Imam Bashir Ahmad Rafiq’s Biography
Chapter 52: 1974 Pakistan Riots
In 1974 Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto held the reigns of power in his hand. A few years earlier, the Jamaat Ahmadiyya had helped his ‘People’s Party’ in the General Election as it was laid down in their Manifesto and Constitution that religion or faith is a personal matter for every individual and the government had no right to interfere. All other political parties were bitterly opposed to Ahmadiyyat and were not prepared to tolerate even its continuance. The Jamaat Ahmadiyya is certainly not a political party but is a wholly religious organization. In its history, as a Jamaat, it has never involved itself in politics. However, on occasion, when Muslim interests were threatened they did enter the field quite openly and courageously. The Jamaat has always been protecting Muslim interests.
In 1974, in order to further their political aims some narrow-minded prejudiced Ulema hatched a well thought-out conspiracy against the Ahmadis.
On 22nd May 1974, as a first step, a group of Nishtar Medical College students boarded a train for Rawalpindi. That train was to pass through Rabwah. When their train arrived at the Rabwah station some students got out and started shouting offensive dirty slogans. They even tried to humiliate some Ahmadi women. When the boy’s boarded the train again they announced that when they return on a given date and then, at that very railway station, they would teach the Ahmadis a lesson. When, a few days later, the students returned, once again, they ran riot at the railway station and shouted slogans against the Jamaat in a most provocative manner. Consequently, a scuffle between the students and those Ahmadis who happened to be present at the railway station broke out. Some amongst both the students and the Ahmadis received minor injuries.
As this conflict was a part of a well-prepared conspiracy, even before the train carrying the students reached Faisalabad, tents and marquees had already been pitched at the railway station. Some bigoted, blinkered Moulvis were busy delivering offensive speeches. They incited the audience by saying ‘since Ahmadis had beaten up the Muslim students and had wounded some of them it was the duty of the Muslims to wrest revenge.’
(Detailed account of this incident is a part of the Ahmadiyya History and will be published in due course. Inshallah. It is not my intention to delve into the pages of history but merely to record the humble contribution made by the British Jamaat in this regard.)
On the evening of the happening of this event Hadhrat Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan and I were busy with our evening meal when a friend rang up and told us that someone from Nairobi had told him over the phone that there had been a riot at the Rabwah Railway Station. I had not yet finished my conversation when I received another call. Mr Abd ur Raheem Baig from Karachi told me to advise all the Jamaats of the incident at Rabwah Railway Station. He had learnt of the incident directly by the centre at Rabwah. Mr Baig told us that Hadhrat Khalifa tul Masih III had directed that the true version of the incident should be conveyed to the Ahmadi Missions all over the world. He made me write down what he told me verbally. I advised all Missions on the phone. It was my good fortune that in those days as Deputy Imam Mr Abd ul Wahab Adam was assisting me. Along with Mr Munir ud Shams he put together a strategy on behalf of the British Ahmadiyya Jamaat. His help to me was invaluable indeed. Around midnight I would receive messages from Pakistan. For conveying the messages to others, I would wake him up for his help. I do not have the words to express my gratitude for Mr Wahab’s cheerful co-operation and assistance. May Allah reward him in the very best manner.
We waited for a few days but the disturbances in Pakistan continued unabated. Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib asked me to find out from Huzoor if we, in England, we were permitted to undertake suitable measures. Huzoor permitted us to do what we thought fit. We were told that since the means of contact with Rabwah had been severed a courier service, manned by Ahmadi young men should be organized.
The next day I called a meeting of the Executive Committee and advised members in detail of the instructions that had been received from Huzoor. The Executive Committee decided that a courier would travel between London and Rabwah twice a week and he would carry all messages and mail on his person. From amongst those British Nationals who were already working for some Airlines and were therefore entitled to travel by payment of a discounted fare a list of suitable personnel was prepared. The overall responsibility for operation of the courier service was entrusted to Mr Abd ul Lateef Khan, President of the Hounslow Jamaat. With the help of his assistants and members of the Executive Committee, he discharged this duty admirably. May Allah reward all those who participated in this endeavour abundantly.
As a result, between Rabwah and London, an Ahmadi courier carried mail on his person. In this way we were no longer be dependent on mail or telephone. After that our communications and liaison remained intact continuously. Lateef Khan, Hameedullah, and Ch: Rasheed Ahmad and Mirza Abd ur Rashid actively helped the Jamaat. May Allah shower His Blessings on all of them.
Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib decided that details of the maltreatment of Ahmadis in Pakistan should be brought to the notice of the British press. He offered to address a Press Conference and directed me to organize it. I assigned different duties to different members of the Executive Committee.
A Press Conference was held to which representatives of all major newspapers were invited. A Church Hall in Fleet Street where almost most British Newspapers are based was rented for the purpose. Both Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib and I addressed the Press. In some detail, Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib advised the audience of the persecution to which Ahmadis were being subjected in Pakistan. He also answered all questions asked. In this regard, through the press, the British Government was asked to protest to the Government of Pakistan.
The Press Conference was a success and the following day most of the important newspapers published the relevant details. A representative of the Pakistan Embassy and some representatives of the Pakistani newspapers were also present at the conference. Both TV and Radio broadcast the news and that too proved effective.
