Annual Reports on the Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Pakistan. These reports summarise the events and describe how members of the community are harassed, threatened and even killed by the extremists.
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Plight of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan
Persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan
The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam is a religious organization, international in its scope, with established branches in 160 countries in Africa. Americas, Asia, Australia, Europe and Oceania. At present, its total membership exceeds 30 million worldwide. The Ahmadiyya Movement was established in 1889 by Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. The movement he started is an embodiment of the benevolent message of Islam - peace, universal brotherhood and submission to the will of God, in its pristine purity. It strongly rejects terrorism in any form and for any reason.
ANTI-AHMADIYYA RIOTS IN 1953 AND 1974
The religious establishment in Pakistan does not approve of the reformatory nature of the Ahmadiyya Movement, and they consider it heretic. Politicians have often found it politically attractive to support the mulla in his anti-Ahmadiyya agitation. The first countrywide violence erupted in 1953. A high level judicial inquiry subsequently found and declared that political considerations and exigency were the main cause of the spread of the Anti-Ahmadiyya violence. Many years later, Mr. Bhutto found it politically advantageous in 1974 to have the Ahmadis declared a non-Muslim minority. This was done after another countrywide violent anti-Ahmadiyya agitation conceived and engineered by the government and carried out by mullas. Minority status was an innovation, in that, while other religious groups were a minority by their own profession, Ahmadis were forcibly declared a minority through legislation.
GENERAL ZlA'S ORDINANCE XX
General Zia, the military dictator of Pakistan, went many steps further in 1984, when to gain the support of Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan, he promulgated the notorious anti-Ahmadiyya Ordinance XX which added Sections 298-B and 298-C in Pakistan Criminal Code. Through this Ordinance, Ahmadis were deprived of most of their basic human rights and their freedom of faith. Under the provisions of this ordinance, an Ahmadi could be given rigorous imprisonment of 3 years and fined any amount. An Ahmadi can be easily charged for profession of his faith or for posing as a Muslim. The ordinance was a green signal for anti-Ahmadiyya elements to open the floodgates of tyranny with the help of the State. The ordinance provides a ready and convenient tool in the hands of fundamentalists and the government to incriminate Ahmadis on flimsy grounds and petty excuses. Since 1984, thirty nine Ahmadis have been murdered, eighty subjected to attempted murder, properties of a large number looted, their places of worship destroyed and desecrated, and subjected to all kinds of harassment. Two thousand seven hundred and ninety one Ahmadis have faced prosecution in courts (data at Annex I). Hundreds have been convicted. All the branches of the government were directed to ensure that the Ordinance XX is actively enforced. Consequently, Ahmadis, using normal greetings of Assalamu Alaikum, were given prison terms by magistrates. Large scale riots and violence erupted, with support of law enforcement agencies, in places like Nankana Sahib and Chak Sikandar from where large sections of Ahmadi communities had to emigrate and seek shelter elsewhere after extensive loot, arson, destruction and death. The government did little to help the victims. On numerous such occasions, the victims were even arrested by authorities. The persecution was designed and steered to be pervasive. Its evil was made to spread over almost every aspect of individual and communal life of Ahmadis. Education, jobs, economy, social life, all aspects were targeted. Ahmadi students' entry into professional colleges was restricted. There were occasions when an Ahmadi student was admitted on merit, but the admission was canceled because of his faith. Even to put up in certain hostels, the candidate has to declare that he is not an Ahmadi. A religion column was added in Pakistani passports where the holder's faith is entered. Even to get a national Identity Card, every citizen of Pakistan, claiming to be Muslim, is made to sign a declaration wherein he/she has to deny the veracity of Hadrat Ahmad, the Founder of Ahmadiyya Community. In the field of employment, even petty public positions are often denied to Ahmadis simply for the reason of their religion. The Supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Community could no longer perform his functions, so he had to proceed abroad from where he has not been able to return ever since. During his absence abroad, he has been implicated here in 17 different cases; most of these carry long term imprisonment penalties while one involves death punishment for alleged blasphemy.
