Politics of Persecution – 2009

2009

‘Death only punishment for blasphemy’

Islamabad, April 21:  According to a press report (the Dawn of April 22, 2009) the Supreme Court rejected an appeal against a Federal Shariat Court (FSC) ruling that death is the only punishment that the Islamic law provides for blasphemy.

The appeal was filed by Bishop Dani L. Tasleem 18 years ago after the FSC gave the judgment in exercise of its powers to determine if the existing laws conformed to Shariah.

Deputy Attorney-General Agha Tariq Mehmood who represented the federal government told the Dawn that the petition was dismissed because it was not pursued by the appellant. Reports suggest that the petitioner is not alive.

“The issue is of tremendous importance for the people of Pakistan in the sense that the FSC judgment which remained suspended for quite some time will now be implemented,” a constitutional expert told the Dawn.

In fact, the Holy Qur’an condemns blasphemy and defilement of innocent people but ordains no punishment, death or imprisonment, for this offence. The government should have sensed the gravity of the case and itself appealed to the Appellate Bench against the verdict of the FSC.

Questionable conduct of the Punjab government

Lahore: During the year 2009, numerous incidents occurred in the Punjab that had a direct or indirect bearing on the Ahmadiyya issue. Here we mention only three of those where the provincial government was directly involved, and offer a comment in the interest of all concerned. These incidents are,1)Holding of a Khatme Nabuwwat Conference in the Badshahi Mosque, Lahore by the Auqaf Department, 2) Banning the Ulama’s entry in various districts of the Punjab,  and 3) An announcement of the Mutahiddah Ulama Board through the Auqaf Department of the Government of the Punjab.

In the recent month of Muharram, the government took note of the serious threat to communal harmony and thereby to law and order in the province, and issued orders to ban a large number of ‘Ulama Karam’ to enter the province or to move from one district to another. Most of these ulama who were directed to stay put in their own residential districts were forbidden to address public gatherings (zuban bandi). All this was done to maintain peace and order, and was accepted by all concerned as an essential administrative measure. A few headlines from the press regarding this order are recorded below.

Punjab bans entry of 190 clerics from other provinces.

The Daily Times, Lahore; December 26, 2009

Yom Ashur: 20 ulama recommended for detention.

105 ulama made to sign bond of good conduct in sectarian issues.

The daily Waqt, Lahore; December 24, 2009

151 Ulama’s entry banned in Faisalabad

The daily News; Lahore, December 12, 2009

46 Ulama banned to enter (District) Chiniot

The daily Jang; Lahore, December 16, 2009

30 Ulama Karam and Zakir’s entry forbidden in District Toba. Maulana Fazlur Rahman, Sajid Naqvi and Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi also banned. Restrictions imposed for 3 months.

The daily Pakistan; Lahore, December 9, 2009

In the last week of December, the Department of Auqaf arranged a Joint Announcement (Mushtarka Elamia) by the Mutahiddah Ulama Board and had it published in the press as a paid public ad. It was entitled, Do not give up your own beliefs (and) Do not infringe upon the beliefs of others (Apne maslak ko na choro     Kisi aur ke maslak ko na chero). This announcement was drafted in a meeting chaired by ‘Khadim Pubjab’ Mian Shahbaz Sharif on December 13, 2009. The announcement expressed heartfelt pain and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in suicide bombings in Moon Market Lahore, Multan Cantt, Parade Line Rawalpindi and Khosa Market DG Khan etc. The announcement formulated a Code of Conduct (Zabita Akhlaq) and had it published. One of the items of the code read (translation): Islam also teaches regard for the People of the Book (Ahle kitab) and Non-Muslims. Therefore the Ulama should lay special stress on tolerance (rawadari) and unity, and should abstain fully from mutual incriminating edicts (fatwa bazi) etc.

However, earlier this year the same Auqaf Department sponsored, held and funded a Khatme Nabuwwat Conference at Lahore on April 11, 2009. It invited a large number of ulama including many of those who are now banned to enter other districts or are forbidden to speak at public meetings. The venue was decorated with banners that supported the Swat Deal (with Mulla Fazlullah), the imposition of Shariah etc. The speakers upheld the so-called Nizam-e-Adal. One of them said: “We are ready for total destruction of Qadianis in the country.” Another said: “Every last drop of blood should be shed for the sake of End of Prophethood”. One of the resolutions passed at the conference was: All the ulama should devote at least one Friday sermon every month to the issue of Khatme Nabuwwat. An effigy of the holy founder of the Ahmadiyya community was burnt at the opening of the conference.

With these kinds of gatherings taking place with official support, the government of the Punjab should not be surprised with incidents like the bombings in Moon Market, Multan Cantt, Parade Line and Khosa Market. The pious announcement of the Mutahiddah Ulama Board could not dissuade the bomber and his backers from the attack on a Muharram procession in Karachi that resulted in 45 deaths, burning of 2500 shops, attacks on vehicle, police stations and banks etc, loss of Rs. 30 billion and 10,000 jobs.

