Joint Electorate for all Pakistanis – except for Ahmadis
An important event happened early this year in the political field in Pakistan where the state reaffirmed its profound discrimination against its Ahmadi citizens. In fact the authorities reassured the mullah that Ahmadis will continue to be treated as political orphans and will remain disenfranchised.
At the turn of the year 2003/2004, the Election Commission, in pursuit of the government’s declared policy of Joint Electorate, decided to update its electoral lists. The Commission rightly excluded from Form IV (the application form for registration of new voters) the attestation concerning the finality of prophethood, as being no longer relevant in the context of joint electorate. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Electorate as ‘the whole body of electors’ and the meaning of ‘Joint’ are given as ‘put together, joined, combined, united’. Obviously the system of Joint Electorate has no room for discrimination on the basis of citizens’ faith in the dogma of end of prophethood. However, the darkness of mullah’s mind refuses to admit even a single ray of modern political thought. He decided to contest the new measure.
The mullah was angered at the possibility of Ahmadis availing some political rights in the new scheme. He went public and declared: “If Qadianis get enrolled on the same list as Muslims, it will result in dreadful consequences. In that situation the Khatme Nabuwwat Movement will give the call for a countrywide protest agitation.” (The daily Pakistan, Lahore; January 8, 2004). The yellow vernacular press always supports the mullah on such occasions. The daily Nawa-i-Waqt wrote an editorial on January 29 on this non-issue and offered the sly comment, “It is already agreed here that all minorities in the country will be given all their rights and they will suffer no injustice, however no mover or thought will be permitted that will efface the difference between the majority and the minority and the country is turned into a secular state from an Islamic welfare state”. Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, the Deputy Parliamentary Leader of the MMA reportedly met the Chief Election Commissioner and demanded that the certificate concerning the ‘end of prophethood’ be included again in Form IV and, despite the Joint Electorate, separate electoral lists be prepared for Muslims and Non-Muslims. The Commission informed him that his concern will be conveyed to the government who will eventually give its decision on the issue. (The daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Rawalpindi; January 28, 2004).
In the meantime, one Advocate Babar Awan rushed to the Lahore High Court with the novel and idiotic plea that the Election Commission be declared guilty of Blasphemy for doing away with the End of Prophethood certificate from the voter’s application form (The daily Nawa-i-Waqt; February 7, 2004). The plea shows the extent to which obscurants in Pakistan can stretch the meaning of blasphemy.
In the light of its past experience, the Ahmadiyya Community entertained no false hopes. In its monthly report for January 2004 on Human Rights the following comment was made:
“It is to be seen if various pillars of the state will take strength from the higher principle of democracy, fairness and human rights or will they readily yield to the pressure of obscurantism, despite their declarations to the contrary. Someone summed it up aptly in the following words:
“They are good at issuing statements, at attending seminars, and at promising betterment – they say the intention is there, they claim commitment. But from what we see on the ground they are unable to, or unwilling, to implant.”
One did not have to wait long for the above prophecy to come true. The newspapers of 31 January and 1 February splashed the news that the Election Commission had restored the Half Nama (affidavit) concerning the End of Prophethood in the electoral forms. It was also restated that all Muslim candidates for the posts of Nazim and Naib (Assistant) Nazim will have to declare on oath in writing that they have complete and unqualified faith in the end of prophethood of the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The candidates will also have to deny the veracity of any and all claimants to prophethood after him (The daily Nawa-i-Waqt; January 31, 2004). This is how they effectively deny Ahmadis go on the voters’ lists and compete for elective positions. The daily Din of February 1, 2004 reported that all the demands of the Khatme Nabuwwat Movement had been accepted and the Chief Election Commissioner had directed that in the face of any objection to a Muslim voter, the appellate officer will require the voter to appear before him and declare his faith in the end of prophethood. In case he fails to appear or refuses to sign the declaration, he will be deleted from the Muslim Voter List. Thus the curtain dropped on this drama. The authorities at Islamabad made sure that Election Commission’s desire to move closer to genuine Joint Electorate ended as a zero-sum game. The state had once again devoured its own children. No body clapped, except the mullah and the yellow press. The daily Jang, that never tires to pontificate, called this backtracking a ‘timely and praiseworthy step’. In its editorial of February 2, 2004 it concluded that: ‘Subsequent to this decision, it is essential that the directive issued by the Chief Election Commissioner be strictly implemented so that the impression to honor the constitutional provision be maintained.’ The government, the vernacular press and the mullah clearly and deliberately chose to neglect and set aside the verdict of one of their own kind, Mufti Ghulam Sarwar Qadri, the Punjab religious affairs minister who had stated two years earlier on this issue: ‘(the) deletion of the affidavit from the voter’s registration form did not amount to a violation of any basic Islamic provision’. The daily DAWN of May 30, 2002 had reported: “Commenting on the Khatam-i-Nabuwwat Conferences resolution to launch a movement unless the affidavit was restored, the minister said it was not a constitutional obligation. He said it had been introduced during General Zia ul Haq’s rule. He said no harm had been done to Islam before its introduction.”
It will not be out of place to give here the Affidavit that the voters, the candidates and the office-bearers are required to give: “ I,………. s/o, w/o………….hereby solemnly declare that I believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the last of prophets, and I do not recognize any person who claims to be a prophet in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever after Muhammad (peace be upon him) or recognize such a claimant as prophet or religious reformer, nor do I belong to the Qadiani Group or Lahori Group or call myself an Ahmadi.” (translation)
One may also ask as to what is the link between this belief and the task of managing a town council tasked to provide roads, water, gas, sewerage, sanitation etc to its residents. Amazing is the absurdity to which the state has to submit to maintain its unholy rapport with the mullah.
The mullah is a restless vertebrate. Contentment is not in his nature. The hell of his desires demands ever more. Within 10 days of his latest success in routing the powerful champions of enlightened moderation, the mullah came up with fresh demands. The Ulema, according to press reports, held a big meeting in Jame Mosque Siddique Akbar, Alah Abad, Rawalpindi and demanded that all application forms for identity cards, passports, registration of marriage, NADRA etc must include the ‘end of prophethood’ declaration; also the dogma of ‘end of prophethood’ must be included as a compulsory subject in the education syllabus of schools. The ulema decided to launch a countrywide movement to attain these objects. In the meantime the meeting urged all the ulema and Khateebs to educate their flock on this sensitive issue in their Friday sermons. (The daily Ausaf and Nawa-i-Waqt; February 10, 2004).
A well-worded letter written by Mr Jamil Butt of Karachi summed up these developments in the daily DAWN of March 5, 2004 as:
The CEC has clarified that separate forms for Muslim and non-Muslim voters will be used as have been in vogue since 1978. This assertion does not take into account that these forms were introduced because a military dictator in his zeal to Talibanize Pakistan changed the earlier agreed upon and operative system of joint electorate to that of separate electorate.
So, when the county has reverted to the previous system, the documentation should also change as per the previous procedure and the forms prescribed under separate electorate should not be kept intact.
The CEC, referring to a government decision, has also specifically confirmed that the status of Ahmadis shall remain unchanged. This affirms that for Ahmadis the electorate system continues to be separate, not joint, and as before they will remain out of the election process being unable to register themselves as voters against their belief.
This singling out of one community among the citizens of Pakistan is continuation of discrimination and ill-treatment in line with the state policy initiated in 1974 and strengthened in 1984 by civil and military rulers at the behest of a handful of extremist clergy.
Ahmadis have been kept away from all elections held in the country since 1985 and it seems they will remain so till the return of sanity. The fact is that the joint electorate system has not been fully enforced in the country.