At Rabwah, the headquarters of the Ahmadiyya Community, the Ordinance's effect was exceptionally glaring. Ninety five percent of the population of this town is Ahmadi. The government has taken steps to deny them even the minimal citizen rights. Even holding of sports events was forbidden (Annex VII). At the happy occasion of the first centenary of Ahmadiyyat, the residents were forbidden to have decoration lights and even to distribute sweets. By devious means, they were forbidden to elect or even vote for their local government councilors. They were told that they could vote only as non-Muslims, which was not acceptable to them. Consequently, a local council was imposed on Rabwah, which did not represent 95% of its population. Annual religious gatherings, which were routinely held here since 1948, were forbidden and remain so till today. Once the police registered a criminal case against the entire Ahmadiyya population of Rabwah (translation of the police FIR is placed at Annex IV). The case has remained open until today, and any Ahmadi from Rabwah can be arrested against this FIR at any time. The non-Ahmadi Muslims are permitted every year to hold numerous meetings and rallies in this town where they are free to speak and behave in the most provocative manner against Ahmadis. Although the government has allowed a seat in the National Assembly for Ahmadis but with the condition that they vote as non-Muslims. This way, Ahmadis have been effectively disenfranchised in the country's democratic set-up. Publication of Ahmadiyya religious literature is virtually banned. A recent order banning a scholarly work is placed at Annex VI. Ahmadiyya press is gagged; scores of criminal cases have been registered at the orders of the government against the editors, publishers and printer of Ahmadiyya daily paper and periodicals (details are available at Annex III). They were not permitted to use simple terms like Amen and Inshallah. The printer incharge of the press has been booked in scores of cases, qualifying him perhaps for entry in Guineas Book of World Records. Recently in 1999, the government changed the name of Rabwah to Chenab Nagar in total disregard of the wishes of 95% of its population (Annex V). It is a most serious and outrageous violation of the democratic principle. On April 30, authorities arrested the top leaders of Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan and Rabwah on entirely fabricated charge of defiling the Quran, and pressed charges that could have landed them in prison for life. It was under international condemnation and pressure that the charge was withdrawn.
THE BLASPHEMY LAW
In 1986, the blasphemy law, PPC 295-C, was passed. True to the design of its authors, the majority of the victims of this law are Ahmadis although they cannot even think of defiling the name of the Holy Prophet. The only punishment under this law now is Death. Although many governments have come and gone, the anti-Ahmadiyya laws and the Blasphemy law have remained in the Statute Book, and Ahmadis are being roped in. Since 1984, not a single day has passed when an Ahmadi was not in prison under these laws. Till now, 189 Ahmadis were charged under the Blasphemy law that could render them liable to face death penalty (details at Annex II). Pakistan government's assertion that no Ahmadi has been yet hanged is misleading, as the government policy has encouraged mullas to take law in their own hands and murder Ahmadis. Dozens of Ahmadis have been murdered in recent years only for their faith and almost none of the murderers have been arrested. This is a text book example of 'continuing a policy by other means'. In many instances, the murderers and their patrons are definitely known to the government but no action is taken to bring them to book. Recently, three Ahmadis were given life-imprisonment sentences under this law. They were spared death sentences on the grounds that when charged in 1988, life imprisonment was available in the statute book as an alternate punishment.
International human rights organizations have taken notice of this unfortunate situation. Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, Pakistan Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Advocates Inc. USA etc have published reports on the subject. The UN Sub Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, in 1985, expressed its grave concern over Ordinance XX and urged the Commission to call on the government of Pakistan to repeal the Ordinance and to restore the human rights. However, regrettably nothing substantial or effective has been done outside to compel the authorities in Pakistan to repeal this Ordinance which is now a part of the Constitution as 8th Amendment.
There is no let-up in sight. Long-term prison sentences are being awarded to Ahmadis on petty grounds. An Ahmadi was given 10 years' imprisonment by an anti-terrorist court for allegedly filling in incorrectly the religion column of another person's database census form. The Supreme Court of Pakistan, in its verdict of 1993, rejected Ahmadiyya claim to religious freedom; thus, the judicial road for it has come to a cul-de-sac. The Supreme Court not only justified General Zia's Ordinance XX, it went further to suggest that Ahmadiyya theological position itself could be considered blasphemous.
Encouraged by the Supreme Court decision, other courts have mostly stopped accepting bail applications of Ahmadis facing trials. Magistrates and police find it convenient to casually add the crime of blasphemy under PPC 295-C. A typical case is that of 4 Ahmadis from Mianwali. Their adversaries who had a family feud with them, got them arrested under false accusation of Blasphemy. Their plea for release on bail kept pending before the Supreme Court since 1994. They languished in prison for four years before they were released on bail. Such is the agonizing and heart-rending situation of Ahmadis in Pakistan.
