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The Anti-Terrorism Legislation
The government legislated anti-terrorism measures in 1997, whereby Anti-Terrorist Special Courts were established to expeditiously handle cases involving terrorism and to award punishments. Grave apprehensions were expressed at the time by various sections of society about the possibility of misuse of this legislation. Those apprehensions were not misplaced. The fundamentalist lobby was delighted to discover in this legislation possibilities of harming and terrorizing the peaceful Ahmadiyya Community. The government has helped them by declaring PPC 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) as cognizable by anti-terrorist courts. Ahmadis who were not even remotely involved in terrorism have been shamelessly taken to these courts and punished. Following three cases are typical.
Mr. Waheed Ahmad of Golarchi, Sind, was given 10 years' rigorous imprisonment by an ATA court in a census incident in which he himself was subjected to religious terrorism. The state machinery was liberally and unscrupulously used and supervised by the top political brass to unjustly incriminate an innocent man.
Briefly, Mr. Bikkhar Punhor, a convert to Ahmadiyya Community approached Mr. Waheed Ahmad to help him fill in his Census Proforma, as he himself was illiterate. Waheed filled it for him. In the religion column, Waheed, having asked Punhor, entered Ahmadi. Later, an official noticed this entry, and he scared Punhor to the bone, of the serious consequences of conversion. The official intimated some mullas of his conversion; so they not only frightened him out of his conversion, they persuaded him to accuse Mr. Waheed of mis-stating his religious affiliation. Mullas, in the meantime, organized processions and riot in the town and precipitated a law and order situation in which some Ahmadis were subjected to assaults and Ahmadiyya property was damaged. Thus the fundamentalists forced the administration into a kind of submission, and then jointly they proceeded to register criminal cases, not against the rioters, but against the victims. Mr. Waheed Ahmad was charged under PPC 295-A, a clause which invites action under the Anti-Terrorism Act. He was accused of injuring the feelings of the complainant by misquoting his faith.
Mr. Waheed Ahmad was presented in an ATA court on 14 March 1998 and was remanded by the police until 21 March. The next day, on 15 March, he was subjected to severe torture by the police who insisted on being told as to what instructions he had received from his community superiors. On 16 March, when a friend met him in the jail, he found his face very swollen due to police torture. The jail authorities were contacted and a complaint was made. They took some gratification and promised that the victim will be treated thenceforth with consideration. When an appeal was made in appropriate courts for release of the accused on bail, the Assistant Attorney General, the state official took pains to oppose the request. Anyway, Mr. Waheed Ahmad was given a speedy trial in a Special Court under the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Act. From the judge's handling of the case and his own admission, it had become quite obvious that he was under instructions to convict the accused and award a severe punishment. It was hardly a surprise when on 21 April 1998, the Special Court judge awarded 10 years' rigorous imprisonment to Mr. Waheed Ahmad. Rabid mullas, who had traveled all the way to undertake sectarian violence remained free to wait for their next target of sectarian terrorism. They are quite satisfied with the support provided to them by their patrons in Islamabad.
Here is another example. The incidents at Nafisnagar and Naukot during August 1998 were inter-related and show how dishonestly the Anti-Terrorist Act is being applied to Ahmadis.
