Tyranny in Kotli, Azad Kashmir
Ahmadiyya place of worship blasted to rubble
Criminal cases under Ahmadi-specific laws registered
Ahmadis disallowed to bid for an official contract, on account of their faith
Unabashed tyranny sweeps District Kotli
THE AUTHORITIES in District Kotli, Azad Kashmir went nearly insane in June this year to grotesquely violate Ahmadis’ human rights and their freedom of faith. Their primary targets were Ahmadiyya places of worship and the worshipers. They registered three criminal cases against a large component of Ahmadi population in three locations of the district. At Kotli itself, the FIR was left open to incriminate any Ahmadi and any number, at any time. The ruthless behavior of the district administration and police indicated orders from higher authorities.
Ahmadis of Bhabhra Heelan, a village in District Kotli, had no mosque, so they undertook to build one. In order to avoid any objection from extremists they voluntarily took care not to build any niche or minaret, although the law does not forbid these. The land on which it was to be built was transferred from the forest department to the ‘revenue’, so as to comply with legal requirements. However, the police, to Ahmadis’ surprise, registered a case under Ahmadi-specific laws PPC 298-B and 298-C against 14 Ahmadi men in FIR No. 173 on June 5, 2008. A large contingent of police arrived at the site on June 6 and blasted away the under-construction place of worship with explosives. It is relevant to mention that having registered the case, the administration and the police did not wait for a court verdict, and proceeded to commit a grave violation of religious nature that any official body should have been extremely reluctant to undertake. No words suffice to comment on this enormous crime committed by a law-enforcing body. (A video of the defiled site is available.)
In the town of Kotli itself, Ahmadis had undertaken repairs and improvements in the structure of their mosque. The extremists made an issue out of it, and in collusion with the police had a case registered in FIR 171/08, under Ahmadi-specific PPC 298-C on June 3, 2008. In fact it is entirely conceivable that the administration planned it that way. The FIR was maliciously left open, in that the accused were not named, so that any Ahmadi could be roped in subsequently. The ruse has caused fear among Ahmadi residents of Kotli city. This is the kind of model freedom, the Azad (Free) Kashmir government offers to the rest of Kashmir.
Ahmadiyya community has its membership in the village of Barali as well. They needed a house of worship and proceeded to build one sometimes back. They also took care not to build a niche or a minaret. Here again the administration forcibly made them stop the construction. So Ahmadis started building a mosque at an alternate location. They had built the pillars and put a roof on top, however Ahmadi-bashers intervened, and the police obligingly registered an FIR against 7 Ahmadis and proceeded to raid various homes for arrests. They arrested a teenager, Naveed Ahmad son of Mr. Muhammad Nazir, who was not even named in the FIR. They subjected him to torture and included his name subsequently in the case as well. Two Ahmadis who came to the police station to inquire about the boy were subjected to humiliation practiced perhaps only by Pakistani police.
The attitude of the local administration was highly prejudiced and discriminatory. The Deputy Commissioner, Bashir Mughal, behaving like a petty tyrant, first refused to receive an Ahmadiyya delegation. Later, when he talked to some Ahmadis, he was arrogant, threatening and even crude. This careerist told the visitors that Ahmadis were a bad people who did not obey the orders (to destroy their own places of worship). The police inspector SHO, Nisar Yousaf was callous enough to say, “If I were not in uniform, I would be the first to do Jihad against Ahmadis.”
During the month of June, officials of the district administration and police made repeated forays into local Ahmadiyya communities to harass and persecute them. At about midnight on 9/10 June night, a large contingent of police encircled the Ahmadiyya mosque at Kotli, cut off its telephone line and demanded entry. Ahmadi residents and those on duty did not open the door and indulged in fervent prayers to remain safe from the official raid and siege. The policemen did not retreat till early morning.
In all fairness, it would not be correct to put the blame primarily on the mulla. The authorities, political as well as administrative, share the guilt of this criminal conduct in the first place, as they wield the power. The following incident would prove it.
Tenders were to be opened in those days at the District Headquarters Hospital, Kotli for provision of food and medicines to patients. Aamer Brothers, an Ahmadiyya company that is in this business since long, also bid for the contract. However the administration (vide Deputy Commissioner’s letter) refused to consider this bid “due to Firqa Ahmadiyya” (copy is here).
A newspaper reported it as: “Noose tightened further against Qadianis. Food contract for District Hospital Kotli refused.”
An Ahmadiyya delegation called on Mr. Qamar uz Zaman, the Federal Minister of Kashmir Affairs to apprise him of the events of Kotli.
It would be relevant to mention that Azad Kashmir is administered these days by prime minister Sardar Atiq Ahmad Khan. He considers a mulla-turned-politician Pir Atiq-ur-Rahman of the Khatme Nabuwwat faction as his spiritual mentor. Sardar Atiq’s father Sardar Qayyum boasts being the first to push a resolution in the Azad Kashmir Assembly to declare Ahmadis a non-Muslim minority.
The question arises as to: Does the Azad (Free) government uphold ‘freedom’ in the true and pure sense of the word, or does it consider itself ‘free’ to profane and outrage human rights and freedom of religion of its smaller communities?
The leader of the mischief, Pir Atiqur Rahman, proceeded to build on this, so he declared holding a Khatme Nabuwwat Conference in Kotli on August 3, 2008. Press reports indicated that concerned authorities decided to play safe this time as the incidents of June had given rise to protest by human rights concerns, so they did not accord permission for the conference. Pir Rahman did not like it, and issued statements in the press against the ban. According to the daily Jang, Lahore of July 30, the Pir said: The Khatme Nabuwwat conference will be definitely held on August 3; no power on earth can stop it. According to the daily Jang, the Pir said the following as well:
The conference will be an important step towards solidarity of Pakistan, the freedom struggle and annexation drive of the Kashmiri people.
We are Muslims first, and Pakistani Kashmiris later.
Qadianis were declared Kafir in 1973 in Azad Kashmir through efforts of Sardar Abdul Qayyum.
Sardar Atiq Ahmad Khan should use his God-given talents and shut the door to the mischief of Qadianiat.
The English through a grand conspiracy used Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who was a man of bad character, against the Muslims.
