Politics of Persecution – 2015

Politics of Persecution

2015

 

Is the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) trying to incite genocide of Ahmadis?

Islamabad:      Maulvi Sheerani, the CII Chief announced to the press in October 2015 that he intended to discuss the following three important issues in the Council meeting:

  1. Deciding whether Ahmadis are non-Muslims or murtads (apostates)
  2. Imposing Jizya (Islamic tax) on non-Muslim citizens
  3. Determining which sects fall under Islam

The issue was important – very important, so some other shrewd and perceptive individuals and media outlets took notice. The daily The Nation was one among them. It published on October 31, 2015 an op-ed with the above title, written by Umar Ali. We reproduce below extracts:

…Ahmadis have faced persecution and oppression of the worst magnitude. And with statements like these, what is Maulana trying to imply? Everyone knows the punishment of an apostate is death in Islam (sic). Does he want all Ahmadis hanged? Although the position of Council is just a ceremonial one and has nothing to do with the law, even passing such remarks can provoke the religious zealots to kill people. Is Maulana Sheerani trying to incite genocide of Ahmadis?

Now that the NAP has been implemented to some extent, hate speech by sectarian organizations has stopped. Before the National Action Plan, sectarian organizations would roam around freely-apostatizing and killing the opposite sects and their followers. These organizations, often patronized by state for proxy wars, were given a free hand until now.

Under these circumstances, CII Chairman wants to debate which sects fall under the umbrella of Islam. Any sane person with a bit of concern about the country’s prevailing situation would know how vile the statement sounds.

Lastly, he desires to impose jizya on non-Muslims. They are already considered third-rate citizens here. With such despicable demands, Maulana Sheerani doesn’t help but makes things worse for them.

Pakistan is a democratic state and a democratic state treats all its citizens equally, irrespective of their caste, creed, religion or ethnicity. Pakistan has been wrecked by religious intolerance, jihadism and religious terrorism. Instead of finding a way forward, Council of Islamic Ideology wants to impose medieval laws that have nothing to do with modern statecraft.

The recent statements by Chairman CII are deplorable and must be condemned by all. Maulana Sheerani also needs to realize if he wants to stay relevant, he needs to stop passing such controversial remarks on a regular basis.

We would like to add that mulla Sheerani’s mischief is far beyond the purport mentioned in the title. He is a Deobandi. By discussing and seeking a verdict on the third item of his agenda, his first targets could be Shia, who form approximately 18 percent of Pakistan’s population. If declared ‘outside Islam’ the next, question of this cleric would be ‘Whether Shias are non-Muslims or murtads?’ Imagine the consequences. Thereafter, he will take up the issue of Barelvis who in the opinion of most Deobandi mullas are Mushrik, worse than a common non-Muslim. They form 50% of Pakistan’s population, approximately three times the Deobandis. Opening the Pandora’s Box about their identity as Muslim would be catastrophic.

Mulla Sheerani is a member and nominee of the JUI (F). One of his party superiors reportedly said some years ago, “We are not guilty of the sin of creating Pakistan.” Sheerani, unwittingly or deliberately has played his role in suggesting a method to complete the unfinished agenda of his party.

Sure enough, despite advice and warnings from some politicians, media and academia, Sheerani raised the issue in CII meeting on Deccember 29, 2015. The agenda was a hot potato for many of the participants. So, hot words were exchanged and mullas Sheeranai and Tahir Ashrafi came to blows. This scene in the highest religious forum at the national level was indeed disgraceful. Later, TV channels showed the ugly scenes on their screens. The leading English daily, Dawn commented editorially on this brawl on December 31, 2015 and concluded, “ … Moreover if its members cannot behave in a civililized manner, it is all the more reason to wrap up the CII.

Whither National Action Plan?

Lahore and Chiniot; February 26, 2015:      Impression prevails that after the APS Peshawar massacre, the state is committed to root out religious extremism and sectarianism as these provide firm jumping ground to terrorism. National Action Plan (NAP) is designed to be the remedy. However, the mullas are clever enough to circumvent such official designs through permissive backdoors of End of Prophethood, Honour of the Prophet (PBUH), Imposition of Sharia, etc.

