National Elections – 2013
Elections for national and provincial assemblies were held in Pakistan on May 11, 2013. Ahmadis, once again, could not participate in them; they neither could stand as candidates nor the rules enabled them to cast votes. There is a background to this gross deprivation, spread over 30 years.
Ahmadis regularly participated in national elections until 1985 when General Zia introduced separate electorate. The new rules required those who claimed to be Muslim to sign a certificate of faith denouncing the founder of Ahmadiyya Jamaat. As this compelled Ahmadis to call themselves non-Muslim, they were effectively excluded from the voting process.
This situation remained in place till 2002 when General Musharaf announced a return to the joint electorate. However, yielding readily to the demand of anti-Ahmadi elements, he issued Chief Executive’s Order No. 15 on June 17, 2002 which declared that Ahmadis’ status will remain unchanged and those who sought registration as Muslim will have to sign on the voters list a declaration concerning belief about the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be on him), and those who refused to sign the certificate were to be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters in the same electoral area as non-Muslims. So that was the de-facto end of the resurrected Joint Electorate system. Human rights activists noted this and had their condemnations published in the national English press.
Five years later, at the occasion of next elections, the Election Commission ordered in a letter dated 17 January 2007 that “the competent authority has been pleased to decide that separate supplementary lists of draft electoral rolls for Ahmadis/Qadianis for the electoral areas concerned, wherever they are registered, may be prepared and published….” The Election Commission issued election forms accordingly to cater for this policy. The forms included a warning that a violation in filling them will be punished with imprisonment. That places Pakistan squarely in the company of 17th century Europe. Joint Electorate thus was a hoax played for the international community that insisted on equality for all citizens of Pakistan.
It is relevant that the given definition of a Muslim in this procedure, as adopted from Article 260(3) of the constitution is only Pakistan-specific and, leave alone the original sources, is not to be found anywhere else in 1400 years since the birth of Islam. This is true regarding the definition of Non-Muslim too given in Art 260(3)b. The rulers, politicians and mullas have led the state of Pakistan into uncharted waters, in the middle of night.
The procedure and orders of the Musharraf era have remained essentially unchanged for Ahmadis.
In December 2007, Ahmadiyya community wrote letters to the Acting Prime Minister, the President and the Chief Election Commissioner protesting the rules discriminatory against Ahmadis and seeking an interview. No one responded except the Chief Election Commissioner’s office which said, “the Hon’ble Chief Election Commissioner is awfully busy now-a-days.”
Mr. Kunwar Idress, a prominent Ahmadi from Karachi, feeling tormented by his right of vote in jeopardy, challenged this law in 2007 in the highest court. His petition to the Chief Justice came up for hearing 40 months later. This was followed by a nightmare of adjournments. The petition was not heard on 20 or more dates for variety of reasons, the main reason being the absence of the Attorney General and three amice curiae who were arbitrarily appointed by the court. Later the case was shifted to its principal seat at Islamabad. Even there the Attorney General failed to turn up on three given dates, while the complainant, nearly 80 years old, had to fly there from Karachi. Appalled, he voluntarily disengaged himself from the notice of the apex court in March 2013.
Sometimes earlier the Election Commission of Pakistan had started preparing for Election 2013. It issued a set of instructions for its registration staff in 2011 for preparing verified electoral lists. In this booklet, Instruction Nr. 12 directed the staff: “Ahmadis’ votes will be entered separately in the initial Electoral List, and at the top of that register the notation “For Ahmadis” will be entered.” (Translation from vernacular) This meant that rules and procedures as already in force would remain the same as before for Ahmadis.
In September 2012 a delegation of Ahmadis met Chief Election Commissioner and other officials, but the rules that make the Ahmadis choose between their faith and their right to vote still remains in force. Disappointed, they had no option but boycott the elections.
As Ahmadis refused to apply to be registered on the separate voters’ list, the Election Commission found it convenient to publish a big list of Ahmadis from the NADRA records, complete with latest addresses etc. This has exposed Ahmadis to great risk as anyone can obtain these rolls. There is no shortage of target-killers who can be rented by blood-thirsty mullas who insist that Ahmadis are Wajibul Qatl (must be killed).
