the written statements of the civil officers, we formed a strong impression that these unfortunate incidents could have been avoided if the army had been anxious to help, and that the reason why it was not anxious was that the military officers wanted complete control. It naturally struck us as a very unhappy position that there should be any such formality between two forces pursuing the same end. But we were agreeably surprised to find from the evidence led before us that although every witness felt that the troops had not given of their best, they based their feeling on what they had heard from some other person. Ultimately, some of them referred us to the District Magistrate, and the District Magistrate told us he was perfectly satisfied with the part played by the troops.

 

We start with Mr. Chundrigar, because if the officers did not get on well with each other, there should have been a complaint to the Governor.

 

He said that on the 6th of March, General Azam thought that the situation should be handed over to the military, and that there was an implied complaint that the police were not dealing firmly with the situation. There was also a complaint by the police that troops were not placed at their disposal in the numbers they wanted. To that, General Azam replied that whenever any request was sent by them, he had placed all the force at his command at the disposal of the police. This part of the complaint, it should be clear, has no reference to the quality of the aid given. Mr. Chundrigar further said that the Inspector-General had mentioned to him how some army officers had been garlanded with flowers by members of the public, and the General Azam had admitted that here had been at least one such incident; wherefore he had warned his officers not to accept garlands. General Azam through (says Mr. Chundrigar) It had a demoralising effect.

Impressions based on hearsay.

 

Mr. Chundrigar’s view.

The garlanding incident.

 

that some leaders of the movement were intentionally trying to create a rift between the two forces. The Inspector-General had told Mr. Chundrigar that he had received the fullest help from General Azam whenever he had asked for it, but that some of the military officers did not fire at the mobs when, in the judgment of the Inspector-General they should have fired. General Azam inquired into the matter and Mr. Chundrigar was satisfied from his explanation that on the occasions when this omission is alleged to have taken place, there was no need to fire. Mr. Chundrigar, therefore, had no cause to be apprehensive. There was but one incident of garlanding and General Azam had administered the necessary warning.

 

Mr. Daultana said, with reference to the situation of the 6th March, that the only way to control it was to hand it over to the military, for notwithstanding the “full assistance” that the civil authorities had from the military until then, they had not been able to control it.

 

No specific complaint had been made to him, “though I had a feeling in my mind on the 5th morning that complete liaison was lacking. For instance, on the 3rd or 4th it came to my notice that the military had withdrawn their patrols from the city. It was also said that while slogans were raised against the police, they were raised in favour of the military.” That, as Mr. Chundrigar said, might have been to create a rift. But so far as the withdrawal of troops is concerned, the facts are that only a part of them were withdrawn on the day when the civil officers thought “half the battle had been won”, but there was no question of any withdrawal from the city, because they were stationed in Bagh-i-Jinnah and to the city they only went out patrolling. Consequently, this feeling of Mr.

 

Daultana does not detract from the “full assistance” which, in his opinion, the military had given to the civil authority.

 

At this stage it is pertinent to refer to what has come to be known as decision No. 2 of 5th March. This is one of the ten decisions taken in the forenoon meeting at the Government House, and, together with the third and fourth decisions, constitutes a piece of work which has evoked some deep thought.

 

Decision No. 2—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.

 

Action I. G. P./G. O. C.

Decision No. 3— 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.

 

Action I. G. P./G. O. C.

Intended to create rift Mr. Daultana’s view.

Decision No. 2 of 5th March.

 

Decision No. 4—If the above measures fail to restore law and order and the police cannot keep the general situation under control with the partial aid by the military, the military will be asked to take charge of the city. Action I. G. P. /G. O C. We shall first try to interpret the decisions as though they were a part of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In Decision No. 2 there is emphasis on “Very strong action” but, “in the first instance”, by the police. The Army Commander, with his own contingent, will be accompanying the police, because Decision No. 2 says that in the event of failure, the police officer will hand over charge to the Army Commander “accompanying him”.

 

The main question. is, how will this accompanying contingent “support” the police patrol. You cannot support a person without co-ordinating your work with him. Consequently, you will not act independently, but act in furtherance of his suggestions. If he tells you to do one thing and you do another, you are not supporting him. Therefore, you must subordinate your actions to his. You are, in fact, not to act until asked to do so. You may not at all be called upon to act. Whether the fact that military contingents were to be “under their own commanders” carries any particular meaning is open to question. They are always under their own commanders. It cannot mean that for this reason they were to act independently. This meaning will make the word “support” meaningless. It will make the opening words of Decision No. 3 meaningless. The clause “if the police cannot cope with any particular sector” assumes that it is the police which is dealing with the situation, but if the two contingents were acting independently, then both would be dealing with the situation.