Clerics of the Khatme Nabuwwat faction, despite the NAP, held Khatme Nabuwwat wa Fatah Mubahila conferences at not only Chiniot but also at a choice location in Lahore, Aiwan-e-Iqbal which is under state management (Fed Ministry of Information and National Heritage). They availed this occasion to fan the fire of religious hatred and promote their extremist agenda, to the full. This report is filed based on what was reported in the national press.

The scheduled conference in Lahore was advertised boldly in the extreme right-wing jihadi daily Islam, on behalf of the International Khatme Nabuwwat Movement (Jauhar Town, Lahore). Among the VIPs to address the conference were Maulana Abdul Hafeez Makki (of Makka in Saudi Arabia) and Maulana Ahmad Ali Siraj (of Kuwait), unabashedly revealing the prime-movers behind the conference.

The daily The Express Tribune, Lahore reported in its issue of February 27 that three retired judges of superior courts including former Lahore High Court chief justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif, former LHC judge Nazir Ahmad Ghazi (both counsels for Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Governor Taseer) and former judge of the Federal Shariat Court Khalid Mahmood spoke at the conference. Other prominent speakers included Orya Maqbool Jan a leading Pakistani Islamist, and Jamaatud Dawa leader Ameer Hamza (of close links with banned Lashkar Taiba). Mulla Ilyas Chinioti (PML-N MPA) reportedly presided over the conference and thundered, “Then they (Ahmadis) must give up their faith and become Muslims or face consequences.” “Ameer Hamza said one of the reasons why they (Jihadists) wanted to wage Jihad against India was to demolish the graves of Ahmadi leaders in Qadian,” reported The Express Tribune.

The daily Islam of February 27, 2015 covered at length a similar conference held in Chiniot. Following excerpts are from the published statements of mullas who addressed the conference:

  • Qadianis are our lost belonging; they can improve their lot here and in the hereafter by moving in to the lap of Islam, otherwise they are destined to disgrace and humiliation.
  • Qadianis are agents of British imperialism; they have always effectively harmed Islam and End of Prophethood.
  • Qadiani hand is active behind terrorist incidents and sectarian differences in the country.
  • Qadianism is name of a terrorist organization; it is not a religion.
  • Unless Qadianis accept their constitutional position, our campaign against them will go on. Qadianis are rebels of the constitution; it is essential to exterminate them in every way.

The daily Islam also published the mullas’ set of resolutions, inter alia:

  • This session strongly cegondemns the government decision to allow only one loud-speaker (in mosques).
  • This gathering strongly condemns defaming madrassahs and the crackdown against them in the garb of stopping terrorism.
  • The Jamia Nusrat Government Girls Colle and Nusrat Girls High School in Chenab Nagar should be renamed as Jamia Syeda Aisha Sidiqua and Syeda Fatima Zahra, as Nusrat Jehan was the name of Mirza Qadiani’s wife.

Note: These institutes are Ahmadiyya property, nationalized in 1972 and not yet reverted to Ahmadis despite government’s own general policy.

  • Sharia penalty (death) of apostasy should be enforced as per recommendation of Council of Islamic Ideology.

 

Ameer Hamza addressing 53rd Fatah Mubahala wa Khatme Nabuwwat Conference at Aiwan-e-Iqbal. PHOTO: INP

If the above is not extremism and sectarianism, what else is? It was arguably inappropriate for the authorities to facilitate such a conference in state-owned Aiwan-e-Iqbal in the provincial capital. The terms and conditions of renting the hall include:

  1. No political and sectarian matter will be included in program.
  2. No speech would be delivered against the ideology of Pakistan, Government Policies

and Armed Forces.

Aiwan-e-Iqbal Complex authorities are well aware that on such occasions, the mullas indulge in uncontrolled sectarian rhetoric. They should not have been allowed to congregate in the Complex in view of the latest government policy of National Action Plan. Otherwise it is a fair question: Is not Aiwan-e-Iqbal being used as a facility for religious extremist elements who in turn are half-brothers of terrorists? Also, if the Government and the Army are on the same page on implementation of the National Action Plan, questions do arise, in view of the above press reports, about its expected success.

