Srinagar: It was April 4, 1979. Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Zulfkar Ali Bhutto was being prepared for his last journey, the gallows, at the Central Jail of Rawalpindi in Pakistan.
In Kashmir the morning was sunny. The air was full of rumors that Bhutto had been hanged before it was officially announced on Radio Pakistan.
While there was no major incident of violence reported in Pakistan, Jama’at-e-Islami in Kashmir became a target of “organized” mob aggression, particularly in south.
Jama’at’s official documents reveal that the preparations for the “targeted rioting” had been going on for quite a long time by its political and ideological opponents. The report, published in book form, prepared by the then secretary general of the party, Qari Saif-u-Din, mentions that right from the day Lahore High Court pronounced death penalty against Bhutto, the Jama’at in Kashmir had become the target of a “vicious propaganda” campaign.
The day still haunts the supporters and leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami in Kashmir, recalls Ghulam Qadir, a nonagenarian. “That day hundreds of residential houses of members or well-wishers of Jama’at-e-Islami were either ransacked, looted or set on fire.”
Qadir narrates that people across the valley, that day; mostly supporters of National Conference took to streets against the hanging of Bhutto and attacked JeI supporters in every nook and corner. “I still remember it vividly and the attacks continued for three days. Frenzied mobs left no stone unturned to inflict maximum damage on the Jama’at cadre,” he said.
As per official records of Jama’at-e-Islami, 1245 houses of Jama’at activists or sympathizers were burnt by the “state patronized” mobs.
Besides, more than 466 houses were looted; 518 godowns and 22 factory units were also burnt. The mobs didn’t even spare apple orchards and burnt or damaged more than 70 of them.
Arshid Ahmad, Jama’at sympathizer and a resident of Quil in Pulwama, said the mobs, “under a well-planned conspiracy and under state patronage” went on a rampage cutting down all the apple trees of a senior member of Jama’at Hakim Ghulam Nabi. Hakim later rose to the ranks of Ameer-e-Jama’at.
“The rumors actually made rounds on 3rd April that Bhutto was going to be hanged. Panic had gripped the whole belt of Pulwama and Jama’atees, knew all was not well,” Arshid said.
He recalls that the rumor had it that the then military ruler Zia-ul-Haq was a close relative of the then Ameer-e-Jama’at of Pakistan Mian Tufail.
The incident was indirectly attributed to Jama’at in Kashmir while the situation in Pakistan remained calm.
“People even tried to kill Hakim Ghulam Nabi, but fortunately, he fled and went underground before the mobsters could reach him,” Arshid says.
Besides the houses, factories, and orchards, the mobsters burnt 651 libraries, 10 mosques, and 338 shops. They went even further as even schools were burnt and looted. The records reveal that 45 schools were damaged.