A Pakpotpourri Exclusive

Naveed Tajammal


Part I can be read at:

Part II can be read at:

Part III can be read at

Part IV can be read at

Part V can be read at

Part VI can be read at


On 14 March 1951 a government spokesperson told the press that specially selected staff of the civil police were conducting the investigation of those involved in the conspiracy case, and a cell had been created within the criminal investigation department of Government of Punjab, under Malik Habibullah SP. On 15 March the Punjab CID drafted the FIR and deputed one of its DSP to go to Rawalpindi and get it registered in the cantonment police station. The FIR was registered on 16 March 1951.

On 21 March Liaqat Ali Khan in reply to pointed question[on this conspiracy case] which was raised in the constituent assembly, by the opposition gave a vague reply-he never once mentioned the rationale behind this conspiracy-which was the Kashmir Affair mishandled by Liaqat Ali Khan and his team. The press and public were left in a total blackout. However the Prime minister did inform the assembly that, ‘the conspirators had planned a forced take over with help of communist and revolutionary elements, by making use of such members of the Armed forces as they could temper with’.

To a query by a member, that, whether they would be tried by a military court martial the prime minister refused to reply, even on the insistence of the opposition.

Meanwhile the police investigations continued with a unlimited mandate to rope in any one they felt was needed or those indicated by Ayub Khan, as he was the C in C, a thorough witch hunting settling old scores was done-the daily banner headlines, the free for all searches in cantonments hunting army officers was done blatantly-and Qurban Ali Khan the IG Police Punjab having the full authority given by the prime minister to enter any other province to investigate, so started the police detentions of army officers and interrogations, which created a general scare in the army. Ayub Khan was thus establishing his own writ-by weeding out the elements within the army using police as a cover.

A Bill to try these Army Officers was introduced in the Constituent Assembly  on 13 April 1951-termed as ‘The Rawalpindi Conspiracy- Special Tribunal Bill’. On the morning of 16 April it was passed-but not before a heated discussion on it-by the opposition members. According to the opposition, all from the Bengali leaders- led by Mr. Dhirendranath Datta, that, ”it abrogated the rights of the accused, which was contrary to the normal laws’- the Bill was a mockery to justice, on a point of order Dhirendranath, further stated, being a lawyer himself, that, ‘This bill was out to amend provisions of Code of Criminal Law procedures, the Evidence Act and the Army Act, therefore, it came under the competence of the Federal Legislature and certainly Not under the propriety of the Constituent Assembly-as had been had wrongly done so, with mala fide intentions. Dhirendranath further argued that, ‘under the Constituent assembly of Pakistan procedure rules, a bill could be introduced in the Constituent assembly for purpose of making the constitution or amending the Independence Act or amending the Government of India Act 1935,which was adapted in Pakistan, as an interim constitutional framework of the country.

The crux of all these shenanigans by Liaqat Ali Khan which resulted in bulldozing the fundamental rights was the First of its kind-and totally at variance with the prevailing liberal laws current in the country till this Act was enforced.

This Act abrogated the rights of the accused, it relaxed the standards of prosecution evidence and laid stringent trial procedures to suit the prosecution side alone.

All this was done at the expense of sound principles of criminal administration and the so-called Democratic Government of Liaqat Ali Khan in our formative period of independence-the end result was that it set the First Tradition of bad governance and a total disregard for the human fundamental rights.

And so it became the foundation of each successive regime Military or Civil to twist and turn laws to make more repressive laws, rules and practices so started a chain of perverting policies in our politics-which resulted in perverting the course of justice.

The four main glaring aspects of this special tribunal Act, as was made under the wishes of Liaqat Ali Khan’s Government were-

1] Under the then existing law, the normal procedure for the trial of an offence, even if it carried the maximum punishment was through certain procedures-[a] preliminary inquiry by the magistrate-[b] after hearing the evidence, the magistrate, if it was adjudged by him, that a ‘prima facie’ case could be made against the accused, the magistrate was to refer the case directly to the sessions-court judge, for a full-fledged trial-[c] After the sessions court had tried the accused and found him guilty and convicted him-the case was referred to the High-Court before two judges, if the high court upheld the order of sessions court, the accused by special leave of the high court  could appeal before the Federal Court.

This Special Act by passed all above procedures, as the three judges nominated by the Government could hold in the trial in camera[secrecy] and so the three stages of judicial scrutiny provided for offences carrying capital punishment were thus reduced to one stage-which deprived the accused, of multiple stages, of sifting the prosecution evidence.

