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Ali Usman Qasmi is an assistant professor of history at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Lahore University of Management Sciences.
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The Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan
By Ali Usman Qasmi
Wimbledon Publishing CompanyCopyright © 2015 Ali Usman Qasmi
All rights reserved.
THE RECORDS OF THE COURT OF INQUIRY AND THE MUNIR–KIYANI REPORT
This chapter will give a description of the court of inquiry set up by the government of Punjab, procedures adopted for its conduct and individuals or groups who were made party to its proceedings. This will help understand the functioning of the court of inquiry which led to the accumulation of its detailed record, on the basis of which the Munir–Kiyani report was compiled and which has been used for this study as well. The chapter will also address methodological issues relating to the use of the archive generated by the court of inquiry. In doing so, this chapter also considers the question of the dual importance of the Munir–Kiyani report and the record of the court of inquiry as an official chronicle and source for the events of 1953, and as a text which can be read critically for such wider theoretical concerns as an understanding of contestations about Islam, religious exclusion and secular polity in contemporary Pakistan and elsewhere in the postcolonial Muslim states. It is this latter aspect of the report, the chapter argues, which has given it an enduring significance as a reference for various ideological debates aligned along the simplistic mullah/modernist binary, even in contemporary Pakistan.
The court of inquiry
Sardar Shaukat Hayat, an erstwhile political ally of the chief minister of Punjab, Mumtaz Ahmad Khan Daultana (who was deposed after the events of 1953), was among the first persons to demand an inquiry commission to probe the disturbances in Punjab. This he said in a speech during the budget session of the Punjab Assembly. He alleged that power politics between the province and the center and the maneuvers of some central ministers against the prime minister were responsible for killings in the Punjab. He also accused Daultana of giving his tacit support to the movement. As long as Daultana remained chief minister of the province, no effort would be made in the direction of inquiring about the incidents of March 1953. His own political standing and the situation of the province in general was too shaky to allow for the undertaking of such an inquiry. It was only after his removal as the chief minister, within a month following the declaration of martial law, that the new ministry of Punjab set up a court of inquiry.
Before announcing the court of inquiry, the government first moved to issue an ordinance which indemnified government servants in respect of the acts done by them "in good faith" under martial law and validated sentences passed by special military courts. After having secured the legality of actions taken during the martial law period, another ordinance was issued in June 1953 for setting up a court of inquiry.
Since the ordinance was due to expire after a certain period of time, its continuity was ensured by its enactment through the Punjab Assembly on 9 December 1953. When this bill came up for discussion and a vote in the Punjab Assembly, the opposition members raised their objections to some of its aspects. They held the opinion that the terms of reference and scope of the inquiry commission was too narrow. It did not probe the loss of life and property and its worth, and there was to be no punishment on the basis of its findings. They maintained that the inquiry would not serve any purpose if it failed to recompense the victims and punish those responsible.
As per the legal mandate, the court of inquiry was asked to examine the following issues:
(1) the circumstances leading to the declaration of Martial Law in Lahore on 6th March 1953;
(2) the responsibility for the disturbances; and
(3) the adequacy or otherwise of the measures taken by the Provincial civil authorities to prevent, and subsequently to deal with, the disturbances.
The inquiry began on 1 July 1953 and held 117 sittings of which 92 were devoted to the hearing and recording of evidence. The evidence was concluded on 23 January 1954 and arguments in the case lasted from 1 to 28 February 1954. Five weeks were taken by the judges to formulate their conclusions and to write the report.
The first sitting of the commission took place on 1 July 1953. The following organizations were named as parties to the proceedings:
The provincial government of Punjab.
Master Taj ud Din Ansari, president Majlis Ahrar, Lahore.
President (central) Anjuman-i-Ahmadiyyahh, Rabwah.
The Punjab provincial Muslim League, Lahore.
Three more organizations were later added as parties to the proceedings. They were:
Majlis-i-Tahafuzz-i-Khatam-i-Nabuwwat (along with the council of action approved by it); Mutwalli (caretaker) of Masjid Wazir Khan; and Maulana Muhammad Khalil — khatib (sermonizer) of the aforesaid mosque.
Later Anjuman Isha'at-i-Islam Lahore (popularly known as Lahori group of Ahmadis) was also added to the list. Ghazi Siraj-ud-Din Munir petitioned that he be made a party to the proceedings as he was the founder of a movement called Tehrik-i-Islam and claimed that it was he who originally started the anti-Ahmadi movement. Most importantly, Daultana realized the importance of the inquiry commission and its possible outcome on his future political prospects. He therefore requested to be included as party to the proceedings. The court gave special instructions to the Punjab government to allow Daultana access to relevant documents so that he could prepare his case in an effective manner.
