THE report of the court of enquiry on the disturbances against Ahmadis in 1953 in parts of Punjab ended on the following poignant note:
“It is our deep conviction that if the Ahrar had been treated as a pure question of law and order without political considerations, one district magistrate and one superintendent of police could have dealt with them.
“Consequently, we are prompted by something that they call 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 bedfellow called 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.”
Read Lashkare Jhangvi for Ahrar and take Hazara Shias as the victims instead of Ahmadis, that conclusion holds good even today – sixty yeas later.
After all the report was authored by M. Munir and M.R. Kayani – the former known for his inquisitive mind and the latter for his independence – after an enquiry lasting a year in which, besides facts, doctrinal differences were examined in painstaking detail.
As the disturbances spread and the central cabinet felt-persuaded to treat the Ahrar agitation as a law and order problem, the Punjab chief minister still dithered fearing a conflagration.
The Lahore garrison commander was asked by the governor general as to how long it would take his troops to restore order on the streets of Lahore.
Gen Azam thought no more than twenty-four hours. He stood by his word.
If the leaders of today were also to treat the militant campaign against Hazara Shias as a law and order problem, the Quetta garrison commander might take twenty-four days but no more.
Still a big question mark hangs all along the line but there is no other way out – not even the solution that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his legislators devised in dealing with the renewed agitation against Ahmadis twenty years later.
Both the times and parties concerned have changed.
KUNWAR IDRIS Karachi