A PML-N leader acts in league with extremist and sectarian mullas

Sargodha:       Mr. Aslam Kachela, a former MNA and Deputy President of the ruling PML-N, District Sargodha wrote a letter to his Chief Minister, Mian Shahbaz Sharif in October 2015. We translate below some of its contents and add brief comment:

  • Qadianis can be imprisoned for 3 years and fined Rs. 50,000 under laws PPC 298-B and 298-C promulgated by General Zia ul Haq.
  • Qadianis, by writing the Kalima (Islamic creed) in their mosques and 80,000 graves are tearing the law to pieces and are indulging in a profane effort to malign Pakistan through blaspheming the sacred name of the Holy Prophet thereby hurting the sentiments of millions (Karoron) of Muslims.

One is reminded of murders of guiltless Muslims and Dalits by extremist Hindus in India.

  • The DCO and DPO Chiniot were contacted on this issue, and Rana Sanaullah, the law minister of the Punjab was informed of the above. They promised action and a report to Maulana Muhammad Akram and Ilyas Chinioti (MPA) within a week. No action has been taken for the past one year.

In our opinion the above is noteworthy in that these sectarian bigots are received by officials and the higher N-League command. Muhammad Akram is a mulla known for his mischief potential; while Ilyas Chinioti is another mulla who is anti-Ahmadi activist and is an MPA from the ruling PML-N.

  • A Khatme Nabuwwat Conference is being held in Chenab Nagar on October 31, 2015 in which hundreds of thousands of Muslims will participate. We do not want any breakdown of law and order; thus Qadianis should be ordered to obey the law to avoid any riots.

Mr. Kachela thereby conveyed a threat of riots and violence to the authorities and to Ahmadis through the bogey of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. In fact, rarely more than ten thousand have ever participated in this annual conference. However there are enough participants to pose a threat to the peace and law and order in Rabwah. As such, this conference should be banned. Even otherwise, outsiders have no justification to come to Rabwah with aggressive designs and become a potential threat to the residents and violate various provisions of the National Action Plan aimed at preventing such hateful religious activities.

The letter to the Chief Minister on Mr. Kachela’s letter-head pad indicates that:

  • He calls himself Aseer Khatme Nabuwwat (Prisoner of End of Prophethood).
  • He is Deputy President PML-N Sargodha.
  • He is member of Aman (Peace) Committee, District Sargodha.

It is clear from the above that Aslam Kachela has been behind bars for his criminal role in some agitation linked to some organization whose front is End of Prophethood. Such a bigot should not be a leader of Pakistan Muslim League that takes its name and claims to be heir of the party of the great Quaid-i-Azam who abhorred religious bigotry and sectarian strife. Also, Kachela by such activism is not fit to be member of any Peace Committee. In fact, all such committees should beware of him.

PAT leader active on anti-Ahmadiyya front

Khushab:        Shah Shams ul Aarfeen, head of Allama Tahir ul Qadri’s party in District Khushab became hyper active against the Ahmadiyya community in the city. His daughter, a student at the Allied School, stuck hostile stickers in the school for which she received a warning from the school administration. Thereafter she took to distributing these among the school children. Shah Shams ul Aarfeen visited different neighbourhoods in the city and exhorted the residents to expel Ahmadi residents from their locality.

Shams ul Aarfeen is a habitual miscreant. He was booked for attempted arson attack on Police Station Qaid-Abad. He was released on bail by the high court. It is surprising that a person of this type is district head of a party whose leader is based in Canada.

One of Aarfeen’s associates is Chaudhary Sadaqat who filed a report with the police that an Ahmadi greeted him with Salaam and joined in silent prayers for a dead Muslim.

Ahmadis felt disturbed over such activities.

‘Et tu Brute!’

PTI leader’s disclosure

Mardan; September 7, 2015: Anti-Ahmadi elements held a Khatme Nabuwwat (End of Prophethood) conference here with reference to the constitutional Amendment No. 2 made on September 7, 1974. Mr. Asad Qaisar of Imran Khan’s PTI, the speaker of the KPK Assembly, also attended the occasion and addressed the crowd.

