PAKISTAN: The Mad Mullahs
For two days last week, a wild mob ruled the Pakistan city of Lahore (pop. 849,000). Surging through the streets, hungry Moslems stoned and stabbed police, burned buses and automobiles, ripped up railroad tracks, cut telegraph wires, smashed traffic lights and forcibly blackened the faces of anyone caught riding a bicycle or automobile. All shops closed and public officials fled. The city’s 300 police, disarmed by the mob, were withdrawn from the streets. All communication with the outside world was cut off.
It was a minor revolution which swept this capital of the fertile Punjab province—a revolution engineered by fanatical mullahs against the Pakistan government. Five and a half years ago, when millions of frightened refugees were pouring into newly created Pakistan, the mullahs were the people’s leaders. They had a strong voice in the government. But when the country began establishing industries, hospitals, schools and banks, the mullahs protested that these innovations clashed with Islamic law. When Pakistani women shed their veils and emerged from purdah (complete seclusion in the home), the more fanatic mullahs were outraged. When the time came for Pakistan to draw up a constitution, the mullahs demanded that it be based on the Koran. (Result: Pakistan, a nation of 76 million, is still without a constitution.) The government of Prime Minister Kwaja Nazimuddin avoided an open clash with religious leaders, but paid less attention to their counsel.
The Hungry Mobs. Last month a religious group known as the Ahraris, influenced by fanatic mullahs, demanded that the government declare half a million members of the Ahmadiya sect to be non-Moslems. The Ahmadiyas are a close-knit and unpopular group, followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who at the turn of the century declared himself a Nabi, or prophet of Allah. There was politics in the mullahs’ demands, because Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, able, bearded Sir Mohammed Zafrullah Khan, is an Ahmadiya.* The Ahraris’ mullahs demanded his removal. When the government refused, the mullahs began stirring up trouble, particularly in Lahore, where there are many Ahmadiyas. Craftily they timed their protest to occur before the new season’s crops were harvested, when people were hungry.
Spellbinding mullahs whipped up crowds in Lahore’s many mosques, and in a few days wild processions were shouting anti-Ahmadiya slogans. When police clubbed and shot demonstrators, the bodies of the dead and wounded were dragged to the mosques, where the mullahs exhibited them. Within a week the Ahmadiyas had been forgotten: thousands of hungry Pakistanis had turned their wrath on the government. In the streets they cried “Hai Nazimuddin” (Woe on Nazimuddin).
The Counter Blow. When news of the Lahore uprising reached Prime Minister Nazimuddin in Karachi, he ordered 44-year-old Major General Mohammed Azam Khan, commander of the military cantonment outside Lahore, to move into the city and regain control. Ten thousand Pakistani troops put the city under martial law. Within six hours the revolution was over. The Red Cross counted 330 dead at first aid stations. Other dead, picked up and buried by relatives, probably raised the death toll to 1,000 or more.
At week’s end, Moslem Prime Minister Nazimuddin cautiously blamed the Ahraris for the rioting. This was strong stuff in a nation founded on religion. When the Ahraris failed to protest. Nazimuddin boldly lashed out, accused them of having opposed the formation of Pakistan. The Ahraris stayed silent.
The only sound in Lahore was the banshee wail of the curfew siren and the tramp of hobnailed military boots on the darkened, empty streets.
* Another of his distinctions: to have made the longest-winded speech in U.N. history, which took up two consecutive Security Council meetings. Subject: India’s misdeeds.