Extremism promoted on TV in the presence of Minister of State
October 15, 2005: The daily Nation published the following letter to the editor:
It is relevant to mention that Dr Amir Liaqat Hussain is the Minister of State of Religious Affairs, while Geo is a popular TV Channel owned by the house of Jang Publications, and Mufti Muneeb is the chairman of an assortment of madrassahs owned by the Sunni majority. He is also the Chairman of the important Ruet-e-Hilal Committee established by the Federal Government. The Mufti’s remarks were recorded and aired, while the government claims that it is committed against religious intolerance; and the law exists (PPC 295A) that prescribes “10 years’ imprisonment to those who undertake deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class”. No action was taken against the Mufti, nor the Geo.
A published Fatwa
Peshawar NWFP; May 3, 2005: The daily Surkhab of Peshawar published the following announcement by a Mufti, concerning Syed Zahir Shah, an Ahmadi:
“During the last two or three months, at the great insistence of our Muslim brethren we made inquiries with numerous schools of thought and madrassahs on the issue of apostasy of a Muslim. Most of them have responded; may Allah, the Great and the Supreme reward them profusely, Amen. The summary of their replies comes to this that the plain and clear edict of all the Islamic Ulema is that the penalty of an apostate is Death as per Islamic Sharia and the teachings of past Imams and Islamic jurists. We have also been asked by some that if the government obstructs such action, what to do then. We can only say that this noble act should be undertaken regardless of risks, and the pleasure of Allah must be given precedence. A believer makes efforts to excel in good deeds anyway. As for Syed Zahir Shah, resident of Mardan, his position is no different, and he is and will remain liable to this penalty.
“The proclaimer: Allama Mufti Abdul Aziz Ofeya Anhu, Manager Jamia Azizia, Tangi, District Charsadah, Registration 02710.”
Well, here is an open call to murder, by a self-appointed Mufti of a registered madrassah of NWFP. He tells the public not to mind the government and take law in their own hands. He is on record. The newspaper has published it and got its pound of flesh. There is an established government in NWFP, that of the MMA, and also at the federal level in Islamabad, that of the PML (Q). If these governments believe in the rule of law, they should take appropriate action and let the world know of the action they take. If they cannot uphold the law, they have little right to govern.
Reprehensible role of the vernacular press in Pakistan
Journalism is a venerable profession that helps in promotion of understanding, mutual regard and tolerance among a people and thereby creates a society that is peaceful, loving, and united in creative and progressive endeavor to build a strong country where all communities are mindful of one another’s problems and are ever ready to solve them amicably. A country where such a society is established cannot be barred from attaining a high status in the comity of nations.
But unfortunately, some people in Pakistan undermined national interest at the alter of personal interest by promoting sectarianism and religious prejudice. They undertook journalism as a business rather than a mission, and spared pages of their newspapers to fan fires of prejudice and sectarianism. This added to the bottom line of their bank sheets, but it caused great problems for the country. Let alone the security of minorities’ places of worship, even mosques and Imambargahs are no longer safe in this country that was created in the fair name of Islam. Citizens here are now obliged to worship under the protection of firearms. In this situation, newspapers should have acted responsibly and promoted national Unity, but regrettably the vernacular press has opted otherwise.
During the year 2005 also, it was routine and normal that some Urdu newspapers continued to print anti-Ahmadiyya statements and news in banner headlines. They were not mindful at all of the veracity of these statements. Often they were reluctant in publication of rebuttals.
At the end of the year it is assessed that in only those newspapers that are published at Lahore, a provincial capital, 1379 anti-Ahmadi news items were published. The daily Nawa-i-Waqt (Chief Editor: Majeed Nizami) took a major lead in this abject campaign by printing 287 news items (a news every two days out of three). The daily Pakistan and Jang stood second (Chief Editors: Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Shami and Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman respectively); others did not lag far behind.
The statements and news generally comprised:
- Hateful and provocative accusations
- Urging Muslims to murder Ahmadis
- 3. Demanding Shariah punishment (of death) for apostates (Ahmadis, by implication)
- Accusing the government of providing support to Ahmadis, thereby coercing it to take anti-Ahmadiyya measures
- Asserting that Ahmadis are not loyal to Pakistan, and are enemies of Islam
- Accusing Ahmadis of having a hand in whatever is wrong anywhere in the world
- Disinformation about fissures in the Ahmadiyya community
- These newspapers provided media-support to the mullah in his intensive campaign to propagate/promote:
- Fake reports on Ahmadis’ alleged subversive activities in Rabwah
- Discrimination against Ahmadis in sale of residential plots
- Obstacles in normal business activities for Ahmadis
- Prejudice and restrictions against Ahmadis in government service
- A campaign against building government offices near Rabwah
- Prejudiced and sectarian attitude in the field of education etc.
Ahmadiyya office has learnt to live with this propaganda onslaught, however occasionally it undertakes to refute the most outrageous and false accusations through press releases, but the Urdu Press is usually very reluctant to print these, except on rare occasions when it allocates single-column one inch space to such rebuttals.
Ahmadi representatives contacted the press lords, and protested on such media coverage, to which their sole reply was: We only reproduce statements; as for their veracity, that is beyond us. Do the journalistic ethics permit publication of hate-promoting statements, without inquiring into their authenticity? Also should the media not first look into the status and reputation of these rabble-rousers before allotting them space? The press should pay heed, at least, to the ethics devised by the Council of Pakistan Newspapers Editors, that reads as follows:
- (T)he news should be factual and just.
- Avoid printing material that promotes hatred and makes false accusation against any community, group or individual.
Newspapers should not publish anything that generates hatred among various sections of the society.