A praiseworthy judgment of Supreme Court – revisited on its first anniversary
Last year the Supreme Court came up with a judgment which people called landmark, game changer, historical, etc. It dealt extensively with the issue of minorities. Their lordships provided even a set of directives to implement their verdict. This story, written one year later examines the outcome with particular reference to Ahmadis on whom Pakistani constitution and law imposes the status of non-Muslim religious minority.
(With reference to its relevance to the Ahmadi Community)
Islamabad, Rabwah; June 19, 2015: On June 19, 2014, a Supreme Court bench of three judges, headed by Mr. Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, Chief Justice, issued a landmark judgment in a case of Suo moto actions concerning some minority communities, however predominantly it was a broad sweep verdict on the rights and status of all minorities. It was clear, well-worded and fairly wholesome, and the worthy judges also issued a set of eight directives, which if obeyed and implemented sincerely and effectively could be game-changers in this field.
Those in attendance included the Attorney General of Pakistan, his deputies, Addl Advocate Generals of the provinces and a few leaders of the affected communities.
The judgment was unanimous.
In a way, this Judgment could be placed in the same league as the renowned speech of the Quaid-e-Azam on 11 August 1947 in the Constituent Assembly. Unfortunately, both met identical reception and handling by the state institutions and the society.
In their Judgment the judges quoted from the Holy Quran, the Holy Prophet, the Quaid-i-Azam, philosophers like John Stuart Mill, Voltaire, and also referred to a judgment of the US Supreme Court. Hardly any intellectual will doubt its learned literary style, although many pessimists would consider it rather theoretical, on the excuse of pragmatism. In fact all its directives are doable if there is a will to implement them.
The Judgment contains a good deal that is quotable. Some of it should be mentioned here, as that will form the basis of our comments and conclusions. The worthy judges wrote down:
- One of the famous Fourteen Points enumerated by Mohammad Ali Jinnah on proposed constitutional changes was that “full religious liberty, i.e. liberty of belief, worship and observance, propaganda, association and education shall be guaranteed to all communities.” Furthermore, “adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the Constitution for minorities in these units and in the regions (of the proposed Pakistan) for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them” as stated in the Resolution adopted by the 27th Annual Session of the AIML (All India Muslim League) at Lahore on 22-24 March 1940, which we now celebrate as Pakistan Day.
- Regardless of the rights and privileges described in para (a) to (e) above (sic; from the Constitution) the right to religious conscience is a right equally granted to all citizens, religious denominations and sects.
- The Supreme Court of Pakistan has invoked International Human Rights norms in numerous cases.
- The right to religious conscience is a fundamental right. It has not been subjected or subordinated to any other provision of the Constitution because it is only subject to law, public order and morality and not to any religious clauses of the Constitution. The very term law, public order and morality has been used in non-religious terms as the notion of law or public order or morality is not reducible to the Islamic meanings of these terms. Therefore Article 20 has a certain preeminence in the Constitution being only subjected to the general restriction of law, public order and morality, which three terms cannot be interpreted or used in such a restrictive way as to curtail the basic essence and meaning of the preeminent right to religious conscience.
- The right to profess and practice is conferred not only on religious communities but also on every citizen. What this means is that every citizen can exercise this right to profess, practice and propagate his religious views even against the prevailing or dominant views of its own religious denomination or sect. In other words, neither the majority religious denominations or sect nor the minority religious denomination or sect can impose its religious will on the citizens.
- The right of religious conscience conferred on every citizen is a right conferring three distinct rights i.e. Right to Profess, Right to Practice and Right to Propagate. What this means is that Article 20 does not merely confer a private right to profess but confers a right to practice both privately and publicly his or her religion. Moreover, it confers the additional right not only to profess and practice his own religion but to have the right to propagate his or her religion to others. It is important to note that this propagation of religion has not been limited to Muslims having the right to propagate their religion but this right is equally conferred on Non-Muslims to propagate their religion to their own community and to other communities…
- …However, the defining feature of a democratic governance is complete dedication and adherence in everyday life to the seminal principles of equity, justice and inclusion of all irrespective of their colour, creed, caste, sex or faith. The sustainability of democracy depends on how best these challenges are met.