It appears that Sardar Atiq has put a religious cripple on his shoulders, who will not be easily shaken off now. The Pir surely has the potential to become a Mulla Umar of Azad Kashmir.
As stated above the officials had become wiser, so they withheld permission for the Jalsa. The Pir was angry and he took to routine threats and propaganda. As expected, the authorities readily wilted and the Jalsa was held as planned. A report on the Jalsa, compiled mainly from the print media, is produced below.
The pre-conference publicity report was published in many vernacular dailies. The daily Ausaf, Lahore printed its report from Kotli on August 3, 2008 Excerpts:
Khatme Nabuwwat Conference today. Kotli wears festive look. Processions arrive.
Officials of the local council, Electricity Department and Public Health have become active. Malik Muhammad Nawaz Khan, the Senior Minister inspected the arrangements accompanied by District officials and the Management of the conference.
The Prime Minister Sardar Atiq Ahmad Khan and former Prime Minister Barrister Sultan Mahmud Chaudhry are also expected to attend.
A caravan of hundreds of vehicles carrying moths of the lamp of Khatme Nabuwwat has left District Bagh for Kotli.
The conference will be attended by hundreds of thousands (lakhs) of the moths of Prophethood, who will not rest till the destruction of Qadianiat.
Security groups have been formed for the Conference. In their meeting it was said that they are ever ready to die for the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and will spare no sacrifice to that end.
With relevance to the occasion, the Khatib (sermon-giver) of the Jame Mosque Baloch addressed a congregation and said: “Conspiracies are going on at international level against Islam and Islamic values, hence it is essential to participate in this conference.
The mulla has become quite competent in the field of modern techniques of propaganda. At this occasion, special articles were provided to Urdu newspapers for printing. The conference was reported under big headlines by a number of vernacular dailies. Following excerpts are also given from the daily Ausaf of August 4, 2008:
Pir Atiqur Rahman said that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani was an apostate and all his followers are outside the pale of Islam. If Qadianis live here as non-Muslims, their life and property are safe; but if they follow Islamic practices (Sha’air) then anytime the greatest incident can happen. (Please note the open threat – Ed.)
Sardar Abdul Qayyum (ex-president of Azad Kashmir) said, “Minorities have total freedom vide the national constitution, but in an Islamic state they are not allowed to preach their ideology and faith, nor shall we allow that”.
The Pir said: “Qadianis are no problem for us. The admirers of the Holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) will never allow anyone to talk against the dogma of the End of Prophethood.”
Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan, addressing the media men at the local state rest house, said that he will talk to the federal authorities to include a special column for Qadianis to enter their identity in passports and national identity cards.
Sardar Qayyum said: The incumbent leaders are working on personal agenda rather than national agenda.
The Pir said: “The heavy attendance at the Khatme Nabuwwat conference, despite the rain, has proved that we can cross rivers of blood to make the Khatme Nabuwwat Conference a success. My message to Qadianis is: Live within our state by remaining within your binds.(emphasis added)
What was not reproduced in the press was the foul and abusive language used by these so-called divines against the Ahmadiyya community and its holy founder. They used provocative language and distributed sectarian pamphlets. They made the audience vow a social boycott of Ahmadis. They passed the following resolutions, inter alia:
Removal of Ahmadis from key-posts
Inclusion of ‘end of Prophethood’ as a subject in school syllabi
Ban on MTA, the Ahmadiyya TV channel
Ban on Ahmadis regarding Islamic practices
Vigorous implementation of anti-Ahmadiyya ordinance.
The organizers expected an attendance of 100,000 persons, but on account of the rain not more than 2500 turned up. “The blessed rain arrived as a token of Divine support,” commented a devotee columnist. It was surprising that when the conference ended, the rain stopped. While the conference was in progress the canopy over the stage collapsed and some people were injured.
The authorities were considerate in the sense that they provided security to the Ahmadiyya mosque and business locations on the day of the conference.
“Govt talks tough as inaction against hate-mongers is assailed in NA,” reported the Dawn on August 21. It appears that violations of Ahmadis’ human rights were so outrageous and manifest that human rights concerns took notice and the Azad Kashmir government was told to rein in their extremists and stop supporting them. This has had some effect on the unbridled activism of Pir Atiqur Rahman, so the surge of anti-Ahmadiyya activism subsided over the following months. It, however, attempted a revival in Mirpur during the month of December. Its report is given below.
Jamiat ul Ulama Azad Kashmir, Anjuman Talabah Islam and other Islamist parties announced holding a joint Khatme Nabuwwat conference in Mirpur. They mounted a publicity campaign during the month of November through wall-chalking, posters and banners. The conference was scheduled for November 29, 2008. On the appointed date, the students of ATI took out a procession that comprised not more than 70 participants. They displayed a banner on their van, on which it was written: SET FIRE TO THE EDIFICES OF AHMADIYYA (Qadianiat ke aiwanon ko aag laga do). The attendance at the conference remained very poor during the day. The participants were mostly students, including those from madrassahs. The loud speakers were installed. The police was present. The audience waited for the arrival of Pir Atiqur Rahman, but he failed to turn up.
The speakers targeted the U.S. and American policies in a big way. They mentioned that there were sixteen Qadiani communities in Kotli, and they worshipped in places that resembled mosques; these had niches and minarets, so the government should have their buildings altered. “Qadianis are non-Muslims, and they should learn to live like other non-Muslims,” an orator demanded. They used slander and abuse against Ahmadi leaders.
It seems that generally the people of Mirpur rejected the call of the mulla and put him in his place. It is reasonable to deduce that the mulla is impotent if deprived of state support.
Op-ed: Religion is unfortunately becoming the propriety domain of those who espouse a particular physical appearance. Without regard to any intellectual content they are willing to impose a particular social conduct upon the people, at the point of pain, in a perverted display of irreligious thuggery in the name of religion.
Javed Hassan Aly in the daily Dawn, Lahore; August 29, 2008
Epilogue: The incidents of Kotli could not have occurred without the approval, indeed the instructions of Sardar Atique Ahmad Khan, the prime minister of Azad Kashmir. He lost his post in the very first week of the new year.