The Quran, in its great wisdom, sets forth parables:

“Dost thou not see how God sets forth a parable of a good word? It is like a good tree, whose root is firm and whose branches reach into heavens. It brings forth its fruit at all times by the command of its Lord. And God sets forth parables for men that they may be reminded.

And the case of an evil word is like that of an evil tree, which is uprooted from above the earth and has no stability.” Al-Qur’an, Surah Ibrahim

Communal tension in Azad Kashmir

A political mulla, Pir Atiq-ur-Rahman has apparently decided to use the ‘Qadiani card’ to promote his political career. He is fairly influential and claims close links with the top leadership of the territory.

The Pir’s campaign in the name of Khatme Nabuwwat is essentially political, sectarian, agitational and even violent. His tactics include intimidating the government through this religious issue. He agitates the common man in his hate speeches against Ahmadiyyat. He hopes to gain political mileage with crutches such as the ‘protection of the end of prophethood’- an oft-tried tool by numerous political tricksters.

The authorities in Azad Kashmir initially responded obligingly to his pressure tactics, and indulged in wanton violations of Ahmadis’ human rights (see News Report June 2008). This brought a bad name to the government of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. It seems the government decided to recant, and took some damage control measures.

The Pir thereafter made another attempt at holding Khatme Nabuwwat conferences at various locations e.g. Kotli, Goi, Tatta Pani etc. The yellow vernacular press, as usual, offered plenty of space to the Pir and his acolytes. Newspapers like Nawa-i-Waqt, Ausaf, Khabrain etc spared two, even three-column space to publish disinformation as well information regarding these conferences, etc. Extracts:

We shall not accept any ban on Khatme Nabuwwat Conference.

Among all the anti-Islam and anti-Pakistan forces the most dangerous are Qadianis. In the garb of Islam they are busy in uprooting Islam and Pakistan.

The daily Khabrain, Islamabad; June 26, 2009

Disclosure of heavy amounts donated by the Jewish lobby to blasphemy undertaken by Christian and Qadiani

The Jewish Lobby provided 5 billion rupees to non-Muslims to precipitate sectarian riots in Pakistan. Qaisar Ayub and Shahzad Saleem launched blaspheming website with support of the Jewish lobby who assured them protection.

We shall not accept any ban on the Khatme Nabuwwat Conference -Yasin Gilani

The daily Ausaf, Islamabad; June 26, 2009

The English raised Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani in a major conspiracy. There can be no compromise on the issue of End of Prophethood. … We shall respond to the call of Pir Atiq ur Rahman and shall spare no sacrifice to that end. The Khatme Nabuwwat Conference shall be held.

The daily Nawa-i-Waqt, Islamabad; June 26, 2009

The administration and police officials of Kotli said, “ We have appealed to Pir Atiq ur Rahman that the circumstances are not favorable, the (proximity of ) Control Line is relevant, so please do not hold the Khatme Nabuwwat Conference at Goi.

The daily Jammu and Kashmir, Muzaffarabad; June 26, 2009

Auspiciously, the authorities did not allow the holding of the conference. It must have taken some effort. However, the monster has grown in size, only because the Pir was seen often in company of the local prime minister.

Recently, with the change of government, the Pir has been elevated to become a minister.

 

A profile in courage

London: Mr. Altaf Hussain, the Quaid of MQM, now residing in London talked about Ahmadis in Pakistan in a television interview. It was reported in the Daily Express of September 9, 2009. Excerpts (translation):

I do not want an Islamic Republic; I want a Peoples Republic of Pakistan where everyone should be free to live in accordance with his faith. I do not want a Pakistan of pretended mullas and politicians. … In 1988 when we won seats in the National Assembly, I toured the entire country. I noticed that the country was occupied by thieves and robbers and looters of national wealth. If a petty official takes bribe he is sent to prison, but the feudal lords who take loans worth trillions, get these remitted and excused….

The MQM is the only party whose leader issued a message of condolence on the demise of the Qadiani Amir, Mirza Tahir Beg (sic). A number of daily papers wrote editorials that I had committed Kufr. Well, I am going to commit the Kufr again, let anyone who wishes to, issue a fatwa. Qadianis who live in Pakistan should have full freedom to live in accordance with their faith and belief. It is their right. Qadianis, like other minorities, should have complete freedom to propagate their dogma. I have read Ahmadiyya literature. Their Kalima (Islamic creed) is the same as ours. They also believe in the Finality of Prophethood of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The first Nobel Prize laureate of Pakistan, Dr Abdus Salam was an Ahmadi. It would be most unjust of us not to accept that. When the MQM comes to power, I will request the authorities to let me establish a (big) compound where I shall build a mosque, a Gurdawara (for Sikhs), a (Hindu) temple, a church and also an Ahmadiyya mosque. All of them will worship in their own way at their own timings in that compound. …

Religion has nothing to do with politics. Whenever you bring in religion, you will get nowhere. I say, do not hate (on the basis of) how one worships. Do not distribute tickets for heaven and hell; everyone worships (the same) God.