- The Judgment quoted the daily Dawn of June 9, 2014: “While not every hateful word can or does lead to violence there is surely more than just a correlation between the amount of hate speech against and the violence suffered by groups such as Ahmadis and other religious minorities.” “It is because of effective state action that despite elaborate textual guarantees for minorities’ rights, empirical realities reflect a mixed bag, rather a dismal state of affairs,” the judges wrote.
- The afore-said report and other incidents of faith ethnic based violence indicate that mere textual pledges in the Constitution, though important are not enough to ensure that these rights would be honoured in practice. It is therefore, important that the concerned governments/institutions take proactive lead to ensure that those rights are respected and enjoyed in practice.
- It requires a strong moral courage for an individual or a nation to apologize for having wronged a community. It is time for us as a nation and as individuals to have a moment of reflection, a moment of soul-searching and perhaps a moment of seeking to ask ourselves; have we lived by the pledges made in the Constitution and by the vision of the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of this country who in his first address to the Constituent Assembly on 11.08.1948 (sic) said: “you are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed – that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
- For what has been discussed above, we hold, declare and direct:
- The Federal Government should constitute a task force tasked with developing a strategy of religious tolerance;
- The Federal Government should take appropriate steps to ensure that hate speeches in social media are discouraged and the delinquents are brought to justice under law;
- A Special Police Force be established with professional training to protect the places of worship of minorities.
- The office shall open a separate file to be placed before a three Members bench to ensure that this judgment is given effect to in letter and spirit and the said Bench may also entertain complaints/petitions relatable to violations of Fundamental Rights of minorities in the country.
Chief Justice Judge Judge
This verdict of the Supreme Court was the most forthright and elucidatory on the subject of minorities. It was the need of the time, as a host of religious bigots, over the decades, had succeeded in making the issue debatable and controversial. Although the SC added little to the existing requirements of the constitution, the judges cleared all the existing doubts and dilutions. They even issued clearly worded directives to improve the prevailing situation of intolerance and violence in the society. Surely, if this Judgment had been implemented in letter and spirit, the tragedy of the Army Public School in Peshawar could have been averted. But that did not happen.
In a way, the SC judges have done their duty. Their verdict requires promotion of religious and sectarian toleration, discourages hate speech, calls for protection of places of worship and requires prosecution of the delinquents.
Before we proceed further it would be in order to quote an extract from the Judgment to illustrate the mindset of some in important positions in the administration:
“8…For instance the Court was surprised when the learned Additional Advocate General, Sindh on Court enquiry submitted that the desecration of places of worship of minorities was not blasphemous and not an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code. When he was confronted with Section 295 PPC he had nothing to say but to concede that desecration of places of worship of even a non-Muslim is an offence under the PPC.
“9. There is a general lack of awareness about minority rights among the people and those entrusted with enforcement of law are also not fully sensitized to this issue either….”
Now we move on to what happened after this Judgment.
In the famous Aasia Bibi case, the trial court had awarded this Christian woman death penalty for blasphemy. She challenged the verdict in Lahore High Court. In October 2014, four months after the SC Judgment, the LHC bench headed by Justice Anwarul Haq rejected her appeal and upheld the death penalty. The Daily Times reported: “Court dismisses counsel’s argument that trial court awarded sentence despite lack of evidence.”
We are in a position to accurately report here numerous incidents in which members of the Ahmadiyya community were targeted or involved during the past one year. Although a lot happened which would need hundreds of pages to describe in essential detail such events, we can mention here only a few samples, rather briefly, to conserve space and time of the reader.
Also relevant is the mention that the Ahmadiyya community refuses to admit that it is a non-Muslim minority, nevertheless the constitution and the law impose this status on them, so it would not be out of place to look at the experience of the Ahmadiyya community with reference to the Judgment of the Supreme Court.
- Only five weeks after the SC Verdict, on July 27, 2014, mullas precipitated a riot in Gujranwala in which a mob attacked Ahmadi residents of Arafat Colony, looted their homes and properties and then set them on fire. As a result one woman and her two granddaughters including a 7-month old baby were asphyxiated to death. All this happened in the presence of police who acted silent spectators. Ahmadis had to flee from the neighborhood, and for months authorities did little to facilitate their return to their homes. None of the rioters or their leaders was arrested after the mayhem. The Ahmadi youth who was wrongfully accused of blasphemy was arrested.
