September 7 marks the day when the National Assembly of Pakistan passed a law to declare Ahmadiyya community (Ahmadis)–pejoratively known as Mirzais or Qadianis–non-Muslims in 1974.
The parliamentary decision later became a part of the constitution which is now officially termed as the Second Amendment.
Here’s a look back at the events leading towards the Second Amendment to the country’s constitution which dramatically changed and impacted the politics of exclusion in Pakistan.
Ultimatum, demonstration and killings
In January, 1953, certain religio-political groups under the banner of Tehreek-e-Khatim-e-Nabuwat put forwarded some demands, giving an ultimatum to the government for these demands to be fulfilled.
The demands included:
- Removal of Zafarullah Khan as the country’s foreign minister.
- Ahmadis should not be allowed to hold government’s top position.
- State should declare the minority group as non-Muslims
However, upon the government’s failure to respond to the ultimatum, a series of demonstrations were held and a disorder spread, resulting in the loss of property and life of the targeted community.
At that time, the primary focus of the developments was Punjab–mainly Lahore.
Martial Law in Lahore
In March, 1953, a martial law was declared in Lahore as it happened for the first time in the country. Lieutenant General Azam Khan was appointed as Martial Law Administrator under whose command the order was restored in the city.
However, there were several reports of causalities as the security forces took actions against the protestors and rioters.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Mumtaz Daultana was removed from the authority for facilitating the hate campaign while many prominent religious and political leaders, including Maulana Maudodi of Jamat-e-Islami were arrested and sentenced to death. Later on, their death penalties were converted to life imprisonment.
The success of Lahore’s martial law was often referred as crucial moment in civil-military relationship of Pakistan. The military leadership must have developed a thought the civilian government was incompetent to control the crisis.
Dismissal of Prime Minister
Shockingly, Governor-General Malik Ghulam Muhammad dismissed the second prime minister, Khawaja Nazimuddin along with his central cabinet after holding him responsible for the spread of unrest in the country, following the disturbances in Lahore and Bengali language riots in East Pakistan.
The dismissal was also justified on the grounds of improving the grave economic conditions in the country.
Later in June, 1953, a court of inquiry was established to investigate the incidents of riots and killings in Lahore. The inquiry into the unrest commenced on 1 July 1953. Evidence was concluded on 23 January 1954 and arguments on 28 February 1954. The report was finalised on 10 April 1954.
The inquiry was jointly headed by Chief Justice Muhammad Munir and Justice Muhammad Rustam Kayani.
The report stated: “If there is one thing which has been conclusively demonstrated in this inquiry, it is that provided you can persuade the masses to believe that something they are asked to do is religiously right or enjoined by religion, you can set them to any course of action, regardless of all considerations of discipline, loyalty, decency, morality or civic sense.”
The religious scholars and political parties condemned the report as “a biased work”.
It is important to note that anti-Ahmadi movement had not seen much progress till 1970s. It was the time when the country had lost its one wing, East Pakistan, and a new democratically elected government was set up with a new constitution after more than a decade of military rule.
A railway station incident that changed everything
It was almost 20 years since 1954 that the Ahmadiyya community had not faced any assault again and but this time Ahmadis could not have imagined that their retaliation attempt would reignite the fire which eventually resulted in their condemnation as non-Muslims through constitution.
In May, 1974, a group of students belonging to Islami Jamiat-e-Talba (a student wing of JI) were beaten and injured as they were travelling back from Peshawar to Multan.
The assault was carried out by young members of Ahmadiyya community at Rabwah railway station where the students’ train was stopped. The city of Rabwa had a majority of Ahmadis along with their spiritual headquarters.
However, the attack came in response to the reports of slogans being chanted against the community and their spiritual leader–Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian.
The IJT students had earlier triggered reactions in the community when the train stopped at the station during their trip from Multan to Peshawar.
The incident of railway station escalated the religious tensions in the country where once again the incidents of riots, ransacking and targeted killings were being reported.
The demands to resolve the ”Qadiani” problem re-emerged but this time it was meant to be done “once and for all” as the country witnessed protests on large scale.
Despite of the fact that the dozens of Ahmadis had been arrested from Rabwah while an investigation was also underway, the protests continued with a demand to take the minority group out of the fold of Islam.
A democratic solution to ’90-year-old problem’
Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was in charge of the country amid the developing situation.
After foreseeing the violent nature of the protests and mass appeal being gathered by his opposition, Bhutto decided to take the issue to the assembly as he tried to resolve the Ahmadiyya issue which, he thought, had been around for 90 years and could not be solved in a day.
Bhutto later announced that the Parliament would now lead the discussion regarding the case of Ahmadiyya’s exclusion from Islam. He also allowed his party members, who constituted the majority in the House, to vote on the issue according to their individual conscience.
While the left-wing National Awami Party (NAP) chose to refrain from voting, the right-wing parliamentarians came up as single group to fulfill their agenda for which they had been struggling for decades.
Later, a parliamentary committee was formed who listened to the arguments from both the parties–alliance of right-wing parliamentarians and leaders of Ahmadiyya community.
After introducing to bill in the assembly, the Second Amendment was officially approved hence declaring Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority in the country.
The Ahmadiyya community has been a prime target of terrorists attacks and target killings in Pakistan till this date.
The legacy of the second amendment remains a doubtful subject while considering Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan as according to him: “You may belong to any religion or caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”
The article is solely based on the political perspective of the issue and it neither comments on its theoretical background and understanding nor intends to hurt anyone’s religious sentiments.