State support to the on going persecution
The installation of Mr Rafiq Tarar, an ex-Ahrari, as President was a clear signal to Ahmadis’ opponents that they had the backing and support of the highest authority in the land. The appointment of Raja Zafarul Haq as Minister of Minorities Affairs was an open declaration that Ahmadis would stay suppressed. Mian Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, while staying in the background, provided full support to anti-Ahmadiyya policy and action, as was highlighted in the case of change of name of Rabwah. These heavy weights at the federal and provincial levels made quite certain that no respite was given to the persecuted community. All institutions of the state were conscious of the will and wishes of the higher authorities. Accordingly, Ahmadis faced deprivation and discrimination in all fields. Some aspects of this treatment are briefly mentioned below.
President and the defunct minister of religious affairs
These two high officials of the State were generally discreet in the public about their personal prejudice and animosity towards Ahmadiyyat, however, occasionally they could not help it, or their confidents would leak their thinking, plans and actions, which gave lie to their public pronouncements of tolerance and consideration for minority groups.
According to a report published by the Daily Nawa-I-Waqt Karachi on April 23, a delegation of Muslim clerics from Azad Kashmir called on the President who stated that the Anti-Qadiani Ordinance be implemented in Azad Kashmir as well. The President’s assertion was reported in a bold headline, reproduced below:
According to another report published in the Daily Ausaf, Islamabad of 23 April 1999, a number of festivities were organized in the Holy Hedjaz (Saudi Arabia) to celebrate the change of name of Rabwah town. One of these was arranged in the honour of Maulana Manzoor A Chinioti, the mover of the Resolution in the Punjab Assembly. It was presided over by Raja Zafar-ul-Haq, the Pakistani Federal Minister of Religious Affairs. At this occasion the Raja observed, “Maulana Manzoor Chinioti will have a long life; we have some more assignments for him.”
The Raja–Chinioti team could not have been up to something good. Their track record was consistently vicious.
The Daily Jang of Rawalpindi, in its issue of June 15, printed a statement of Raja Zafarul Haque giving the headline, “There shall be no change in the Blasphemy Law. It reflects the religious sentiments of Muslim masses. Zafarul Haque”. The press release referred to a letter written by the minister to a query raised by Maulana Jalandhri, the Nazim Ala of the Majlis Tahaffuz Khatame Nabuwwat (the foremost anti-Ahmadiyya organization in Pakistan). The minister further wrote: ‘ This law not only reflects the religious sentiments of Muslims, it is also essential as a barrier against a most harmful Evil.’ He was hinting at the prolific use of this law against Ahmadis.
Maulvi Manzoor Ahmad Chinioti, the mulla MPA from Punjab, delivered the Friday sermon at Darul Ulum, Raja Bazaar, Rawalpindi on July 16. In the sermon, Maulvi Chinioti spoke at length on the change of name of Rabwah. He said that he had been working for this objective for the last 30 years. He disclosed that eventually he met President Tarar and cried his heart out and told him that if the change were not brought about during his tenure in office, it would never happen. Accordingly, at the President’s wish, the Punjab Assembly passed the Resolution on November 17, 1998 to change the name to Chenab Nagar. He also added that Zia and Nawaz Sharif also share the credit of this change.
He also referred to the adverse international reaction to this change of name. He called it pointless.
While referring to the arrest of Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the head of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan in April this year, he boasted that he had succeeded in getting a member of the Mirza family handcuffed and sent to prison. According to him, Qadianis are liable to death penalty. He further disclosed that in a meeting with Raja Zafrul Haque, the Federal Minister of Religious Affairs, he put up four demands, out of which one was readily accepted by the Raja. “ I will tell you the details later; I shall not rest till all demands are met”, he concluded.
Raja Zafrul Haque, the Federal Minister of Religious Affairs sent a special message to be read out to the annual conference of Khatame Nabuwwat at London this year. This is the same conference in which Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman intended to participate, but could not, due to the non-availability of visa from the British High Commission. However, many others of his type participated therein, and the Raja shared their company through his message. According to the report published in the Daily Pakistan, Lahore of 9 August, he stated that it is the joint responsibility of the Islamic World to protect the Finality of Prophethood, and that he will yield to no pressure on this issue.
