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Monday, February 29, 2016

Reporting on the future- Justice Munir-Keyani Report

"If there is one thing which has been conclusively demonstrated in this inquiry, it is that provided you can persuade the masses to believe that something they are asked to do is religiously right or enjoined by religion, you can set them to any course of action, regardless of all considerations of discipline, loyalty, decency, morality or civic sense."

Much has been written and debated about the 1954 ‘Munir-Kayani Report’. The hefty report was based on an exhaustive inquiry conducted by the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mohammad Munir, and a Punjab High Court judge, Rustam Kayani.

The inquiry was first demanded by Shaukat Hayat Khan, a veteran politician and colleague of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Hayat had had a falling out with his former associate and Chief Minister of Punjab, Mian Mumtaz Daultana, when, in 1953, violent riots erupted in the Punjab against the Ahmadi community. The riots were largely perpetrated by a group of religious parties demanding the excommunication of the Ahmadis from the fold of mainstream Islam.

Martial Law was proclaimed in the province and the riots were ultimately crushed by the army. The commotion badly shook the centrist Muslim League government.

More than half a decade has gone by, yet the relevance of the 1954 report on anti-Ahmadi riots in Punjab is debatable
Hayat accused the Punjab CM, Mumtaz Daultana, of ‘engineering’ the turmoil in the Punjab to dethrone the then sitting prime minister, Khwaja Nazimuddin. He claimed that Daultana had given the rioters his ‘tacit support.’

Two government ordinances were issued a few months later, ordering a full inquiry into the causes of the disturbances.

Over the decades, the Munir-Kayani Inquiry Report has often been quoted in the on-going debate between the country’s ‘modernist Muslims’ and conservatives. The modernists specifically mention that section of the report which suggests that no two Muslim scholars agree upon even a single aspect of the faith. Each had their own interpretations which they believed were the correct ones.

This finding was penned by the judges after they had interviewed 117 Islamic scholars from all Muslim sects and sub-sects in the country. The conservatives, however, are critical of the report, claiming that it was biased against them and that both the judges had preconceived notions about the ulema and the clergy.

In his book, Religious Exclusion in Pakistan, professor of history and author, Ali Usman Qasmi, writes that more than being just an inquiry into the 1953 disturbances, the extensive report actually took the shape of becoming an elaborate mediation on the evolution of Muslim nationalism and ‘modernist Islam’ in South Asia.

The report remarked that Muslim nationalism (upon which Jinnah’s Pakistan came into being) was a moderate and modern entity which was being challenged by those trying to raise a ‘religious Leviathan’ (totalitarian state) based on an intransigent and rigid understanding of the faith.

Twenty-five years later, Justice Munir, in his 1979 book, From Jinnah to Zia, wrote that his (and Kayani’s) report had predicted a situation such as the one Pakistan faced when a general pulled off a military coup in July 1977 (Zia), and began to shape a more rigid and myopic regime and society.

Opponents of the report claim that, in 1953, the judges were influenced by the government to ‘implicate the ulema’ by already ‘painting them in a bad light’ before the inquiry.

By this the critics of the report mean an incident which Ali Usman also details in his book: Right after the military crushed the rioting, famous Islamic scholar, Khalifa Abdul Hakim, penned a pamphlet titled, Iqbal & Mullahism.

An authority on Islamic texts and also on the writings of South Asian poet-philosopher, Mohammad Iqbal (d. 1938), Khalifa used verses from some of Iqbal’s poems and quoted Iqbal’s scholarly opinions on the clergy to suggest that the views of the clergy and many of the ulema were contrary to the understanding of the faith of Pakistan’s founders.

The government published 5,000 copies of the pamphlet and then another 4,500, including an Urdu translation of the text. It then distributed them free of cost across the Punjab.

Justice Munir was born into an affluent family in Hoshiarpur. After bagging a degree in Economics from college, he passed the bar exam and became a successful lawyer. In 1943, he became a judge of the Lahore High Court. He was well liked by Jinnah.

In 1954 he was elevated to the position of chief justice of Pakistan. Munir was a sophisticated, well-read and calm man. In 1958, he went on to back the military coup of Ayub Khan and partially influenced Ayub’s public disposition as a ‘moderate and modernist Muslim’.

Justice Kayani on the other hand, was born in a village near Kohat. After his initial schooling at a village school, he was sent to Lahore by his father to further his studies at a college. He did well there and got accepted into the civil service. He then won a scholarship to study at the prestigious Cambridge University in the UK. On his return, he joined law and became part of the judiciary.

Kayani was well-versed in English, Persian, Pashto, Punjabi and Urdu, and was a practicing Muslim. Ali Usman informs that though he was regular in his prayers and read the holy book every morning before going to court, he was vehemently against the mixing of religion with politics. In the 1960s, Kayani and Munir drifted apart when, unlike Munir, Kayani opposed the Ayub dictatorship.

Their report’s relevance went beyond Pakistan. For example, in an era when Muslim nationalists in most Muslim-majority countries were aggressively trying to merge the concept of their respective nationalisms with modernity, the Munir-Kayani Report was requested by and ended up (to be studied) in Iran (during the Shah regime), Turkey and Egypt (during the Arab nationalist government of Gamal Abdel Nasser).

Many of its exponents today believe that in this day and age when Pakistan is embroiled in an ‘existentialist battle’ against extremism, the report is now even more relevant than ever. Its critics continue to disagree.

By Nadeem F Piracha Dawn: http://www.dawn.com/news/1242056

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