Eighteen Ahmadis booked, and arrested in Rabwah under Ahmadi specific laws
Rabwah; September 5, 2008: While the country suffered major attacks at the hand of religious extremists this month, the half-witted Punjab Police kept itself busy in a senseless pursuit of peaceful Ahmadi citizens on ridiculous charges. The police in Rabwah (of course, goaded by their superiors, and influential mullas) booked ten Ahmadi traders for publishing their ‘publicity and public-service’ Ramadan calendars in which they allegedly used ‘Islamic’ terms like ‘Khilafat’ and ‘Imam’. These ignorant policemen are unaware that these words were a part of the Arabic language even before the advent of Islam, and no one has ever recognized the sole propriety rights of ‘Muslims’ in their use. The Ahmadi-specific Pakistani law also does not include these two words among the listed Islamic term forbidden to Ahmadis. Obviously, the police acted both unlawfully and maliciously towards Ahmadi citizens in Rabwah at the happy occasion of their Khilafat Jubilee.
More specifically, the Rabwah police registered an FIR No. 443/08 on September 5, 2008 under sections PPC 298-B and 298-C, based on a report by one Aftab Ahmad, the Inspector Incharge of Investigation, Police Station Chenab Nagar. The FIR mentions the following: Mr. Qadeer Ahmad Gujar and Mr. Munir Ahmad, owners of the Alfazal Dairy Milk shop; Mian Latif Ahmad, Alhaj Mian Qamar Ahmad, Mian Shahzeb Asim, Mian Azhar Ahmad, proprietors of Qamar Jewelers; Owners of International Courier and Cargo Service, Owners of Master Jewelers, and Mian Ghulam Murtaza Mahmud the owner of Alfazal Jewelers and Kashif Jewelers.
In the FIR the inspector mentioned that the calendars containing the Ramadan timings injured the religious feelings of Muslims, without naming anyone in particular or mentioning who had made the complaint. The inspector took it upon himself to assume that the feelings of his ‘fellow’ Muslims had been hurt. Such FIR’s are against the normal practice of the police.
The incompetent inspector did not even bother to learn that one of the accused, Mian Latif Ahmad, is no longer alive. Shah Zeb Asim, another accused is a boy who is not even a teenager.
This FIR is indicative of the religious prejudice and the close relationship between fundamentalist clerics and the District Police. It shows how greatly misguided their priorities are and how insensitive and ignorant the police and the administration are of the actual security risks facing the society. Only a fortnight later, the whole world saw the Marriott hotel in Islamabad go up in flames, on their TV screens. And yet no steps have been taken by the higher officials in the Punjab to withdraw the ridiculous FIR 443/08 of the Chenab Nagar Police Station.
The follow up was scandalous. The accused initially were granted temporary bail, but at the time of its confirmation the bail was denied to them. The judge cancelled their bails, except for that of Shah Zeb. They were taken to Jhang prison on 14th October, which is a great distance away from Rabwah. Later, the police added eight more Ahmadis to the list of those who were accused. The police have apparently opened a type of ‘imprest account’ through this FIR so as to make this case against other Ahmadis in Rabwah. It is not surprising that UK’s Parliamentary Human Rights Group mission titled its report on Rabwah in 2007: RABWAH: A PLACE FOR MARTYRS?
Earlier, the first 8 detainees were behind bars as their temporary ‘bail before arrest’ had been cancelled. A judge granted their plea for ‘bail after arrest’ on October 28, 2008, and the authorities released them.
Subsequent to the arrest of those accused, the police investigated these eight more individuals. They hurried to avail the ‘bail before arrest’ provision. However, they had to present themselves a few days later for confirmation of the bail. The judge, for reasons which were known only to him, decided to reject the confirmation. The police arrested them immediately and locked them up. Their names are listed below:
- 1. Mr. Naseeb Ahmad Anwar; a brick-kiln owner
- 2. Mr. Danial Ahmad; a 14 years old
- 3. Mr. Muhammad Abdulla Khan; proprietor of an electric store
- 4. Mr. Asif Jamil; movie maker
- 5. Mr. Akbar Latif; pharmacist
- 6. Mr. Maqbul Ahmad Gondal of Gondal Tent Service
- 7. Mr. Abdul Majeed of Zeeshan Shopping Centre
- 8. Mr. Atiqur Rehman; a property dealer.
These peaceful citizens were put behind bars. Only a few days earlier, the senior minister of their province, Raja Riaz had said: Minorities have equal rights (The News; October 13, 2008). The weekly Time apparently knows the situation here better than the minister. It commented: It takes a big bomb to make a point in Pakistan these days. (Time; October 6, 2008)
This human rights violation deserves another comment. The government often complains of shortages in the police and judiciary. But see the irrational utilization of what is available. The Punjab is under attack by religious fanatics. The carnage at Wah, the suicide attack on police personnel at Lahore, the terrorism at Bhakkar, the explosion of bombs in a market at Ghari Shahu etc should have opened the eyes of any sensible administration for the need of judicious allocation of human resources and a sensible review of their priorities. The district of Jhang has been home to banned extremist organizations, but they are still very active. In these circumstances, the pursuit and arrest of innocent Ahmadis for alleged misuse of Arabic words is simply idiotic. And to do so, on the behest of mulla, is an abomination. This gives plausible validity to a remark, again, in the TIME magazine that; Yet though Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism, it has also been its enabler. (Time: September 22, 2008).
Registration of a police case and arrests at Kunri
Kunri, District Mirpur Khas (Sindh): In the month of September 2008, two prominent Ahmadis, both presidents of district Ahmadiyya communities in Sindh were assassinated by felons unknown. In the same month another Ahmadi was murdered for his faith in Karachi. We are not aware what, if any, progress the Sindh police has made in apprehending the criminals involved in these violent attacks. However, we know and regrettably report what the Sindh Police did to the innocent Ahmadi citizens of Kunri in the next three months.
The police charged two Ahmadis of Kunri on September 22 with FIR 86/08 at the police station. They accused Rana Khalil Ahmad of writing a blasphemous letter to the Khatib (cleric) of Jame Masjid Kunri. Mr. Rashid Iqbal was accused of writing something religious on a road with chalk. The police, unbelievably, applied the blasphemy clause PPC 295-A to the charge sheet, and then added to it the ultimate PPC 295-C. The penalty for 295-A is ten years’ imprisonment, while 295-C prescribes death. Still not content with this outrage they booked the two under anti-terrorism law that allows prosecution in special courts. This was indeed scandalous.