The court solicited assistance from the government as well as the public in helping them ascertain the facts of the case. They instructed Muhammad Husain, superintendent of the CID, to probe through the press branch for publications — whether in newspapers or in the form of books or pamphlets — about the anti-Ahmadi movement since 1947. He was also to probe the disbursement of funds through the Adult Literacy Fund and the department of Islamiyat and present the records before the court. Similarly, the records of various districts and the central office of the Muslim League were also requested to determine the policy line adopted by the party during the movement. This reliance on the provincial records of administration, government and the Muslim League was described as an integral flaw to the whole inquiry by the counsel of Daultana in summation of his arguments before the court. The court of inquiry did summon some of the former ministers but it did not direct the central government to present its administrative records or policy measures during this period to see whether it was fulfilling its responsibility in an appropriate manner or not. On one occasion it did ask the federal minister for interior, Mushtaq Ahmed Gurmani, to send files of correspondence between the central and the provincial government on the issue of tehrik-i-khatam-i-nabuwwat. But probably these orders were not carried out as the Munir–Kiyani report relies almost exclusively on the records retrieved from the government of Punjab.
The court of inquiry asked all the parties to the proceedings to submit written statements. In addition to these parties, the responsible government officers of that time were also required to submit written statements. While all the parties were required to give their account of the events leading to the imposition of martial law and give their reasons and explanations for it, the government officials were also required to explain what action was taken by the military which could not have been taken by them in quelling the disturbances. In addition, the police officers were to give details of the quantity of the ammunition used during the disturbances and casualties resulting from it. The district magistrates were required to state whether they made requisition for military assistance to control disturbances. They were to give reasons if no such requisition was made. The district police officers were also required to give a summary account of the disturbances in their respective areas and provide copies of FIRs (first investigation reports) and daily reports of incidents and fiery speeches made by certain individuals.
Since one of the major reasons for the outbreak of violence was related to the religious doctrines of the Ahmadis, the court, in one of its initial sittings, asked Anjuman Ahmadiyyah of Rabwah to explain the tenets of the Ahmadiyyah creed, in particular their stance about those Muslims who do not believe in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a prophet. Were they regarded as kafirs (infidels) by the Ahmadis, whose funeral prayer could not be offered? From the opposite side, the court was to examine between 14 and 20 ulema and leaders of religio-political parties, which included Maududi, Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari, Maulana Abul Hasnat, Daud Ghaznawi, Maulana Muhammad Zakir, Nur-ul-Hasan Shah Bukhari, Mufti Muhammad Hasan, Mufti Muhammad Idris, Maulana Ahmad Ali, Sulaiman Nadawi, Mufti Shafi and Ghazi Siraj ud Din. They were to be asked questions about the outlines of an Islamic state, the justification for fatwas of kufr (infidelity; exclusion from Islam) against Ahmadis and the rights of non- Muslims in an Islamic state, along with a number of other relevant themes. In order to facilitate Maulana Maududi for the preparation of his case, the court directed that he be transferred from Mianwali jail to the central jail at Lahore. The advocate general was to arrange for the record to be taken away by the martial law authorities or police from Jama'at-i-Islami offices. However, the court was not very courteous towards Abdul Sattar Khan Niyazi, who had also requested to be made a party to the proceedings. His application was turned down and he was simply asked to submit a written statement.
Those belonging to Ahrar and Majlis-i-'Amal were required to furnish evidence in support of their allegations made against Ahmadis in numerous speeches of their treachery to Pakistan and conspiracy against it. Especially, the court requested evidence in support of the allegation that the Ahmadis constituted a major part of the officer cadre in the Pakistan army or that the Ahmadis were responsible for the Radcliffe Award in favor of India, hence denying Pakistan a fair share of Muslim-majority lands in East Punjab at the time of partition.
Husain Shaheed Suharwardy's name appeared as the legal counsel for Muttahida Majlis-i-'Amal during the initial proceedings of the court. It was later replaced by Maulana Murtaza Ahmad Khan Maikash. According to Hamid Nizami's statement, Suharwardy — who had a general reputation as a secular and progressive Bengali leader — was supportive of the demands made by Majlis-i-'Amal.
Using the records
As can be seen from the description given above, the record of the court of inquiry comprised various intelligence reports, written statements given by provincial officers as well as respondents, copies of cases registered against protestors, and transcripts of interactions between the judges and various respondents including officers, ulema, political leaders and other witnesses. This record consisted of 3,600 pages of written statements and 2,700 pages of evidence. A total of 339 documents were formally exhibited, while a large number of books, pamphlets, journals and newspapers were referred to in the course of giving evidence and making arguments. Besides, a large number of letters, each extending to several pages and a few to even more than a hundred pages, were received which were carefully perused by the authors of the report.
