SOUTH ASIA: PAKISTAN News Briefs
On June 13, 2011, reports revealed that terrorists were chalking out a plan to attack prominent members of the Ahmadi community in the country, starting from Faisalabad. Sources in the local Law Enforcement Agencies also revealed that different terrorist outfits have joined together in this mission and had initiated the campaign with the distribution of pamphlets and organization of meetings in local seminaries against the Ahmadis, claiming that the Ahmadi citizens of the country were involved in conspiracies against Islam and Pakistan.
There is little that is new here. According to partial data in a report titled, The Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan during the Year 2010, 203 Ahmadis have been killed since 1984, ninety-nine of these during 2010 alone. It was in 1984 that the then military ruler General Zia-ul-Haq promulgated the anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX which added Sections 298-B and 298-C to the Pakistan Penal Code. Through this ordinance, the religious rights of Ahmadis were directly curtailed: Ahmadis could be imprisoned for three years and fined an arbitrary amount for ordinary expression of their faith. In addition to prohibiting them from proselytizing, the ordinance expressly forbade them from certain religious practices and usage of Islamic terminology. This ordinance effectively makes a criminal out of every Ahmadi by including the broad provision of "posing as a Muslim" a cognizable offence, giving the extremists a carte blanche to terrorize Ahmadis with the backing of the state apparatus.
Fatalities among Ahmadiyyas: 2001-2011
Source: The Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community [*Data till April 30, 2011]
Since 1984, the number of attempts to murder Ahmadis stands at 234. 119 incidents of violence targeting Ahmadiyya Mosques were also reported over this period. 3,816 faith related Police cases have been registered against Ahmadis, including 434 cases for 'posing' as Muslims and 298 under the country's extreme blasphemy law, which carries a mandatory death sentence.
In the most lethal attack targeting Ahmadiyyas, at least 86 worshippers of Ahmadiyya community were killed and 98 severely injured in a suicide attack at Darul Zikr and Baitul Noor mosques in Model Town and Garhi Shahu areas of Lahore District in Punjab Province on May 28, 2010. Later, claiming responsibility for the attack, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) congratulated Pakistanis for the attacks and called people of the Ahmadiyya and Shia communities "the enemies of Islam and common people" and urged Pakistanis to take the "initiative" and kill every such person in "rage". An elderly (Ahmadi) doctor who witnessed the attacks said, "Prior to the event, we had written several letters to the Punjab Government regarding threats from TTP, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP). The Punjab Government's reaction was to ignore this or do nothing at all." Significantly, no more than two Policemen were stationed at the Model Town mosque and four at the Garhi Shahu mosque, despite clear and repeated warning from intelligence agencies that Ahmadis were now a priority target of terrorists.
The radicalized media in Pakistan openly provokes violence against the Ahmadis. On September 7, 2008, for instance, the host of the religious talk show Alim Online, Liaquat Hussain declared the murder of Ahmadis to be obligatory (wajib-ul-qatl) according to Islamic teachings. Hussain stressed this several times, urging fellow Muslims to "kill without fear." Within next 24 hours, two persons belonging to the Ahmadiyya community were killed in Mirpurkhas District of Sindh Province. Unsurprisingly, no arrests were made and the Police registered the killers as 'unknown'.
Describing 2010 as a particularly bad year for minorities, the Annual Report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) released on April 15, 2011, highlighted a growing spread of hate literature and noted that it had monitored mainstream Urdu newspapers. To identify 1,468 news articles and editorials promoting hate, intolerance and discrimination against Ahmadis in 2010. The monthly Persecution Report for March 2011 stated that the figure of hate literature increased from 1,033 news items in 2008, to 1,116 items in 2009. For instance, Ilyas Chinioti, a member of the mainstream political formation, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), who visited Bangladesh as a lecturer on the "End of Prophethood" in 2005, condemned the Ahmadiyyas as the deviant sect. On January 14, 2010, he was quoted by Daily Ausaf as stating, "Qadianis (Ahmadiyas) are rebels of the country and the millat (Islamic society)." On September 7, 2010, Daily Nawa-i-Waqt, a competitor of the Daily Ausaf in obscurantism, quoted Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, a maulvi in Faisalabad District, declaring, "The penalty of death for apostasy should be imposed (on the Ahmadiyyas)."
Historically, the Pakistani establishment has played a pivotal role in creating challenges for the country's minorities. The militarization of Pakistan, the instrumentalisation of Islam for politics, and the radicalization of an already weak civil society has inflicted cumulative wrongs on minority communities. It is within this broad trend that the political history of Pakistan gives a startling account of the marginalization of the Ahmadiyya community who, on September 6, 1974, were declared a 'non-Muslim minority' by the Pakistan National Assembly.
