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Persecution of Ahmadis in the Field of Education in Pakistan
When Pakistan's Constitution was amended in 1974 to impose a minority and non-Muslim status upon the Ahmadiyya Jamaat, the State gave a clear indication of its policy on suppression of this religious community. In 1984, the dictator, General Zia, promulgated the notorious anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX and thereby made it legal and a state obligation to persecute Ahmadis and usurp their basic human rights.
In addition to the promulgation of the Ordinance, the government took a number of steps in consultation with extremist Mullas (Islamic clerics) to stifle this peace-loving community. These measures were harsh and pervasive. They covered many areas like Ahmadis' economic position, employment, education, registration, travel, electoral representation, freedom of press etc.
Ahmadis, as a group, are among the most educated people in Pakistan. Therefore, the govemment-mulla team hatched and implemented a plan to actively damage Ahmadiyya position in the field of education. Ahmadiyya schools and colleges, which had already been nationalized, were staffed with incompetent and fundamentalist faculty, and thus allowed to deteriorate through bad management. Virulent anti-Ahmadiyya religious propaganda was encouraged in classrooms all over the country to injure the feelings of Ahmadi students and thus discourage them. Ahmadi teachers and lecturers were maltreated and denied positions of influence when they deserved them on merit. Violence against Ahmadi student was not only tolerated but also occasionally encouraged. Admissions to professional institutions were barred on many occasions to Ahmadi candidates. Even stay in college hostels was made impossible for many of them through discrimination, social boycott and violence. Murders took place and the authorities did not care.
Successive governments have done little to improve the anti-Ahmadiyya environments in the field of education. It is not possible in this brief to mention in any great detail the suffering that has been inflicted in the field of education upon Ahmadi youth. A few instances are mentioned only to illustrate and give an idea of the nature of the persecution drive against this budding section of the beleaguered Ahmadiyya community.
Violence against Ahmadi Students
Ahmadi students were not safe even at home. Fifteen non-Ahmadi students visited Saad Gondal, a student of Engineering University, at his home at 1.30 p.m. on October 8, 1993. They dragged him out and beat him up. When his father came out, they grabbed him and beat him up as well. Then they pushed the victims to the police station where 30 others who were more hooligans than students joined them. The police were told to book the victims under the notorious Blasphemy Law and the Anti Ahmadiyya Ordinance. Both the victims had to be hospitalized. Even there, an attempt was made upon their person. The hospital received threats not to treat them. Accordingly, they were told to go home. At another occasion, Khalid Majoka, an Ahmadi student of the Punjab University was abducted on October 21, 1993, interrogated and beaten up. He was told to migrate from Lahore. Only ten days later, Shafqat Rahman another student was abducted and beaten up. Dr. Wasim Ahmad, an Ahmadi professor at Allama Iqbal Medical College was insulted and assaulted at his clinic in those very days. It was like a reign of terror.
In 1989, Shafqat and Ijaz Qureshi, Ahmadis had been boarders at the Allama Iqbal Medical College for years. Imtiaz, an Islami Jamiat student discussed religion with them and decided to get angry for no reason other than arrogance. He and his colleagues started an agitation and urged the authorities to act against the Ahmadis. Next day, the Mess Manager told Ahmadis not have their meals in the dinning hall. The day after, the agitators decided to become violent. Having got the wind, six Ahmadi students left the hostel and spent the night at an Ahmadiyya sanctuary. During their absence, Jamiat students set all their belongings on fire. The agitation continued and Ahmadi students suffered in many ways. Two students missed their exams. Three Ahmadis were expelled from the college for one year. Their only fault was their faith.
In May 1995, at Jauharabad, district Khushab, an Ahmadi student of class X at a private school was expelled from the school by the principal. The reason was that the principal himself started a religious debate with the student and then flew into rage when the student defended his faith in Ahmadiyyat.
In district Rajanpur, a boy, Shahid Mahmood, and his sister were expelled from the high school when their father decided to join the Ahmadiyya Community. Even school-leaving certificates were denied to them. This cost them an academic year of their life. At Kakul, authorities withdrew nine Ahmadi cadets, who were under training at the Pakistan Military Academy, after the promulgation of the Ordinance XX. Another youth, Mr. Rafiq Ahmad was removed from the Police Training Academy, and was transferred to the Ministry of Interior. The Ministry refused to accept him. He was sent on forced leave.
Mr. Rafi Ahmad Shahzad and Malik Rashid Ahmad of Khushab were school teachers. After a report by a mischief monger, they had to face charges under PPC 298C and defend themselves against three years in prison. In another case, as a village teacher of the school at Chak 648-GB, District Faisalabad used to behave wickedly with Ahmadi students, a Secretary of the local Jamaat Ahmadiyya met him and asked him not to be unkind to the children. At this, a police case was registered against five Ahmadis of the village. Although the eventual victims were not students in this case, but the trouble arose because Ahmadis students were subjected to unfair and highly prejudicial treatment. Ms. Sughra Begum who had served as a teacher for 10 long years at Santpura, District Gujrat faced the same problem. Everyone was happy with her work until the anti-Ahmadiyya riots erupted at Chak Sikandar in 1989. Maulvi Amir, the main instigator and agent-provocateur of the riot, turned his attention to the job and security of this woman and conspired to make life unbearable for her. He got registered a false criminal case against her that she had been guilty of blasphemy against the Islamic creed. The police harassed her at the school. She received many threats from extremists. She was assured of security only if she recanted; she refused the offer. She was therefore arrested and transported to Kharian police station where Mulla Amir was sitting in company with the inspector-incharge. The inspector told her to reconcile with the Mulla otherwise face imprisonment. She remained defiant. Despite all protestations, the inspector formalized the false accusation and sent her to a lock-up in Gujrat. She remained there for days. The lady faced prosecution for the next eight months. She could have been jailed for years. However, she was cleared of the bogus charges.