2] The Evidence Act of pre-independence India-adopted by Pakistan had provided that. No testimony was acceptable unless it was subject to cross-examination by the accused in the court-This Act of Liaqat Ali Khan by passed this vital provision of Law-in the old Evidence Act, by this New Act. ”A statement made before a magistrate by any person, whose presence during the trial could not be arranged was allowed by this Act to be received as evidence by the Tribunal, without giving any opportunity to the defense [accused] to confront such a person & rebut him-Even more sinister was the provision of this Act, that allowed, ‘The Tribunal to receive in evidence any statement of a witness or that the accused, had been made to give during investigation before any police officer.

3] Under section 5[2] of this new Act-the Tribunal was empowered to convict any accused of any offence, even,if he was Not charged with it-purely on any evidence produced before it in respect of some other offence, so the discretion of adding new charges remained with the Tribunal.

The Accused therefore could be charged and condemned for any offence, even though he may not have been charged with in the framing of charges against him on the onset of the trial and no opportunity was given to him to defend himself under this Act.

The pertinent point being that,’the accused could be condemned for any offence-during the trial-which was against all the norms of jurisprudence”.

4] The section 10 of this Act ensured that, ‘No order, judgment or sentence of the special Tribunal shall be called into questioning, in appeal or revision or otherwise howsoever, in any court and No court shall entertain any plea, As to the jurisdiction of the special tribunal, or as to its legality or propriety of anything done or was being purporting to be done by the special tribunal court.

In nutshell the three judges were given absolute powers of life and death, above and beyond scrutiny by any judicial forum of the land of the legality of their action in respect of an order during the Trial or at any other stage before or after the judgment.

The best part was that the sitting Government of Liaqat Ali Khan was ‘indemnified’ against any scrutiny of the propriety, legal or otherwise, of this Act, which had created new procedures unprecedented in the legal history-as all these procedures were totally arbitrary and clashed with the propriety of rules of Evidence.

These new rules even surpassed the Martial Law court orders-as any capital punishment awarded by the even the summary military courts was subject to confirmation by the Chief Martial Law Administrator.

It should also be kept in mind that such had a hype been created by the newspapers against the conspirators that people tried to be more loyal than the king-when Bengal Congress under Dhirendranath Datta had opposed the above Bill-One of the ruling party stalwart-Syed Hassan Mahmud had countered the opposition motion by this logic, that since the majority was presenting this Bill-anyone opposing it, was nothing but, ‘a disruptionist and anti-democratic’.[Constituent Assembly Debates-Vol-9-13th April-16th April 1951]

On 15 May 1951-it was announced that the special tribunal had been set  up and it would consist of a chairman of the tribunal who would be Justice Abdur Rehman of the Federal Court under him would be two judges of High court-Justice Amiruddin Ahmed of Dacca High Court and Justice Mohammad Sharif of Lahore High Court. The Tribunal would hold its court at Central Jail Hyderabad.

On the same day the Ministry of Defense under its able Secretary Iskandar  Mirza announced the arrest of more officers involved in the said conspiracy case-all officers were reverted to their Substantive ranks as per Army rules-[1] Brig.Siddique Khan[9FFR] to Major-w.e.f 05 June[2] Brig. Ziaudin AK Captain-w.e.f 23 May [3] Lieut. Col Niaz Mohammad Arbab[1st Punjab Regt] to Captain w.e.f 05 june.[4] Captain Khizer Hyat [1st Punjab Regt] to Lieutenant w.e.f 25 May[5] Col. Mirza Hassan Khan AK Regt to Captain w.e.f 05 June[6] Major Ishaq Mohamad[Kalat forces] to Captain-w.e.f 05 June [7] Captain Zaffarullah Poshni [16 Punjab Regt] to Lieutenant[8] Air Commodore M. K.J anjua to Group Captain w.e.f 09 Mar.

Hence forth in all proceedings of the Trial they were addressed by these Ranks-PA-25-Maj-Gen Akbar khan[1st FFR] & PA-105 Brig. M. A. Latif[2 Guides FFR] were dismissed from service w.e.f 09 March, so they held no rank.

PA-14 Maj. Gen Nazir Ahmed[1st FFR] was arrested from Karachi Airport on 20th May-at 1 am on his return from London after attending a course at Imperial Defense College. was reverted to  a Lieut. Colonel-w.e.f 10 June 1951,and taken to Lahore-Bird wood Police Lines, for interrogation.

