Politics of Persecution – 2008

2008

Noteworthy

It should be placed on record that as a result of the deliberate policy and manipulations of the state actors at the highest level, they have succeeded in that there is no Ahmadi in the national Assembly, Senate, federal and provincial cabinets, no Ahmadi governor, advisor, judge of the Supreme Court or any High Court, no officer in the defence forces above the rank of brigadier etc. This is in sharp contrast to the situation of the days of the Quaid-i-Azam when the country’s foreign minister, Muhammad Zafrulla Khan was an Ahmadi. Even sixteen years later, the chief of air staff was an Ahmadi. Also noteworthy is the decline of Pakistani state and society with the changes that were brought about by the mindset that brought about the anti-Ahmadiyya Amendment II to the Constitution and the Ordinance XX.

Half measures like banning the Jamaat Da’wa etc. will remain futile. All the questionable and bad laws enforced in the name of religion must be revoked before a recovery can be hoped for. Ardeshir Cowasjee is close to the mark in suggesting: “We need someone to come along who will realize that religion, (supposedly) true or false, is indeed the opium of the masses, and who will move on to a more tolerant, realistic, practical and democratic path and act to educate the masses rather than take great pains to keep them in the ignorance in which they wallow.

(The Dawn, December 14, 2008)

 

Ahmadis are the real target of introduction of religion column in Pakistani machine readable passport – discloses an insider

Lahore; January 28, 2008: Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad Qureshi who claims to have played an important role in 1984 in the promulgation of anti-Ahmadi Ordinance XX by General Zia wrote an article in the daily Jang, Lahore, published on January 28, 2008. In this article he candidly mentioned the purpose of the inclusion of religion column in MRPs (machine readable passport). Excerpt:

“….As far the issue of declaration of one’s identity as Muslim in the passport, it is only to disclose Qadianis (Ahmadis), as their centre is essentially in Pakistan. They have their branches all over the world, but these are linked to Rabwah in Pakistan. It is therefore essential that their identity should be made apparent. It is the same thing as to whether a glass is half full or half empty. In fact this column in the passport is not to identity Muslims but to spotlight non-Muslims who put on the garb of Islam. On this issue, Hadrat Maulana Muhammad Yousaf Ludhianvi, Shaheed Rahamat-ullah-alaihe, wrote an article in the daily Jang, Karachi of October 14, 1992, titled ‘Decision to enter Religion in the national identity card’ which was later published in his book ‘Arababe Iqtidar se kori kori batain, Vol. III’. He wrote therein: “Nationality based on Pakistan (territory) fails to distinguish between a Muslim and non-Muslim. Pakistan was created on the basis of two-nation principle, it is therefore obligatory that this theory is not set aside. In any case, Separate Electorate is the current mode in Pakistan; therefore it is essential every citizen is correctly identified by his religion.”

Mr. Qureshi has said what the government of General Musharraf was shy to say in 2005, but was not shy to do when it ruled in 2007 that religion entry shall be made in the passport. It is also amazing that the same regime introduced Joint Electorate in the country, but then excluded Ahmadis. Such anomalies and incongruencies had to result in complications that are manifesting themselves now in various ways all over the country. One reaps only what one sows.

First hundred days of the new government – and Ahmadis

Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani took his oath of office as the prime minister on March 25, 2008. The new government claimed to set the trends and take important initiatives in the first hundred days. As for Ahmadis are concerned, these hundred days proved to be among the worst and the heaviest in decades, despite the fact that Mr. Gilani asserted in April: “Pakistan believes in religious freedom”. Following summary would show:

  • 16 Ahmadis, 6 named and 10 unnamed, were booked in an FIR at Police Station Nankana Sadar on June 20, under the Blasphemy law for allegedly tearing off a hateful poster.
  • Anti-Ahmadi riots in Kotri, Sindh on June 12 night. 60 families effected. Five Ahmadis booked and arrested under a religious law and other laws. Police took no action against the rioters.
  • Enormity committed by the authorities in Azad Kashmir. Ahmadiyya place of worship blasted to rubble in the first week of June. Criminal cases registered against numerous Ahmadis at three locations in District Kotli under Ahmadi-specific laws – arrests made. Ahmadis disallowed to bid for an official contract on account of their faith, and told so in writing.
  • Ahmadiyya place of worship sealed by order in District Badin, Sindh in May. 12 Ahmadis booked under Ahmadi-specific and other religious laws; 3 arrested and 4 detained without charge.
  • Entire Ahmadi population (more than 50,000) of Rabwah booked in June under Ahmadi-specific law for celebrating a Centenary.
  • All the 23 Ahmadi students of Punjab Medical College, Faisalabad rusticated in June.
  • Eight Ahmadis booked at Khanpur, District Rahim Yar Khan under Ahmadi-specific law, in June.
  • Authorities forbid holding at Rabwah the basketball championship, organized by Pakistan Amateur Basketball Federation. Mullas had demanded the ban.
  • Four Ahmadis booked under Ahmadi-specific laws in District Mirpur, Sindh in April, when an Ahmadi greeted a mulla with Salam.
  • Ahmadis told not to celebrate their Centenary at Rabwah on May 27. When they celebrated the same on May 28, the administration got active, registered police case, made arrest, held inquiry and placated the mulla. Two arrested at Kot Momin, Sargodha at the occasion.
  • Subedar Mushtaq Ahmad, 75-years old, was booked at Chicha Watni, District Sahiwal on May 30 under Ahmadi-specific law, and arrested.
  • Rab Nawaz, a convert was booked under Ahmadi-specific law PPC 298-C on May 27, and arrested.
  • The accused assassins, arrested for the murder of 8 Ahmadis in Mong in October 2005, were acquitted by the anti-terrorism judge at Gujranwala.
  • Ahmadi communities faced extensive harassment at other locations also, e.g. Jatoi, Larkana, Lahore, etc.