 

Mr. Qaisar told the audience that lovers of the Prophet (Aashiqane Rasul) will liquidate all the conspiracies devised by Qadianis (Ahmadis). As per constitution of Pakistan, the deniers of Khatme Nabuwwat are outside the pale of Islam. He informed the crowd that soon the KPK government will make End of Prophethood part of school syllabus.

Others, who addressed the conference, indulged in provocative hate speeches against Ahmadis. Next day, the press published clerics’ great appreciation of Asad Qaisar’s disclosure and scheme regarding addition of Khatme Nabuwwat in school syllabus.

Later on, in this context, Maulvi Fazal Ghafur moved a resolution in KPK Assembly; it was passed unopposed. Mullas hailed this move and urged other Assemblies to follow suit.

Courtesy: The Friday Times, Lahore; December 4, 2015

Council of Islamic Ideology chief spawns a ‘disturbances’

Islamabad: The daily Dawn reported the following in its issue of October 21, 2015:

CII chief wants to tackle ‘incendiary issues’

ISLAMABAD: Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), said that he intended to take up three “most controversial religious issues”, but lacked the necessary support from council members.

“We have had these items on our agenda for a long time now, but they will only be taken up if my colleagues are ready to cooperate,” Maulana Sherani, who is also a JUI-F MNA, told reporters at the end of the two-day council meeting.

The first of these issues is the question of whether Ahmadis are to be classified as non-Muslims or murtads (those who renounce Islam). It is a widely held belief that the punishment for renouncing Islam should be death.

The second issue, he said, was the imposition of religious tax – or jizya – on Pakistani non-Muslims. The third issue, he said, was a determination of which sects fell under the ambit of Islam and which ones should be considered to be outside the ambit of Islamic ideology.

“It is up to the members to come up and discuss these important matters and resolve them,” he said, expressing the confidence that the CII would take up these topics in its next meeting.

While these matters have been on the CII’s agenda for some time, some of the more vocal members have been reluctant to take them up for discussion as they may hurt the social fabric.

“We do not want to see riots in the country as we see in India over non-issues like the ban on beef. It is the responsibility of the religious and political leadership to set directions for society and to not be pressured into going with the flow,” said a CII member, on condition of anonymity.

The cleric was reluctant to speak on the record, because “the other problem we are combating is extremism. If I give a statement to the media, I can be accused of being somebody’s agent.”

However, analysts feel that by taking up such non-issues, the CII is stooping beneath its stature.

“They have already displayed such irrationality that nobody takes them seriously anymore,” senior journalist Zahid Hussain told Dawn.

He cited the examples of several other rulings by the council, which included the contention that the marriage age for girls could be as low as 13, as well as the pronouncement that DNA evidence was not admissible as evidence in rape cases. “Besides, their rulings are not legally binding,” he added.

But even Mr. Hussain acknowledged that by virtue of their stature, senior clerics on the CII did hold sway among the masses and could easily “spark a disturbance by speaking unnecessarily on such issues”. …

In contrast, this month Head of the Ahmadiyya… Community spoke at the convocation ceremony of the Jamia Ahmadiyya Germany and told the graduating students: “Today, many people seek to associate Islam with extremism due to the acts of certain Muslim groups and so it is your duty to inform the world of the peaceful teachings of Islam. You must refute the hateful ideology and conduct of extremists by shining a light upon the true teachings of the Holy Quran. You must present before the world Islam’s teachings of love, compassion and kindness.” http://www.pressahmadiyya.com/2015/10/first-ever-convocation-ceremony-of.html

Milli Yakjehti Council (MYC) opposes a liberal Pakistan

Islamabad; November 22, 2015:                   Mr. Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan said in a conference on November 05, 2015 that the nation’s future lies in a democratic, liberal Pakistan. The clergy took the statement by storm and the political mullas condemned the idea of a liberal Pakistan. In an ‘all parties conference’ organized by Milli Yakjehti Council (National Alliance for Harmony) they demanded that the Prime Minister retreat from his statement of Pakistan being a liberal state. The MYC is an alliance of a few religious political parties with Jamaat Islami in the leadership role.

