A leaf from history: The Ahmadi issue

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Z.A. Bhutto wanted to take the people out of the gloom that had developed after the Indian nuclear test. He was sure he would be able to raise the morale of the people. However, at times various problems at the national level forced him to change his priorities.

This time it was the Ahmadi issue. In April 1974, an incident in Rabwah, the Ahmadi headquarters in Punjab, created a law and order situation. Bhutto was aware of the serious nature of the incident, therefore he did not want to take a stern action as it could spread throughout the country.

The Ahmadi issue was not a new one in Pakistan. Way back in February 1953, the country was gripped in a frenzy of rumours that Ahmadis were wooing Muslims to convert, especially those occupying important official positions. The religio-political parties including Jamaat-i-Isami, Majlis-i-Ahrarul Islam, Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan took up the issue. At that time, the Basic Principle Committee was in the process of preparing a report to be presented before the Constituent Assembly.

The West Pakistan members of the committee had prepared the report, which showed that 40 per cent share should go to Punjab. This irritated the East Pakistan members and the committee’s meeting was postponed for three months. This created a knotty situation for Prime Minister Khwaja Nazimuddin, who, being a Bengali, thought that he should protect the rights of the Bengalis.

Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan, the foreign minister, in one of his speeches expressed his point of view which caused commotion and riots all over Lahore and parts of Punjab. Chaudhry Zafarullah was an Ahmadi and held an office of the organisation. People protesting against Ahmadis took to the streets causing much damage. Ahmadis’ houses were attacked and many lives were lost.

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