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Books and Documents ( 28 Apr 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Munir Commission Report-Part 41: Whether Martial Law Could Be Avoided

General Azam thought even the troops were unnecessary, if timely action had been taken. “Half-hearted measures and poor leadership resulted in chaos. The police force were first class, and if they had followed a firm policy at a certain stage, they could have dealt with the situation without the help of the Army. What was needed were guts and a fixed aim, coupled with a realization that this was a question of law and order and had to be faced at any cost.”

 

It may not be correct that the Army could be dispensed with altogether, but it is true that considerations extraneous to those of pure law and order have influenced the action of the civil authority. The Government were reluctant to employ the troops unreservedly, for fear of bloodshed, as Mr. Anwar Ali says, and the Ministers were upset with the protests of leading citizens that the police were firing even on violent crowds—even on violent crowds, we repeat—which did no more than attack a police station with bricks, or burn a stray omnibus here and there, or put to fire a sinning post office, or stone a railway train full of passengers because it tried to move out of the station, or blackened the faces of tonga-drivers and shop-keepers who plied their trade. These were small incidents compared to the stuffed gunny-bag made into the semblance of Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din or the Donkey of Qasur on whom rode a man labelled Zafrullah Khan. The result was that some order was issued which was No case against Army.

If there had been no reluctance to employ troops.

 

understood to be an order of relaxation, and which naturally had an adverse effect on the police force. But we go back to the 4th of March, when Sayyed Firdaus Shah was murdered. Even before that, they all knew that Wazir Khan mosque is the seat of trouble, that Maulana Abdus Sattar Niazi has enthroned himself there and is scintillating hatred of Government from a firm seat, that even a warrant of arrest cannot be executed against him. If the situation can be controlled by the police, why is the mosque left to itself? If it cannot be controlled, why is it not handed over to the military? We are firmly of the belief that the handing over of this one situation would have made all the difference to the course of riots.

 

And we go still further back. Unless the Punjab Government had an understanding with the Majlis-i-Amal that the centre of agitation would be Karachi, an order under section 144, Cr. P. C. was a measure of prudence on the 28th February. It is for that reason called a “preventive” remedy. Such an order was passed on the 26th or 27th of July 1952 when there was a very localised threat of violence in front of the League Office, and the order was passed by the District Magistrate without reference to anybody. A sense of proportion would certainly be lacking if that occasion were regarded as possessing more dangerous potentialities than the 28th of February, when the Direct Action challenge was due for execution and the Central Government had accepted the challenge by ordering arrests of prominent leaders—“non-entities” according to the District Magistrate.

 

We have felt again and again that the case of Lahore is one of “too many cooks.” In other districts the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police discuss the situation and evolve a plan of action which they can execute without interruption. In Lahore there are a number of high officers who ought to be consulted, and, notwithstanding what Mr. Daultana and his officers have said as to the duties of a District Magistrate, if they had a stout person who could have imposed a prohibitory order in time, ordered Wazir Khan mosque to be immediately isolated, or turned the blind eye of Nelson on the let-up decision, we are not quite certain that his next post would not have been that of the Controller of Foodstuffs and Fountain Pens in Karachi. But you need officers who could ride alone to Wazir Khan mosque on the evening of the 4th of March with only a pistol in their pocket. You should encourage this breed. You should foster independence in them.

 

To pursue the subject of “too many cooks”, we shall tell you what the District Magistrate of Lyallpur, Mr. Ibn-i-Hasan, did single-handed, unaided by the Inspector-General, the Home Secretary, the Chief Secretary, the Chief Minister, the Governor. It is a small place compared to Lahore, but has a somewhat larger area than Wazir Khan. mosque. On the 2nd of March, provocative speeches were made in Jamia Masjid in honour of the volunteers proceeding to Lahore or Karachi, but we heard nothing more of those If Wazir Khan Mosque had been isolated.

If preventive action had been taken earlier.

