Ahmadis in Pakistan continue to face discrimination and injustice. The trend shows an increase in the systematic targeting of the community.
In 2014, faith-based murders of Ahmadi men increased in Punjab compared to Sindh, which saw greater target killings of Ahmadis in 2013.
Cases of violence or discrimination against Ahmadis did not lead to investigation or punishment for the attackers. The targeted arson attack on Ahmadis in Gujranwala, Punjab in 2014 which led to deaths of two Ahmadi minor girls and one female senior citizen, did not result in the murderers being brought to justice.
Ahmadi community also faced severe hate campaigns, through hate speeches and published hate literature. Despite the government’s steps taken to counter hate speech through the National Action Plan, hate material against Ahmadis is still being published and displayed in public spaces across the country.
By Rabab Fizah and Anna Thorning
The persecution of Ahmadis, a black listed minority sect of Islam, continues.
In response to the persecutions in an effort to prove themselves more Muslims than the fundamentalists, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) has created a new religion in Pakistan with the name of ‘Qadiani’ in the online forms for new national identity cards.
In a state where every issue is seen through the spectacles of Islam obviously religion becomes a mockery of what is happening in the country. In an effort to make a mockery out of the dominating religion of the country the NADRA has created a new religion with the name of Qadiani in the column of religion.
NADRA has adopted the policy of entering religion Qadiyani for Ahamadis in its computerized national identity card forms. On the new online form issued from the NADRA center, Chiniot, Punjab province, where Ahmadis have resided in large numbers for a century, are now categorized in the entry number 15 and written in Urdu AS” 15 Mazhab (religion) Qadiani”.
Before that there was a column of religion where one had to choose between ‘Muslim’ or ‘Non Muslim’ and here Ahmadis would choose ‘Non Muslims’ or writing themselves as Ahmadis, which was accepted by the ‘online form’. But now the word Qadiani has been introduced in the ‘online form’ by the Punjab government which threatens the very existence of the Ahmadis and appeases the fundamentalist Muslim groups who are united under the banner of Khatm-e-Nabowat Conference.
The change in the national identity cards by the national data base authority is to ensure the authenticity of citizenship in the country and has nothing to do with religion. Yet, the introduction of a distinction between Muslims and Ahmadis or any other minority serves the purpose of pushing them towards the fringes of the Pakistani society. National identity becomes equated with religious affiliation. You are only Pakistani if you belong to the Muslim majority. The other problem is in the column of ‘non Muslim’ which doesn’t define whether the non Muslim person belongs to the Hindu faith, Christianity or Sikh faith or any other particular religion. So, all persons who tick off the ‘non Muslim’ box are treated as ‘Qadiani’.
This madness of thePunjabprovincial government has not been limited to the national data form but has seeped into the educational institutions. Now, every schoolchild has to mention whether they are Muslim or non-Muslim in the admission forms. This foolishness has even been replicated by thePunjabgovernment to the roll number slips that the students fill out in their annual examinations. On every roll number slip a column specifically asks to state your religious affiliation.
The function of the roll number slip is to give access to the examination hall, so why state whether one is Muslim or non Muslim. The purpose of this is to divide the student body along lines of religion and this leads to sectarian hatred. It is a discriminating practice against students based on religion and it places the lives of the religious minorities inPakistanin danger.
This seemingly innocent practice leads to a segregatedPakistan, where minorities face persecution and it radicalizes Pakistani society.
Pakistanis a country where the religion of Islam is frequently used as a pretext to usurp fundamental rights of the ordinary citizens. The militancy present in Pakistani society has been strengthened by the promotion of state led religious intolerance. The misuse of Islam and the blasphemy law has affected the Pakistani state aversely and turned it into a deadly weapon targeting openness, tolerance, enlightenment, progress, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, civil rights and freedom of speech.
The Islamisation process inPakistanhas gone so far as to turn into Talibinisation, so that is it is hard to differentiate between the process of Talibanisation and Islamisation. In one case the Chief Justice of Pakistan refuted the legislative authority of the parliament and stated that if the parliament was free to legislate, the parliament would make laws promoting secularism.
The judiciary supports powerful groups that work against the freedom to adopt a religion of choice and the rights of religious minority groups. In many cases the courts have prosecuted minority groups for breaking the blasphemy law even though there has been no evidence. The courts feels threatened by the fundamentalist groups and therefore quickly pass sentences. In relation to the Ahmadis, the judicial officers have attended conferences inciting hatred against Ahmadis and in many cases these conferences were held inside the court premises.
Introducing a national identity card where one has to state religious affinity negates the very foundation of citizenship. One is a citizen of the Pakistani state regardless of one’s religion. What is needed is a strong movement that fights against instrument that segregates the Pakistani society along lines of religion. The mockery of putting a religious category in all official documents should be stopped so that all citizens are equal before the law.
The email by an Ahmadi has raised some pertinent questions which we seem to evade. if there has been a “universal condemnation”, has it also not been qualified and timid? Is any one asking why did we have to declare Ahmadis (or for that matter any other sect or group) non-Muslim in the first place? Ahmadis demand that they be called as Ahmadis but the language of ‘universal condemnation’ continues to use the language of the dominant discourse and call them Qadianis.