Extracts of the speeches made in the conference and published in the daily Pakistan of November 22, 2015 are reported below:

Pakistan is the name of an ideology and creed. Without ‘The honour of the prophethood’ the raison d’etre of this country comes to naught: Siraj ul Haq (JI chief)

The verdict of Supreme Court against Mumtaz Qadri is outside-Sharia. The ban on the media coverage of Jamaat ut Dawa should be removed: 11-point statement

Qadiani group is internationally active against ‘the honour of the Prophethood law’ in constitution: Siraj ul Haq

Ulama-e-Karam are the real heirs of this country: Siraj ul Haq

Speakers who participated in the conference included Abul Khair Zubair, president of MYC; Mulla Mohammad Amjad, JUI (F); Liaqat Baloch, secretary of MYC; Hafiz Muhammad Saeed; chief of Jamaat-ut-Dawa; Abdul Rasheed Turabi, Ameer JI Azad Jammu and Kashmir; Pir Abdul Shakoor Naqashbandi, JUI (S); Saqib Abbas of Jamiat Ahle Hadith; Mullas Abdul Malik, Ameen Shaheedi, and Abdul Jaleel Naqashbandi.

Zahid Hussain wrote an op-ed in the daily Dawn on November 26, 2015 and aptly commented upon the announcements and motives of the conference.

He questioned, “[T]he claim by Sirajul Haq that the remarks by the prime minister are contrary to the Constitution, the philosophy of Allama Iqbal and the principles laid down by the Quaid-i-Azam. How do concepts of political and civil liberties and religious freedom come into the conflict with Pakistan’s original ideology and the vision of the nation’s founding fathers?

He aptly argued that “In fact, it is an attempt to redefine Pakistan’s ideology that has harmed the country the most by widening the religious divide within its polity. The Islamist groups gathered under the banner of the MYC have been instrumental in fuelling sectarian differences and religious extremism in the country. One of the participants in the group’s recent meeting was Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed whose organisation is on the UN list of terrorist organisations.”

He further wrote that “liberal democracy was the core ideology of the foundation of Pakistan, something that was clearly articulated by Mohammad Ali Jinnah in an interview to Reuters in 1946. “The new state,” he said, “would be a modern democratic state with sovereignty resting in the people and the members of the new nation having equal rights of citizenship regardless of their religion, caste or creed.”

“Pakistan was never supposed to be, in the words of Mr Jinnah, a “theocratic state” that these religious groups strive for. In fact, the country has long deviated from this core principle. Theocracy is anathema to the modern democracy that the Quaid had envisaged.

“The country drifted from its ideals when the state got involved in religious matters, and with deciding who was and wasn’t a true Muslim. It went from bad to worse when the religious groups, many of whom are part of the MYC, took it upon themselves to determine the Islamic credentials of different sects. This has also been the major cause for the deaths of thousands of Muslims in sectarian violence in Pakistan.”

He concluded, “The country has suffered hugely as a result of religious bigotry and the wrong interpretation of Pakistan’s ideology. Pakistan was created to be a modern democratic state with freedom of belief and religion. It was not supposed to be an obscurantist state as the country is now being portrayed by assorted so-called Islamic groups. We must reclaim the original ideology of Pakistan if we really want to move forward and establish a tolerant society. Liberal democracy is the only answer to violent extremism and religious bigotry.”

The role of groups like MYC and parties like the JI and JUI deserves special notice and proactive policy initiative by the state in view of the National Action Plan and the war on terror.

Clerics warn against secularization

Lahore; November 25, 2015: The daily The News published a story under the above heading. As the clerics had assembled under the state-promoted idea of End of Prophethood, it is worth placing on record, as it lists the mullas and parties who joined hands in this anti secular/liberal campaign. Extract:

Clerics warn against secularization

HEADS of different religious parties have warned against a move to secularize the country in violation of the Pakistan ideology and imposing restrictions against religious parties’ seminaries and social welfare organizations, and threatened that it would evoke serious reaction from the society.

Addressing an All Parties Conference (APC) on Tuesday, held at the Lahore Press Club under the aegis of World Pasban Khatme-Nabuwwat (WPKN), they condemned the government for not withdrawing the notification of coverage ban against religious parties.

