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Backgrounder: The Mullah and the Munir Report


By Yasser Latif Hamdani

In 1953, when Pakistan was very young and when Judges still could not be bought, a commission comprising two eminent Justices of the Federal Court submitted a report, fated to be called the Munir Report, that in my opinion should be mandatory reading for every Pakistani and if possible every Muslim all around the world. The Justices who wrote this report were Justice Muhammad Munir and Justice Kiyani. Never again did any judicial officer in Pakistan speak his or her mind so clearly and so eloquently.

The problem started with the Mullahs, most of whom had opposed the creation of Pakistan tooth and nail but now had becomes the ‘chachas’ of Pakistan, started asking the state to declare the Ahmaddiya Muslim sect Kafir. Leading amongst them was that bigoted doctor of reaction, the much admired Maulana Abu Ala Maudoodi. Their target was Ch. Zafrullah Khan, a stalwart of the Pakistan Movement and a great patriot who happened to be an Ahmadi. This was when Maudoodi wrote his famous ‘Ahmadi Problem’. In 18 days that disgusting book sold close to 60 000 copies before the book was banned by the state. This followed a court case in which Maudoodi was tried for treason and sentenced to death, a sentence that was sadly never carried out. Mumtaz Daultana, the then Chief Minister, also had his role in fanning the flames for his own Machiavellian political reasons. He was forced to resign by the Government of Pakistan and that brought his career to a close.

Justice Muhammad Munir and Justice M R Kiyani were appointed to the inquiry commission that investigated this issue. The report they issued after interviewing all sides ran to something like 350 pages. In this the two justices warned against the institution of an Islamic state in Pakistan. They came out and said any such attempt would lead to a perfect disaster. They lashed out against the Mullahs and proved conclusively that any appeasement on the part of the Government will lead to a situation that will unravel Pakistan. They pointed out the contradictions in the arguments of the Mullahs. They warned that if exclusion was made a principle, then today it would be Ahmadis, tomorrow it could be someone else. The Mullahs were not in agreement on anything, not even on the definition of a Muslim. They write:

“The result of this part of inquiry, however has been anything but satisfactory and if considerable confusion exists in the minds of our ulama on such a simple matter, one can easily imagine what the differences on more complicated matters will be…. Keeping view the several different definitions given by the ulama, need we make any comment except that no two learned divines are agreed on this fundamental. If we attempt our own definition as each learned divine has done and that definition differs from that given by all others, we unanimously go out of the fold of Islam. And if we adopt the definition given by any one of the Ulama, we remain Muslims according to the view of that alim, but kafirs according to the definitions of everyone else.” (Page 215, 218) 

They go on to say that if Deobandis are in charge, all non-Deobandis would become Kafirs, and if Barelvis are in charge all non-Barelvis would be declared Kafir. Depending on the sect, the definition of a Muslim changes, and so everyone else becomes a Kafir. They warned that if Pakistan as a state was to get involved in such pettiness, it would lead to a most fantastic disaster. Their prescription was to follow the routine of any normal democratic secular state and stay away from this mess. They refuted the assertion of the Mullah that Pakistan was made in the name of Islam, rejecting it outright as a basis. They point to the Fatwa from DarulUloom Deoband in India presented in front of the inquiry commission as Ex.DE 13 , which declares all Shiites as Kafirs and Murtids, and says that every fatwa is exclusionary in nature. They continued:

“If the constituents of each of the definitions given by the Ulama are given effect to and subjected to the rule of combination and permutation and the form of charge in the inquisition’s sentence on Galileo is adopted mutatis mutandis as a model, the grounds on which a person maybe indicted for apostasy will be too numerous to count.” (Page 219)

The report was remarkable in its boldness and its farsightedness. It was an echo of Jinnah, who had warned Pakistanis against theocratic rule by priests with a divine mission. It was a brilliant defence of secularism, against Mullahdom and fanaticism. It was a patriotic document that declared outright that Islam should not be allowed in governance, and that if we allow its intervention we would stop any and all political progress in Pakistan. Some 21 years later, Pakistan forgot the Munir Report. A modernist party with a democratically elected secular leader ruled Pakistan. Yet pandering to the Mullahs, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, despite his apparent enlightenment, sacrificed tolerance at the altar of personal power. Pakistan declared the Ahmadis to be non-Muslims, and with that the project of the Mullahs came to a completion. They got the theocracy they wanted all along.

Its been 51 years since that report came out. All that it had predicted has come true. The Government of Pakistan had an excellent opportunity to purge the nation of fanaticism. It was warned, but Pakistan sadly was not high on the priority list. Political expediency was. Today the macabre monster called Mullah has grown so big that it threatens to eat its own benefactors. Will we still not learn a lesson?

Posted: July 11, 2004