The above list is too long to infuse confidence in the future. Obviously, human rights and religious freedom are of no great importance to the new rulers. Following wielded the state power in the country and the provinces:

Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani                    Prime Minister

Mr. Pervez Musharraf                          President

Mr. Shahbaz Sharif/ Mr. Khosa           Chief Minister of the Punjab

Mr. Salman Taseer                               Governor Punjab

Mr. Qaim Ali Shah                               Chief Minister of Sindh

Dr. Ishrat-ul-Ibad Khan                       Governor Sindh

Sardar Atiq Ahmad Khan                    Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir

Raja Zul-Qarnain Khan                       President Azad Kashmir

 

Text of President’s oath

Islamabad: Mr. Asif Ali Zardari took the oath of the President of Pakistan at Islamabad on September 9, 2008, as given in the third schedule of the 1973 constitution. Its text is fit for reproduction here as it conveys important messages regarding the state’s attitude towards human rights and freedom of religion. The TEXT:

I, Asif Ali Zardari, do solemnly swear that I am a Muslim and believe in the unity and Oneness of Almighty Allah, the Books of Allah, the Holy Qur’an being the last of them, the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the last of the Prophets and that there can be no Prophet after him, the Day of Judgment, and all the requirements and teachings of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah:

That I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan;

That, as President of Pakistan, I will discharge my duties, and perform my functions, honestly, to the best of my ability, faithfully in accordance with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of Pakistan;

That I will strive to preserve the Islamic Ideology which is the basis for the creation of Pakistan;

That I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions;

That I will preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan;

That, in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will;

And that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person any matter, which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as President of Pakistan, except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as President.

(emphasis added)

 

Better late than never

Islamabad: Quaid-i-Azam was the foremost in sensing the danger of the state’s involvement in people’s faith and dogma, so he forthrightly undertook: “You may belong to any religion or cast or creed, that has nothing to do with the (business of the) state.” (Speech on 11 August 1947). The first major breech of this commandment was undertaken in 1974 when Mr. Bhutto as leader of the PPP, the ruling liberal party, in collaboration with mullas, amended the Constitution to impose not-Muslim status on Ahmadis of Pakistan. This was a grave violation of le contrat social in Pakistan.

Over the last 34 years the state made even greater inroads into the religious lives of its people to the extent that it is now burdened with a heavy load of religious laws that are controversial, hurtful or difficult to implement. This has now been recognized even by the top religious council in the country, IIC, Islamic Ideological Council.

In a recent session, 17th, the IIC expressed its concern over the implementation of Shariah and formulation of religious laws in NWFP, according to a news item published in the daily Ausuf of August 3, 2008. “The Council asserted that the terms like denial of faith (Takfir), Jihad and Nahi an il Munkar (forbidding what is wrong) need to be re-examined in the light of fresh arguments. The council is of the view that the current definitions and interpretations are causing extremism in the society,” reported the daily.

A quotable quote

In November 1946:

“Asked about Pakistan, Jinnah said it would be a popular, representative government in which…. (every one) no matter what his caste, colour  or creed will have equal rights.”

Stanley Vollpert. Shameful Flight. Oxford University press, Pakistan edition, P.125

 

Ahmadis in Pakistan during the Musharraf era – A brief resume’

GENERAL Musharraf resigned on August 18, 2008. It was the end of an era that lasted nine long years. Ahmadis’ human rights remained an active issue throughout his time. Ayaz Amir’s comment in the daily Dawn of August 19, 2005 summed up Musharraf’s performance quite aptly: “We should have got rid of this baggage (of Islamisation) long ago. We are still carrying it. Musharraf had a chance to turn a new page but he has largely blown it, his rhetoric more impressive than anything he may have done”.