Two days after the Press Conference a Consular in the Pakistan Embassy, whose name I do not wish to disclose, invited me to call on him. He seemed terribly offended at our holding the Press Conference. He protested strongly and said that we had projected Pakistan as if preposterous state of affairs prevailed there. With great respect, I said:
“Is it not very peculiar that after being ill-treated we are not even being permitted to complain? Thousands of Ahmadis living in England have relations in Pakistan. When they hear of the harassment of their near and dear ones, being apprehensive they telephone us and expect us to protest and yet you do not even let us complain. What kind of justice is this?”
“You must immediately stop the campaign that you have launched in the British newspapers.”
I responded by saying:
“Please arrange to stop the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan and on our part, we shall we abandon the campaign. You will not then find us lacking in praising the Government of Pakistan. Pakistan is indeed our homeland and its prestige and honour is very important to us. The recent happenings in Pakistan, are earning Pakistan a really bad name.”
On my return from the Embassy I told Chaudhry Sahib what had transpired at the meeting with the Consular.
“I knew the Consoler’s father. He was a perfect gentleman and in fact, the Consular himself is also a gentleman. Since he is an employee of the Government of Pakistan, he is perhaps making an attempt to discharge what he regards to be his duty. Otherwise, I don’t think he could really be an opponent of the Jamaat".
During this turbulent period Mian Mumtaz Daulatana was the Pakistan Ambassador in the U.K. His attitude towards the Jamaat was both friendly and sympathetic. I have made a mention of this elsewhere.
Most Ahmadis resident in England wrote letters to their respective Members of Parliament and this practice continued for quite a while. As a result a significant number of Member of Parliament became aware of the persecution of Ahmadis and they established contact with us. The name of Tom Cox M.P. appears at the top of the list. To keep himself up-to-date and familiarise himself with the current happenings he would visit me almost every week. He helped us as much as he possibly could. May Allah reward him abundantly. The sympathetic Members of Parliament brought some pressure on the Government of Pakistan and through their letters they asked the Government of Pakistan to stop maltreatment of Ahmadis. Finally, through an ‘Early Day Motion’, six Members of Parliament asked the British Government to help redress the difficulties of the Ahmadis in Pakistan. This process yielded agreeable results. Our campaign through the Press was most successful and forms a part of the History of Ahmadiyyat.
Later on, consisting of 330 pages, I put together a book in which were reproduced cuttings from the various newspapers that had written on the subject. The book was named ‘From the World Press’. It was extremely well received but unfortunately, currently it is out of print. My heart is drenched with prayers for those members of the Jamaat who were enabled to render service during the 1974 occurrences. Some of them are: Ch: Hidayat Ullah Bangvi, First Secretary in the Pakistan Embassy, Nazeer Ahmad Dar, Abd ul Wahab Adam who is currently Amir of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in Ghana, Abdul Lateef Khan who is currently President of the Hounslow Jamaat, Hameed Ullah, Ch: Rasheed Ahmad, Mirza Abd ur Rasheed of Hounslow, Bashir Ahmad Shaida of Greenford, Ch: Rashid Ahmad who was then in-charge of the Press Section, Ghulam Muhammad Chughtai, Munir ud Deen Shams currently Additional Wakeel ut Tasneef, Khwaja Rashid ud Deen Qamar. Last but not least, Hadhrat Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrulla Khan. It was through his guidance, his prayers and his encouragement that all of us were enabled to lend a hand. One cannot possibly forget Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib’s contribution towards education and Tarbiyyat of the British Jamaat. In fact he trained most of those whom even today, are privileged to diligently render service to the Faith. On the top of such a list appears the name of Rafiq Ahmad Hayat, Amir of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in the U.K.
For the education and tarbiyyat of members, in 1965 I started a fortnightly Seminar. Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib and I would regularly address the participants. On and off others also addressed the youngsters. Some of those who attended the seminars are now enabled to render significant service to the Jamaat. Amongst them were Rafiq Ahmad Hayat and his younger brother Laeeq Ahmad Hayat. There were many other young men and all of them have become Servants of the Faith. These youngsters can be described as the produce of Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib’s prayers and hard work. For the manner in which he devoted attention to my own tarbiyyat, my heart remains flooded with prayers for Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib. I pray to the Almighty that in the Hereafter Hadhrat Chaudhry Sahib may be granted proximity of Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa (PBUH) and that of the Promised Messiah. He was indeed an arch lover of both. Amen. By the time the turbulent storm of 1974 passed away very many Ahmadis lost their assets. Dozens of them were martyred and thousands lost their means of livelihood. However, even now, 28 years later when I think of those events, I see a very strange spectacle. The martyrs were granted the respect of martyrdom. What else could they ever wish for? The Almighty has compensated those who lost their assets in diverse ways. The progeny of those who lost their means of livelihood have been blessed with great riches.
Currently hundreds of thousands of those who were persecuted have migrated to other countries and have been blessed with great prosperity in the countries where they settled. Beyond their wildest expectations, their children are being educated in some of the best Universities of the world. Because of their migration vigorous sound Jamaats have been established in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, America, Canada and very many other European countries.