Restrictions on press & publications etc. (2015)

Restrictions on press & publications etc.

 2015

The Government of Punjab bans Ahmadiyya books and publications

 

This year the government of Punjab came up with a fresh enormity against Ahmadis, in which the other provinces were left far behind. It banned the entire published works of the founder of Ahmadiyyat. This was done on the recommendation of the Mutahiddah Ulama Board, a body that has no constitutional or legal standing. This board simply sends its lists of publications to the government, and the authorities without any due inquiry issue the unbecoming orders. This band of mullas has little respect for ‘freedom of thought and expression’. They only aspire to wield their ungainly power to suppress that is not in conformity with their own views. The authorities however should bear the brunt of responsibility for this gross inequity.

 

Mutahiddah Ulama Board (MUB) is a government sponsored body in the Punjab and is occasionally convened when the interest of the provincial government and that of the ulama so demands. The Board rarely lets an opportunity pass without having a bash at the Ahmadiyya community. This is part of the price they charge for their services to the provincial authorities.

As per press report, the Board held a meeting and passed the following resolution, published in the daily Ausaf of February 14, 2015:

“As Mirzais/Qadianis/Lahoris have been declared non-Muslims in the Constitution of Pakistan and they are forbidden by law to use Islamic terms (sic) but they continue to use these in violation of the law, and the Khatme Nabuwwat literature that is produced in their rebuttal and designates them Kafir is in no way in the category of hate material. Thus the Home Department, the Police in general and the Government of Punjab in particular should take no action whatsoever against the Khatme Nabuwwat literature, its drafting, printing, distribution and sale. It was unanimously recommended that the Home Department should issue a notification in this regard. Also police action with regard to the literature on Khatme Nabuwwat and rebuttal of Qadianiat was jointly and strongly condemned. Later, a delegation of the MUB met the I.G. Police and told him to stop police action underway at various locations with respect to the End of Prophethood literature.”

In plain language, the MUB demanded that in the on-going campaign against sectarianism and terrorism as per National Action Plan (NAP), the mullas should be provided exception in production and distribution of anti-Ahmadiyya hate literature. By opening this back door these mullas intend to continue their divisive and violent activities as before. The authorities accepted the demands of MUB, and banned Ahmadiyya books and periodicals instead.

The daily Jehan e Pakistan reported in its issue of April 14, 2015 that the Home Department, Punjab had decided to ban publications, CDs etc of 150 authors. The paper published this list of documents, in a chart. The list contained 11 Ahmadiyya publications.

In another ad of the Home Department of the Government of Punjab in the daily Dunya of May 8, 2015, published from Faisalabad, 150 books/CDs/periodicals etc. stand proscribed. These include 11 from Ahmadi sources, including all the 23 volumes of Roohani Khazain (Spiritual Treasures) written by the holy founder of the Ahmadiyya community, as well as Tazkarah, a compendium of his dreams, visions and revelations.

The ad, titled WARNING, mentions in its opening sentence that this action has been taken on the basis of recommendations made by the Mutahiddah (Joint) Ulama Board.

The advertised Warning forbids production, publication, display and sale of the listed items and orders their proscription. The violators would be booked under CrPC 99-A and Anti-terrorism Act 8 and 11-A. It prescribes imprisonment up to five years and fine for any violation. DCOs and DPOs were directed to ensure implementation.

On September 22, 2015, in a meeting Deputy Superintendent Police conveyed that the interior ministry of the Punjab government, on the recommendation of Mutahiddah Ulama Board, has directed that action be taken against the following Ahmadiyya publications:

  1. Tafseer Sageer (A short commentary with translation of the Holy Quran)
  2. Quran Majeed (Siraiki translation)
  3. Quran Majeed (with translation and explanation by Khalifa tul Masih I)

The Ulama Board quoted the Punjab Holy Quran printing and recording rules 2011 Act XIII Amendment notification of December 19, 2014, and Article 260 of the Constitution of Pakistan and said that thereby no Non-Muslim can participate in the printing of the Holy Quran, however the above mentioned copies of the Holy Quran are being published and distributed by the community which was declared non-Muslim by law. It is an attempt to attract gullible Muslims to Kufr (disbelief), according to the Board. A strict action should be taken against all the involved, if alive, according to the law.

We are of the opinion that the inclusion of Ahmadiyya publications in the list of banned books is highly malafide in the guise of anti-terrorism policy. The news item mentions that “the ban on these books, periodicals, pamphlets, CDs and DVDs of these authors has been imposed in co-operation with ulama karam (i.e. mullas; emphasis added).” Inclusion of Ahmadiyya publications is an act of blatant discrimination and is malafide; we explain below.

