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Rawalpindi Conspiracy (1951)
Certain events in the history of nations leave deep impacts on their future. Such incidents are always controversial and remain a matter of dispute among sections of society. The Rawalpindi Conspiracy case is one such incident in our post-independence history that has influenced our political and social history. After the termination of decades, the event ought now to be analyzed objectively to learn useful lessons from it as the dust of emotions and sentiments has settled down.
Rawalpindi Conspiracy case was an attempted coup d’état against the government of Liaquat Ali Khan who the first Prime Minister of the country. This was the first attempt succeeding a number of attempts against the elected governments of Pakistan in later history. The mastermind behind the whole plan was Major General Akbar Khan who was a senior commander of the Pakistan Army at that time. And for this plan, he got the support of some military men and some left-wing politicians as well.
At the time of independence, Major General Akbar Khan was serving the country as Brigadier. Soon after independence when war broke out between India and Pakistan 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.
General Gracy did not like Pakistan’s deep involvement in the war. Consequently, Pakistan could only be successful in occupying some areas of Kashmir. General Akbar Khan who was a valiant solider was not satisfied with the state policies and he was greatly disheartened by this agreement of ceasefire. He used to express his anger against the ceasefire incautiously in the presence of all. General Akbar Khan and his associates were not satisfied with the domestic and foreign policies of the government particularly policies regarding the Kashmir issue. Along with this Akbar Khan had personal grievances as well; he felt that he had been unfairly ignored when Ayub Khan was selected the C-in-C of the Pakistan army. Khan’s valor pooled with aggravation incited him to make a plan of overthrowing the current government of Liaquat Ali Khan who was the Prime Minister and Khawaja Nazimud Din the Governor-General.
Consequently, Khan called together a meeting at his place in Rawalpindi on 23rd February 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 planned coup d’etat offered by Khan, both Governor-General and Prime Minister were to be arrested; the Governor-General was to be forced to suspend the Prime Minister and his government. And after the 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 take part 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 editorial support to the new government. But one of Khan’s confidants, Ali, who was a police officer, reported the whole plan to the IG Police who, through the Governor of NWFP, brought the plan to the knowledge of the PM. As a Consequence, Khan, Begum Nasim, Faiz, and Zaheer were arrested.
A special tribunal was constituted to try the accused persons. The case began in the court, on 15th June 1951 specially prepared for the trial in the compound of the Hyderabad jail. The case was not false altogether. The accused claimed that the meeting had ended without any accord after a prolonged eight hours of intense debate. According to the law of the land, the conspiracy could only be established if there was an agreement on the plan. Since no agreement was reached, there was no conspiracy. After months of trial, finally, the court declared its verdict. The trial concluded on 22nd November 1950, and the verdict was announced the following year in January The civilians and the junior army officers were imprisoned for four years and were charged with a fine and Akbar Khan for 14 years.
The most surprising point of the case was the alliance between the communist party leaders and the army officers, as both sectors of the society were obsessed with different approaches towards the society and its functioning and progression.
The conspiracy was gigantic in terms of its consequences to the state since the military and the elite of the bureaucracy were waiting to capture the state machinery because the politicians were not working for the people. The subsequent Martial laws imposed in the country are merely the reflections of the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case 1951. Nowadays when there are talks about the incapability of the state to deal with the problems of the people it must be remembered that these thoughts were wandering in the minds of the people when Liaquat Ali Khan served as the Prime Minister. The Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case echoes across all future events that are a result of the frustrations among the people concerning the inability of the government.
Subsequently, in October 1955, all the fourteen conspirators were released following the legal battle that went on in the higher courts after the dissolution of the CAP. Major General Akbar Khan was soon transformed in Pakistani political life, becoming an adviser to Pakistani politician Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Upon coming to power in 1971, Bhutto appointed Akbar Khan to be chief of national security. Faiz continued to publish many works of poetry and was appointed to the National Council for Arts by the Bhutto government.