- 8 Ahmadis were murdered for their faith in the past one year. No perpetrator has been traced.
- The bailiff of the district court razed the minarets and the arch (mehrab) of the Ahmadiyya mosque in Pachnand, District Chakwal. Four police vans arrived on May 4, 2015 and blocked the streets leading to the mosque before the policemen and members of the Elite Force set off a one-and-a-half hour raid to demolish and defile the structures.
- A five-man team was sent by the DCO Chiniot to an Ahmadi’s shop ‘Hafeez Battery Centre’ with orders to notice Quranic verses on the shop’s shutters. The same night, at around 9 p.m. two police vans arrived at the shop and the policemen covered the holy verses with black paint. This was done on December 31, 2014.
- Mansur Ahmad was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment and Rs. 20,000 fine under Ahmadi-specific law PPC 298-C by Mr. Afzal Majoka, Magistrate in Mankeera, District Bhakkar. Mr. Ahmad was thereafter detained by the police and sent to prison. It is relevant to mention that the primary witnesses of the prosecution decided not to show up in the trial. The complainant mulla whose word was accepted by the magistrate was not an eye-witness to the incident.
- Khuda Abad, District Badin: A case was registered in Police Station Tando Bhago against five Ahmadis, Mr. Muhammad Idrees Gurgaiz, Mr. Muhammad Abbas Gurgaiz, Mr. Muhammad Khan Gurgaiz, Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Gurgaiz and the local Ahmadi missionary with FIR No. 96/14 under PPC 298-C on July 24, 2014.
The case was registered by the police on the call of the press secretary of JUI (a politico-religious party) Muhammad Ramzan. Ramzan claimed that Ahmadis consider their place of worship a mosque; they say Azan to call worshippers to prayers; they teach the Holy Quran there, etc. According to this accuser, he went to the Ahmadiyya mosque and saw the accused offering prayers therein; thereafter the missionary made a speech wherein he invited Muslims to join them and avail many facilities and assistance – rubbish, of course.
Khuda Abad is located in the province whose Addl Advocate General’s connaissance of human rights was noticed and commented upon by the SC Judges (quoted earlier).
- Six Ahmadis were arrested in religion-based case in Chak 109/GB District Faisalabad; April 20, 2015. The construction work of local Ahmadiyya mosque remained interrupted for the last two years due to police intervention. There was no boundary wall on one side of the mosque, which became a serious security concern. The local Ahmadiyya community decided to build the wall to make the mosque safe. When 80% work was complete, the opponents called the police to the site, who stopped the work. The police took away Mr. Abdul Rauf, the president of the local Ahmadiyya community and another official, Mr. Ikram for interrogation.
On April 20, 2015 a gang of 20 men of the majority sect came to the mosque on motorcycles, indulged in intensive firing in the air, demolished the newly constructed wall and fled. Ahmadis telephoned 15 and called the police. The police called both the parties to the police station. After negotiations, at about 10 p.m. the police arrested five Ahmadis who had gone there to negotiate. These were Mr. Rafiq Kahlon, Mr. Abdul Rauf, Mr. Bilal Ahmad, Mr. Luqman Ajmal and Mr. Masood Ahmad. The police did not allow other Ahmadis to meet them. The police then raided the house of another Ahmadi, Mr. Ikram and arrested him too.
Thereafter the police registered an FIR against 13 nominated and 10 unknown Barelvis and the six Ahmadis mentioned above and five unnamed, under CrPC 148, 149, 324/337-H, 7-ATA and 16-MPO. Justice a la Punjab Police!
- Since the SC Judgment, 18 Ahmadis have been booked in 5 cases under the anti-Ahmadi laws, religious laws and religion-based accusations, some of which carry upto 10 years’ imprisonment sentence. Imagine the plight of the victims. These cases are similar to the two mentioned above.