The general took over on 12 October 1999. At the occasion he made a policy speech, and referred to the forgotten statement of the founding father of Pakistan regarding all Pakistanis being equal citizens of the state. He asserted that human rights of all would be protected. This raised hopes of the oppressed sections of the society, including Ahmadis. However, these hopes were short-lived, as Ahmadis discovered that what the general did would often be quite different than what he said. It became his behavior pattern. Only a month after his equal citizenship speech, his Chief Secretary in the Government of Punjab issued a circular on the subject of “Finality of Prophethood’ to all the Commissioner in the Province directing that “A perception appears to have been created in some small sections of the society that the government is perhaps unmindful of the status of ‘Ahmadis’ as a non-Muslim minority. Such a perception is obviously without any basis. …In all administrative decisions, due regard and respect should be accorded to the religious sentiments, beliefs and sensitivities of fellow Muslims.” Not content with that, the general proceeded to enlist Dr. Ghazi, a known anti-Ahmadiyya activist, in his cabinet and appointed him on the National Security Council. This Dr. was on record in supporting the award of death sentence to apostates. Within the next few weeks the government banned the book titled ‘Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth’, a scholarly work authored by the Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya community. His government also refused Ahmadis permission to hold their traditional Annual Conference at Rabwah, while every one else enjoyed fair amount of freedom of speech and assembly.

In his first year as Chief Executive, more Ahmadis were murdered for their faith than in any year of the preceding quarter century. One hundred and sixty-six Ahmadis were made to face criminal charges on religious grounds, as compared to 8o during 1999. In 2001, the authorities brought up the charges and a judge awarded 118 years’ imprisonment to each of the two Ahmadi accused who, on their own land, had simply demolished a dilapidated one-room mosque made of mud and replaced it with a new one made of bricks. So the tyranny against Ahmadis persisted in different forms. Nothing changed.

Subsequent to 9/11, the general made a forthright and bold verbal attack on fundamentalists and religious extremists in his TV address on January 12, 2002. One hoped that this policy change would bring some relief to the plight of Ahmadis. However, the general promised Chaudhry Shujaat, the president of PML (Q) that he would make no changes to the Islamic laws and clauses in the Constitution. Sure enough, when Musharraf announced Joint Electorate for National Assembly elections, he made an exception regarding Ahmadis. Through an Extraordinary Gazette notification he promulgated Order No. 15 that placed Ahmadis on a Separate List of non-Muslims. This deprived Ahmadis’ participation in country’s political activities – unbelievable, but true. In fact, rules were devised to ensure that Ahmadis would not be able to even vote for their representatives in the town council of Rabwah where Ahmadis form more than 95% of the town’s population.

In the year 2003, President Musharraf came up with the slogan of Enlightened Moderation. It was a great idea, but the cutting edge of ‘follow-up’ was blunt. Khalid Hasan wrote in The Friday Times of January 13, 2006: “Enlightened Moderation is not more than a pair of words flung at us every day, but we see little evidence of it on the ground.” Khalid Hasan was right, because in the Ahmadiyya context, it is on record that:

  • Ahmadiyya annual conferences remained banned at Rabwah, while mullas were permitted to come here and hold numerous conferences every year.
  • Ahmadiyya schools and colleges were not reverted to Ahmadiyya management, although most other nationalized educational institutions were given back to their original owners.
  • Freedom of Ahmadiyya press remained curbed. Periodicals were confiscated without specifying objectionable entries.
  • Ahmadis suffered job discrimination in public sector, and faced glass ceilings in career development.
  • Ahmadis continued to be murdered for their faith and most murders went untraced and unpunished.
  • State attorneys bent backward to implement bad religious laws and tried their best to deny bails to Ahmadi accused.
  • Ahmadis remained in prison suffering life sentence on fabricated charge of blasphemy.
  • Religion column was provided in the new Machine Readable Passport.
  • Ahmadi-specific laws were maintained and enforced. Hundreds of Ahmadis were booked under these and other religious laws including the Blasphemy law during his tenure, and suffered in prisons. etc.

This list is too long to be jotted down here in full. It can be said with certainty that General Musharraf never told the Provincial Police Officers in their meeting to be mindful of Ahmadis’ human rights and freedom of faith; the events display that categorically. Ahmadis’ yearly persecution reports became and remained thick. Enlightened Moderation became a monotonous and dull phrase. Foreign intellectuals and political analysts, who initially were enamored of the perky general, came to know him better. Stephen Cohen wrote about him: “His bold but curiously indecisive leadership is characterized by dramatic statements, many policy initiatives, and little follow up.” (The Idea of Pakistan; p.273)

During the last few months of his rule when the general was becoming progressively irrelevant in the national politics, the mulla jumped in to fill the void in anti-Ahmadiyya context and perpetrated human rights violations in a big way. It seems that Ahmadis have still to wait for some time before the destiny places a true disciple of the Quaid-i-Azam at the helm of national affairs or the status quo changes with a bang.

With benefit of hindsight, it can be said without fear of serious objection that General Musharraf was also one of those rulers of Pakistan who were self-centered and committed to self-perpetuation at all costs. His slogans of ‘Pakistan first’ and ‘enlightened moderation’ were hollow words when their implementation affected his self-interest. His commitment to his declared policies was in fact always conditional.

 

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