The APC was chaired by Pir Salman Munir, custodian of Sambrial Sharif shrine while noted speakers included WPKN chief Allama Mumtaz Ahmad Awan, Ahle Hadith leader Allama Zubair Ahmad Zaheer, trader leader Sh. Naeem Badshah, Pir Waliullah Bukhari., JI Punjab naib ameer Javed Kasuri, Allama Shoaibur Rehman, JUP leader Mufti Ashiq Hussain, Majlis Ahrar leader Maulana Yusuf Ahrar, Maulana Rajeeullah Khan, Prof Farooq Saeedi, Tehreek Hurmat Rasool leader Ali Imran Shaheen, JUI-F leader Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, Fiqah Jafaria leader Waqarul Hasnain Naqvi, Jamiat Ahle sunnat leader Qari Hanif Haqqani, Allama Ziaur Rehman Farooqi, Pir SA Jafri and others. They condemned the policy of secularizing the country and warned that it was an open violation of Pakistan Movement and the vision of Quaid-e-Azam and other founding fathers (sic).

Beleaguered Community: Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya to stay away from forthcoming polls

Lahore; October 31, 2015:     The Ahmadiyya Community decided not to partake in the LG polls held on October 31 in the Punjab and Sindh. A news report in the daily The Express Tribune on October 28 summed the reasons and the implications well. It carried the above headline, and its text is reproduced below:

LAHORE: The Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya (JA) will not partake in the forthcoming local government polls to register its protest against what it calls the step-motherly conduct of the state towards it.

These elections have separate elections only for Ahmadis, says a letter written to the Election Commission of Pakistan, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune. It is strange that Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians are included in one electoral roll and only Ahmadis are registered in a separate list.  This not only makes them vulnerable to the target killing but is also a burden on their conscience to vote on condition of denying to be the followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the statement says.

Chenabnagar (Rabwah), the Pakistan headquarters of the JA, the largest conglomeration of Ahmadis in the nation, has the status of a municipal committee composed of a dozen wards in the forthcoming elections.  Not a sole Ahmadi is contesting the elections. A candidate would need less than 200 votes to emerge victorious in Chenab Nagar due to this.

Sibtain Shah, an independent candidate aspiring to become the Ward- 11 general councillor, told The Express Tribune that he had been the area’s Nazim once and a councillor twice. He said the number of registered voters in the ward stood at 1,350. He said only around 300 people in the ward would cast their votes as Ahmadis would abstain from participating in the exercise. Shah said most politicians would have begged the community for votes had it not stayed away from the process. He said this did not bode well for politicians as striving to secure the community’s support would alienate other voters. Shah said this made it convenient for politicians to ensure that the community remained disenfranchised.

JA Spokesperson Saleemuddin told The Express Tribune that the community had made the chief election commissioner cognisant of its reservations. “Separate voters’ lists are formulated for Ahmadis whose votes are only registered if they disassociate from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is something that no Ahmadi will accept,” he said.  Saleemuddin said the JA had informed the commissioner that Ahmadis would abstain from casting their votes if the community’s request regarding the restoration of joint electorates in the forthcoming polls. (sic)

Chiniot DRO’s Spokesperson Chaudhry Abdul Hameed told The Express Tribune that voters’ lists for Ahmadis were separate as they had been declared non-Muslim through the Second Amendment to the Constitution.  He said formulating voters’ lists was a prerogative of the chief election commissioner. Hameed said Ahmadis traditionally tended to boycott polls.

A researcher’s views on the Second Amendment to the constitution, concerning Ahmadis

The News on Sunday of September 6, 2015 published an interview. We produce below some extracts from it. The opening paras introduced the subject as follows:

On September 7, 1974, exactly 40 years ago (sic), the Second Amendment to the Constitution that declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims was passed. It was a kind of culmination of their social ostracisation that began after the intense and violent anti-Ahmadiyya movement of the early 1950s. Thereafter, they became non-Muslims legally speaking. But then the ulema began their next set of demands which led to the promulgation of Ordinance XX in 1984 during Ziaul Haq’s rule. This effectively curtailed their social and political exclusion in every manner possible.