- Hateful rallies in Rabwah, the Ahmadiyya Community centre in Pakistan. Despite the Supreme Court verdict, the Punjab administration allowed rabidly anti-Ahmadi mullas to hold a rally on 23, 24 October 2014 in Rabwah where 95% of the population is Ahmadi. The clerics transported their audience to Rabwah from other towns and cities.
According to one reporter, the speakers said: “Qadianis are a deceitful lot; they spread their falsehood all over the world through the internet. Qadiani is an accursed group. Mirza Qadiani was a false prophet; he claimed at times to be Masihe Mauood, at others Mehdi Mauood. Qadianis are agents of Jews and Christians. They are fully supported by Britain, America and Israel. They are gradually strengthening their roots in other countries. If they are not smashed up today, they will overpower the Muslims.”
In addition, the speakers asserted: “Islamic system should be imposed in the country. Boycott all products of Mirzais. Qadianis are traitors of the Constitution and the country, hence they were declared apostates on 7th September 1974. A blasphemer and claimer of Prophethood deserves death penalty.”
The mullas availed the occasion to peddle their national and international political ware. They said the following which is translated from their own press release published in the dailies Khabrain, Lahore of October 24, 2014 and ‘Pakistan’ of October 25, 2014, inter alia:
- The acquittal of Mumtaz Qadri, the lover of the Prophet, (the one who assassinated Governor Taseer) is the demand of the whole nation. No one will be allowed to blaspheme against the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in the name of human rights and freedom of religion.
- Qadianis should be fired from the interior ministry, railways, CBR, embassies and also from the armed forces for their denial of Jihad.
- Muslims, despite all their faults, are ready to die for the honour of Prophethood and consider it rewarding here and in the Hereafter.
- Some Qadianis and secular staff on certain TV channels are giving exposure to liberal religious scholars who use European terms and make Islamic beliefs and settled issues controversial so as to lower the esteem of the Ulama Karam, religious seminaries and Islamic traditions among the youth and the new generation.
- Qadianis places of worship in Lahore, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and especially Chenab Nagar should be cleared of Israeli and foreign weaponry.
The resolution passed in the conference included the following, inter alia:
- Punishment for apostasy (i.e. death) should be implemented in accordance with the recommendations of Council of Islamic Ideology.
- Qadiani hand in the terrorism/deaths in the country may not be taken lightly. Wherever there is religious terrorism, Qadiani leadership should be questioned in the enquiry; several blind cases would thereby get traced.
- Eye-witness account of the 33rd Annual Khatme Nabuwwat Conference. We produce here translation of statements made by the participant mullas and reproduced by Naeem in his article published in the daily Insaf on November 2, 2014, inter alia:
- Maulana Rashad Madni of Tando Adam said that Qadianis educate their youth in their educational institutions to murder those who are not followers of Mirza Qadiani; they instigate their youth to kill Muslims.
- Sahibzada Mubashir Mahmood Tariq stated that deniers of the end of prophethood and blasphemers against the prophet (Ahmadis) are a product of night clubs…. He further said “It is a sign of faith (Iman) and a call of religious ardour and honour to bear hostility and express hatred against blasphemers of the Prophet.”
- Maulana Noor Muhammad Hazarvi said, “Extremist Qadianis, rather than accepting their minority status under the constitution, are acting like ‘insurgents at war’.”
- Qadianis, through clandestine employment in the nuclear establishment are secretly and quietly busy in dreadful conspiracies against national security.
- The Foreign Ministry should locate, through diplomatic sources, Pakistani Qadianis in various Saudi Arabian cities, who are busy in conspiracies against the sanctity of the two Holy Shrines (Hermain Sharifain).
- Maulana Abdul Shakoor Haqqani said, “Die-hard Qadianis occupying key posts, paid from state treasury are providing shelter to Qadianis. Through unity and solidarity we must nourish the campaign to protect the honour of Prophethood (Namus Risalat).”