The current situation reflects poorly on Pakistani political establishment in that none of them uttered a word on this gross violation of Ahmaids’ human and political rights. Eventually, what they gladly tolerated for Ahmadis came to haunt them. Tyranny and injustice tend to spread, if not nipped in the bud.
The elections were held and governments formed in the national and provincial capitals, but there was a public hue and cry about the fairness and validity of the elections. Below we produce only a few headlines from the national press:
- 49 polling stations show over 100% turn out.
The daily The News; Lahore, May 14, 2013
- In Bajaur, only 2800 women out of a registered 130,000 plus – a mere three percent – were able to cast their votes because religious/political parties and tribal elders flouted earlier commitments to the contrary and barred women from voting.
Editorial in the daily Dawn; Lahore, May 19, 2013
- Bloody ballot: 110 killed in April
The daily The Express Tribune; Lahore, May 9, 2013
- Five parties boycott elections in Karachi
The daily Dawn; Lahore, May 12, 2013
- Imran to issue whitepaper on rigging
The daily The Nation; Lahore, May 13, 2013
- Islamabad: Voting turnout countrywide 53.4 percent
The daily Ausaf; Lahore, May 16, 2013
- An opinion on a prestigious blog stated: The biggest pre-election challenge was to hold free, fair and transparent elections. In this the caretaker governments, the Election Commission and by extension the judiciary have failed utterly. Consensus is emerging that this could be the most flawed election in our history.
Humayun Gauhar in, http://opinion-maker.org/2013/05/Wisdom-corridor/
The controversy about the legitimacy of election results remains alive and disturbing for many, eight months later.
Ahmadis face the same problem in local government elections as at the national level. Rules and procedures are specifically designed to deter Ahmadis to stand or vote in these elections. Hence for decades, Ahmadis had no representation even in the local council of Rabwah where they are 95% of the population. Various governments and election commissions have been requested in the past to remove these hurdles, but to no avail.
Rather than facilitating Ahmadis’ voting rights, the Punjab government found the existing forms not prohibitive enough to bar Ahmadis’ participation. Rana Sanaullah’s office (PML-N provincial law minister) explained the inability of the provincial government to hold these elections on the grounds that appropriate forms are not available.
It is well known that superior judiciary is very critical of the central and provincial governments for unduly postponing the local government elections.
According to press reports, the existing nomination forms in the Punjab do not carry the affidavit concerning Khatme Nabuwwat. Maulana Fazlur Rahman (JUI) complained to the Chief Minister about this over the phone. The Jamaat Islami, ever eager to cash a cheque over religion, issued a statement calling the omission ‘alarming’ and an attempt to turn Pakistan into a secular state. Accordingly the Punjab government, to no one’s surprise, issued an ‘urgent’ letter to all Returning Officers to ensure that affidavit regarding the End of Prophethood was signed. (The daily Jang; Lahore, November 11, 2013)
One is reminded of a similar letter issued by the Punjab government in 2003, in response to a mulla Faqir Mohammad’s threat. It was accorded ‘Top Priority – Registered’ and addressed to Faisalabad district administration about three schools run by Ahmadis. The title of the government letter was: Letter received from Maulvi Faqir Muhammad.
It is also learnt that mulla Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the head of the Khatme Nabuwwat faction in the Punjab, called on Rana Sanaullah and urged him to do more on the anti-Ahmadi front. The Rana reassured him and asked him to wait till after Muharram.
Then happened the sectarian clash in Rawalpindi.
The daily The Express Tribune, Lahore took due notice of the deprivation of political rights of Ahmadis and wrote the following in its editorial on April 24, 2013:
The situation cannot be allowed to continue. The Ahmadis need to be mainstreamed; no organ or individual has the right to determine the faith of a citizen. Legislative measures are required to undo legal discrimination, backed by a programme to eradicate hate directed against them. The task will not be an easy one, but justice needs to be done without further delay, so the long suffering of a badly wronged community can be ended and their most basic rights – including that to vote – restored to them without further delay, so that all citizens can truly be equals in our society.