Rana Khalil Ahmad is an old man who runs a small store. He lost a leg in an accident and walks with the help of crutches. Having charged him, the police arrested the poor man. Khalil applied for release on bail. The state opposed the bail application and the judge rejected it. The old man remains put in jail.
Rashid Iqbal, who allegedly wrote something on the road with chalk, fled and took his family with him as in such circumstances the police in Pakistan tend to detain the family of the accused as well. As he rightly assessed, the judge refused the bail to Rana Khalil as well as to himself, so he went to Hyderabad in December to apply for bail at the High Court. There the police arrested him. Mr. Abid, who was helping him prepare his legal documents, was also detained. They took both of them to the police station where they subjected them to torture. Why? Only the police know. Later they released Mr. Abid, but took Mr. Rashid Iqbal away to an unknown location. Why this secrecy and violation of procedure occurred? Only the police know. Do they have the same mentality as an extremist mulla? Do they have no superiors who know better?
Subsequently it was learnt that they have incarcerated Mr. Iqbal in Mirpur Khas prison. His plea for bail was expected to be heard on December 20, but the judge is on leave. How long he will remain behind bars for allegedly writing something on the road with chalk is not known.
In the meantime the murderers of Ahmadi community presidents remain at large, free from arrest by the Sindh police who can arrest perhaps only lame old men who allegedly write a letter to a cleric and a family man who allegedly wrote something on the ground with a chalk.
Anti-Ahmadiyya riot in Kotri – 60 houses affected
Six Ahmadis booked and arrested under a religious law and other laws
Ahmadis told to miss weekly congregational prayer
Kotri, Sindh; June 2008: Kotri witnessed intense harassment and uncontrolled agitation by extremists against Ahmadis in June this year. The authorities decided not to dissuade the mulla from taking the law in his own hands and instead proceeded to victimize Ahmadis further with help from the religious law.
Kotri has a sizeable Ahmadi community. They number close to a thousand. They are mostly living in Labor Colony of the SITE area. However, they are not allowed to have a place of worship there, on account of opposition by the religious lobby, so they make do with prayer centers etc. A few mullas find it professionally lucrative to ferment sectarian tension against Ahmadis at all times. In this they have enjoyed general support from the local police in the past. This makes life very troublesome for Ahmadi residents of the Colony.
Ahmadis decided to construct a facility to congregate and worship together. The structure was planned not to have a niche or minaret. The mulla blamed Ahmadis of building a madrassah, which was a false accusation. Mullah Rashid harangued the public in his Friday sermon, and went as far as telling Ahmadis to leave the town. He gave them June 8 as the deadline. He told his followers to expel the ‘infidels’ – ‘now or never’. Ahmadis informed the police but they decided to take no action.
Thereafter, madrassah goons started roaming around in streets, throwing stones at Ahmadis’ houses, using foul and abusive language. As a complaint to the local police proved fruitless, Ahmadi leaders contacted senior officials to take the necessary preventive measures.
On the night of June 12, extremist elements formed a gang and started throwing stones at Ahmadis’ homes. They fabricated a story that while they participated in a peaceful procession, an Ahmadi had fired at them. This crowd not only damaged Ahmadi homes, but there were incidents of theft as well. They broke into the house of Mr. Mobashir Ahmad and stole cash, jewelry and other items worth Rs. 60,000/-. They also took tools and equipment from an Ahmadi welder’s shop and set fire to what remained. This went on late into the night in the presence of the police who did not intervene. Ahmadis contacted the District Police Officer who offered the excuse of shortage of manpower. The next morning the police registered a criminal case against 6 Ahmadis under PPC 324, 295A, 147, 148, 149. These clauses expose them to imprisonment of up to 10 years. Among the accused is Mr. Mobashir whose house was also looted. The police registered no case against the rioters and their leaders despite a formal complaint by Ahmadis. The complaint was thereby sent to the Sessions, but the designated judge was on leave till June 30, so it was deposited with the High Court. The police however arrested all six Ahmadis named in the FIR. The High Court subsequently ordered that a FIR against the rioters be registered. The police had to comply.
The miscreants occupied the house of Ms. Nusrat Perveen who is a widow. It was, however, subsequently recovered.
Ahmadis contacted the Inspector General of Police, Sindh. He issued some instructions to the DPO, but asked Ahmadis not to offer their obligatory Friday prayers in their centre on June 13. Ahmadis complied.
On June 21, the extremists put up posters in Kotri: “Stop selling and buying from Qadianis – OTHERWISE…” Muslims of the Labor Colony, Kotri.
Dr. Zulfiqar Mirza, the Interior Minister of Sindh was informed of the situation by Ahmadis. Sindh is ruled by the Peoples Party these days. The arrested Ahmadis were later released on bail, after remaining behind bars for a month.
Arrested for having joy
Kot Momin, District Sargodha; May 27, 2008: Mr. Muhammad Farooq Jajja, an Ahmadi religious teacher and Mr. Muhammad Ehsan were booked and arrested by the police for celebrating the Khilafat Jubilee in their mosque.
The local community had assembled in the mosque on 27th May afternoon to listen to the Centenary sermon of Khalifatul Masih on the Ahmadiyya TV channel, MTA. The mosque was lit for the occasion and sweets were distributed. At the end of the program, participants returned home happy.
Afterwards the authorities came and forcibly took away Mr. Farooq, the Imam of the mosque. They charged him and one other Mr. Ehsan under the anti-Ahmadiyya law PPC 298-C. Later they arrested Mr. Ehsan as well. This was a criminal act on the part of the police as the PPC 298-C does not forbid such celebrations.
These two Ahmadis are threatened with up to three years in prison because of their faith. However they are now on bail.
The FIR No. 295/08 was registered against the two Ahmadis at police station Kot Momin, under PPC 298-C on May 27, 2008.
Eight Ahmadis booked at Khanpur under Ahmadi-specific law
Khanpur, District Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab; June 23, 2008: The police registered a case against 8 Ahmadis at police station Khanpur Sadr, FIR No. 378/8 on June 23, 2008 under PPC 298-B.