This exposes tens of thousands of Ahmadi families in the country, in fact all of them, to the risk of police searches, registration of religion-based criminal cases, arrests, court trials and severe penalties. Their women and children could be similarly treated.

This measure has deprived Ahmadis of their religious teachings and understanding of their basic scriptures, the Quran and Hadith, and thus act as a very big blow to their freedom of religion and its practice.

It is noteworthy that Ahmadiyya daily Alfazl and monthlies Ansarullah, Khalid and Tehrik Jadid are included in the list. It is not a specific issue that is banned; by not mentioning a date or month, the order could be assumed as effective against all issues. This is a great wrong, as these periodicals are published under proper official authorization. The new order will short-circuit and countermand the authentic original permission. A perusal of the entire list further discloses that no daily or monthly of any ‘Muslim’ publisher has been banned in this manner. Obviously some anti-Ahmadi sectarian extremist recommended the measure and the clerks of the Punjab Secretariat included the Ahmadiyya periodicals in the list. It would be fair to ask the Home Department to point out a single extract from these, over the last whole year or two years – even five years, that favours, promotes or even remotely encourages terrorism. The Notification gives no reference whatsoever of the text considered objectionable by the mullas or the authorities.

Also worth special mention is the ban on Tazkarah. This book is a compendium of the dreams, visions and revelations etc. related by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani (the holy founder of the Ahmadiyya movement) on different occasions and published in various publications. These were compiled in one volume long after his death. It is thus an esoteric publication that least deserves a notice under terror concerns. This compilation, however, is of great importance to Ahmadis who hold it in great esteem. And lo and behold, the provincial Home Department proceeds to ban it. One could bet that 95% of the Department officials have never seen a copy of Tazkarah, let alone read through it. A copy of the Government Punjab letter banning the Tazkarah last year is placed here.

     Showing Roohani Khazain as one item, the authorities have banned, in one sweep, approximately 85 books and booklets authored by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, Founder of Ahmadiyya Community. No other author in the list has been treated this way, showing deliberate discrimination. Also, counting thus all books separately, 64% of the banned list comprises Ahmadiyya books while the remaining 36% are distributed among all the other faiths and the 72 sects of Islam. The bias and bigotry is glaring.

These 85 books include the one titled: The British Government and Jihad. In this the holy founder wrote down his famous edict on Jihad and terrorism. On the issue of Jihad he wrote:

“I have come to you with an order: jihad with the sword has ended from this time forward, but the jihad of purifying your souls must continue. I do not say this of my own accord. This is indeed the will of God. Recall the hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari which honours the Promised Messiah by saying yada-‘ul-harb. That is to say, when the Messiah comes he will put an end to religious wars.” p. 17

On the issue of terrorism he was equally explicit:

“Muslims are not being killed today by anyone because of their faith. What authority do they have to justify the killing of innocents, I wonder?” p. 15

It is noteworthy that the Home Department decided to ban such historical edicts as above, and allows dissemination of edicts like the one by Maulvi Yusuf Ludhianvi in his book ‘Tohfa Qadianiat’ (Gift to Ahmadis) and published by Aalami Majlis Tahaffuz  Khatme Nabuwwat, Multan, which states on its pages 680/681, (Translation):

“My and your duty”

…What does the sense of honour and shame (ghairat) demand from Muslims? In fact, it demands that not a single Qadiani should be left alive on earth. Seize each one of these malignant individuals and kill them. I am not being emotional when I say this. This is the verity; this is the edict of Islam. This is the law of Islam concerning Murtads (apostates) and Zindiques (heretics)….”

Also relevant to the above is an announcement by the same Mutahiddah Ulama Board, Punjab in the monthly Laulak, of April 2015, self-declared mouth piece of the Aalami Majlis Tahaffuz Khatme Nabuwwat, in the following words, (Translation):

Action by the Mutahiddah Ulama Board, established by the Punjab Government

There is no restriction whatsoever on literature over the dogma of End of Prophethood.

Proceedings of the Joint Session of the Sub Committee Nr 1, 2 of the Mutahiddah Ulama Board Punjab, held on January 22, 2015

… The End of Prophethood literature relevant to their (Ahmadis’) unbelief (Takfir), rebuttal and refutation is in no way (in the category of) hate-material. As such the Home Department, the Police Department in general and the Government of Punjab in particular are not to take any action whatsoever on the production, publication, printing, distribution and sale of the End of  Prophethood literature. It was unanimously recommended that the Home Department Punjab should issue a formal notification in this regard…” Sahibzadah Maulana Fazl ur Rahim Ashrafi, Chairman Mutahiddah Ulama Board, Punjab

            As expected, the bigoted brigade was overjoyed by the WARNING and orders issued by the government. The Majlis Ahrar Islam of 1953 notoriety issued a special bulletin repeating the WARNING but listed only the Ahmadiyya publications out of the 150 on the list. The Shubbane Khatme Nabuwwat of the same ilk hung banners in bazaars with statements that openly and unambiguously promoted ‘feelings of enmity or hatred between classes of the citizens of Pakistan’: ‘We pay compliments to the Government of the Punjab for sealing the Qadiani Press in Rabwah that prints blasphemous literature.’ This is criminal lie and slander.