A small old mosque stood in the farmland of Mr. Mustafa Khan, an Ahmadi landlord at Nafisnagar, district Umarkot. It was in use by a few Ahmadi and non-Ahmadi peasants, and was in a dilapidated state. Mr. Khan was requested to rebuild the mosque, to which he agreed after consultation with fellow non-Ahmadi users. Arrangements were made accordingly. The old hall was demolished and the rebuilding started. An opponent came to know of this and he saw in it germs of potential mischief. He reported the activity to a mulla in the town who informed others, and all these started crying hoarse that a mosque had been desecrated and destroyed by Qadianis and the Holy Quran was burnt, etc. Ahmadis hurried to take the authorities in confidence, and informed them that nothing of the kind had happened. Officials were taken to the site and were shown the construction in progress. They seemed satisfied. The Mulla, however, was not prepared to let the Ahmadis off the hook so easily. He had already informed his mentors at Karachi who are ever ready to cash a cheque of this kind. f The incident at Naukot was a follow up of this. At Naukot, they organized a mob, one J thousand strong. It was harangued into frenzy and it threateningly proceeded to the f Ahmadiyya Mosque. Ahmadis hurried to their mosque to defend it against an attack. On arrival at the mosque the mob started throwing stones at the defenders and the mosque. Thereafter the agitators entered the mosque and started to demolish it. A clash took place in which two of the attackers and three defenders were injured. As the Ahmadis present at the mosque were in great danger, they were moved out of the mosque and provided protection at the nearby Rangers' post. The next day, extensive publicity was given to what had happened at these two places with plenty of disinformation to incite the ignorant masses in other parts of Sind. The authorities, from then on, were firmly directed by higher-ups at Islamabad. Further actions were based not on facts of the case but on political exigency. In all, twenty-two Ahmadis were charged under religious laws; of these 18 under the Blasphemy law, and their cases were referred to an Anti-Terrorist court. Ahmadis who suffered discrimination, lack of protection, attack on their mosque and assault on their persons, were now exposed to state-terrorism, in that they have been taken to the anti-terrorist courts. Fifteen Ahmadis, including a fourteen years old boy were arrested. They are still in prison. None, not even one of the attackers and assailants was arrested. It is indeed outrageous and unbelievable.
The case of another Ahmadi, Mr. Ghulam Mustafa, a religious teacher, is the model that Mullas and the government would like to follow every time. He was sentenced at D G Khan to a total 13 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine of rupees 100,000 on religious charges by a Special Court.
It is derived from the 10-page Judgement that the accused was discovered preaching Qadianiyyat to Muslims. Two mullas, namely Ramazan and Latif, tracked him for some days and eventually caught up with him at about noontime at the tube-well owned by Laal Khan of village Hamadi. When questioned, the accused replied that the advent of Imam Mahdi had taken place and four caliphs have succeeded him. He also posed as a Muslim. On hearing this talk about the said Imam Mahdi, they flew into rage and after controlling themselves they decided to put the matter before authorities, the judgement justified. The police was informed. It arrived at the site and recovered some homeopathic medicines and some booklets from the accused. In the light of the complaint by mulla Ramazan, a case under Section 298C was registered against Mr. Ghulam Mustafa for preaching and he was arrested.
He was liable to get three years' imprisonment and fine under this clause if found guilty by the court. His bail application was moved in the court of a magistrate; it was rejected. At this, his application for release on bail was moved in the Sessions Court. The Additional Session Judge, Muhammad Aslam Janpuri, rather than granting the bail, remarked that the accused's offence attracted Section 295A. This section applies to cases where religious feelings of any class are outraged maliciously by insulting its religion. Nothing of this kind had happened at all in this case. It was ordered that the accused be tried by the Special Court for the Suppression of Terrorism. The special court held its first hearing on 17 March 99 and gave its decision three days later, on 20 March 1999. Mr. B.A. Fakhri, Judge, Special Court ATA-97, D.G. Khan Division convicted the accused under the two clauses and awarded maximum prison terms i.e. 10 years and 3 years of rigorous imprisonment. In addition, Mr. Mustafa was fined Rs. 50,000 under each clause, or in default to further undergo six months' imprisonment on each count.
It is noteworthy and relevant to mention that the case was sent to an Anti-Terrorist court while no terrorism of any kind had occurred and no violence had taken place nor even alleged. The accused was not using a loud speaker nor did he address a crowd. Out of the few persons he talked to from the village, not even one complained, and none of them agreed to appear as a prosecution witness. The serious charge under PPC 295A was initially not applied; it was a state official who added it later, by implication.
It has now become a practice with mullas and authorities to conveniently add clause PPC 295A to the charge sheet of Ahmadis who are booked under a religious law. It enables them to send the case to an Anti-Terrorist Court. The victim thus himself is terrorized, although he committed no act of terrorism. Such is the situation of Ahmadis. Laws, courts and legal procedures that apparently have no relevance to Ahmadis, are maliciously brought to bear against this persecuted community. The notorious Blasphemy Law is another such tool in point.