Ahmadi Teachers, Lecturers and Professors
The Hate Campaign
A female Ahmadi student, Farrah Naz D/o Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal, resident of Hassan Pura, Tehsil Kabirwala, was a student of class X at Government Girls High School, Kabirwala. She was a regular student of the school until 10 October 1984. In the month of September, a schoolteacher started talking against Ahmadiyyat in her Islamic Studies class. She laid false accusations against the Community. Farrah Naz could not bear these false allegations and propaganda against Ahmadiyyat and told the teacher that she (Farrah) was an Ahmadi and what the teacher had said about her beliefs was not correct. The teacher got angry. At the time, admission forms were about to be sent for the matriculation examination. Farrah asked for a school-leaving certificate, which was issued with a back date of June 1984, whereas she had attended the school until 10 October. Farrah's father, Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal filed a case at a Civil Court in Kabirwala and sued for a penalty of Rs. 24,000/- because of the fraud done to his daughter and the loss of her academic year. On 29 January 1985, the Headmistress who had issued the certificate and others were summoned to the court. A message was later received from the Headmistress to settle the matter out of the court and admit the girl back in the school.
Education authorities issued a letter on 21 May 1990 to DEO Faisalabad that non-Muslim students be forbidden to pursue the Holy Quran and Islamic Studies as part of the curriculum. Ahmadi students and teachers in government high school at Rabwah were banned from addressing the Assembly, recite the Holy Quran and to offer prayers at the school mosque. At various other educational institutions, social boycott was enforced, for example at Groat and Chak 107 school, district Sargodha in 1993. Ahmadi teachers had to seek transfer to avoid the situation. At Mansehra, the word Qadiani was added by the school staff to the name of an Ahmadi student, Raheel Ahmad. The aim was to harm his future in education and future employment. At the same high school, they arranged an anti-Ahmadiyya Quiz program and distributed prizes to winners.
Ahmadi students have been made to face discrimination, isolation, violence and even murder. Efforts are made to deny them admission in professional colleges and institutes of higher learning and specialization. On petty pretexts, Ahmadi students have been expelled from colleges. A powerful hate campaign was launched against Ahmadiyyat and carried out to the extent that identity as an Ahmadi student is now a risk factor. Hostel facilities are denied to them for their faith. A humiliating social boycott is imposed against them in messes when they are told not to use the general mess crockery. On occasions, they faced loot, arson and violence in hostels. Their academic careers have been targeted at times. In a number of cases, brilliant Ahmadi students were declared Fail in science practicals, as the examiners were free to exercise their discretion, and could not be subjected to accountability, as in written tests. After leaving the school or university, Ahmadi youth find it very hard to get employment. The government has almost closed its doors to recruitment of Ahmadis in military and civil service academies. This has disheartened at least a section of Ahmadi youth who now show a lack of adequate interest in the pursuit of higher education.
Rabwah, the Community's headquarters town, was particularly hit. It had excellent schools and colleges for men and women. Youth from other towns of the country, including non-Ahmadis, used to come here to study. However, since 1974, after these schools and colleges were taken over by the State, they were allowed to rot and deteriorate. The authorities took deliberate steps to mar the education at Rabwah and succeeded largely. It was arranged by the non-Ahmadi Principal at the T.I. College that a Khatam-e-Nabuwwat (Finality of Prophethood) Students Union was formed that undertook active sectarian student politics. This gave rise to tension and helped in damaging the academic environment. Most of the capable and experienced Ahmadi professors were transferred away from here and replaced by uninterested lecturers. The women's college at Rabwah, which was earlier renowned for its excellence, is now an ordinary college like most others in the Punjab. The post-graduate section building is now in a dilapidated state and the section is no longer proud of its results. Ahmadi students are discouraged from residing at the college hostel and almost all the boarders are non-Ahmadis. When Ahmadi students pass out from here, they face difficulties in getting a job as their diplomas and degrees show that they are from Rabwah, the Ahmadiyya town.
Ahmadi teachers and professors have had their share of persecution. Their parent offices maltreated most of them. They suffered remote postings, sometimes repeatedly, to multiply their difficulties. Senior professors were denied the posts of Principal. A few who were given the post faced protest from the powerful religious lobby, to the extent that they were either not allowed to take charge or forced to relinquish it. Ahmadis are denied administration and management posts both at the campuses as in the Head Office. Sometimes, even routine and ordinary postings are opposed by the religious lobby. Their favorite trick is to write letters of protest to the Department and to make press statements, which the yellow press readily prints. Often the situation is made impossible for the Ahmadi victims and he/she is tucked away at some remote location.
On the whole, Ahmadis have had a very rough ride in the field of education during the past 25 years in Pakistan. Almost a whole generation has suffered, and damage has been done. The persecution continues unabated and Ahmadis try to live with it. However, they have not lost hope and faith- their main assets.
During those very days, Maulvi Chinioti addressed a meeting at Masjid Omar Farooq in Metroville area of Korangi Town, Karachi and spoke venomously against the Ahmadiyya Community. He referred to Mr. Tarar and said: He is from Harakat-ul-Ansar (a well known religious organization involved in violence and terror- Ed.); we have expectations from him.
On 11 August 1998, the Daily Nawa-i-Waqt reported in some detail the proceedings of the (Anti-Ahmadiyya) Khatame Nabuwwat seminar held at London. It was also reported that Maulana Chinioti represented there the President of Pakistan, Mr. Rafiq Tarar, and read out the President's message in the seminar.
Deputy Commissioner made to Explain his Faith The Daily Sadaqat of 18 October 1997 printed the following clarification and explanation :
A vain, unbecoming and unnecessary statement from a district manager.