The FIR accuses Ahmadis of building a ‘mosque-type place of worship’, writing Muhammad and Allah on it, writing on the tombstones ‘Mazar Sharif’’ etc.
The accused are Messrs 1) Irshad, 2) Zulfiquar, 3) Abid, 4) Khalid, 5) Azam, 6) Mustafa, 7) Khushi and 8) Chaudhry Basharat. If declared guilty they could be imprisoned for three years.
If this FIR is valid and justifiable then similar FIRs can be registered against almost a million Ahmadis all over Pakistan now. They will have to build a thousand more prisons to detain all the Ahmadis.
The government of Punjab should look into the working of the Rahim Yar Khan’s police department, and also review the policy directives and messages that it conveys to the administration and the police in this regard.
Fundamental rights made subservient to administrative and political exigencies
Rabwah: Here is yet another case of how expedient politics and administration in Pakistan encourage clerics to gain power and clout that give rise eventually to monstrous situations like that of the Red Mosque of Islamabad.
Pakistan Amateur Basketball Federation announced holding an Under-19 Junior National Championship at Rabwah (Chenab Nagar) on 26 – 28 April, 2008. Teams from all the four provinces of the country, FATA and Azad Kashmir were expected to participate. Programming and conduct of this tournament was the responsibility of the Federation. There is some history behind this tournament, in that Rabwah has produced a number of well-known basketball players in the past, and the town is known by this identity as well.
Ninety-nine percent of the residents of Rabwah are Ahmadis, yet mullas of the Khatme Nabuwwat (End of Prophethood) faction, representing an insignificant minority here, objected to the holding of the sports fixture. The administration that beats the drum of human rights decided to do the mulla’s bid when it faced protest from a few mullas (10 or 12, according to the intelligence reports) and saw a few statements in the vernacular press. The jittery Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) sent for the officials of the Ahmadiyya community as a party. He was told that: The community is not directly related to the tournament; the said Federation has arranged it. The players shall be our guests at Rabwah and we are simply their hosts here.
However, the DSP Chenab Nagar had already decided conveniently (evidently in consultation with his superiors) to placate the mulla by trampling upon the civil rights of 99% of Rabwah’s population, who are Ahmadis. He proceeded to issue his ‘Circular’ based on a fabrication. He stated therein that in pursuance of the ‘agreement between the Ulama and the Ahmadiyya Jamaat’, it is decided not to hold the tournament as per previous practice.
Ahmadis protested against this Circular to the DSP Chenab Nagar Circle, and pointed to the mis-statement therein. “Ahmadiyya Community had made no agreement with mullas. The tournament had been scheduled by the Federation and the teams are associated with it. If you want to disallow the tournament, ask the Federation not to hold it. However, if you want to forbid us to play host or not offer our grounds, you should order us in writing,” conveyed the community officials.
In view of the above, the DSP issued a fresh circular on April 25 stating, “You are requested, in view of the prevailing law and order situation, not to allow the tournament on the grounds of Chenab Nagar and ask the Federation to hold the tournament elsewhere. In order to ensure strict surveillance, duty personnel are being posted at the grounds.”
The Federation officials also met the DSP on their own, and told him that this sports tournament was not a religious event and the players’ faith was not at risk as suggested by the mulla. However, the DSP decided to go along with the clerics. In pursuance of the administration orders, the Federation decided to postpone the tournament. A few teams that had already arrived were well-received by locals, but they had to go back without playing.
It is also worth a mention that even after the administration had assured the mullas that the tournament will be disallowed, they went ahead with their protest congregation at the Jame Masjid at the local railway station on April 25, 2008. They lashed out there at the Ahmadiyya community and the administration. They spared the short-sighted political potentates – for the time being.
Discriminatory treatment of Ahmadis by the administration on behest of clerics has gone on for decades, but one should ask a few questions from the establishment and the civil society of Pakistan:
1. Whether Ahmadi citizens of Pakistan have any fundamental rights? On what basis have they been deprived of playing host to the visiting sports teams?
2. This deprivation was through an official order that was based on a false and fabricated assumption. How come?
3. A basket ball team has only ten members. The DSP accepted it as a ‘law and order problem’ simply because a few mullas objected to it. However, despite this unjustifiable ban, the mulla still agitated his flock against the Ahmadiyya community. Do the 99% Ahmadiyya population of this town have no sentiments? The DSP was presented to get intimidated by the few mullas; but he was encouraged to send a police force to the empty playing fields. Is that how good administrations go about their functions?
For how long the administration will remain in league with the mulla and stay proactive in denying fundamental rights to thousands of Ahmadi residents of Rabwah? One should not forget that for many years since Pakistan came into being, federations have been holding basketball tournaments in Rabwah (Chenab Nagar). This town produced a number of renowned basketball players; some of these represented this country on many occasions, and there was never a complaint about any sectarian problem from any team or the Federation. Now, this sport is banned on baseless accusation of clerics who have given it a religious colour in bad faith.
This incident is indicative of the discriminatory treatment meted out to the residents of Rabwah by the administration who finds it convenient to play subservient to unscrupulous clerics. The mulla had a big laugh, and felt encouraged to take on the state and society on some bigger issue at some future date.
The incident is particularly noteworthy as it was the first one of its kind in the initial days of the new democratic dispensation. An elected government is in place at Lahore and Islamabad.
A policy statement from the Prime Minister
Islamabad: The Daily Times of April 15, 2008 reported an important statement of the prime minister as the following headline:
Pakistan believes in religious freedom: Gillani
The Staff Report added: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said on Monday that Pakistan believed in complete religions freedom of minorities and would continue to protect and safeguard their rights as enshrined in the Constitution. “We consider it our religious obligation to maintain and protect religious sites of Sikhs and other minorities in Pakistan,” Gillani said while talking to a Sikh pilgrims’ delegation headed by Sardar Avtar Singh Sanghra. The Sikhs are visiting Pakistan in connection with Baisakhi Festival.
What the Prime Minister said is commendable. However, to allow religious freedom is easier said than done. Pakistan has been made a difficult terrain by the religio-political duet for the growth of this freedom in particular. The Prime Minister took over on March 26, 2008. Most of the incidents reported in this report fall within the domain of responsibility of his government. If the Prime Minister is sincere about the implementation of his policy, one expects these reports to become shorter and to disappear eventually. But let’s see.