 

Mr. Chundrigar—Mr. Chundrigar’s evidence on this point is to the effect that military contingents were also to use force, “if necessary”, but they were to act under the orders of their commanders. The commanders themselves were to use their own discretion “under the general directions given by the G. O. C.” The words within commas creates a difficult position. Who was to decide whether force was “necessary” If the commanders were to use their discretion, then they themselves would decide. But suppose the police officer started using force and the commander thought it was unnecessary. Or, he thought force should be used and the police officer did not use it.

 

How would the commander be “supporting” the police contingent in that event. Next, there would be some “general directions given by the G. O. C.” which do not seem implied in the decision. If the G. O. C. has given a general direction that force should be used only when the police is using it, the discretion to use it disappears. If the direction is that discretion should be exercised, then since it was a part of the decision itself that discretion should be used, the direction becomes superfluous.

 

But assuming that decision No. 2 was to be thus interpreted, the following question and answer would show that, far from there being a complaint against the troops, it was the police that was being complained against for inactivity:

 

Question by Mr. Mazhar Ali Azhar (for the Ahrar)—“Did either of the two officers, the Inspector-General or the G. O. C., complain to you that the other of them was not enforcing decision No. 2”? Answer—“The G. O. C’s complaint against the I. G. Police was that the police had become demoralised, that their officers were afraid of reprisals against those members of the police force who lived in the city and that the I. G. Police was not quite sure whether he could fully rely on the loyalty of his men. When I put this to I. G. police, he admitted that he could not fully rely on the loyalty of his force on this issue, and he was of the opinion that sooner or later the control of the situation would have to be given over to the army”. Mr. Anwar Ali has admitted that junior police officers thought that the demands should be conceded. If it is true that the G. O. C. charged the police force with becoming demoralised, then if it is also true that the troops were not co-operating, the Inspector-General would have made a grievance of it in his own turn, rather than accept a serious accusation.

 

If the military commander were to act as he pleased, how does any question of handing over under decision No. 3 arise? He is as much in charge of the situation as the police officer is, and you cannot hand over a thing to a person who is already handling it.

 

Hafiz Abdul Majid, to begin with, appeared clear about the meaning, but nevertheless blamed the army for inaction. Being himself the author of the draft, he should have an advantage over others. He said that no clear scheme of co-operation between the Army and the civil power was “ever” discussed and decided upon in his presence. This should mean that even on the present occasion nothing, was clearly discussed and decided upon. What we believe did happen was that emphasis was laid on the use of force, and it was broadly put that of course the military would be there to support the police. For that reason, when the Chief Secretary was asked whether they were expected to act independently, he answered that: “they had responsibilities and duties under the law, and there was nothing to stop them from acting according to law.”

 

Then he was referred to the decisions and asked “whether they left any discretion to the military to act independently.” He replied: “Despite these decisions”, I am of the view that these did not exclude the responsibility of the military to act in a situation which made action by the military necessary, especially if the police were not there.” Which means that at least the decisions, so far as the draftsman’s knowledge goes, did not contemplate independent action until it was time for decision No. 3 to become operative. He did not, however, accept the position taken up by the military that according to these decisions the military were to act only if required by the civil power to act. He reminded us that what was happening before the 5th of March had also to be looked into and explained that these decisions were an effort “to bring about some working arrangements” between the two forces. We agree that if the Hafiz Abdul Majid: the draftsman.

 

No clear scheme of co-operation.

But the troops had a duty under the law.

‘Despite these decisions’.

 

arrangement until that date was not satisfactory, an effort might be made to effect a division of labour between them, and military commanders might be asked to act independently, in which case they would be accompanied neither by the police nor by a magistrate. For if they were accompanied by a magistrate, they would be under his direction according to law, until the magistrate told them to take the situation in hand. Hafiz Abdul Majid also accepts that interpretation, adding, however, that the decisions left it open to them to go out alone or accompanied by the Magistrate or the police. If that were understood by the military also to be the correct interpretation of the decisions, they would have no grievance left and would thereafter act with full effect. For according to the Chief Secretary, “they wanted power of control without any possibility of interference from civil authorities. In fact, the whole meeting and the trend of the decisions was based on this impression in the minds of the civil authorities. * * * * * This was the impression gained by people like the Governor, the Chief Minister, the Home Secretary, the I. G. Police and myself on account of what we had seen on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th of March, and also on account of what we had beard during our discussions with the army officers. One noticed that they were reluctant to accept the position that what they called an Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police could be a Commander of their men.” We should say that the statement relating to the 1st and 2nd of March is merely an instance of rhetoric, because troops were not requisitioned until the evening of the 2nd March, when Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan made his forced appearance, and they did not start patrolling until the following morning. That apart, as we said earlier, the military thereafter, acting independently, would have no grievance about any outside control and act as they acted during the Martial Law. But even then they did not act. He was asked if any instances of “lack of support” came to his notice. His reply was: “I have merely said that the military authorities did not take any action beyond patrolling here and there. If the situation needed a particular kind of action and any military officer thought that the civil authorities were not dealing with the situation effectively, it was open to those officers to make the suggestions to us. They did not seem interested in what was to be done.” This introduces us to a new aspect of the matter. The military were not merely to act free of civil control; they were also to advise the civil authority where the situation was not being dealt with firmly. But we think we have heard from Mr. Chundrigar that General Azam did complain to him that the police had become demoralised, which should have made it clear to the civil authority that no situation was being dealt with firmly by the police.