In another report published in the Daily Ausaf, Islamabad on July 18, 1999, Mulla Chinioti stated that the Raja had assured him that soon a Presidential Ordinance would be promulgated whereby communal and religious properties of Qadianis will be taken over and controlled by the State. It was a criminal and shocking intention and assurance. It is loaded with grave possibilities of mischief, and could be a most serious attack on the freedom of faith of Ahmadis in Pakistan.
Mulla Chinioti may be dismissed as a maniac and monstrous, but what about his mentor in Islamabad on whom he makes frequent calls.
Dirty politics of the ousted
The Daily Dawn, Karachi, in its issue of December 24, published the following self-explanatory but disturbing news:
PML (Pakistan Muslim League) to play Qadiani card?
KARACHI, Dec 24: PML has decided to launch campaign in a new direction. The campaign would target General Pervez Musharraf and his team by creating misgivings among the masses and the army ranks, it is learnt on authority. Sources said that after having realized that motivating the masses on to the streets against the present rulers was not a workable formula, some of party rulers have developed a plan under which religious issues would be exploited in a way that would create an atmosphere of rage and distrust against the present rulers.
Sources said a list of General Pervez Musharraf’s personal staff and some other important people has been prepared. The PML Punjab will then publicize the list, propagating that all important people around General Pervez Musharraf are ‘Qadianis’. The list includes the names of the Principal Staff Officer to the CE, Major General Anis Bajwa; MS to the CE, Brigadier Tariq Hameed; PS to CE, Tariq Aziz; Member National Security Council, Sahibzada Imtiaz; Governor Punjab, Lt General Safdar; and Ms Attiya Inayatulla.
The propaganda campaign will not be launched from PML’s official platform. This sort of propaganda will be initiated into the body politics through religious groups and though planted news items. Sources said that General Pervez’s personal life would also be targeted to malign the preset set-up.
Insiders said that Pervez Rashid will be put incharge of this campaign under which pressmen will be hired and used for the campaign.
The campaign is a two-edged sword. It aims at disturbing the new government, and it is also expected to force the government to persecute Ahmadis further to prove its non-Ahmadiyya credentials.
The change of government
The change of government in October was initially felt as a whiff of fresh air when General Musharaf, in his first policy speech, echoed the long forgotten statement of the Quaid-e-Azam to the effect that all Pakistanis are equal citizens of the state and that their human rights will be protected. It seems that the mullas did become cautious during the first few weeks of the military take-over, but that was only to get a feel of the new regime. They soon observed that the military was not ready to undertake any bold initiative that could be possibly unpopular, so they reverted to anti-Ahmadiyya modus operandi. The storming of the under-construction residential building of Dr. Nawaz, the President of Okara district Ahmadiyya Community, by a mulla-led mob and the subsequent arrest of the victim and his two sons shows clearly that the Mulla continues to wield power.
Inclusion of Dr. Mahmood Ahmad Ghazi in the National Security Council as a specialist of religious affairs is another indicator of the influence of the extremist elements upon the new regime. Like Mr Rafiq Tarar, Dr Ghazi travelled as far as South Africa a few years ago, to present himself in a court case in which two Sunni ulema were interlocked in a legal battle in a dispute in which Ahmadiyyat was an important factor. The Supreme Court, in its Decision, made critical and uncomplimentary comments on the conduct of Dr Ghazi for his role in the proceedings. These are on record. He was also a member of a Committee in 1984, which recommended imposition of Death punishment for apostasy in Pakistan. In an article in the Monthly Fikr-o-Nazar (Vol: 1:20 Sr: 9/10) he recommended that an Ombudsman should force people to offer Juma prayers under compulsion, and punish those who deviate from the standard form of prayers. Such thinking is obviously a recipe of a theocratic Afghanistan-type state. His profile is placed here. It is only hoped that the old Tarar-Raja team is not replaced by a Tarar-Ghazi team in the new set-up.