Enormity committed by the police at Lahore
Lahore: The police of the Islamia Park neighborhood at Lahore took upon itself an outrageous task in that it destroyed the Kalima (Islamic creed: There is none worthy of worship except Allah; Muhammad is His messenger.) written on the outside of the local Ahmadiyya mosque.
In the last week of August, some individuals reported to the police against the Kalima (Islamic creed) in the mosque. The law does not mention that Ahmadiyya places of worship may not have the Kalima. The police sent for the Ahmadi residents and told them unlawfully to remove the Kalima. They refused. Thereafter, the police, in the darkness of the night, at about 1 a.m. arrived at the mosque in mufti carrying chisels and hammers, and broke the marble to destroy the Kalima. Having accomplished the crime successfully, they delivered the broken pieces to the Ahmadis. It was like a murderer delivering the remains to the family.
It is learnt that the local Nazim, Mumtaz Sarwar is leading the anti-Ahmadi sentiment.
Official neglect, even harassment at Kotri
Kotri, Sindh: The sizable Ahmadiyya community at Kotri was extensively harassed by the opponents who took to rioting in June. Ahmadis had to take some measures to defend themselves in view of the apathy of the police. The police acted hostile and dishonest in that they not only failed to protect Ahmadis, they booked five of them, and took no action against the rioters.
In the face of all this, Ahmadis had to apply to the Sessions Court to charge-sheet the miscreants. The court delayed the action, so Ahmadis went to the High Court. The High Court ordered the Sessions to act promptly. Accordingly, the Sessions Court directed the police to register the following three cases:
- The rioters broke into the house of Aamar Ahmad, looted ornaments and valuables, stole Rs. 60,000 cash, and damaged the furniture.
- The rioters broke windows of the residences of Messrs Mukhtar Ahmad and Nusrat Ali, Ahmadis. They looted sanitary and welding equipment of their store and put the rest on fire.
- Mr. Nasir Ahmad’s house was damaged and personal belongings looted.
Is it not surprising that these miscreants committed crimes in the fair name of religion, and the police of the Land of the Pure refused to proceed against them?
Hurdles involved in this State of ‘enlightened moderation’ in peacefully celebrating a centenary
In the last week of May, Ahmadis were celebrating, in an innocent manner, centenary of the Ahmadiyya Khilafat. The mulla took exception to that, and agitated vigorously. The authorities responded favorably to the clerics’ outrages and put pressure on Ahmadi residents of Rabwah and their community officials to restrict severely their personal and community expression of joy and happiness. This situation was unbecoming to a civilized society.
Ahmadiyya Khilafat is the institution of succession in the worldwide Jamaat. It is a spiritual and community institution; it has no political role. The system continues to promote “Love for All, Hatred for None”, tolerance, peace in all spheres of life, universal justice and higher spiritual and moral values (Alfazl May 24, 2008: pp. 3, 4). Ahmadis have benefited greatly from Khilafat and are grateful to God for it. They have a cause to feel happy, and celebrate.
Their celebration was as fair as the cause. They planned to clean sweep their town and homes, share food with the poor, offer thanksgiving prayers, visit the graves of their ancestors, put on new or neat clothes, decorate their homes with paper buntings and light them up with earthen lamps with wick to save on the short supply of electricity. What was there for the mulla to protest against, and for the authorities to take him seriously?
The mulla launched a campaign of slander and threats through the vernacular print media. They issued press releases and statements regarding alleged Ahmadiyya-Jewish fellowship (Qadiani Yahudi gath jor), dire consequences (khatrnak nataej), direct action (rast iqdam), taking law in their own hands (kafan bandh kar khud rokain gai) etc. They commandeered falsehood in bulk for the occasion; it reminds one of 1953 when during the anti-Ahmadiyya agitation they circulated pamphlets that 1000 men had been killed at Jhang and Sargodha by the security forces in one day; while the prestigious high level judicial inquiry subsequently found and mentioned it in its worthy Report that ‘not a single bullet had been fired on that date in either of these places’ ( p. 156 of The Report, Punjab Disturbances of 1953).
In crafty but essentially futile reaction to imagined Ahmadiyya incentive, the mulla held 80 jalsas according to his own count, held a big convention at Alhamra, a state facility in Lahore, where “the prime minister and the four chief ministers would participate” (sic), issued a series of articles in vernacular press wherein the 20th century state-sponsored killings of numerous Ahmadis in Afghanistan was eulogized. Slanderous accusations were made and published against Ahmadis, and highly provocative threats were made. The aim was to create an artificial threat to peace of the society and to provide an excuse to the authorities to trample upon fundamental rights of Ahmadi citizens of Rabwah. The authorities predictably responded as the mulla wanted. It is amazing that the officialdom that looks the other way when a big mosque in the centre of the nation’s capital is converted into a veritable arms depot, becomes active to deny Ahmadis’ decoration of their town with colored paper buntings.
Who were these mullas? Most of them were from the notorious Majlis Ahrar or their sympathizers in the Majlis Tahaffuz Khatme Nabuwwat. Some of them are from the banned organizations that indulge in terrorism. Political support comes from influentials who either have an Ahrari past or those who find it politically advantageous to cohabit with mulla. The administration looks towards Lahore for the wink. This type of drama was played earlier as well, when in 1989 the District Magistrate Jhang forbade Ahmadis celebration of their community’s Centenary and denied them even “distribution of sweets and service of food”. That shameless ‘Order’ brought great embarrassment to the country in international circles. The duet of irresponsible mulla and official charged the entire Ahmadiyya population of Rabwah in an FIR dated December 15, 1989. It has remained open ever since. Rabwah is the only town in Pakistan where all jalsas, rallies, even organized sports have remained banned for Ahmadis for the last 25 years. The mulla, however, has blank cheque to do what he likes in Rabwah – and he cashes this cheque often, even regularly. In January 2007, the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group mission looked into the Rabwah situation by on-the-spot visit, published its report, and titled it: RABWAH: A PLACE FOR MARTYRS?