The banner displayed in Chiniot

By accepting the recommendations of the Ulama Board, arguably without any resistance, the provincial Home Department has unwittingly assumed the role of clerics’ puppet. Does this not betray misplaced political policy and guidance?

Article 20 of the Constitution guarantees that “(b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.” The Punjab Government, however, in cahoots with mullas, avails the words ‘subject to law’ and freely indulges in devising laws and implementing them that unabashedly violate this essential constitutional guarantee.

Since the time of dictator Zia ul Haq, this perhaps is the most painful hurt inflicted upon Ahmadis through government regulation. It has been undertaken in the Punjab. The fact that earlier in 2010 the Taliban chose Lahore, the capital of this province, as the site to massacre 86 Ahmadi worshippers in their mosques, is very significant.

A fair question in the light of the above: Has the Government of the Punjab correctly understood the intent and purpose of the National Action Plan? If they have, how come their implementation is so lop-sided? They embrace religious extremists and hit hard their victims!

The Home Department would do well to spare some time for training of its officials in human rights and freedom of religion and belief, so closely related to internal peace, well being and good governance.

Painful judicial handling of a police-case of an Ahmadi pressman

Lahore:           Mr. Tahir Mahdi Imtiaz, printer of the Ahmadiyya monthly Ansarullah, was arrested by the police on March 30, 2015 in a Lahore court premises where he had gone to seek confirmation of bail in another case. He is ‘printer’ of various other publications as well.

Mr. Imtiaz was wrongfully implicated in a fabricated case registered with Millat Town police under the blasphemy clause PPC 295-A and the anti-Ahmadiyya 298-C on behest of mullas, more than a year ago.

It should be mentioned that the case against Mr. Imtiaz is pure fabrication, registered on private complaint of a mulla, with reference to a monthly that contained no objectionable text,

still the judge refused to accept the bail of the accused. Also noteworthy is the fact that the state prosecutor objected to the bail, although the Supreme Court is on record to have directed: “The state should provide security to minorities, otherwise….” The daily Nawa-i-Waqt; Lahore, February 9, 2013

The prosecution has not pointed in any court any content of the related Ansarullah issue that is blasphemous. Still the judges, who should have released the innocent pressman on first hearing, or later on appeal, have not granted him even release on bail. An abridged chronology of this case is given below; the progress of events would be of interest to any human rights activist:

March 30, 2015                       Mr. Imtiaz was detained by the police; remanded for three days.

After the remand                    Sent to prison in judicial custody

April 8, 2015                           Judge heard for 5 days his plea for bail and rejected it.

April 22, 2015                         Sessions court rejected the plea for bail.

May 28, 2015                          A Lahore High Court (LHC) judge expressed inability to proceed with the case and referred it to the Chief Justice.

June 16, 2015                          LHC shifted the hearing to June 18.

June 22, 2015                          The next hearing date was shifted to July 6.

July 13, 2015                           Case heard by LHC judge. Declared verbally the acceptance of bail. Later, when presented the decision for signing, he did not sign, and declared that he’ll hear the case further on July 15.

July 15, 2015                           The said judge decided to refer the case to the Chief Justice with recommendation that a 2-member bench should hear the plea for bail.

The chief justice Manzur Ahmad Malik appointed Justice Mazhar Iqbal Sindhu and Justice Shahram Sarwar Chaudhry on the division bench to hear the plea.

August 6, 2015                       The said bench rejected the plea for bail, added Anti-terrorism clause 8-W ATA to the case and sent it to an anti-terrorism court. 

December 08, 2015                 Two-member bench of Supreme Court did not grant Mr. Imtiaz’s plea for bail.

December 31, 2015                 Mr. Tahir Mahdi Imtiaz, the printer of the Ahmadiyya daily and periodicals continues to suffer behind bars without having been found guilty of any crime.

This is what Ahmadis often face in the judicial domain in Pakistan. They are implicated in false cases on religious grounds and find it extremely difficult even to get release on bail for the duration of the trial. Even pressmen do not get any relief, although the state is committed to grant the basic ‘freedom of expression’. ‘Freedom of press’ is available to all excpt Ahmadis.

Some impartial NGO or eminent journalist should look into this case in depth and place on record a fair opinion on current role of the state and society in handling an Ahmadi’s court case.

