Attack on Ahmadiyya Press
Ahmadiyya press subjected to fresh attack by authorities on fabricated charges
Two named pressmen and ‘others’ booked under Ahmadi-specific clauses, anti-terrorism law and 16 MPO
Mr. Dogar, an old man, sick and under treatment, arrested and denied bail for months
Rabwah: It happened on September 9, 2006. Two days earlier mullahs of the Khatme Nabuwwat Movement had held a provocative and slanderous conference at Rabwah by permission of the authorities. Among their other demands, highly prejudicial to human rights of Ahmadis, one was against the Ahmadiyya periodicals, undoubtedly the most docile and modest of religious journals in Pakistan. Nevertheless, the police, under orders from the provincial capital, struck on the forenoon of September 9.
They raided the office of the daily Alfazl, and searched for the editor, the publisher and the printer. Not finding them, they picked up Messrs Qasim Ahmad and Abdus Sattar who have nothing to do with the Alfazl, took them to the police station, and locked them up. Subsequently the police continued with their raids, and arrested Mr. Sultan Ahmad Dogar from his residence. To secure arrest, they came in a big way in three vans and two motor cycles. They surrounded Mr. Dogar’s house and banged open the outer door. Mr. Dogar who has perhaps never harmed a rat, offered no resistance. It seems the police posed to believe their own lie of terrorism. By nightfall they registered a serious criminal case vide FIR No. 480/06 dated September 9, 2006 at Police Station Chenab Nagar, District Jhang, under PPC 298B, 298C, 16MPO and the terrorism clause 9ATA. The FIR mentions Messers Agha Saifullah and Sultan Ahmad Dogar by name and includes ‘others’ in the business of the Press. Thus the net has been kept wide open maliciously. The FIR states that the Alfazl promotes hatred and injures the feelings of Muslims. The accusation is mullah-inspired, false and pure fabrication. They have not specified any ‘extracts’ or excerpts that are hate-promoting; there are none.
The mullahs’ conference at Rabwah on September 7 was so highly sectarian and even anti-government that the authorities decided to book four mullahs. Perhaps to look even-handed, they booked the Ahmadi pressmen. But while they have on record the highly objectionable diatribes of mullahs, it is certain that authorities will not have the audacity to quote from Alfazl any passage that is objectionable, so as to avoid being absurd. It is noteworthy that they arrested no mullah, but they arrested an important Ahmadi and are looking for the other. The victims committed no terrorism; it is they and their families who are terrorized.
Both the named accused are old and on medication. Mr. Dogar is 60 years old, suffering from diabetes, and is taking insulin injections morning and evening. He does not know what wrong he has committed except that of being an Ahmadi pressman. Two days after the arrest, he was presented at the Anti-terrorism Court at Faisalabad. The judge told the police to bring him up a week later, so they sent him to the far away prison at Jhang. On September 18, the judge rejected Mr. Dogar’s plea for bail, and gave the date of September 25 for commencement of the trial. On September 25, the judge gave no hearing, and gave him the next date of October 4. He was under acute stress and his nervous condition visibly deteriorated. If declared ‘guilty’, he could be imprisoned for seven years.
The charge is false. There is no formal complainant or the accuser; the case is at government’s initiative. As per FIR, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (Operations) ordered the action. It is a serious violation of the flagship policy in the field of human rights of the present regime – “Freedom of Press”. Why the government decided to undertake the unjustified and unworthy action is not exactly known. The application of the terrorism clause was preposterous.
Mr. Dogar is old, not in the best of health, and under medication. They put him in prison. He asked as to what exact excerpts or passages the authorities object. They had no reply. “The whole lot”, said a mullah. But is that the way the present government has decided to function?
The defense told the trial judge that 9ATA was not applicable. He agreed, and told the state to take it off. Mr. Dogar could not avail of the relief of bail earlier, because of the ATA clause. He remained in prison. Now he applied again for the bail. The Civil Judge refused the bail again, and did not give a reason. Mr. Dogar does not know what wrong he has done. If this is not tyranny, what else is? And as for Freedom of Press in Pakistan, it is obviously selective and discriminatory. It reminds one of the concluding speech, made by the state prosecutor of China in 1979 at the trial of a dissident Wei Jingsheng:
Freedom of speech of the individual citizen must be based on the four basic principle of: insisting on the socialist road, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the leadership of the party, and Marxism – Leninism – Mao Zedong thought. The citizen has only freedom to support these principles and not the freedom to oppose them.
Beijing zhi chnun shiwen xuan
Reportedly there are official agencies, groups and parties who commit accesses against pressmen, but they do it discreetly, mindful of the state’s declared policy of freedom of press. For example, the abduction, disappearance and detention for a day of Mr. Dilawer Khan Wazir, a reporter of the daily Dawn in November 2006; no one claimed responsibility. However, the Ahmadiyya pressmen are not accorded any such privilege, caution or pretense; the Home Department or the Police Head Office issues written orders to commit the violation of fundamental freedoms.
Although the judge removed the terrorism clause from the charge sheet, the prison authorities kept Mr. Dogar in the special cell meant for dangerous criminals. Here, he was allowed open-air time of only one hour during twenty-four hours, as compared to much longer hours allowed to ordinary prisoners that he was now as per rules. That was tough. Mr. Dogar then put up his plea for bail before the Addl. Session Judge, who accepted the plea. As such, he was released from the prison on December 2, 2006, almost three months’ incarceration for no valid reason. The daily Alfazl is extra careful in minding the rules. It carries the notice on its front page: ‘Meant only for the education of Ahmadis’. Its management makes sure that none of the subscribers is an Ahmadi. So the accusation of hurting the feelings of Muslims is fallacious and contrived.
Mr. Dogar has ten children, of which 6 still live with him and are his dependents. They suffered a great deal because of his ordeal. His wife bore the brunt. Mr. Dogar instructed the family women folk not to visit him in prison, as the procedure and the environment of meeting a prisoner is greatly inconvenient and even forbidding. Mr. Dogar has served 35 years in the world of publications. His undeserved persecution by the state is unbecoming and in violation of its own policy on print media. The discrimination against anything Ahmadiyya is excessive and unsupportable – to put it mildly.
And lo and behold, the authorities registered still another criminal case under Ahmadi-specific PPC 298B and 298C against the same team including ‘others’. The government apparently believes in ‘hit them, hit hard and keep on hitting’ – its own citizens, and for no good reason whatsoever. Who says only the Mullah is to be blamed for the sorry state of the ‘land of the pure’? The FIR was registered as No. 602/06, at Police Station Chenab Nagar, on November 17, 2006 under PPC 298B and 298C against Messrs Sultan Ahmad Dogar, Agha Saifullah and others, in pursuance of Official letters No. 7576-PA dated October 28, 2006 and 7846-PA dated November 7, 2006.
Eventually Mr. Dogar was released on bail. However, he will face prosecution in court for the two criminal cases against him under the Ahmadis-specific laws. He is at risk of imprisonment for years – for what, he does not know.