The anti-terrorism legislation
The present government legislated Anti-Terrorism measures in 1997, whereby Anti-Terrorist special courts were established to expeditiously handle cases involving terrorism and to award punishments. Grave apprehensions were expressed at the time by various sections of society about the possibility of misuse of this legislation. Those apprehensions were not misplaced. The fundamentalist lobby was delighted to discover in this legislation possibilities of harming and terrorizing the peaceful Ahmadiyya Community. The government has given them a helping hand by declaring PPC 295-A as congnisable by anti-terrorist courts. Ahmadis who were not even remotely involved in terrorism have been shamelessly taken to these courts and punished. Following two cases are typical.
a) Mr. Waheed Ahmad of Golarchi, Sind was given 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment by an ATA court in a census incident in which he himself was subjected to religious terrorism. The state machinery was liberally and unscrupulously used and supervised by the top brass to unjustly incriminate an innocent man.
Briefly, Mr. Bikkhar Punhor, a convert to Ahmadiyya Community approached Mr. Waheed Ahmad to help him fill in the Census Proforma, as he himself was illiterate. Waheed filled it for him. In the ‘religion’ column, Waheed, having asked Punhor, entered ‘Ahmadi’. Later, an official came to notice this entry, and he scared Punhor to the bone, of the serious consequences of conversion. Some mullahs were intimated of his conversion by the official; so they, not only frightened him out of his conversion, they persuaded him to accuse Mr. Waheed of mis-stating his religious affiliation. Mullahs, in the meantime, organized processions and riots in the town and precipitated a law and order situation in which some Ahmadis were subjected to assaults and Ahmadiyya property was damaged. Thus the fundamentalists forced the administration into a kind of submission, and then jointly they proceeded to register criminal cases, not against the rioters, but against the victims. Mr. Waheed Ahmad was charged under PPC 295-A, a clause which invites action under the Anti-Terrorism Act. He was accused of injuring the feelings of the complainant by misquoting his faith.
Mr. Waheed Ahmad was presented in an ATA court on 14 March 1998 and was remanded by the police till 21 March. The next day, on 15 March, he was subjected to severe police torture, that insisted on being told as to what instructions he had received from his community superiors. On 16 March when a friend met him in the jail, he found his face very swollen due to police torture. The jail authorities were contacted and complaint was made. They took some gratification and promised that the victim will be treated thenceforth with consideration. When an appeal was made in appropriate courts for release of the accused on bail, the Assistant Attorney General, the state official took pains to oppose the request. Anyway, Mr. Waheed Ahmad was given a speedy trial in a Special Court under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act. From the judge’s handling of the case and his own admission it had become quite
obvious that he was under instructions to convict the accused and award a severe punishment. It was hardly a surprise when on 21 April 1998, the Special Court judge awarded 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment to Mr. Waheed Ahmad. Rabid mullahs who had traveled all the way to undertake sectarian violence remain free to wait for their next target of sectarian terrorism. They are quite satisfied with the support provided to them by their patrons in Islamabad.
b) The incidents at Nafisnagar and Naukot were inter-related and show how dishonestly the Anti-Terrorist Act is being applied to Ahmadis.
A small old mosque stood in the farmland of Mr. Mustafa Khan, an Ahmadi landlord at Nafisnagar, district Umarkot. It was in use by a few Ahmadi and non-Ahmadi peasants, and was in a dilapidated state. Mr. Khan was requested to rebuild the mosque, to which he agreed after consultation with non-Ahmadi users. Arrangements were made accordingly. The old hall was demolished and the rebuilding started. An opponent came to know of this and he saw in it germs of potential mischief. He reported the activity to a mullah in the town who informed others, and all these started crying hoarse that a mosque had been desecrated and destroyed by Qadianis; the Holy Quran was burnt, etc. Ahmadis hurried to take the authorities in confidence, and informed them that nothing of the kind had happened. Officials were taken to the site and were shown the construction in progress. They seemed satisfied. The mullah, however, was not prepared to let the Ahmadis off the hook so easily. He had already informed his mentors at Karachi who are ever ready to cash a cheque of this kind. The incident at Naukot was a follow up of this. Extensive publicity was given to what had happened at these two places with plenty of misinformation to incite the ignorant masses in other parts of Sind. The authorities were, from then on, firmly directed by high-ups at Islamabad. Further actions were based not on facts of the case but on political exigency. In all, twenty-two Ahmadis, including five from Nafisnagar were charged under religious laws and their cases were referred to Anti-Terrorist courts. Ahmadis who suffered discrimination, lack of protection, attack on their mosque and assault on their persons were now exposed to state-terrorism, in that they have been taken to the anti-terrorist courts. None, not even one of the attackers and assailants was arrested. It is indeed outrageous and unbelievable.
