This picture, posted by Zackintosh on his twitter feed, immediately arrested me. It was taken at/outside the Karachi Press Club, at a gathering meant to show solidarity of the Lahore massacre – sadly, a rather non-event. It was the hand-written white sign in the middle, held high. The gentleman holding up the sign seems mature, and I wonder if he saw the irony – the tragic irony – of his sign. It says: “In Quaid-e Azam’s first Cabinet, Foreign Minister Sir Zafarallah, was an Ahmadi.” I infer that he invokes this name and this reference to point towards the tolerance and secularism interred in those early days of Pakistan. It is indeed true.
The irony is that this same sign mentioning Muhammad Zafrullah Khan – one of the closest advisors of Jinnah, who helped draft the Lahore Resolution Pakistan, served in numerous capacities including Pakistan’s first Foreign Minister, President of the United Nations General Assembly, Judge at Hague – would be easily found at any anti-Ahmadi rally from 1934 to 1954.
The Ahrar, as an organization, had two tenets: socialism and anti-Ahmadism. Maybe not so much on the socialism but certainly very firm on the anti-Ahmadism. The founder Shah ‘Ataullah Bukhari demanded in 1934 that Zafarullah Khan be removed from all offices. This they kept up throughout the next decade and into the 1950s. Zafarullah Khan was always the stand-in for the ” secret Ahmadi control” over Pakistan (a position soon to be filled by Zionists/US/etc.)
From Nasr’s work on Jama’at-i Islami:
The Ahrar continued to articulate economic grievances in Islamic terms, but with a new twist; it tied the demand for economic justice to the Islamicity of the state by questioning the status of the Ahmadis. Every harangue against the government policy and demand for greater Islamicity were accompanied by complaints about the decrepancy between the wealth of the Ahmadi community and the poverty of the Muslim masses: in the homeland of Muslims, it was the Ahmadis who reaped the benefits and the Muslims who suffered hunger and hardship. The strategy was by and large successful, though it was the Ahmadis themselves who set off the final conflict.
On May 17, 1952, the foreign minister turned down Prime Minister Nazimu’ddin’s pleas of caution and addressed a public Ahmadi session in Karachi. By openly admitting his religion, Zafaru’llah Khan gave credence to the charge made by the Ahrar that the government was “controlled” by the Ahmadis. For the other Islamic groups and the ulama, who viewed the Ahmadis with opporobrium, the very presence of an Ahmadi minister in the cabinet was proof of the un-Islamicity of the state. The Ahrar and the ulama, infuriated by the foreign minister’s actions, organized a protest march; the marchers clashed with the Ahmadis, and there was a riot.
- S.V.R. Nasr. The Vanguard of the Islamic Revolution: The Jama’at-i Islami of Pakistan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994): 133
Nasr does note, elsewhere, the fact that these so-called Muslim parties were adamantly opposed to Pakistan before 1947 and unironically segued into becoming the sole representatives of Muslims after 1949.1
That Zafarullah Khan’s memory has been so thoroughly erased from everyday lives – where theorists often prattle on and on about the long memories of the nation-state, such intense and immediate silencings are rarely noted – is indicative of the changed narrative about Ahmadis in Pakistan – who are now simply heretics and infidels to be eliminated indiscriminately.
Here is another erasure on the tombstone of Dr. Abdus Salam. Look at that word Muslim scraped clean by some industrious employee of the state. I have written previously about Abdus Salam but I didn’t mention his Ahmadiyat – just that he was considered an outcast. That was another erasure.———
- But, I do find the underlying tone of that whole paragraph by Nasr highly objectionable – this insinuation that Zafarullah Khan should have kept quiet or that “Ahmadis themselves set off the conflict”. Bad, bad, bad work, Nasr. [↩]