If the above is not violation of country’s law PPC 153-A, what else is? It seems the Addl. Advocate General Punjab is not aware of it, as no action was taken against these mullas. A similar conference was held earlier in Rabwah on 7 September 2014. Early in 2015, after APS Peshawar tragedy, National Action Plan was implemented which essentially supported all that the Judgment had ordained, still only a fortnight later the authorities allowed the mullas to hold a number of very hostile anti-Ahmadi rallies in Rabwah on January 4, 2015. The clerics were reported by the media to have said:
This mission will continue until the liquidation of the deniers of the Khatme Nabuwwat: Maulana Zahid ur Rashidi
The daily Islam; Lahore, January 8, 2015
Mirza Qadiani was not only a liar but also the Great Deceiver: Maulana Mufti Muhammad Zahid
The daily Islam; Lahore, January 8, 2015
The imperialist America and its allies have crossed the limit in transgression against Muslims; the Qadiani group is part of them attacking the beliefs of Muslims: Syed Muhammad Kafil Bukhari
The daily Pakistan; Lahore, January 16, 2015
Several resolutions were made in the rally and published in the daily Aman of Faisalabad, January 07, 2015. Translation of some of these follows:
- The blasphemers should be given death punishment.
- Mumtaz Qadri (the murderer of Governor Salman Taseer) should be set free.
- A record of all persons attached with Qadiani (educational) institutes in Chenab Nagar and all over the country should be checked.
- Qadianis should be stopped from using the Kalima and other Islamic epithets.
- Qadianis should be removed from key posts in civil services and in the armed forces, as also from the foreign service.
- Qadiani conspiracies are on the increase in the country; these should be stopped as these are responsible for the political instability.
- The activities of blasphemers and apostates are on the increase as a result of dual policy of the government.
Rabwah is not the only place where such anti-Ahmadiyya conferences are held. Below we mention some of the locations where anti-Ahmadi rallies were held in the Punjab in just one month (April):
Date Location Sponsor
2 April Chichawatni Khatme Nabuwwat Organization
4 April Narowal Khatme Nabuwwat Organization
4 April Qasur Khatme Nabuwwat Organization
7 April Lahore Markaz Khatme Nabuwwat
12 April Toba Tek Singh Khatme Nabuwwat Organization
16 April Lahore Jamia Ashrafia
18 April Hafizabad Khatme Nabuwwat Organization
18 April Qasur Khatme Nabuwwat Organization
21 April Faisalabad U/C 205 JUI
22 April Qasur Jamia Rahimia
24 April Jhang Sadar IKNM
26 April New Muslim Town, LHR Ahrar
26 April Lahore Ulema/Madinah Conference
26 April Chenab Nagar Jamia Islamia
26 April Nankana Sahib Khatme Nabuwwat Organization
29 April Lahore AMTKN
30 April Faisalabad Jamia Usmania
Hateful sectarian propaganda is extensively done and reported in the press. The authorities show no concern with the Supreme Court Judgment that exhorts federal and provincial governments to curb intolerant hateful rhetoric. Here are a few samples:
Qadianis are traitors of the constitution. They should be decimated in every field: I.K.N. Conference
The daily Insaf; Lahore, October 12, 2014
Disclosure: Qadianis burn alive those who convert to Islam. In 2011, Ahmad, Nadeem and Hafeez were burnt alive.
The daily Insaf; Lahore, September 9, 2014
Qadianis are opposed to Jihad; they are enemies of Islam and Pakistan.
The daily Insaf; Lahore, September 13, 2014
7 September is a day of humiliation and ignominy for the deniers of Khatme Nabuwwat (Qadianis): (Mulla) Zahid Qasimi (on state payroll)
The daily Jang; Lahore, September 4, 2014
Chenab Nagar will not be accepted as another Israel: (Mulla) Shabbir Usmani
The daily Ausaf; Lahore, August 9, 2014
Qadianis are involved in murders of Ulama Karam: Qari Mushtaq
The assassins of Dr Khalid Soomro should be arrested and punished immediately.