If there had not been too many “cooks”.

An example at Lyallpur. volunteers: they were spirited away by the police at Salarwala. On the 3rd of March news of firing at Sialkot caused a flutter, and forthwith section 144 was applied. A procession of four or five thousand marched to the Deputy Commissioner’s house and a number of arrests were made before they reached destination.

 

On the 4th March there was complete hartal and a procession made again for the Deputy Commissioner’s house, but that officer tactfully diverted it to jail. The procession was aggressive and provoking, but feeling that the police force was inadequate, he did not disperse it. Nevertheless he arrested 125 persons. He telephoned to the Home Secretary for military aid and an aircraft to create respect for law and order, and both came without delay. On the 5th March a procession was taken out in defiance of section 144, Criminal Procedure Code, and 55 persons were arrested.

 

There were processions on the 6th and 7th also, attended by arrests. But on the 7th, the atmosphere became tense and rowdyism appeared. The District Magistrate received news that three trains had been held up, that the women passengers had been molested and robbed. He did not send a magistrate to take “firm” action. He himself went and ordered the crowd to disperse. When they did not disperse, he did not take the risk of a lathi-charge— which, as often as not, results in the police being worsted. He ordered firing which resulted in killing four and wounding five. He provided army guards for trains, so that the flow of traffic should not be suspended. On 8th March, he heard that bricks had been collected in housetops in Chiniot bazar, with a view to throwing them at the police if they should disturb processions. At 7-30 p. m. he visited Chiniot bazar accompanied by the D. I. G. and met an aggressive mob. They both returned and brought a military patrol and ordered the crowd to disperse. When it did not, he ordered firing. Three persons were killed and one wounded. Thereafter nothing happened—except that one evening the Chief Minister congratulated him on the telephone for firm action.

 

In Sialkot, at least two situations were handed over to the military, and there was no fear that the army might take such complete control of it as to oust civil authority. Nor was there any apprehension that there might be bloodshed. We mean, there was no nervousness about it, for bloodshed there must be with firing. “And things like that you know must be in every famous victory.” We have observed in a different place that the District Magistrate acted wisely in handing over to the Army when the situation so demanded.

 

After Martial Law, General Azam employed only one battalion, consisting of between four and six hundred men, in the walled city which had defied control since 1932. He complained that before the declaration of Martial Law the army was used merely for a “demonstrative role”, namely, patrolling, and not for a “suppressive role”. “For instances if I had been asked to enforce the curfew order by firing or arresting, it would have been a suppressive role. Then again, the storm centre, which was the Wazir-Khan-mosque area, and in fact the entire walled-city area, was ignored. In a suppressive role, we would have established posts all over the city and prevented people from coming in and going out of their dens. As it was, whenever the military patrols appeared, people disappeared.”

 

An example at

Sialkot.

 

The District Magistrate has told us that by the evening of 5th March, the police, which had been struggling to deal with the situation, began to fail, and that “it was for the police then to avail of the services of the military”. Asked why he did not make this possible, he said helpfully: “The military were there and the police were there”. His duty was to call in the military and they were already in the down. “It was for the head of the police to tell them how they should act. Even when a magistrate is present it is for the police to require the military to act”. He said that was the meaning of section 129 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

 

This is what we mean by saying that if there had been but one stout man who could ignore all considerations extraneous to law and order and vitalise the excellent material lying at his feet, there would have been a different story to tell. And thus do we end this chapter: We long for the Lion of God and the Rustom of encident lore.