Job Vacancy - But Not for Ahmadis
The State Bank of Pakistan had some job vacancies for doctors and asked for applications. An Ahmadi doctor applied for it, and he was given a form to fill in. Among other columns, there was one at NR 11 where one is required to mention one's religion. Although it is not clear in what way religion is relevant to a medical job in the State Bank, the column is even more specific; it requires: 'In case the applicant is Qadiani, Ahmadi, he should specifically mention the same'. The State Bank's Personnel Department is behaving more like office of a medieval madrassa. Its curiosity about Ahmadis in particular is suspect and noteworthy.
Gruesome Murder off an Ahmadi Community Official and an Aborted Plan
Rabwah; April 14, 1999: A band of four religious terrorists, belonging to Lashkar Jhangvi, the militant wing of Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), kidnapped Mirza Ghulam Qadir from the outskirts of the town on April 14. They drove him and his car towards the nearby town of Chiniot but were caught in the traffic muddle on the river Chanab bridge. Mr. Qadir, a nephew of the Supreme Head of the Ahmadiyya Community, attempted to get away but the kidnappers opened fire at him. They left him bleeding and hurriedly made their escape in their own car. Their bullets also hit a nearby bus and killed a passenger and seriously injured two more who also died subsequently, according to a press statement (The daily Pakistan April 18, 1999).
These SSP terrorists then fled towards Jhang. In the meantime, police parties chased them. Finding themselves besieged, these outlaws left the car and took refuge in a school and subsequently in a mosque. In the subsequent shoot-out, all the four were killed. The arms and ammunitions recovered from their car included sophisticated weapons like a rocket launcher, hand grenades, time bombs and a light machine gun. Some women's clothings, black in colour, normally used during Muharram, were also recovered from the car.
The police confirmed the identity of two of the four terrorists as Ijaz Tarar alias Jaji and Tariq alias Tippu. The government had offered extensive rewards for information leading to their capture. A reward of rupees two million had been offered earlier for the head of Ijaz Tarar, the Commander Operations to the notorious Riaz Basraa. He was indeed one of the top men in the hierarchy of Lashkar Jhangvi. The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Jahanzeb Burki, stated in a press conference that these terrorists had very dangerous plans to undertake extensive bloodletting and destruction during Muharram (The Daily Khabrain, April 16, 1999).
The notion that abduction and murder of Mr. Ghulam Qadir was a simple case of dacoity or ransom is imbecile. The involvement of the top brass of the Lashkar Jhangvi, the imminence of Muharram, the sizable weapons' inventory and the status of their captive all point powerfully towards a great conspiracy and a heinous plan. It is not difficult to figure it out, with the evidence now available after their abortive effort.
Experts in crime detection and motivation are of the opinion that these terrorists had planned to falsely implicate the Ahmadiyya Community in sectarian and Muharram violence in an effort to put the entire blame on Ahmadis and turn the Shia community and the State machinery against them. It is well known that Lashkare Jhangvi is the militant wing of Sipahe Sahaba. The SSP was created by General Zia. Although initially it had an anti-Shia posture but for many years now it has adopted anti-Ahmadiyya position as well and acts in concert with Tahaffuz Khatame Nabuwwat and the JUI (Fazalur Rahman Group). It has consistently undertaken terrorist activities all over the country, and has actively indulged in anti-Ahmadiyya violence.
The four outlaws had apparently kidnapped Mr. Ghulam Qadir and stolen his car to eventually kill him and set him and his car on fire with the weapons inside. This would have enabled them to tell the people of Pakistan that it is Ahmadis who undertake terrorist activities against Shias, and not they, the SSP and Lashkar Jhangvi. They would have shouted themselves hoarse that Ahmadis plan, support and implement all the mischief, the distribution of arms and the resulting bloodshed. Thus, they would have turned the Shia sentiments against Ahmadis and given an excuse to the government to move decisively against the innocent community.
Although Ahmadis have grieved greatly over the death of an innocent and a good fellow, they have had a narrow escape from a situation, which could have resulted in great harm to their lives and well-being. Mirza Ghulam Qadir had received post-graduate degree in Computer Science from George Mason University in Washington. He was 37 and has left behind a widow and four young children, including a pair of twins, two years old. Mr. Qadir, although highly qualified, lived an austere life in a Community dwelling.