The Munir–Kiyani report and the record on which it is based is thus a classic example of primary discourse that is official in character, as described by Ranajit Guha. Guha defines this primary discourse in the colonial context as originating
not only with bureaucrats, soldiers, sleuths, and others directly employed by the government, but also with those in the non-official sector who were symbiotically related to the Raj. [...] Even when it incorporated statements emanating from "the other side," from the insurgents or their allies, for instance, as it often did by the way of direct or indirect reporting in the body of official correspondence or even more characteristically as "enclosures" to the latter, this way done only as a part of an argument prompted by administrative concern.
The official correspondence and its enclosures comprised of various intelligence reports including daily police diaries, provincial situation reports and secret weekly abstracts of intelligence. In addition to that, the whole record of correspondence between various branches of administration and the districts were also made available along with written statements of the officers responsible for these duties. Other than that there are hundreds of pages of testimonies from various key players and participants of the anti-Ahmadi movement of 1953.
Such methodological record keeping was a continuation of the bureaucratic work ethic from the colonial period. Like its predecessor the British colonial authority and the order established by it, the postcolonial state of Pakistan too was highly sensitized to the need for vigilant maintenance of public order. Any violation of this order was minutely noted for reference in any future course of action. This explains why, in the Munir–Kiyani report, there are numerous references to the speeches made by various Ahrar leaders against the Ahmadis dating back to as early as 1948. A similar level of meticulous record keeping with the intention of enforcing the state's authority and order can be seen in the record of the trial of the alleged Communist conspiracy to overthrow the government in 1951. These judicial records were unearthed in the 1990s when the prime minister secretariat was being moved to a new location. At that time the cabinet secretary, Hasan Zaheer, stumbled upon several black steel Chubb dispatch boxes with the words "Prime Minister" stenciled on them. No one knew what these boxes contained. When opened, they were found to contain daily reports of the proceedings of the special tribunal trying the Communist conspiracy (more popularly known as the Rawalpindi conspiracy) in Hyderabad central jail. Every report summarized the daily proceeding of the court, evidence recorded and legal points raised by the counsels. While the Pakistani state has been meticulous in recording information about matters which concern public order, it has not been efficient in preserving them until and unless state interests demand so. One of the most recent examples of such a policy can be seen in the re-opening of the trial of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. In order to develop the argument that there was an unfair trial — resulting in a miscarriage of justice in the form of the death penalty for Bhutto in 1979 — the ministry of law retrieved hundreds of boxes containing the entire record of the Bhutto case from the record rooms of the Lahore High Court and the Supreme Court. It contained witness statements, investigation reports, medical examinations and almost three hundred audio cassettes recording the entire proceedings of the trial. Similarly, there are massive paper works filed as witness statements and reports for a number of other important episodes in Pakistan's history (such as the Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission proceedings and its report on the causes and events which led to the breakup of Pakistan in 1971), but no access is allowed to these records, nor is their location known to scholars or even concerned government officers themselves.
Like the record of the Rawalpindi conspiracy case, the record of the court of inquiry probing the disturbances of Punjab was hitherto unavailable. There are still a few volumes of the written statements — volumes 4 to 5 and 7 to 8 — missing from the record. But unlike the volumes of the conspiracy case in which the record of the defendant's case has been kept classified to deny a more thorough understanding of the events, the missing volumes in the present case do not have such an impact. The written statements of all the key players including district commissioners, political leaders, police officers and religious groups are to be found in the available record. There is no major or even minor player of the events of 1953, or those specifically asked by the court of inquiry itself, whose written statement is missing. The only exception is the statement of Maulana Abdul Sattar Khan Niyazi, who, according to the Munir–Kiyani report, had submitted a statement running into hundreds of pages. For some strange reason, the final report does not cite Niyazi's statement for elaboration of any point, nor does it discuss his role in great detail. Other than Niyazi's statement, the missing volumes may also have contained further records from the CID about the various activities of Ahrar (mostly excerpts from speeches) since 1947 or copies of criminal cases registered against their leaders and workers. It could also have contained numerous exhibits (newspaper reports, advertisements, handbills, etc.) which were presented before the court. In the first three parts of the report, there are lengthy excerpts from various provocative speeches delivered by the Ahrar from 1949 until May 1952. The records available to this author do not cover these speeches in such extensive detail.
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Table of Contents
Acknowledgments; Introduction; Part I: Chapter I: The Records of the Court of Inquiry and the Munir–Kiyani Report; Chapter II: The Background to Jamaʻat Ahmadiyya and the Origins of the Anti-Ahmadi Movement: The Role of Majlis-i-Ahrar and Majlis-i-ʻAmal; Chapter III: The Political Hierarchy and Administrative Structure of Pakistan: Contextualizing the Events of 1952–53; Chapter IV: Disturbances in Lahore and the Imposition of Martial Law; Chapter V: The Findings of the Munir–Kiyani Report; Part II: Chapter VI: Understanding the Events of 1974; Chapter VII: The “Final Solution” of the “90-Year-Old Problem”?: The Parliamentary Proceedings of 1974; Debates on the Ahmadis after 1974: A Postscript; Notes; Bibliography; Index