An academic work drawing sustenance from research and open discussion has the potential to influence public discourse which seems to have reached a dead end in this case. This is how one should read Ali Usman Qasmi’s recent book Ahmadis and the Politics of Religious Exclusion in Pakistan. Pathbreaking and insightful, the book relies on the recently declassified parliamentary debates from 1974 as well as the proceedings of the Munir Inquiry Committee.

A PhD in South Asian History, Ali Usman Qasmi who teaches at LUMS shared his thoughts on the book which is going to be available in Pakistan in December this year. Excerpts of interview follow.

(Note: In view of the shortage of space, only parts of the interview are reproduced below.)

 TNS: What is the sense that you got out of the 1974 parliamentary debates?

AUQ: The way the discussions were held was determinant of the outcome itself….

The second was a sort of a gap between the theological debate taking place between the Attorney General and the Ahmadi representative and the sense that ordinary members of the Assembly were getting. Once the cross examination ended, individual members of the assembly got up to make speeches which showed they had not understood much of what was debated for 30 days or so. They did not know what the term Khatam e Nabuwat meant or the nuances which the Ahmadi representative was trying to invoke.

This comes out very strongly that there is a communication gap as a theological issue was being translated into a precise legal statement or legal question.

TNS: Were they aware that probably parliament was not the correct forum to debate such an issue?

AUQ: That’s the key point. That was the main argument of the Ahmadis themselves because they said that this parliament is not sovereign in anything it wants to do. It has put certain restrictions, like individual rights and so on, on itself which it cannot undo. It cannot go outside that framework.

The way the discussions were held was determinant of the outcome. My understanding is that the ulema had become very influential. So it was difficult for Bhutto to deny them the kind of role they came to play during the proceedings of 1974.

But I think the ulema’s point of view since the 1950s or since 1947 has been that since Pakistan has been declared an Islamic state, since the Basic Principles Committee report says that the head of the state should be a Muslim, it is therefore necessary that a Muslim should be defined and a non-Muslim should be excluded from exercising the same rights that are exclusively held for a Muslim.

So this distinction between a believer citizen and a non-believer citizen is pretty much there. Until and unless you do away with this distinction it will inevitably come to the point where the parliament or state will be involved in questions relating to religion.…

TNS: But it was Bhutto who decided to bring this issue to the parliament?

AUQ: Yes that was Bhutto’s decision. In my interaction and interviews with different people the reasons have been brought forth. For instance Dr Mubashir Hassan says the pressure was coming from Saudi Arabia and by that time India’s atomic explosions had also happened. They said that if you want financial aid from us, do this. But then the question comes up that if Saudi Arabia wanted something done, why would it be this?

Ahmadis have their own point of view. They believe that Saudis wanted to claim leadership of the Muslims. They were emerging with petrodollars at the time and had started financing madrassas and Islamic groups throughout the Muslim world.

TNS: Where do you see Allama Iqbal in this entire debate? Was his definition of Muslim brought before the Munir Commission in any way?

AUQ: The definition of a Muslim has been there in the Anglo-Muhammadan law since the late 19th century. And the definition is that anyone who recites the kalima is a Muslim for legal purposes. It had been there until the 1980s, when it was changed.

TNS: We have come to a point where we feel the issue of Ahmadis can only be discussed in a purely academic way. Do you see this book as a window of opportunity or a loss of hope?

AUQ: Basically, people at large are not opposed to Ahmadis because they have listened to the Attorney General’s arguments in 1974 or because they have seen the evidence or read Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s writings. They oppose or hate them because they have been fed a certain opinion about the Ahmadis and there is no scope or possibility for a counter response coming from the Ahmadis.

At this point it can only be hoped that this work will lead to academic discussion that will in turn influence the larger public discourse as well.

The problem is that there is a human crisis; our concern is how to resolve this human crisis. This crisis cannot necessarily be addressed through legal or constitutional means. It requires changing the minds of people and influencing their opinion. This can only happen through research and open discussion. Only then we might be able to avoid the impending human disaster which is in the making. (emphasis added)

Apparently Qasmi (AUQ) does not go into the right and wrong of the grave decision taken through the Amendment No. II and its ramifications in the nation’s future; he is more concerned with narrating the flow of events, what caused them and their nature. The conclusion that he draws at the end of his interview is an alarm bell – loud and clear.