An SS-type raid at Swat
At Swat, on 20 June 1998, anti-Ahmadiyya forces struck with a vengeance and established a new low in their vicious campaign. It was a well-co-ordinated attack in which the executive, the police, the clerics, the press and even the Khidmat Committee took part to share the discredit. The high command seemed to be exercised from Islamabad.
On 18 June, the Daily ‘Ausaf’ of Islamabad reported in heavy print that Qadianis have established in Swat a preaching headquarters; All actions are being taken in secret; Their library contains 1100 books; The authorities are negligent; The emotional flood of Swati people will be difficult to control. The Daily ‘Azadi’ on the same day, printed the same report and added, ‘Swat people are lovers of Islam; their emotional flood will not only damage the targeted sect but also national assets and properties’. It is amazing that these petty members of the yellow press simultaneously described the Ahmadiyya preaching drive as ‘secret’. Falsehood is reputed in the East to have a short memory, but not so short.
The next move was also preplanned. The following day, on 19 June, a fundamentalist, by the name Syed Badr Zaman Sabar made a written complaint to the Superintendent Police, Mingora, who under the directions of Muhammad Yousaf, the Deputy Commissioner of Swat, organized a wholesome raiding team. According to the Daily ‘Ausaf’ of 20 June, the team comprised Magistrate Altaf Hussain, Khurshid Ali Khan DSP, Haq Nawaz CIA inspector, Zehrab Gul the Police Inspector and, for novelty, some members of the ‘Khidmat Committee’. It would be recalled that Khidmat Committees were installed as part of the National Agenda of the Prime Minister and their job is to ‘serve the people’. The raiding team raided the residence of Mr. Naimatulla, the local President of the Ahmadiyya Community and the living quarters of Mr. Karamutullah, the Ahmadiyya Missionary. As Mr. Naimatulla was not at home, the police arrested his son instead, Adil Suhail, who is a secondary school student. The youth, whose peace was disturbed at home by the raiding party, was charged under section PPC 107/151 for disturbing the peace. Mr. Karamatulla was also arrested and removed to an unknown location. A criminal case was registered against both Messers Naimatulla and Karamatulla, but initially the charges against them were kept confidential. Perhaps the police wanted to arrest the president before declaring the charge. Mr. Naimatulla came to know about the police search, so he avoided returning home and presenting himself.
The raiding party, according to the FIR and the press reports, confiscated scores of books written by the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, a book of Hadith, a pack of Ahmadiyya daily newspapers, letters, four audio cassettes, one video cassette, some books on history and a commentary on the Holy Quran, a few books written by non-Ahmadi authors, one of them on Sufism, the Bible and three photographs of Hadrat Ahmad (Founder of Ahmadiyya Community). This inventory is commonly to be found in almost all Ahmadiyya Centers and in most Ahmadiyya homes where residents are well initiated in religion. A licensed pistol alongwith three bullets was also found; this belonged to Mr. Naimatulla who is a well placed respectable citizen and keeps it for self-defense. One may ask: what is objectionable about having at home religious books, daily newspapers, and a licensed small arm? There was nothing illegal; the intruders found nothing objectionable; still they charged the innocent Ahmadis under PPC Sections 298C,298B, and 295A.The administration had no shame about framing charges for which they had no basis, no evidence- nothing. In any fair court, the authorities would lose the case on the first day and would be asked to pay damages. But they feel safe in Pakistan where they know that only the defendant suffers even if he is not in the least guilty. The proxy complainant, in his application rabidly demanded the victims to be charged under the Blasphemy Law PPC 295C and face a death punishment.
It was subsequently arranged that Mr. Karamatulla be shifted to Saidu Sharif to deny him easier access to his friends and well-wishers who could arrange some legal aid for him. Mr. Naimatulla stayed away from the police while the extremists and the yellow press howled for his blood. The expert co-ordinators followed up the operation to their satisfaction. The hired press printed news eulogizing the commendable action of the district authorities. Even the DSP Khurshid Ali Khan’s statement was reported in the Daily ‘Aaj’ of 20 June. A ‘Reporting Team’ reported that the eradication of the Qadiani Center had pleased the people of Swat to no end. A Swat Action Committee was formed which comprised a few clerics who demanded that Qadianis and Pervezis be banned in Swat. The clerics demanded that properties of Qadianis be seized by the State. The Deputy Inspector General of Police Malakand received a delegation of the ulema and assured them appropriate action.
It may be reminded here that Swat is the area where not long ago the federal government had to launch a massive army operation to crush a fundamentalists’ revolt that demanded immediate implementation of Sharia in the area. Now the same government supports the same types to persecute Ahmadis. How amazing!
Expulsions from Loralai (Baluchistan)
Muhammad Imtiaz Tajwar, District Magistrate of Loralai has made himself a puppet in the hands of mullahs, who are supported by Maulvi Amir Zaman, a minister in the Provincial Government. The politician, the mullah and the administrator joined hands to expel Messers Nazir Ahmad, Sajjad Ahmad, Mohammad Ilyas and Dawood, Ahmadis from the District. In fact they undertook a sort of religious cleansing of the district. These Ahmadis were blamed of preaching. The DM did not say as to whom, where and when did they preach. Nor were the accused given a chance to defend themselves. They were simply pushed out of their home and hearth by brute executive orders. In fact, all Ahmadis of Loralai were thus given a signal to recant or face expulsion. They were even told so verbally.