 

شير خدا و رستم دستانم دستانم است

 

CONCLUSIONS ON THIS PART

 

It is fitting to review the whole situation. Everybody was agreed that the Ahrar were a subversive force. They were opposed to the creation of Pakistan and even Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar thinks that they were anxious to “rehabilitate” themselves. In 1950 and again in 1952, Mr. Anwar Ali, then D. I.-G, (C. I. D.) strongly recommended that they should be declared an unlawful body. Mr. Qurban Ali Khan wrote very strong and prophitic notes on the possible consequences of neglect. One lawlessness breeds another. One damn thing leads to another. But whenever there was a conference, either they were persuaded to change their strong views, or official decorum restrained them from protesting. Mr. Daultana, therefore, says that everybody agreed with whatever decision we find on the files, and the officers concerned have not contradicted him. We ought to hold, therefore, that the responsibility was joint, though we feel differently. Further, we feel that the Ahrar were treated as members of the family and the Ahmadis as strangers. The Ahrar behaved like the child whom his father threatens with punishment for beating a stranger, but, who, knowing that he will not be punished, beats the stranger again. Then, out of sheer embarrassment, since other people are watching, his father does strike him—but gently.

 

And so, as the Central Government was constantly inquiring, and C. I. D. Notes were mounting pile upon pile, a conference was held on the 25th of May 1952, and it was decided to ban all Ahrar and Ahmadi meetings. This was good enough, but by the 5th of July it was whittled down to a mere nothing. Let processions be taken out, let meetings be held, in defiance of the ban. Let nobody be arrested—except the Ahrar, Let no Ahrar be arrested—except the prominent Ahrar. Let no prominent Ahrar be arrested, if he addresses a meeting not organised by his own party, without reference to Government. And the district authorities naturally added to it a fourth injunction. Let there be no reference to Government. For if there is a reference, it will take time. After all, the Government has to look after sixteen police stations, and refugees and receptions make two additional police stations. The case will have to be referred to a meeting after seven or eight other files of the same kind become available. Then, after three months, you hear that Abdullah and Narain are only petty people and their prosecution will serve no useful purpose. But even if a prosecution were sanctioned, what deterrent value has it after three months?

Although the decisions of the 5th July were taken when Mr. Daultana was at Nathiagali, there are indications that they were discussed with him before he went there.

 

The Home Secretary also maintained telephonic contact with him. While on the one hand it was impressed upon the officers that these decisions were intended to isolate the Ahrar, on the other the Ahrar were allowed to join hands with the Ulama of all Muslim parties by holding a convention on the 13th July. By this device the Ahrar won the sympathies of a very large section of the public, who respected the Ulama infinitely more than the Ahrar.

 

When the Ahrar found, that their meetings were banned and some of them were prosecuted, they bought their freedom for a penny. They made a statement that they had never before preached violence, that they did not propose preaching it thereafter. But Government knew that they had preached violence, or at least that was the effect of their speeches, and knowing this, they accepted the statement as though it were an apology.

 

Only a fortnight ago they had refused to apologise, when Mr. Anwar Ali had suggested it to them. Government know how to elicit a proper apology, as they did from Maulana Akhtar Ali Khan on the 28th February; but in the case of the Ahrar, a statement which did not detract from their respectability was accepted as a great achievement, and they were allowed to make speeches, to vilify the Foreign Minister, to calumniate the Prime Minister, to use words which tingle decency. All this time Mr. Daultana was being reminded by his officers that the Ahrar were not abiding by their undertaking, but they themselves suggested little action. Either they were conscious that their notes had little effect, or they fell into the habit of writing notes. When a number of files had accumulated, a policy meeting was suggested, and it was decided on 24th December 1952 that the ordinary law should be respected. It seems to be a joke that until then the Punjab Government in the Ministry of Law and Order, inclusive of its civil and police secretariat, did not know that the ordinary law had to be respected. But by this time the officers had reached a stage of insensitiveness where the violation of ordinary law could also be appropriately punished with a mere warning.