 

All this time we have been running away from the decisions, which, by their language, do not convey any thought of independent action. The Chief Secretary’s reasoning is based on the existence of ordinary law, “notwithstanding these decision”.

 

We shall assume that everybody at the meeting knew that under the ordinary law if a military commander, going by himself and his own force, came across an unlawful assembly, he could use his discretion and disperse it. But if with that knowledge in mind, the heads of the two forces agree at a meeting that the military contingent will be used in a particular manner, namely in “support” of the police, will not the military, by acting independently, expose themselves to the accusation that they had violated the agreement?

 

Again, assuming that the ordinary law remedy is also contemplated, then the military claim that whenever they came across an assembly, they dispersed it, and there is no instance to the contrary. Even the Chief Secretary had no instance in his mind: What he complained about finally was an instance of failure in an advisory capacity.

 

The statement of the Inspector-General, who ought to have known how the liaison was to be worked in detail, is a complete contradiction of the Chief Secretary’s interpretation of the decisions. According to him, the Government were anxious to avoid requisitioning the army for fear of blood-shed. With that anxiety, no one could dream of allowing them to act independently. In his written statement he said that although he himself felt that the army might be used for dispersing crowds, the Cabinet thought it should be used only for particular situations. In another place, in his evidence, he said: “My plan was that the troops should be stationed in four places, namely, Jinnah Garden, Kotwali, Gol Bagh and Minto Park, and patrol the city in armoured vehicles, bren carriers and tanks on the main thoroughfares. If it became necessary to use them, a magistrate would ask them to deal with a particular situation without handing over.” In yet another place he said that decision No. 2 meant that if in any particular situation the police failed, they would call in the army and ask them to deal with it. “The military would be right in saying that they were not asked, to take charge of any particular situation and that, consequently, they did nothing. * * * * * The District Magistrate told me that the army had not carried out specified orders given to them by the magistrates. I asked him to make a report in writing, but he did not make any report. Nor did he give me any instance. It was not my impression that decision No. 2 meant that the military had to act on their own initiative under its own commanders whenever they felt that the situation demanded interference. It was not intended that troops would act independently without being accompanied, by a magistrate or the police. Before the decisions of the 5th March, military patrols went about without being accompanied by police”. This naturally led to the following question by Mr. Yaqub Ali Khan:

 

Q.—“Then where is your grievance against the military which you have emphasised in your written statement?”.

A.—“They created an impression that they would not do any shooting, because their officers permitted themselves to be garlanded on some occasions when the police was being abused and insulted by the display of private parts.”

 

This garlanding has already been discussed . That was rather early during the operations and the G. O. C. administered a warning. Needless to say, it was unbecoming, and although an “abusive” situation is not necessarily a critical situation, such an impression should not have been created. This single instance of want of decorum does not, however, carry us any further with the District Magistrate’s complaint to the Inspector-General that the army had not carried out specific orders given by the magistrates. It was perhaps on the basis of what the Inspector-General had learnt from the District Magistrate that he Mr. Anwar Ali’s interpretation contradicts Hafiz Abdul Majid.

 

District Magistrate told him.

Decision No. 2 did not mean independent action by military.

 

complained to the Governor that there were occasions when the troops should have acted but when they did not. “Particulars of these cases”, said Mr. Anwar Ali finally, “could be given by the District Magistrate and by the S. S. P”. We, therefore, turn to those two officers. For the Home Secretary has not much to tell us. “The G, O. C. always assured the civil authorities”, he says, “of full co-operation and it would not be correct to say that the civil authorities declined the offer. I cannot say what the real state of affairs was, but complaints were made that the army were not playing an effective role. I think the I. G. complained to me and narrated an incident that some officers had been garlanded. It is a fact that until the Martial Law the army had not made its presence felt effectively. They could have curbed and stifled the agitation.” General Azam also says he could, if given the opportunity. But as regards decision No. 2, it is the Home Secretary’s impression also that troops were to remain with the police.

 

The evidence of the Senior Superintendent of Police may be thus collected: “On the 3rd morning I told an army officer the routes on which I required patrolling. I had directed my officers to provide assistance to the army whenever they asked for it and in some cases there were police officers moving with the army. In the first instance the troops were to patrol merely for the purpose of show. The I. G. had been pressing the G. O. C. and other military officers that the troops should take some severe action. If the patrol was accompanied by a magistrate, it could not use force without the Magistrate’s order. It was the District Magistrate who directed that army patrols were to be accompanied by magistrates.