Following post 12-October incidents are also relevant.
- Mr Ataulla Waraich, President of the local Ahmadiyya community of Chak 11 F.W; district Bahawalnagar was arrested by the police on 8 September 1999, for construction of an Ahmadiyya house of worship (although he built it on his own land) and the building of a minaret and a niche therein. The police also sealed the mosque. Mr Waraich was booked under section 298B. He could be imprisoned for three years.
The bail application of Mr. Waraich was rejected in lower courts. Thereafter it was presented at the Bahawalpur High Court Bench, where Judge Nazir Akhtar dismissed it on 5 November 1999. He wrote his decision on 50 manuscript pages. Obviously to justify an unreasonable act, one has to take great pains. Judge Akhtar is the same judge who is of the declared opinion that there is no need of any law to punish a man who is guilty of defiling the name of Holy Prophet and anyone who commits blasphemy against the Prophet can be dispatched to hell (The Daily Jang, Lahore of September 5, 1999).
The judge quoted in his Decision that the Assistant Attorney General (representing the State) stated that:
– Qadianis are not entitled to build their place of worship like a traditional Muslim Mosque.
– The Holy Quran being the sacred book of Muslims cannot be touched by the Qadianis or for that matter other non-Muslims who are not ‘Tahir’ nor clean or pure.
The judge, in an effort to show that ‘the bowl can be hotter than the soup’, added his own opinion in the following words:
The present case does not involve commission of an ordinary penal offence against one or more individuals but is an exceptional case involving commission of an offense against the society as a whole which may have national as well as international repercussions.
The judge, refusing the plea of the accused for release on bail, went on to specifically direct: ‘I feel that the interests of justice would be adequately met if the trial court is directed to conclude the trial within a short period’. He then directed the trial court to conclude the case within a period of three months and to ‘conduct proceedings on day to day basis’. He is obviously keen to have the accused punished.
It appears that the judge does not agree with the noble intentions of the Chief Executive – to treat all sections of the society fairly and equitably.
- Mr. Munir Ahmad, Ahmadi of district Sialkot had been booked under the religious clause, PPC 295A and pushed to an anti-terrorist court for ‘preaching’. He faces 10 years’ imprisonment.
His plea for release on bail was rejected by the Anti-terrorist Court, Gujranwala on 4 October 1999. The plea was then taken to the High Court. A Division bench comprising Judge Falak Sher and Judge Asif Jan also rejected the plea. Now an application will be made to the Supreme Court to see if a lenient view will be taken of the ‘terror’ created by alleged preaching.
- Mrs. Bushra Zia, Principal of the Federal College at G10/4 Islamabad was discriminated, harassed and hounded by the fundamentalist lobby, and was relieved of her post by the authorities, after the military took over.
- Sind High Court did not issue ‘stay order’ to the Anti-terrorist Court to withhold proceedings against Mr Tahir Nadeem, the Ahmadi youth who was booked under PPC 295A for wearing a T-shirt with Kalima inscribed on it.
- An anti-Ahmadiyya open-air conference was held at Dharakna, district Chakwal on October 26. As usual the speakers made abusive and inflammatory speeches against Ahmadiyyat.
- An extremely provocative anti-Ahmadiyya poster was pasted on 17 December at the Sanglanwala Square of Khanewal city, and a slanderous pamphlet was distributed.
- The Government of Punjab banned a book titled ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth’, authored by the Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Community. The book has been otherwise hailed abroad as a great work in the field of philosophy and religion.
- A mulla, Ghulam Murtaza, in a pointed reference to the holy founder of the Ahmadiyya Community, made slanderous and highly provocative remarks on the state-owned Pakistan Television on December 30, in a TV religious program.
It appears that the anti-Ahmadiyya drive which entails gross violation of Ahmadis’ human rights cannot be effectively checked so long as the relevant laws form a part of the Constitution and the law book. Till then, the government will have to take a deliberate and bold initiative and action to put some restraints on the victimization of Ahmadis in Pakistan, if the new regime is really serious about its declared intentions of good governance and equal treatment of all sections of society.