 

Amendment proposed to blasphemy laws and anti-Ahmadiyya laws

Lahore: It is perhaps the first time since 1984 that an important official tribunal has proposed revision of blasphemy laws, anti-Ahmadiyya laws and a few other sections of the penal code related to religion. The tribunal headed by Mr. Iqbal Hameedur Rahman, a high court judge, inquiring into the tragedy at Gojra, in which 7 Christians died, included these recommendations in its report and urged the government to do the needful on ‘war footing’. Excerpts from a report published in the Daily Times of December 7, 2009 are produced below:

Gojra report proposes amending blasphemy laws

Tribunal calls for immediate action against those responsible – Calls for capacity building of law-enforcement agencies – Identifies factors that led to riots

Faisalabad: An inquiry report on riots in Gojra in August proposes amendments  to the blasphemy laws.

An inquiry tribunal – headed by Lahore High Court Judge Iqbal Hameedur Rehman and tasked with looking into the tragedy that killed seven people – also warned the government on Sunday that “the Gojra tragedy must be taken seriously and the needful (should) be done on war-footing without further loss of time.”

The inquiry tribunal notes in the report that the country is already facing grave challenges in the form of terrorism and militancy – which, in addition to destroying the economy, have “disfigured our national image all over the world… we cannot afford any other menace, (such as) sectarian disputes.” It says efforts to control such unrest must begin immediately.

The 258-page report recommends action “without any discrimination against those responsible for commission and omission.”

The report also proposes amendments to Pakistan Penal Code sections 295, 295-A, 295-B, 295-C, 296, 297, 298, 298-A, 298-B, 298-C, anti-blasphemy laws, relevant provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Police Order 2002….

The tribunal reached the conclusion that the riots were a result of the “inability of law-enforcement agencies to assess the gravity of the situation, inadequate precautionary and preventive measures taken by law-enforcement agencies, a luke-warm stance by the Toba Tek Singh DPO, the failure of intelligence agencies in providing prompt and correct information, a defective security plan, the irresponsible behaviour of the administration, the complete failure of police while discharging their duties, the non-enforcement of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, omissions to take steps under sections 107 and 151 of the CrPC, the lack of a decision to invoke the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order (MPO) 1960 – which amounts to letting the miscreants loose to wreak havoc during the course of the riots – and several other factors.” APP

 

Conduct of two federal ministers in the Ahmadiyya context

Islamabad: Two federal ministers, Mr. Babar Awan Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Mr. Ghulam Ahmad Bilour the Railway Minister made public statements involving Ahmadis. These statements were taken note of by political and intellectual circles and the media who took the two to task for their own reasons for what they said.

Mr. Awan was accused of corruption amounting to tens of millions in the Punjab Bank scandal. (Sheikh Haris statement before the Accountability Court reported in the daily Awaz; Lahore, December 3, 2009.)

The daily Ausaf, Lahore of November 27, 2009 reported a statement by the minister’s spokesman as: “Qadiani lobby has launched a campaign of accusations and conspiracy against Dr Babar Awan, the Federal Minister of Parliamentary Affairs for his firm stand (seesa palai diwar ki tareh dat janey ki wajah se) against the proposals to change the name of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the repeal of the Blasphemy law. However, Dr Babar Awan, as a true lover of the Propeht(Aashiq rasul) and a Pakistani can sacrifice his life for the honour of the Prophet but will not let the plans of evil forces to bear fruit.”

The spokesman of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat denied the charge and called it an unwarranted accusation (Daily Express; Nov 27, 2009).

The daily Aajkal published an op-ed Turkish by Aasif Mahmud dated Nov 27, 2009 on this issue. Excerpts:

“If Babar Awan’s stand is correct, then the Ahmadi lobby is really busy in his character-assassination, or it might be that the Dr. wants to hide behind a holy visage so that he cannot be accused of corruption, and in case that happens, it can be dismissed as Qadiani propaganda.

“The Dr. has never mentioned in the past that Ahmadis are active against him. However, soon after an accused tells the Supreme Court of his corruption amounting to tens of millions, the Dr. remembers this Ahmadiyya conspiracy?

“Politics based on religion are not uncommon, but the present trend is very dangerous. It is only an attempt to hide from the corruption charge, behind the curtain of religion. This amounts to asking the people to defend a man without inquiry as a part of their religious sentiment. Political norm, however, dictates that if one is accused of corruption, he should not cover himself in the garb of sanctity, but should face the charge.”

The case of Mr. Bilour is of lessen consequence, although he too aroused religious prejudice to support his opinion regarding the day of Eid-ul-Fitr. He differed with the Ruet Hilal Committee’s decision on the sighting of the moon and stated in public that those who celebrated Eid on the day decided by the Committee were doing so “along with people of Rabwah.”

The minister was taken to task by the media and the mulla, for their own reasons and logic. The minister had to make a public apology and said that his remark was only a taunt (tanzia).

It is indeed surprising that these well-placed politicians should handle their serious political and personal problems by such questionable means.

 

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