Ahmadis at Loralai are facing great pressure, sufferin
The Government trails Ahmadis – but why?
The state authorities track down Ahmadis every now and then. It smacks of fascism. Although they think they do it discreetly, but sometimes it gets leaked to the press. The Daily Jang, Lahore of 19 June 1998 reported as follows:
Preparation of Lists- Qadiani Residents in the Punjab and their Businesses
Sargodha (Jang Reporter). The government of the Punjab has directed a secret agency to immediately prepare lists of all Qadiani residents in the Province, and to report to the government on the activities of all active Qadianis and other personal data including their businesses. In addition, the government has asked for lists of all their places of worship and their missionaries.
Again on 14 August 1998 the Daily Din, Lahore reported another drive by the government of the same nature. Its headlines:
– Surveillance of Qadianis Intensified all over the country
– Collection of Personal data of Qadiani government officials Underway; Covert Monitoring of Qadiani Educational Institutions in Progress
The paper reported that secret agencies were required to render their reports to the government within a fortnight.
It is amazing that a government, inflicted with so many problems, as the present one, should spare time and effort for such a worthless and futile activity. Only a maniac would initiate such a paranoiac and despicable exercise.
National census and Ahmadis
The government held the long-awaited Census in March 1998. It urged the citizens to co-operate with officials and assured them repeatedly that the information provided will be treated as confidential. Ahmadis, as usual, cooperated with Census officials but the authorities did not honour their government’s commitment when dealing with Ahmadis. Mr. Waheed Ahmad’s ordeal has been described earlier. In his effort to help another citizen to fill in a Census program, he was arrested under a religious law PPC 295-A, tried in an anti-terrorist court and imprisoned for 10 years. Another, Mr. Wazir Ali, a fresh convert to Ahmadiyyat, was harassed. The information of his conversion, given in the Census form, was leaked to mullahs who raised hue and cry over it and demanded Wazir to be treated like an apostate. Mullahs demanded that Wazir’s Ahmadi friends be charged under PPC 298-C for preaching. Finally the police extorted a written statement from Wazir Ali that he believed in the Finality of Prophethood. This statement was presented to mullahs to calm them down. All this was done by the administration in clear violation of law, and with little regard to the fundamental human rights of Ahmadis. At Rabwah also, Mr. and Mrs. Zafar Ahmad, Ahmadis were harassed over ‘religion entries’. At this occasion of Census, the anti-Ahmadi mullahs placed ads in national newspapers in March 1998 with anti-Ahmadiyya messages urging the population to vigilance and action against Ahmadis. These ads were Ahmadi-specific and the only ones of their kind. The government looked the other way.
The police in Pakistan is not rated high for its efficiency; however, the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Rajanpur decided to become vigilant – but only against Ahmadis. According to a reliable report he ordered the police force under his charge to keep a strict watch on the activities of Ahmadis and to ensure action against their unlawful activities (whatever that means).
Discriminate application of the religious laws in the penal code
Although some of the religious laws in Pakistan are not apparently Ahmadi-specific, the authorities apply them discriminately against Ahmadis. For example, PPC 295-A forbids ‘Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’ and prescribes imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years. However, while mullahs, almost daily, hurl abuses and insults on loudspeaker on Ahmadis and their faith, none is ever asked by the authorities to explain his foul attacks and highly provocative behaviour. On the other hand an Ahmadi, even if he invokes Gods’ blessings on the Holy Prophet of Islam, he is arrested on a still more grievous charge of Blasphemy. Justice is supposed to be blind, but here, it is the authorities that are so.
Who is a terrorist?
By referring Ahmadi accused to anti-terrorist courts, the authorities attempt to convey an impression that Ahmadis are involved in terrorism. How does one define terrorism? Ahmadis are blamed of terrorism when they call their mosque, ‘mosque,’ and when they recite Kalima (their creed), and when they demolish an old mosque and build a new one at the same site; although the mosque at Nafisanagar was demolished by non-Ahmadis, no case was registered against them, while Ahmadis who were building the new one were charge sheeted for terrorism. In fact the State itself is terrorizing its own Ahmadi citizens through indiscriminate and false accusations of terrorism. The President and the Minister for Religious and Minorities Affairs are no doubt the authors and supporters of this policy; mullahs say so openly on loudspeakers.
Murderers who kill Ahmadis are rarely arrested. Those few, who get caught, take shelter in accusing the victim of blasphemy or preaching. Hardly any murderer is ever arrested and punished. The State has apparently given a license to kill Ahmadis. Who is a terrorist- one may ask.