Dawn: Former Minister of Religious Affairs in the Z.A. Bhutto government (1971-77), Kausar Niazi, has been mistreated by history.
by Nadeem F. Paracha
Many local historians have charged him for influencing some of the Bhutto government’s many controversial policies, especially the one that supposedly ‘resolved the long standing Ahmadiyya question’.
Though a number of former members of Bhutto’s PPP have squarely blamed Niazi of influencing Bhutto regarding the thorny matter, the truth is quite the opposite.
In the 1950s and the 1960s Kausar Niazi was a prominent member of one of Pakistan’s leading religious parties, the Jamat-i- Islami (JI).In 1953 he was arrested and jailed by the government for taking part in the violent anti- Ahamdiyya riots in Lahore.Niazi was also highly vocal in his support for JI’s criticism of the Ayub Khan dictatorship (1958-69). The JI had accused Ayub of undermining the role of Islamic scholars in Pakistan.
However, after Ayub Khan eased out his young foreign minister, Z.A.
Bhutto in 1966, Niazi supported Bhutto’s stand against his former boss (over the 1965 ceasefire against India).
Despite his falling out with the Bhuttos later on, Maulana Kausar Niazi’s opposition to declaring the Ahmadiyya a minority exemplified his secular credentials
When Bhutto formed his own party in 1967 (the PPP), the JI denounced Bhutto and the PPP of being a party of communists who were being backed by the Soviet Union to ‘destroy faith in Pakistan’.
After disagreeing with JI’s line of attack against Bhutto, Niazi broke away from the party. He was consequently invited by Bhutto to join the PPP. Bhutto was searching for a religious scholar to join his party, someone who could (theologically) retaliate against JI’s diatribes against the PPP.Niazi’s entry into the PPP was not welcomed by the party’s leftist ideologues. But Bhutto overruled their concerns, suggesting that Niazi fully backed the party’s socialist programme.
Niazi was given the party ticket to contest the 1970 election from a constituency in Sialkot (even though he was originally from Mianwali).
Interestingly, the constituency in Sialkot from where Niazi was contesting had a large Ahamdiyya population.
But Niazi, now positioning himself as a ‘progressive Muslim scholar’ and a firm advocate of the PPP’s socialist manifesto, decided to hold a series of meetings with the leaders of the Ahamdiyya community.
He convinced them that the PPP would never allow the religious parties to outlaw the Ahmadiyya from the fold of Islam and that the PPP was the community’s only hope aga inst excommunication.