Bhutto – a reluctant hero?

Mohammed Rafiuddin

bhuttoWe have a tendency to whitewash our history. It’s not exclusively our forte, most nations do the same but we’ve developed a particular expertise in it. With a single stroke of a brush our heroes are painted as enemies and foes become friends. Murderers are painted as martyrs and brave hearts become interlopers.

A recent article by Nadeem F. Paracha (NFP) has attempted to dig deeper and find out ‘what really happened’ during a dark chapter in our history. At the very outset let me declare a disclaimer: I am a great fan of NFP. He is one of the most talented writers in Pakistan. His column in Dawn is a must read for me every week. The fact that this week he was brave enough to tackle an issue that hardly gets any coverage is commendable. It is a chapter of Pakistani history that is controversial yet hardly gets discussed. It reminds me of the Fawlty Tower episode where Basil Fawlty keeps telling his British guests “Don’t mention the war”. However, he always ends up mentioning it himself to the dismay of his guests. In Pakistan however “Don’t mention the Ahmadis” is a pretty robust mantra that is adhered to religiously. No pun intended.

So, imagine my excitement when I woke to read this week’s post ‘The 1974 ouster of the ‘heretics’: What really happened?  At last some ground realities will be shared with the general public on the 1974 National Assembly decision to excommunicate the Ahmadiyya community. NFP writes “it is important that one attempts to objectively piece together the events that led to the final act”.  Reading this, I was heartened that what would follow would be a fair and accurate reflection of the events. My excitement was short-lived.

NFP suggests he has studied both Ahmadi and non Ahmadi literature in the penning of the article. His references and basic historic errors seem to suggest otherwise. For example, he writes:

“When Mirza died the Ahmadiyya split into two sects: the ‘Qadianis’ and the ‘Lahoris’. The Qadianis claimed that Mirza was a prophet, and accused all Muslims who did not accept him as being non-Muslims.”

The first point is that the original split into the two factions was not based on the status of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad but rather on the successorship and leadership of the community.

The second point is a regurgitation of the age old accusation and defence mechanism that is triggered whenever this subject is discussed. Whether it’s Ansar Abbasi or Bilawal Bhutto the default statement is always ‘Ahmadis believe all others are non Muslim, so what’s wrong with them being declared non Muslim.’

NFP writes “The more vocal accusations against the community first arose 24 years later in 1914 when an influential Ahmadiyya leader, Mirza Muhammad Ahmad, began to publicly declare that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a messiah and those Muslims who disagreed with this were infidels.”

Firstly, there is no Ahmadiyya leader by the name of Mirza Muhammad Ahmad and secondly the fatwas of Kufr by the clergy of the time started right at the outset in 1889 in the life of the founder.

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sb writes about one such incident in his book Haqiqatul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol.22, p122:

 ‘These people first prepared a fatwa of kufr against me and nearly 200 maulvis put their seal upon it, calling me a kafir… They broadcast these fatwas saying that these people must not be buried in Muslim cemeteries nor saluted with salaam and greetings…they stated that it is allowable to steal their property and they may also be killed’

As for the repeated allegation that Ahmadis believe all non-Ahmadis are non-Muslim, this is what the founder of the community declares:

‘From the beginning, I have been of the view that no one becomes a kafir or a dadjaal by rejecting my claim. Such a person would certainly be in error and astray from the right path, but I do not call him faithless… I do not designate anyone who believes in the Kalimah as a kafir, unless by rejecting me and calling me a kafir, he himself becomes a kafir…according to the fatwa of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).’ Tiryaqul Qulub, pp. 130/31; Ruhani Khazain, vol. 15, pp. 432/33

The last reference refers to a saying of the Holy Prophet (pbuh): “Whenever a Muslim declares another Muslim as kafir, such caller himself becomes a disbeliever.” Sunano Abi Dawud, Kitab-us-Sunnah, p484.

NFP goes on to elaborate the Ahmadiyya role in the establishment of Pakistan and mentions:

“The latter [pro-League Islamic lobbies] in fact advised Jinnah to dissociate himself from the party’s Ahmadiyya members because Islamic outfits that were being backed by the Congress were using the issue to question the party’s Muslim credentials. Jinnah ignored the suggestion.”

Really? No Jinnah didn’t just ignore the suggestion he rebutted it with a firm declaration:
“Ahmadis are Muslims, If they say they are Muslims and no one, not even the Sovereign Legislature, has the right to say otherwise.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah, 05 May 1944.

