General ® Musharraf—a page from Ahmadiyya history

General ® Musharraf—a page from Ahmadiyya history

Islamabad:  General ® Musharraf ruled Pakistan for nearly nine years (1999-2008). The rough treatment Ahmadiyya Community was meted then in Pakistan was mostly attributable to him. In view of some recent developments, here we mention only one incident, as sample.

Separate Electorate system had been going on in the country for 23 years. Saner elements of civil society kept on telling President Musharraf that this system made no sense in a modern democratic republic. Musharraf got somehow convinced and introduced Joint Electorate in the country in early 2002. The mulla got upset to find that Ahmadis would thus get a right to vote as normal citizens, so he protested. The commando president found it convenient to get cold feet and told his Ministry of Religious Affairs to appease the mulla.

A Seerat (Life of the Holy Prophet) Conference was organized by the government at Islamabad on May 25, 2002. The Ministry of Religious Affairs invited a large number of Ulama, and asked the President to attend and address the assembled mullas. The proceedings of the conference were telecast live by Pakistan Television. After the President had spoken, a Mulla Saleemulla of Nifaze Shariat Group (same type as the horde whose leader Sufi Muhammad had led thousands into Afghanistan in support of the Taliban) stood up and demanded of General Musharraf to reinstate Separate Electorate and openly declare Qadianis as infidels. As on similar occasions during the past regimes, Saleemulla assured the general that by doing so he would win the gratitude of the Ulama and the support of the people. At this, President Musharraf readily offered his opinion that those who did not believe in the End of Prophethood were Non-Muslim. The mullas cheered him profusely. The President then advised them to be large-hearted as they live in the world that is more like a global village; however he asked them to have faith in the government and reassured them that he would consider their demand. The general asked the minister Dr. Ghazi to come to the microphone, who came and reassured his guests that the constitutional provision to treat Ahmadis as non-Muslims will be maintained (more cheers), reported the dailies Nawa-i-Waqt, Jang and Insaf, of May 26, 2002. Some people are of the opinion that the entire incident was stage managed.

Sure enough, the general did not wait for October when elections were to take place; he issued his Chief Executive Order No. 15 of 2002 only a fortnight later to comply with the mulla’s demand.

The new law enforced, “7B. Status of Ahmadis etc. to remain unchanged.— Notwithstanding anything contained in…. .” It provided mechanism to demand the Affidavit concerning the “unqualified Finality of Prophethood” etc from all voters claiming to be Muslim. According to the amendment, in case he (an Ahmadi) refuses to sign the given declaration, he shall be deemed to be a non-Muslim and his name shall be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters in the same electoral area as non-Muslim.

Ahmadiyya head office in Pakistan issued a formal protest on the issue in following words:

“As consequences of this revision only Ahmadis have been excluded from the common list and their names have been transferred to a list designated as a non-Muslim list. This strange measure has resulted in a ridiculous situation in which there is a common list of voters which contains the names of all the Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Christian and Buddh voters and a second list termed as non-Muslim list comprising Ahmadis only. This procedure adopted by the Election Commission is directed against Ahmadis alone and is flagrantly discriminatory and against all principles of justice and democracy.”

Some election-watchers did not get the full implication of the mulla’s drive and the government’s compliance. They argued that Ahmadis were being placed only on a supplementary list, they can still vote. Little did they realize that the mulla knows that Ahmadis, as a matter of principle, would never vote as non-Muslims, as such, by implication they would get effectively disenfranchised. Some liberal and secular elements voiced their concern over this turn of events. Mr. Ayaz Amir, a leading columnist wrote his column for the DAWN and titled it ‘Back to the future’. His opening remark was: EVEN in a land renowned for silly edicts, the most recent addition to the statute book, Chief Executive’s Order No. 15, takes the prize for silliness.

Silly, yes, but a more objective analyst could call it absurd, injurious and outrageous. What Musharraf ordered in his Chief Executive’s Order 15 has been made a part of the Elections Act, 2017, and a minister claimed that its provisions are now operative ‘for ever’.

President Musharraf, like a number of his predecessors thought that his anti-Ahmadiyya posture and tactics to keep the mulla happy would help perpetuate his rule. He had learnt no lesson. He was wrong like all those who preceded him and those who followed him. We tabulate below briefly what happened to him in the next few years:

2006-2008—President Musharraf was severely reviled and even abused in print and electronic media.

2008—Resigned and went into self-exile

March 2013—Returned to Pakistan and faced intense hostility from political lobbies

November 2013—Charged with high treason for imposing Emergency and Suspending the Constitution

March 2016—Intensely harassed by judicial pursuit, fled to Dubai. Declared proclaimed offender.

Later    his properties in Pakistan were confiscated for not appearing in the Court to face trial.

2019—Press reports about his failing health and hospitalization

December 17, 2019—Special Court awards him hanging on five counts.

There is a lesson to learn here, for those who are willing to learn from failings of others.

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