 

“The impression created at the time was that the military were not taking any independent action, but I cannot give any concrete instance. I got this impression from some police officers who said the military did not open fire or disperse crowds. They gave no concrete instance. It is possible, if General Azam says so, that whenever the military patrols came across rioters, the rioters dispersed. My impression is that we did not receive from the military the kind of co-operation that they extended in the riots of 1947. when they effected arrests also without reference to anybody”.

 

But then, on the other hand, “the Government” were apprehensive of giving too much to the military, lest they should cause bloodshed. What the S. S. P. would have wanted them to do would be in excess of the role which the Inspector-General assigned to them. For ourselves we would have preferred them to act in the way the Chief Secretary suggested, but that would have caused anxious moments to “the Government”. One cannot please everybody.

 

Again, Mirza Naeem-ud-Din says: “I have some idea that some of the magistrates grumbled about the attitude of the military. In a conference held during Martial Law days the District Magistrate stated that he had received these complaints from some of the magistrates.”

Home Secretary’s interpretation.

 

S. S. P.’s impression.

 

The District Magistrate denies it. He says he was completely satisfied with the liaison. The following extracts, collected from various parts of his statement, will further clear the position and reproduce his views:—

 

“On the 3rd morning, we met the senior army officers in the Civil Lines Police Station and indicated to them the important localities in which patrolling was to be done. The patrols were to be accompanied by the police and magistrates invariably. The magistrate at the spot had to take the decision if he came across an unlawful assembly. I did not expect the troops to open fire without orders from the magistrate. I cannot give any instance where the military went alone and came across a mob and did not act as it should have. I know of two occasions when it became necessary to hand over. One was outside Lohari Gate on 5th March when the police station was threatened with an attack and brickbats were thrown into it. The other on 6th March at Tollinton Market. The military opened fire and dealt with the situation properly. It is not correct that I told the S. S. P. That magistrates had complained to me of lack of co-operation. I was completely satisfied that the military had placed themselves entirely at disposal of the civil authorities. * * * * * Decision No. 2 meant that the police and the military were to go out together”.

 

Malik Habibullah says: “I had no cause for complaint of lack of cooperation by the military. On the contrary, the only occasion when Mr. Alam, in my presence, requisitioned a military patrol, it was made immediately available. On another occasion, however, shortly after this requisition, * * * * * we found the military patrol which had gone to the Lohari Gate Police Station, in position for an offensive, but the public were throwing flowers and garlands at them and their vehicles, * * * * * The military had gone to the police station at a time when the crowd was actually throwing brickbats at the station and I found the entire road and the entire Anarkali Chowk strewn with brickbats.

 

The patrol, however, did not open fire.”

 

This complicates the narrative a little, because the District Magistrate has already told us the military did fire and fire effectively. But if those were the only flowers with which our narrative has been so repeatedly perfumed, we confess that it was no fault of the military that they should want to fire and that people should want to throw flowers at them. One couldn’t shoot a man who ran to him with flowers. Lastly, we come to General Azam’s evidence, and although the evidence already examined discloses no case against the army, it is worthwhile recording his version of the situation. He did not understand decision No. 2 to mean that the police were to be accompanied by the troops, “nor did the police ask us to accompany them”.

 

But the military were at no great distance. The words “under their own commanders” did District Magistrate’s version.

Malik Habibullah General Azam’s version.

 

not mean that they were to act independently of the police: they had been under their own commanders even earlier. “Mr. Chundrigar’s estimate of the decision that military contingents were to use force, but that they were to act under their own commanders who were to use their discretion under the general directions given by the G. O. C. is correct in this sense that if the police asked for our assistance, it would be available immediately. * * * * * His statement that I admitted that there was at least one incident of garlanding is true to this extent that an effort was made only once and that effort consisted of a display of flowers from a distance. This was perhaps intended to create a rift between the police and the troops. Mr. Chundrigar’s statement that I enquired into the matter and that he was satisfied that the occasions to which the complaint referred did not require resort to firing is correct to this extent that I enquired from the Brigade

Commander who was present at the spot”.

 

It thus appears that a single incident of garlanding has created a prejudice against the Army. It travelled from man to man, from circle to circle, and was cited as an instance of the attitude that the troops had adopted towards the situation. But no instance was cited, no instance is even vaguely known, where the troops did not perform the task assigned to them or performed it in a manner open to two opinions. The best that has been said on the subject is that they could have done more. They certainly could do it, if only they had been utilised without reserve. The reserve consisted in the fear that they would cause bloodshed. There is no case against the Army: it is only a plea of subterfuge.

 

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