For more than five decades, Ahmadis, who differ with other Muslims over the finality of Prophet Muhammad as the last monotheist Prophet, have endured discrimination and violent persecution; their identity criminalized, mosques brought down to rubble and graves desecrated. The campaign started early after Independence, when the clerics wanted the regime to declare Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority and to remove Pakistan's first Foreign Minister, the Ahmadi Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, from the cabinet for adopting Articles 18 and 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, 1948), providing for the freedom of conscience and freedom to change one's religion. Khan had then argued that these articles were compatible with and recognized under Islamic Law (Shari'ah), and declared the adoption of the provisions of the UDHR as an "epoch making event." Article 18 of UDHR influenced Article 20 of the then Pakistan Constitution, which read:
Article 20 remained unpopular not only among the ulema but also among the politico-military leadership of Pakistan. The process to dilute its provisions was, in fact, initiated by an elected political leader, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, in 1974. Later, in an attempt to consolidate selective elements of the Shari'ah within Pakistan's legal structure, President Zia-ul-Haq issued an ordinance to amend the Objectives Resolution of 1949, which placated the Muslim clerics and established the principal of religious conformity in Pakistan. Under this resolution Pakistan was to be modeled on the ideology and democratic faith of Islam and all rules and regulations were to be framed in consonance with Islam, allowing a greater role to the ulema, who felt emboldened by this recognition. Thereafter, five Criminal Ordinances explicitly or principally targeting religious minorities were passed by the Parliament in 1984. The five ordinances included a law against blasphemy; a law punishing the defiling of the Qur'an; a prohibition against insulting the wives, family or companions of the Prophet of Islam; and two laws specifically restricting the activities of Ahmadis. General Zia-ul-Haq issued the last two laws as part of Martial Law Ordinance XX, on April 26, 1984, suppressing the activities of religious minorities, specifically Ahmadis, by prohibiting them from "directly or indirectly posing as a Muslims."
The persecution of Ahmadiyyas was legalized and given further encouragement with the passage of the Criminal Law Act of 1986, later referred to as the 'Blasphemy Law', which impacted directly on the Ahmadi community because of their belief in the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The passing of several Amendments and Criminal Acts, both under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto's regime (1974 Ordinance) and General Zia-ul-Haq's rule, have thus challenged and undermined Article 20, though this continues to exist nominally in the Constitution.
Thus, Khan's support for Article 20 made him unpopular among the upholders of fundamentalist Islam, who were not only against other non-Muslim minorities but also rose against other Muslim sects, including the Ahmadiyyas - also known as the members of a "fake Muslim community."
By early May 1949, a radical Muslim movement, the Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam (Ahrar), opposing the right to religious freedom, initiated an anti-Ahmadi agitation. Increasingly, Muslim fundamentalists became hostile to Ahmadiyyas and it was Maulana Abu Ala Maududi, the head of the revivalist Jama'at-e-Islami (JeI), who sought to unify Muslims in Pakistan under the common cause of excommunicating the Ahmadis. The then ruling Muslim League stood in opposition to Maududi's idea of excommunicating the Ahmadis. The Government's opposition led to a violent anti-Ahmadiyya movement, in 1953, resulting in the death of over 200 Ahmadis. It was after the 1953 riots that the religious fundamentalists used Ahrar propaganda as a basis to launch and sustain anti-Ahmadi campaigns. The next two decades led to the progressive reformation of Pakistani laws in accordance with selective elements of the Shari'ah, and the National Assembly approved a new Constitution in 1973, which was deeply influenced by the orthodox clergy. In 1974, a new wave of anti-Ahmadi disturbances spread across the country. It was at this juncture that the ulema pressurized the Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Government to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims. Under Bhutto's leadership, the Pakistan Parliament introduced Articles 260(3)(a) and (b) to the Constitution, which was later put into effect on September 6, 1974, explicitly depriving Ahmadis of their Islamic identity. The Amended Article 260 read:
The anti-Ahmadiyya movement during Pakistan's formative years was enormously influential in shaping the growth of violent sectarianism in Pakistan. Conspicuously, there is either benign neglect by the State or, more often, active collusion, in incidents targeting the Ahmadis and other religious minorities.
The Ahmadis can only look to worse times ahead, with a proliferation of hate literature published by a multiplicity of extremist formations, and open incitement to greater violence against what are regarded by the extremists as 'deviant sects'. A notice issued by Baruz Jama'at al-Mubarak after the May 28, 2010 bombing at Garhi Sahu, declared, Lahore ki zameen Ahmadiyyo ke khoon se nahayegi, Yeh khoon rang laayega aur babar ghubaar hoga (Lahore will witness the bloodshed of Ahmadis, this bloodbath will bring the community to dust). With a progressively radicalized and intolerant society, various extremist majoritarian religious formations contending to establish their 'true' Islamic credentials, discriminatory laws, and state agencies that throw their weight behind majoritarian extremism, there is little hope of any relief to the country's beleaguered minorities.
[South Asia Intelligent Review]