Mr. A. K. Brohi who was the Advocate-General was appointed, as the Chief Prosecutor- to conduct the whole prosecution Case before the Tribunal.

Earlier to all this Sajjad Zaheer had been arrested from Lahore on 28th April and lodged in central Jail Lahore. Other officers had been lodged in different jails-but on 15 May they were all moved to Lahore Central jail. The same night they were brought before Justice Abdur Rehman at his bungalow. The other Judge.Mohammad Sharif was also present. These two judges gave the police a remand for 14 days for all accused. A day before expiry of the remand they were again produced before this Tribunal but one judge remained i.e Mohammad Sharif of Lahore High court,as others were unavailable. On a further remand given they were again taken back for interrogation.

On 3rd June the accused were all rounded up and taken Lahore cantonment station to be put in a special train and moved to Hyderabad. By the second week of June all 14 accused lodged in central Jail Hyderabad had been charge sheeted. The fifteen accused Muhamad Hussain Atta was arrested from Chittagong Port, around 15 July 1951 and taken directly to Central Hyderabad, as the trial was under process.

Two Officers-Major-Eusoph Sethi of 6/13 FFR when arrested on 14 May-asked for a full pardon if he told the state everything he knew and more-his request was granted to him, on grounds that they were subject to his statements before the Tribunal. Lt. Col Siddique Raja 1/14th Punjab[Ayub Khan’s unit] became the approver number-one from the inception of this case-even before the arrests.

The Special Tribunal started its trial proceedings in camera inside the central jail Hyderabad on 15 June 1951 at 8 am.

The chief Prosecutor [A.K.Brohi] submitted before the court a list of 351 witnesses out of which the Tribunal selected a few, inclusive of the two main approvers. Throughout the proceedings Not once was Inspector Askar Ali Shah of NWFP CID on whose indication and written report the whole inquiry and arrests were made-ever was produced as a witness. Nor did the Court stress on his being brought before the Tribunal.

The main prosecution witnesses on whose statements the eventual punishments were given were.

[1] Maj. Gen Hayuddin [2] Brig. Habibullah [3]Brig. Masood khan [4] Lt-Col Gul Mowaz [5] Lt-Col Khudadad Khan [6] Lt-Col Tor Gul [7] Maj. Asad Namazi[isi][8] Maj. Gul Khan [9] Maj. Ishaq[Salauddin][10] Maj. Khadim Hussain [11] Maj. Salim Ahmad Yazadani[12] Captain Noor Hussain [13] Kamal Sher [a official of information dept. NWFP].

The amazing part remains that all main accused were from the Army, the prosecution witnesses were from the Army, there is no mention of any JAG [Army-Judge Advocate General] being present in the Tribunal proceedings. All officers were tried under the Army Act of 1911-they had been dismissed likewise by the same Army Act.


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  • naveed tajammal  On March 27, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Thank you Yasmeen Ali for the post-

  • shahbazthuthaal  On March 28, 2014 at 12:52 am

    Thanks for sharing ; Has this been pub in BOoK form? Muhammad Shahbaz Sent via EVOTAB

  • Ajmal  On March 28, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Excellent narration,comprehensively covered & in depth research. Well done Naveed and keep it up.

  • Tariq Haider  On March 28, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Well researched series of historical article, a good reminder for those, who want to learn. Not for those who have closed their minds, thinking they are now the master of the universe.

  • Syed Imam  On March 28, 2014 at 10:02 am

    It seems Pakistan was a sane country working under the preview of the law and violations were freely debated in parliament. Nobody was above the law. The police was the only arm of the law and could freely move in the cantonment.

    • naveed tajammal  On March 28, 2014 at 12:56 pm

      Not really-Shahjee,This is the Third glaring charge against Liaqat Ali Khan-First was his fault in Not’ accepting Sardar Patel’s offer to take Kashmir in lieu of Hyderabad,Second was his ineptness to help our Freedom fighters fighting for Kashmir while he played his own petty politics Thousands died fighting,thirdly he was the first to set the example in creating a Kangaroo court and twisting the laws to serve his whimsical wish-Read once again what all the debate in the constituent Assembly was all about and how it was bulldozed-

  • mohammed ali jawaid  On March 29, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Ahh! the only lesson we’ve learnt from our chequered history that we learnt nothing!

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