A masterful wordsmith as I believe NFP to be, I’m disappointed by some of his word selection, whether intentional or not, it was misleading, as was this:
“The Ahmadiyya had played a leading role in the creation of Pakistan and were placed in important positions in the military, the bureaucracy, the government and within the country’s still nascent industrial classes.”

‘Placed’ seems to imply that there was some deal done and the reward of helping Jinnah was the ‘placement’ of Ahmadis in key posts. Nothing to do with their talent, commitment, dedication or intelligence. Sad indeed.

Fast forward to 16 May 1974 and some 160 IJT students just happened to be passing Rabwa and just happened to alight the train, and just happened to raise slogans against the community and its founder before leaving. A random, isolated incident….allegedly.

“However, when the incident was related to some Ahmadiyya leaders in Rabwa, they ordered Ahmadiyya youth to reach the station with hockey sticks and chains when the train stops again at Rabwa on its way back from Peshawar.”

I really didn’t expect this uncorroborated, unsubstantiated and irresponsible statement from NFP. After all, the title of the piece is “What really happened.” This really didn’t happen. He suggests that a community that has a reputation of peaceful coexistence throughout the world, with a motto of Love for all hatred for none, would not only allow but order their youth to take revenge for this incident. I suppose the cold blooded murder of 86 members of the community in 2010 did not illicit a single demonstration of revenge, violence or retaliation. Yet the slogan raising forced the leadership to take revenge. Maybe I’m missing something.

Z A Bhutto is painted by NFP as someone who was reluctantly forced to play the role of a modern day Pontius Pilot. Washing his hands of the grave sin that was about to be committed. Reluctantly Bhutto gave in to the pressure of the religious parties, NFP writes:

 “Sections of the press reported that a majority of PPP legislators were unwilling to vote for the bill. But even though the report that was prepared by the committee was never made public, parts of it were leaked to the legislators and the report allegedly recorded the head of the Ahmadiyya community telling the committee that he only considered those who were Ahmadiyya as Muslims.”

Poor old PPP legislators, they were unwilling to vote for the bill but even though they had a majority in the house they were ‘forced’ to vote in favour of the bill. Who forced them?

And there we go again, it wasn’t the fault of the government or Bhutto or the assembly for that matter, the leader of the Ahmadiyya community set his own fate by “telling the committee that he only considered those who were Ahmadiyya as Muslims.”

Let us try to bust this myth once and for all…
Ahmadis do not declare anyone who adheres to the kalimah outside the pale of Islam. That has been the edict of the founder of the community and all the successors including the current leader Mirza Masroor Ahmad Sb.

To declare that Bhutto was forced his hand in 1974 is disingenuous to say the least. When the constitution of Pakistan was finalized in 1973, it became apparent that Bhutto had already started pandering to the Mullahs. The oath statements for both the President and the Prime Minister are just one example.

To think that events somehow transpired randomly to such a crescendo that Bhutto was forced to make this move is fallacious.

Events were taking shape months before the fateful day, so much so that in May 1973, the leader of the Ahmadiyya community convened an emergency meeting of senior representatives and warned them of the secret machinations taking place in the Government and the establishment against the community.

Sadly, his prediction did not take long to materialise.

On 22-24 February 1974, Bhutto chaired the Islamic Conference in Lahore which was co-sponsored by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Some analysts have claimed that Bhutto was touting to become the Political leader of the Islamic world with King Faisal appointed as the Spiritual leader. That was not to be.

Bhutto declared in his closing remarks of the conference ‘Many important decisions have been taken’. One month later The Muslim World League (funded and established by the Saudi regime) who were also present at the conference passed a resolution declaring Ahmadis as non-Muslims. The Pakistani official delegate also signed this resolution.

Dr Mubashar Hassan, Prime Minister Bhutto’s close confidant at the time, in one of his interviews reveals that the decision was a political decision taken as a result of pressure from Saudi Arabia. To ignore the involvement and influence of Saudi Arabia and the petro dollars in this whole episode is naive to say the least.

So, was Bhutto a reluctant hero in this whole episode or was this a well crafted, planned operation? I guess we’ll never know the truth, but certainly who can deny that he himself took the credit for solving the ’90 year Qadiani problem’. Even now the famous clip of his speech declaring this is shown repeatedly when counting Bhutto’s list of major achievements. And every year his faithful followers and devotees claim this as one of his greatest achievements.

A reluctant hero or the one that opened the Pandora’s Box?

Postscript: As I write this, protests up and down the country took place today with chants of ‘Shia Kafir’ followed by another bombing targeted at the Shia community. I have my answer.

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