A press report on progress of the National Action Plan (NAP)

Islamabad: April 11, 2015:    Epaper.dawn published this press report in its release epaper.dawn.com/print-image@view.php? Story Text=11-04-2015-001-003, (extract):

Commanders want anti-terror fight ‘re-energized’

By Baqir Sajjad Syed

ISLAMABAD:   Acknowledging that the National Action Plan (NAP) on counter-terrorism was not progressing well, the army’s top brass on Friday called for ‘re-energizing’ the fight.

The progress on NAP was reviewed at the 181st Corps Commanders Conference.

Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, who chaired the monthly meeting of the commanders, was quoted by ISPR as having emphasized on “re-energizing the National Action Plan in true letter and spirit and achieving discernible results”.

The 20-point NAP was adopted after the Dec 16 Peshawar school attack and it envisaged stringent action against terrorism and militancy. However, four months later disenchantment among the public with the sluggish pace of progress is rising.

The army has so far looked to be in the driving seat for the implementation of the NAP and has borne much of the criticism about the lackluster NAP implementation.

Gen Sharif’s clarion call for stepping up the fight is, however, directed towards the steps that the civilian administration was required to take.

Gen Raheel Sharif particularly called for taking action against growing extremism in the society alongside the fight against terrorism.

ISPR said: “COAS emphasized the need to concentrate on combating extremism from the society.”

The army is reportedly dissatisfied with the lack of movement on the issue of madrasah reforms, proscribed organizations and sectarian groups; foreign funding of the seminaries; and action against hate speech.

Intensification of intelligence-based operations was also stressed at the meeting….


Minister says Saudi funds destabilized country

The daily Dawn, Lahore published the following news with the above title in its issue of January 21, 2015 (extracts):

ISLAMABAD:   A member of the federal cabinet caused a small uproar on Tuesday when he stated publically that Saudi money had a destructive effect on Pakistan and that the promotion of ideology of Wahabism had destabilized the country.

Riaz Ahmad Peerzada, who is Minister for Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC), minced no words during his talk at the Jinnah Institute’s Ideals Conclave 2015 and also took his own party to task.

…when asked by a reporter to repeat his remarks regarding the Saudi influence in Pakistan, he got riled up and said, “You know very well where the funding comes from. Why do you need me to say it?”

Commendable state actions give rise to some questions

Lahore:           The Interior Department of the government of the Punjab paid for a large size advertisement in the daily Nawa-i-Waqt of October 16, 2015 and set forth the following:

 

In order to ensure the sanctity of and religious tolerance during Muharram,

The management/owners of any place of worship will suffer registration of an FIR in case of any hateful speech or threat to peace.

Under the National Action Plan, following has been implemented to put an end to religious intolerance and sectarianism:

  • 1063 persons have been punished for making religious hate speeches on loud speakers.
  • 282 persons have been punished for propagating violence through wall-chalking.
  • 437 have been punished for threatening peace through display of fire-arms.

 

Hateful speeches, publishing and distribution of provocative material and display of fire-arms will not be tolerated at all.

 

In case of any unpleasant occurrence or its likelihood, contact 15 immediately.

 

Control room, Interior Department:                                              #042-99210301

#042-99210302

Respect for Muharram is incumbent on all of us.

 

Interior Department, Government of the Punjab

The question arises as to why the authorities are not equally sensitive to situations or possibilities of threat to peace to other sects and denominations? Why the same clerics who are banned entry in various districts or are gagged during Muharram are given license to come to Rabwah to indulge openly in hateful propaganda and incitement to violence on loudspeakers? The law should be equally applicable to all, in all circumstances, regardless of who the victims are. A permissive attitude to clerics in anti-Ahmadi situations encourages them to demand the same treatment and facility against other denominations. That is how the society is eventually made to suffer attacks like those in Peshawar, Gojra, Lahore etc, and pay a price of tens of thousands of deaths in religion-based violence.