The DPO visited Rabwah on May 25. He met no Ahmadi community official. The police arrested an Ahmadi for selling Ahmadiyya badges etc. They also put pressure on Ahmadi elders to see to it that no Ahmadi displays in public any joy and cheer about Khilafat. How can any community official do that? Joy is in the heart and shows itself on the face of the carrier who takes it along in the air around him wherever he goes. No mulla, administration or police can deprive a man of his happiness with his instant situation. The state that insists on depriving a section of its own people of fundamental rights shoots itself in the foot. Martin Niemoller summed it up well in a statement:
“In Germany, the Nazis came for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionist and I didn’t speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I was a Protestant so I didn’t speak up. Then they came for me…. By that time there was no one to speak up for any one.”
(Congressional Record 14 Oct. 1968)
Eventually the will of the mulla prevailed – partially. All parties agreed that no jubilations be undertaken on 27th May, the date of the Centenary. A heavy police contingent was deployed in the town on high alert and the press reported total inactivity (hoo ka alam) on account of the shutter-down in the bazaar. The gloating mulla declared to the print media, “The country has been saved by the ban on the Qadiani centenary”, the daily Jang; May 28. According to a press report, mulla Allah Yar Arshad told Ahmadis “to restrict themselves to their homes and places of worship so as to avoid religious provocation.” The mulla did not realize that Ahmadis, being practical and rational people, could postpone their celebrations for one day (even though it is like the state forcing Christians to celebrate their Christmas on Dec 26). So, to every body’s great surprise the citizens of Rabwah celebrated their Centenary on 28th May. By the time the mulla realized what was going on, it was too late. He fumed, protested and ran around, but by the time he got some audience, the day was over. In frustration and failure he demanded of the authorities to put a stop to all that on the following day. The authorities told Ahmadis to light no earthen lamps thereafter, and Ahmadis said, ‘OK’. The mulla’s flurry reminds one of the adage: Much ado about nothing.
The mulla demanded action against the local DSP. He wanted an inquiry into the entire episode and action against all the officials responsible. A number of these clerics of Chiniot Tehsil met the DPO Jhang “who assured the Ulama that an inquiry was underway against some irregularities” The daily Ausaf; May 31, 2008. The DPO also met the Nazir Umur Aamma, an Ahmadi community official.
On June 8, 2008 the administration committed the enormity of booking the entire population of Rabwah under Ahmadi-specific PPC 298-C and other laws. They arrested one Ahmadi. The FIR no. 254/08 was registered at Police Station, Chenab Nagar.
Harassment of Ahmadis at Jatoi
Jatoi, District Muzaffargarh: There is a small Ahmadiyya community at Jatoi. Sectarian elements helped by the local police put them under great pressure in June this year, and planned to have them implicated somehow in some case under Ahmadi-specific law or a religious law.
Early in the month Ahmadis of Jatoi were targeted with insults, threats and police action at local level. They contacted their district Amir who sought a meeting with DPO Muzaffargarh. Although the DPO heard their plea but he was expressly unsympathetic, and the following weeks proved that he had not moved a finger to provide any relief.
Masjid Bilal and Jamia Farooquia mosque are the centers of anti-Ahmadi planning and agitation. Mullas held a Jalsa at the former on May 30 and made hate speeches at the occasion. These mullas were supported by a senior mulla called Ghazi Rashid who is a functionary of Majlis Khatme Nabuwwat. Ghazi Rashid has appropriated to himself the title of Ghazi, as sometimes ago, a man, instigated by him, murdered a person accused of blasphemy, in courts premises. This so-called Ghazi later targeted Ahmadis of Jatoi for future achievements.
The local press, the daily Islam, provides the needed press coverage to fabricated accusations of preaching and other activities (e.g. its issue of June 2, 2008). Another Jalsa was held at Masjid Farooquia on June 6, where they raised anti-Ahmadi slogans. Ghazi Rashid incited the participants to violence, but somehow they postponed it to some other date. They conspired to enlist support from the local police.
Sure enough, the SHO sent for the Ahmadis and accused them of various religious offences, as advised by the mulla. Ahmadis insisted that they had violated no law. However, as the SHO police had been briefed by clerics, he demanded a written undertaking from the leading Ahmadis that:
- 1. They would not preach
- 2. They would not offer the joint Friday prayers
- 3. They would not hold get-togethers.
This demand was highly improper, even unlawful; it amounted to deliberate violation of the Constitution by the SHO. Apparently he has not been trained to uphold the Constitution and the law. Ahmadis expressed their inability to give these undertakings. The SHO attempted intimidation and even uttered a veiled threat. Ahmadis resisted these unfair demands politely, but eventually agreed to give in writing that being law-abiding citizens they would not violate the law. Unnecessary but unavoidable.
The opposing clerics then undertook harassment tactics. They blocked the locks of Ahmadis’ shops with chemical compound. They attempted to snatch personal mail of an Ahmadi from his hand, so as to use the same as evidence in registration of a religious police case. Ahmadis became careful and asked their mail-senders not to send any mail to their normal addresses by the official postal service, as the same could end up in the hands of their ill-wishers.
Ahmadis of Jatoi feel that they were the target of a planned conspiracy to get them implicated in some criminal case based on religion to have them arrested. Their freedom rested on a delicate balance. They exercised great caution, and they regularly prayed to God for protection.
Death of an exile
This is the story of an Ahmadi elder who suffered greatly under the regime of so-called ‘enlightened moderation’, got uprooted irrevocably and had to seek shelter in the United Kingdom. He died there in May 2008, and his remains were brought back to Pakistan. It would be appropriate to recall what happened; may be someone would draw useful lessons.
Mr. Muhammad Nawaz practiced medicine in the town of Haveli Lakha, district Okara, Punjab. He was a good man, and had ‘shifa’ i.e. a high proportion of his patients would recover their health. He was thus respected in his town, and his medical practice flourished. There are only a few Ahmadis residing at Haveli Lakha, but on account of his piety and good reputation, he was appointed the district president of all the branches of the Ahmadiyya community in district Okara. Although he was popular in public, the mulla did not like him for his faith and was always on the lookout to worst him.