The daily Al-Sharaq; Lahore, December 4, 2014
All schools of thought should make united efforts to break the skull of the Qadiani mischief: Khatme Nabuwwat Movement
The daily Jinnah; Lahore, December 4, 2014
Qadianiat is the worst evil (fitna) in the world: Maulana Abdul Hafiz Makki (IKNM)
The daily Islam; Lahore, January10, 2015
Appointment of Qadianis consuls: Protest by Khatme Nabuwwat Movement
How can Qadiani consuls represent the Islamic Republic of Pakistan? Statement released to the media
The daily Islam; Lahore, February 12, 2015
Convert or face consequences, Ahmadis told (in KN conference in Lahore)
The daily Pakistan; Lahore, February 28, 2015
Qadianis are snakes up the sleeve and deadly poison against the Muslim Ummah: Qari Abdul Waheed Qasmi (of AMKN, Islamabad)
The daily Ausaf; Lahore, March 14, 2015
The above are only samples. The vernacular press last year, according to the account kept by the Ahmadiyya central office, published approximately 2000 news stories and hate material or news based on bias and hatred of Ahmadiyyat. Some of these openly contained grave threats.
To this, Ahmadiyya response is as in the Al-Quran: “And if they contend with thee, say, Allah knows best what you do. Allah will judge between you (and me) on the Day of Resurrection concerning that about which you differ.” (Al-Hajj 69, 70)
- Electronic media joined in the evil campaign. Broadcaster Aamir Liaqat Hussain brazenly produced a TV program and GEO TV telecast it on December 22, 2014, in which a mulla Arif Owaisi called Ahmadis ‘joint enemy of all Muslims and Pakistan’. The mulla stated that Ahmadis, Jews and the U.S. were behind the Peshawar massacre. Aamir Liaqat supported this rubbish and led the spectators in applause. Sure enough, within 5 days an Ahmadi was killed in District Gujranwala.
Ahmadis appealed to PEMRA for action against the telecaster and the GEO. The PEMRA council found the accused guilty, but found a ‘censure’ sufficient as penalty.
- The hate campaign is not restricted to rallies and the media. It is taken unabashedly to the Bazaar where Bazaaris display the hateful posters on their shops – and the authorities simply take no notice. For example:
- The authorities continued to provide all the facilities to religious bigots to indulge in their hateful drive. In evidence, we produce picture of such a conference held in state-managed Aiwan-i-Iqbal in Lahore on February 26, 2015. The facility was provided to religious extremists who in turn are half-brothers of terrorists.
In the conference Mulla Ilyas Chinioti (PML-N MPA) thundered, “Then they (Qadianis) must give up their faith and become Muslims, or face consequences.” Ameer Hamza said, “One of the reasons why they (Jihadists) wanted to wage Jihad against India was to demolish the graves of Mirzai leaders in Qadian.”
- Last but surely not the least, the Government of the Punjab committed an outrageous act of persecution against the marginalized Ahmadiyya community on May 8, 2015 when it proscribed all the 23 volumes of the written and spoken words of the founder of the community. It admittedly took this action on the direction of the Mutahiddah (Joint) Ulama Board. In addition, a book ‘Tazkarah’ was also proscribed. This book contains all the dreams, visions and revelations of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. In addition, the authorities banned Ahmadiyya daily and monthly periodicals Khalid, Ansarullah and Tehrik Jadeed. These books include the one in which the Founder of the community firmly stated that terrorism was not justified in Islam on any ground and also this was no time and there was no justification to undertake violent jihad; ‘the jihad of purifying your soul must continue’, he wrote – and the Government of Punjab banned this edict that promoted peace and piety.
While closing this brief study, it may be mentioned that this Supreme Court Judgment received major support in the form of National Action Plan that came into being in December 2014, through broad political consensus after the APS Peshawar massacre. However, Chief Justice Jillani has retired. The federation and the Punjab are ruled by Mian brothers. General Raheel Sharif is busy in operation Zarb e Azb in North Waziristan.
There is no shortage of good words and rhetoric in support of plans and directives. However there is an obvious lack of will and commitment to do the needful. Pakistani civil society and establishment, largely well meaning, seem unwilling and unable to act decisively and with a spirit of sacrifice. One can only pity a people who have lost the capability of paying due attention to wise counsel and dictates of its high judiciary.
To conclude, we quote an apt story from the book: I am Malala:
One day my father asked, “Malala, can you sing us some Pashto tapey?” I sang a verse we liked: “When you start your journey from the end of a snake’s tail. You end up on its head in an ocean of poison.”
YOUSAFZAI, Malala, I am Malala; p.249