 

The Central Government issued a policy letter in September 1951 and another in July 1952, making it clear to the Provincial Government that aggressive sectarianism must be suppressed with a heavy hand. The provincial authorities, however, emphasized in their notes that the demands were a matter for the Centre’s decision, and that unless these were decided one way or the other, the law and order situation will not improve. They knew very well that the Centre could under no circumstances accept the demands and that if there was going to be any decision, it would be a decision of rejection. But they insisted that a decision must be taken, and the Centre, represented by Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din, did not wish to say openly that he was rejecting the demands, as, he thought, this would bring him into a head-on clash with the Ulama, and he had a profound leaning towards the Ulama.

 

But while we think that the demands could have been rejected without any religious scruple, and without any danger to public peace, and without injury to public feelings, we do not think it was necessary to give an answer for the purposes of the law and order situation. That situation had tremendously improved by the imposition of a simple ban, inadequate as it was, but was allowed to deteriorate by an attitude of complete indifference to what the Ahrar or the Ulama said or did after July 1952. On the contrary, it was encouraged by the Chief Minister’s public utterances supporting the view that the Ahmadis were not Muslims.

 

The press was definitely encouraged by the Director of Public Relations to fan the agitation, and with Dr. Qureshi we are inclined to think that Mr. Daultana could not have been unaware of what the press was doing. Four vernacular papers had been handsomely paid for thousands of copies which were perhaps never purchased, in pursuance of an old policy that papers which supported the Government should be patronised, and although these very papers were the keenest agitators, their contracts were renewed early in July 1952 with the knowledge of Mr. Daultana. A sum of over two lakhs which the Assembly had voted for the education of illiterate adults was diverted under the orders of Mr. Daultana to the purchase of these four papers and the scheme was to be kept confidential. The Director told us without the least compunction that his scheme was to aid a certain type of papers, not to promote literacy. The “Zamindar”, notwithstanding that it continued spreading hatred even after July 1952, when Dr. Qureshi complained to Mr. Daultana, was treated as God’s own agent and action delayed against it until it could no longer be delayed. In short, the Centre complained vigorously. The “Azad”, the Ahrar’s official organ, was repeatedly brought to the notice of the Provincial Government by the Centre and repeatedly treated with mere warnings.

 

The challenge of the Majlis-i-Amal was not treated seriously by either Government. Khwaja Nazim-ud-Din was hoping to the last moment that something happy will turn up, while the Provincial Government seemed satisfied that the agitation will start in Karachi.

 

Finally, when the ultimatum was rejected, the whole situation was treated as a peaceful theatrical performance where processions are stage-managed and slogans raised, for the benefit of a contented audience. “Processions in Lahore are taken out almost daily, and nobody takes them seriously”. There were many palavers and little action, “The police was there and the army was there.” And everybody was devoting deep thought to the situation, as one officer said, and everybody knew what to do. Everybody felt that the army could have accomplished a great deal, but nobody can say why it did not happen. “Some say, they were three, and the fourth was their dog; others say, they were five, and the sixth was their dog, guessing at random. * * * * say, my Lord knoweth best.”

 

And it is our deep conviction that if the Ahrar had been treated as a pure question of law and order, without any political considerations, one District Magistrate and one Superintendent of Police could have dealt with them. Consequently, we are prompted by something that they call a human conscience to enquire whether, in our present state of political development, the administrative problem of law and order cannot be divorced from a democratic bed fellow called a Ministerial Government, which is so remorselessly haunted by political nightmares. But if democracy means the subordination of law and order to political ends—then Allah knoweth best and we end the report.

M. MUNIR

President.

M. R. KAYANI

Member

268, 362 CS 3,000—2-7-54 SOPP Lahore

 

REPORT of THE COURT OF INQUIRY constituted under

PUNJAB ACT II OF 1954 to enquire into the PUNJAB DISTURBANCES OF 1953, Lahore

Printed by the Superintendent, Government printing, Punjab 1954

 

M. MUNIR, President

M. R. KAYANI, Member

 

Commonly known as Munir Commission report

 

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/books-and-documents/munir-commission-report-part-41--whether-martial-law-could-be-avoided/d/2777


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