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There are incidents in the history of every nation which have profound future implications. In many cases, such incidents are controversial and are always a matter of debate and discussion among different sections of a society. The Rawalpindi conspiracy case is one such unfortunate event in our post-independence history which has impacted our political and, to some extent, social history. After a lapse of six decades, the event ought now to be analyzed objectively in order to learn useful lessons from it as the dust of emotions and sentiments has settled down. In the following paragraphs I will try to give a short summary of the “story” which is called Rawalpindi Conspiracy case and then I will touch upon the questions such as what were the issues at the time when such a conspiracy against the state institutions was planned and how big Rawalpindi conspiracy case is, in its real significance to the history of Pakistan.

The central character of the case was Major Gen Akbar Khan who was serving as a brigadier at the time of independence. Soon after independence, the war broke out between Pakistan and India on the issue of annexation of Kashmir. Akbar Khan led the regular army and civilian tribes against India in the war, whereas General David Gracy was the C-in-C of the Pakistan Army. In fact, Gracy was not in favor of Pakistan's deep involvement in the war. As a consequence, Pakistan could only succeed in occupying some parts of Kashmir. This situation disheartened Brig Khan who was an extremely brave soldier. He was highly frustrated over Pakistan's acceptance of ceasefire and thus turned against the state policy on the Kashmir dispute. He used to express his wrath against the ceasefire indiscreetly in the presence of all and sundry. His spouse, Begum Nasim was the daughter of a renowned woman leader of the Muslim League, Begum Jehan Ara Shahnawaz. She was also highly critical of the government policies. Khan's boldness combined with frustration incited him to make a plan of overthrowing the incumbent government. At that time, Liaquat Ali Khan was the PM and Khawaja Nazimud Din was the governor general. The regime had put severe sanctions on the communist Party of Pakistan which was not permitted to take part in political activities. Due to her family background, Begum Nasim had vast political connections and Faiz Ahmad Faiz was among her friends. Faiz was the editor of the then “Pakistan Post” and was ideologically committed and a great sympathizer of the communist party. Hence, the frustration of both Akbar Khan and Faiz pushed them closer to ousting the incumbent regime. Consequently, Khan convened a meeting at his place in Rawalpindi on February 23, 1951 which was attended by Faiz, Syed Sajjad Zaheer, the then secretary general of the party, and Muhmmad Hussain Ata, another leader of the party. Besides civilians, Akbar Khan, Lt Col Siddique Raja and Maj M Yousaf Sethi were present in the meeting. According to the proposed coup d’├ętat presented by Khan, both Governor General and PM were to be arrested; the GG was to be forced to dismiss the PM and his government. After dismissal of the government, Khan was to form the new government which was to organize general elections in the country. The new government was to allow the communist party to participate in the political process and as a return, the party was to welcome and provide support to the new government. The Daily under the editorship of Faiz, was to provide the editorial support to the new government. According to official sources a police offices who was a trustee of Gen. Khan leaked the information about the conspiracy and hence they were arrested

At that time some big developments were progressing. Firstly, the people of Morocco were involved in the independence movement against the French. Thousands of people mostly students used to come on roads and supported the Moroccan movement against the French. They also demanded to end diplomatic relations with French imperialist regime and to support the Moroccan movement diplomatically. Hence a great portion of population had problems with the foreign policy of Pakistani government and it seemed that the newspapers at that time such as the Pakistan Post were supporting the people against the state. This implied that this newspaper is creating an environment of distrust and contradiction of ideology between the state and the people . The government of Pakistan led by Liaqat Ali Khan was very much irritated by the activities and the statements of these newespapers and people against the state. As the editor was Mr.Faiz who was ideologically committed to communist ideology, the state started to keep a close eye on those people who were regarded as close colleagues of Faiz. And this was at this time that General Khan, his wife and Begum Jehan Ara Begum were supposed to have relations with Faiz. Secondly, Kashmir issue was being discussed in the UN. The people of Pakistan were frustrated about this issue and the proceedings of the case in the UN and it seemed for Pakistanis that the leadership of the state is not able to get the rights of the state. Hence General Khan and the left might have found this occasion suitable to catch the support of the people against the state. Thirdly, those were the days when Muslim league had been speculated as not coming according to the people’s expectation. Also that Muslim league has lost its support as a populist party. And this may also be an answer to the question regarding the vanishing of Muslim league from Pakistan’s political scenario after independence. At that time i.e February to April, 1951, political parties were preparing for the upcoming provincial assembly elections. So this might be considered to be a very good chance for Muslim League to exploit their support by ambushing the “core” of their party and to win the next elections. Hence, we see from the newspapers of those days giving statements about speculations that Azad Pakistan party and Miss. Fatima Jinnah to win the Punjab elections and Muslim league to lose. Fourthly, there were people from the lower strata such as the laborers and the landless workers protesting against the government for not giving them the suitable relief. All of these instances carry us to completely opposite side far away from those facts given to us by the state. Here the hypocrisy of the state is exposed very clearly when we see that the government of Pakistan made a special court and tribunal to try the suspects of the conspiracy and hide the court proceedings from the common man. It also seems that the state is not fully prepared to carry out such arrests such as newspapers at that time were reportng that the “state is yet deciding to arrest or not to arrest Air Commodore Janjua”. Other things which may be useful are the statements of the centrist newspaper Dawn and populist newspaper Pakistan Post during the commencing elections in Punjab. For example Dawn reported that “Muslim league swept elections in Gujranwala and Sargodha”. On the other hand Pakistan post reported that “in Lahore all seats have been won by either Azad Pakistan Party or other non–Muslim league party and that Muslim league party is losing all over the Punjab”. Also newspaper report that “some parties were protesting against the results of elections in Sargodha and Gujranwala”. Here we see that the election is contested through power over newspapers and it seems that even the party of Quaid-e-Azam who was responsible for the making of Pakistan is not behaving honestly. From here we see that the very foundations of our political system were flawed and no one was ready to work for the common man. Fake conspiracy cases were filed against those who were acting against the institutions because the state was west oriented and was not doing those things which it was supposed to do. This conclusion is supported by Miss. Fatima Jinnah when she stated in a rally that “people should vote in favor of those who are the real followers of Quaid”. From this she meant that we should not vote for Muslim league because it had changed its very purposes from the day when Quaid died. History is witness of the fakery of this conspiracy as General Akbar was latter appointed as the Chief of National security in Zulfiqar ali Bhutto’s regime.

The conspiracy was big in terms of its significance to the state. Because the military and the elites in bearucracy were waiting to capture the state machinery because the politicians were not working for the people. Hence later we see that army claims to protect the institutions of the state and the rights of the people. Martial laws are mere the reflectory images of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case 1951. Nowadays when we talk about the inability of the state to tackle the problems of the people we forget these thoughts were wandering in the minds of the people when we had Liaqat Ali Khan as our Prime Minister. So its merely the continuity we see in our history. Later we saw further some successful  coups in 1958 ,1969,1977,1991 and some unsuccessful attempts in 1973 and 1995 which was because of the same reasons for which the 1951 conspiracy case emerged.

About The Author: Asif Bahadur is a current student of   Economics/Political Science at lums. His areas of interest includes  Economics, Philosophy and Computer Science. He is also a very good football player and plays for a his hometown football team.

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