The Flotilla incident and the reaction to it presents a good contrast. The dominant discourse condemns the apartheid established by Israel but upholds the apartheid at home. The leading liberal/intelligent TV anchorperson, who led the tirade against India post-Mumbai and told the nation that the boy caught by Indian police was wearing a Raakhi so he could not be a Muslim, is the hero of the media today.
Once upon a time there was a lawyers’ movement. We thought it was a great turning point in the history of this country. Were we not mistaken? Have we tried to assess what was it about and what happened to it? and why some of its leaders do not speak even at the worst kind of happenings in this country in and outside the courtrooms? The bars are ready to condemn facebook contest which some of them think is sacrilegious, but not the most outrageous of injustices.
Of course, when we sit down to draw geographies of resistance there will be a lot to refer to as peoples’ struggles against oppression and regressive policies of the state, thinking and ways of life. But do these struggles and resistance in the streets, which to some seem to be increasing with every passing day, have not remained on the margins.
From the demand for a separate state and nation on the basis of religion to the Objectives Resolution to the declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslim to the blasphemy laws, the peoples resistance and struggles have been defeated again and again because the forces opposite are stronger.
But as we can not live without hope we must find it even if we have done little to deserve it.
by Manan Ahmed Asif
What kind of Pakistan have Pakistan’s rulers made?
The makers of Pakistan were peasants and laborers. In 1940, they passed a resolution in Lahore to demand a separate homeland for Muslims and an end to British colonial occupation. In 1946, their votes brought a political party, the Muslim League, to power. They chose Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a modernist technocrat, as their leader.
Jinnah asked his party’s legislators to focus on the well-being of the “masses and the poor” and demanded that “every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his color, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges and obligations.” Men like Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (an Ahmadi diplomat) and Raja Amir Ahmad Khan (a Shiite noble) had worked alongside Jinnah for decades to fulfill this dream of equality.
Yet the birth of Pakistan was not auspicious for minorities. The original claim of Pakistan — religious equality — was the first claim proved false. Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, though he became the first foreign minister, was hounded by religious conservatives, who branded him an apostate because of his Ahmadi faith. Ahmadis, followers of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), consider themselves part of the Muslim tradition but have faced stern resistance from Sunni Muslims, who accused them of following a false prophet.
In 1974, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto passed an amendment to the Pakistani Constitution declaring anyone who did not believe that Muhammad was the last prophet a non-Muslim. And in the 1980s, the military dictator Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq passed punitive laws that defined the practice of the Ahmadi faith as a “blasphemous” criminal offense. Ahmadis are allowed to vote only for parliamentary seats reserved for non-Muslims, effectively disenfranchising them. Since they refuse to declare themselves non-Muslims, they don’t vote.
Shiites have not fared much better. Raja Amir Ahmad left Pakistan, soon after 1947, fearing for the safety of his community. In the last five years, more than 1,000 Shiites, belonging to the Hazara community, have been targeted and killed in the city of Quetta. In February, when 84 Shiites were killed in a bombing attack, Quetta’s Hazaras refused to bury their murdered kin, demanding that the government ensure their safety. The corpses, wrapped in burial shrouds in coffins, were kept on the streets and mourned by thousands. This act of civic protest shook the nation, but it did little to prompt action from the state.
Today, tolerance is under siege from all directions. Even Imran Khan, the sports star turned politician — who enjoys a near-divine status among young, urban Pakistanis — has contributed to the marginalization of minorities. On May 4, he said at a rally that he did not regard Ahmadis as Muslims and would not campaign for their votes. Mr. Khan has based his campaign on a message of “change” reminiscent of President Obama’s in 2008. His statement on Ahmadis was therefore particularly damaging and chilling.
As a candidate marketing himself as a political outsider, he could have opened up a national conversation on equality of citizenship and reached out to all voters, including Ahmadis, Hindus and Christians. Instead he reaffirmed the political exclusion of minorities and legitimized intolerance in the eyes of his millions of idealistic young followers, who quickly echoed his dismissal in online networks.
Over the last five years, hundreds of Ahmadis have been targeted and killed in Pakistan’s cities. In 2010, 94 were killed in a terrorist attack in Lahore, and since then their burial grounds, mosques and homes have been under assault. There has been no response from the government, which still refuses to grant them equal status as citizens of Pakistan. Christian communities have also been targeted, and prominent Christian leaders, like Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister of minorities, have been assassinated. While the state has done little to punish these acts, various militant organizations have brazenly claimed credit for them.
The candidates campaigning in this election, rather than arguing for the rights of all Pakistanis, have further marginalized religious minorities and given license to those who attack them.
Despite the rise of satellite television and online media that have allowed mass participation in politics outside of old patronage networks, a new form of majoritarian tyranny has taken hold. It is built on the classic anxieties of the rising middle class: the fear of the other, the conspirator among us.
Today, the verses of another poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who was imprisoned and exiled by Pakistan’s military dictators, seem more appropriate: “Chalay chalo kay woh manzil abhi nahin aaye” — “Keep on walking, for we are not at the destination yet.”