During the 1974 anti-Ahmadiyya riots, instigated by the regime of Mr. Bhutto, the mulla got his chance, and Mr. Nawaz and his family suffered major jolts. They forced him out of his home and he had to live in countryside for months. Subsequently, in 1984, in the days of General Zia, the authorities charged him for his commitment to the Kalima, the Islamic creed, and prosecuted him for months. However, the worst was still to come, and that happened during Musharraf regime.
On December 15, 1999 an unruly mob attacked and destroyed the under construction extension of the house of Mr. Muhammad Nawaz. The mob pulled down the under construction rooms brick by brick, razed them to the ground and took away all the building material from the site. They also attacked, ransacked and looted the main house and put some furniture on fire. Nawaz and his family saved their lives by jumping from the roof of their house on to a neighbor’s housetop. Mr. Nawaz had at his disposal some licensed small arms for self-protection but he forbade his son to use them against the rioters.
The saddest and the most painful and inexplicable part of this cruel incident was that all this demolition, looting and violence took place in the presence of the local police and administration. All the while it was taking place, the police and local administration did absolutely nothing whatsoever to protect Nawaz, his family and his property. They made no attempt to stop the unruly mob. The only thing done by the police was that they arrested Nawaz and his two sons from the neighbor’s house where they had gone to save their lives and charged them under Section 298-C of Pakistan Penal Code. It is narrated that when Nawaz learnt of the police search for them, he told his sons not to be found hiding under a charpoy (a bed) or behind a paiti (a large trunk for storing quilts in the Punjab). The police had thus no difficulty in locating these victims of mob violence and state tyranny. Having arrested them, they tied their hands behind their back as if they were some dangerous criminals. They sent their victims to prison at Sahiwal. In the jail these gentlemen were initially put in the death row and kept in solitary confinement and denied even customary facilities allowed to the under-trial. The attackers were allowed to go scot-free and no case was registered against anyone for this crime and no one was arrested, whereas the victims were charged and incarcerated. Three other Ahmadis were also charged under the same section. Lt. General Mohammad Safdar was the governor of the Punjab at the time.
The background of this cruel incident is that adjacent to Mr. Nawaz’s house there was an old and dilapidated house which Mr. Nawaz had purchased from its owner, and started construction of four new rooms. One Munir Ahmad whose house was also adjacent to this house was interested in buying it and was offended at this purchase by Nawaz and raised objection about the common wall between this house and his. The matter was taken to the local civil court and litigation started. Munir Ahmad, feeling that he did not have a strong case, tried to give it a communal and sectarian colour by falsely propagating that Dr. Muhammad Nawaz was building an Ahmadiyya place of worship. In this, he sought and got full help and cooperation of local mullas.
As the matter was under litigation, the local authorities decided that they would make an on-the-spot examination of the site at 11 a.m. on December15, 1999 to make their own assessment. Fearing that spot examination of the site would vindicate Mr. Nawaz’s stand, the mullas started exhorting people from loudspeakers of mosques to assemble outside Dr. Nawaz’s house. They proclaimed that it was a matter of Jihad, and Dr. Nawaz should not be allowed to build what they claimed to be an Ahmadiyya place of worship. As a result, a large mob gathered at the place and completely demolished the rooms under construction and looted and damaged his main house and clinic.
The police and local administration made no effort to stop the violence. The authorities offered no help, relief or shelter to the family of Mr. Nawaz consisting of women and minor school going children who sought shelter on their own as best as they could.
Higher authorities in the federal and provincial governments were duly informed of the incident. A letter was written to the Interior Minister by the Ahmadiyya headquarters in Pakistan. The requested relief never arrived.
Later, when released on bail, Nawaz and his family could not return to their home because of the opposition and lack of official support. The family shifted to various other towns but could not settle down. Mr. Nawaz suffered an emotional shock from the mob attack followed by official tyranny, and developed a neurotic condition. He could not sleep well at night. This affected adversely his health. The new locations where he tried to establish afresh his medical practice were not responsive, so the family underwent financial hardship. The issue of his resettlement was taken up at the provincial level but proved futile. The threat of the prosecution and an unjustified imprisonment was ever present. This took its toll, and Mr. Nawaz could bear it no longer.
His frail health could not support him for long. He died in the UK in the last week of May 2008. His remains were brought back to Pakistan to be buried at Rabwah. The funeral of this good man who had suffered greatly at the hands of the state and the mulla was attended by a large number of admirers and well wishers.
It is relevant to place on record that Iqbal Jeddah who was the main instigator of this event in 1999, subsequently suffered wholesome personal disgrace in the local society and consequently lost all his business. Safdar, the governor at the time, soon lost his job to Khalid Maqbool, and disappeared from the public scene. The president who made it a policy not to risk the slightest dent in his public standing for supporting human rights of Ahmadis was eventually exposed to such a hurricane of media and public disapproval that one would not wish it even to an enemy.
BELLING: And what, if I may ask, is your destiny?
GREGERS: To be the thirteenth at the table.
Henrik Ibsen, The Wild Duck, V
Why immunity to politicians in the garb of religion?
Sargodha; October 23, 2008: Mullas continue to claim immunity from legal action and to avail unbridled freedom of speech, under the protective shade of religion. The Aalami Majlis Tahaffuz Khatme Nabuwwat held an open-air conference at Sargodha, and the daily Jang, Lahore reported its proceedings on 24 October 2008 under three column headlines that are translated below to prove this point:
Snap ties with US and formulate policies in accord with the People’s wishes. Khatme Nabuwwat conference
Negotiations should be held and (military) operation should be halted; Qadianis’ activities should be monitored in Kahuta and other national institutions
Zahid ur Rashidi, Maulana Allah Wasaya, Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianwi, Mufti Abdul Moeed and Abdul Majeed Shah’s address
Load-shedding, inflation and unemployment should be ended; those who threaten Pakistan’s security should be exposed. Resolution
It is reasonable to suggest that if the mulla wants to play politics at a national and international level, the relevant rules should apply to him as well, and he should not be treated as “Ulama Karam”.
According to the daily Jang, among the clerics who participated were Abdullah Shah Mazhar, Akram Toofani, Sahibzada Aziz Ahmad, Mufti Tahir Masud, Muhammad Ramazan and Qari Abdul Waheed. Haji Aslam, Chaudhry Hamid Hameed and Abdur Razzaq Dhillon also addressed the crowd.