The above is important in view of the State’s apparent commitment to the ongoing National Action Plan, the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment announced on June 19, 2014 and various claims of politicians in power that ‘The Quaid’s vision to safeguard minorities’ rights are being pursued’.

Ahmadis’ freedom to practice religion under threat

Rabwah:         On September 22, 2015 Ahmadi community officials were called by the police DSP for a meeting. It was learnt there that someone in Lahore had approached the High Court with a petition that Ahmadis be barred from sacrificing cattle at the occasion of Eid, the community newspaper the daily Alfazl’s publication be stopped and the Ahmadiyya printing press should be sealed by authorities. Hence the meeting.

This fresh attack on Ahmadis’ freedom of religion, through higher judiciary is a cause of serious concern for the beleaguered community. This unworthy petition and its handling by the authorities deserve a brief mention in this report.

One, Nasir Mahmood of Faisal Town, Lahore forwarded a lengthy petition to the Lahore High Court in September naming the DCO, DPO, SHO Chenab Nagar, SHO Mozang Lahore, the editor daily Alfazl, the deputy administrator of Ahmadiyya guest house in Chenab Nagar and the State as respondents.

The petition covers 14 pages including annexes. In brief the petitioner held that:

  1. Ahmadis, just to outrage the religious feelings of Muslims and others, indulge in Qurbani, i.e. sacrificing cattle on Eid. They have no right to perform Qurbani in the manner of Muslims, as guaranteed by the Constitution (sic).
  2. The daily Alfazl was banned by the Govt of Punjab through Notifications issued on 26.11.2011 and 25.06.2014. Despite that, it is still being published.
  3. Qadianis, through these violations injure the sentiments of Muslims; this is against the law, against the rules and against the Shariah.

 

The petitioner is mistaken on all the above three counts:

  1. The Constitution does not guarantee any ban on Ahmadis to perform Qurbani. In fact the Constitution upholds every one’s right to practice his religion.
  2. The unfair ban on the daily Alfazl was stayed by the Lahore High Court on June 02, 2015.
  3. As such, Ahmadis have violated no law, no rules and no provision of Shariah.

The petitioner has thus indulged in wrongful, wasteful and immoral act of attempt to deny basic human rights to an already marginalized community.

The petitioner initially wrote a letter on this subject to the DPO on 12 September 2015. Thereafter he soon put up the petition to the High Court. On the date of hearing, September 23, only the Rabwah police were sent for, while Ahmadis were not asked to be present. The judge directed the DCO and DPO to proceed as per law. Accordingly, the DCO and DPO held a meeting the same day and decided to seek the opinion of the police legal department in Lahore. A letter was written the same day to the Inspector General Police with the request ‘that necessary guidelines may kindly be provided that under what section of law proceedings may be initiated if Qadianis sacrifice animals on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha, please’.

Our comments on the above:

  • The petition invoked the Constitution – wrongly. It deserved to be dismissed summarily.
  • High Courts are reportedly under burden of a great number of important, grave and pressing petitions. Priority given to this petition that a bigot had made to deprive a community of its freedom to practice its faith was undeserved.
  • The LHC orders, issued in Lahore on 23rd, received and pursued the same day in distant Chiniot and follow-up action initiated before the dawn of the next day displayed rapid response but sadly to an undeserving petition.
  • The Chiniot police has asked Lahore legal authorities in Lahore head office to quote the section of law under which proceedings may be initiated against Qadianis if they sacrifice animals. Obviously, there is no law, no section – nothing. The petitioner’s unlawful demand should have been simply filed.
  • It is true that the Punjab Government had issued notifications to ban the daily Al-Fazl. The honorable Lahore High Court came to rescue the daily by its stay order. The Punjab government should seriously reconsider whether its affairs are to be run by enlightened officials and their political masters or by mullas of the Mutahiddah Ulama Board who uphold little except sectarianism, extremism and indirectly, terrorism.
  • The Express Tribune reported that the North Cantonment DSP Mansoor stated that he stopped Ahmadis from Qurbani to prevent unrest in the area. The question arises: Does the police exist only to prevent likely unrest threatened by miscreants, or does it function to facilitate normal, lawful and constitutional practice of freedoms assured in the Constitution.

The Express Tribune reported this case on September 28, 2015 and included in its report the following:

“Similar incidents were reported this year from Sant Nagar, Township, North Cantonment, Mustafa Town and Jauhar Town (all in Lahore). Male members from Ahmadiyya families and their sacrificial animals were reportedly detained by the police. They were released after they submitted a written assurance that they would not slaughter any animal during Eid days.”

Whither religious freedom! Whither National Action Plan! Whither Supreme Court’s laudable decision and directive of June 19, 2014!