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The Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam is a religious organization, international in its scope, with established branches in 170 countries in Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Australia and Oceania. 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 it considers 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 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 groups were a religious minority by their own profession, Ahmadis were forcibly declared a minority through legislation.
General Zias 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 that 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, forty four Ahmadis have been murdered, ninety subjected to attempted murder, properties of a large number looted, their places of worship destroyed and desecrated, and subjected to all kinds of harassment. Approximately three thousand Ahmadis have faced prosecution in courts. Hundreds have been convicted. In addition, the entire Ahmadiyya population of Rabwah (approximately 35,000 individuals) were charged under the anti-Ahmadiyya PPC 298C. 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 to 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 and remain so. 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 holders 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 Ordinances effect was exceptionally glaring. Ninety five percent of the population of this town is Ahmadi. The government has taken steps to deny them the minimal citizen rights. Even holding of sports events was forbidden. At the happy occasion of the first centenary of Ahmadiyyat, the residents were forbidden to have decorative 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, local councils are imposed on Rabwah that do not represent 95% of its population. Annual religious gatherings, which were routinely held here since 1948, were forbidden and remain so till today. As mentioned before, the police registered a criminal case against the entire Ahmadiyya population of Rabwah. 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 countrys democratic set-up. Publication of Ahmadiyya religious literature is virtually banned. 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. 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. In 1999, Nawaz Sharif government changed the name of Rabwah to Chenab Nagar in total disregard of the wishes of 95% of its population. It was a most serious and outrageous violation of the democratic principle. On April 30, 1999 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.
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 Ahmadis human rights. However, regrettably nothing substantial or effective has been done abroad to compel the authorities in Pakistan to repeal this Ordinance that is now a part of the Constitution as 8th Amendment.
The Blasphemy Law
In 1986, the blasphemy law, PPC 295-C, was passed. True to the design of its authors, 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, 200 Ahmadis were charged under the Blasphemy law that could render them liable to face death penalty. Pakistan governments 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 textbook 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. Three Ahmadis were given life-imprisonment sentences under this law by a trial court. 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.
Anti-terrorism Act (ATA)
This Act was promulgated in 1997 ostensibly to curb terrorism. However, unscrupulous officials and mullas have discovered in this legislation a convenient and efficacious tool to persecute Ahmadis by manipulating the religious clause PPC 295A. An Ahmadi was awarded 10 years imprisonment by an ATA Court for allegedly filling in a Census proforma incorrectly. An Ahmadi youth, who put on a shirt with Kalima (Islamic creed) written on it, was arrested and pushed to a Special Court. In essentially similar situations, 62 Ahmadis have been booked under PPC 295A that is cognizable by ATA Special Courts. Ahmadis thus charged are often denied the privilege of release on bail.
There is no let-up in sight. Long-term prison sentences are being awarded to Ahmadis on petty grounds. An Ahmadi was sentenced to a total of 13 years imprisonment by a Special Court last year for telling someone that the Reformer of Latter Days has already appeared. 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 Zias 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. Eventually they were declared Not Guilty.
Murders and other forms of violence continue against the Community. A nephew of the Fourth Head of the Community was murdered in brought daylight. Recently, during the present regime, the residence of a community official was stormed, damaged and looted by a mulla-led mob in the presence of the police who later arrested the victim and his two sons on fabricated charges. No action was taken against any of the miscreants — unbelievable, but true.
Although soon after assuming power General Musharaf declared his intentions to treat all sections of the Pakistani society as equal citizens, his government has taken no worthwhile steps to alleviate the sufferings of Ahmadis. The government issued a policy statement in February 2000, that notwithstanding the suspension of the Constitution, there is no change in the constitutional and legal status of Ahmadis. The Federal Government complied with Mullas demand by incorporation of all the religious provisions of the defunct Constitution in the military regimes Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) with back-dated effect. The government also backtracked on its intentions to modify the procedure for registration of cases under the Blasphemy Law. The Courts tend to refuse bails and continue to punish Ahmadis on religious grounds. Two years imprisonment was awarded to the President of a local Ahmadiyya Community in district Bahawalnagar for building a niche and minaret in an Ahmadiyya mosque. On October 11, a magistrate at Qasur awarded one years imprisonment each to three Ahmadis for displaying Islamic creed and Quranic verses at home and in their shops, in a thirteen years old case. Nothing has changed; Ahmadis are getting more of the same.
Such is the agonizing and heart-rending situation of Ahmadis in Pakistan.
October 31, 2000
The year 2001 was no difference than the preceding year. Ahmadis received more of the same tyranny. The police and the administration framed charges under Ahmadi-specific laws even it was not justified by wording of the law. The authorities gave benefit of doubt to the fundamentalist rather than to the victim of bad religious laws. Judiciary got the same message from above. A judge, in one such case, awarded 118 years imprisonment to each of the two Ahmadis who, on their own land, had simply demolished a dilapidated one-room mosque made of mud and replace it with a new one made of bricks. Dr. Waheed, found guilty of making an incorrect entry in Census Data Form of an Ahmadi acquaintance, awarded ten years imprisonment by an Anti-terrorist Court, was spending his fourth year in prison, while the appellate court took its time to hear his appeal. Throughout the year, not a single institutional step was taken by the professedly liberal regime to undo what Zia and subsequent regimes had undertaken in the name of religion. The challenge of violent fundamentalism remained unanswered. This was the year of the 9/11, the date of fateful attacks in New York and Washington.
The US attack on Afghanistan and its aftermath again provided the General in Pakistan to impress the world by his forthright and bold verbal attack on fundamentalists and religious extremists. He made a great speech on PTV on January 12th, 2002. It was widely applauded by the west and the liberals and seculars at home. The General took the compliment, but stuck to the pattern consistent with his past performance. This was the year of election in Pakistan. General Musharraf declared that elections to the National and provincial assemblies will be held on the basis of joined electorate. He visited the U.S. in February 2002. At the end of his lecture Woodrow Wilson international center some one asked him if Ahmadis would be allowed to become part of the mainstream through joint electorate. He replied unabashedly that he had not thought of that so far, and that he had so many bullets to bite (The Daily Dawn, February 14th, 2002). In the same month, Chaudhry Shujaat, now President of the ruling PML (Q) met the general in Islamabad, and thereafter told the press that the President had undertaken that while amending the constitution no amendment will be made to any clause of Islamic laws. In one get-together with clerics, an indignant mullah stood up and questioned the President on the Islamist status of Ahmadis in the proposed Joint Electorate. The hero of Kargil beat the retreat, placated the mullah and assured him that the needful would be done. And surely enough, a few days later a Presidential order was published in an Extraordinary Gazette that not with standing the Joint Electorate, Ahmadis would be put on a separate list of non-Muslims. It was quite ridiculous. Political dictionary was corrupted and a new meaning was given to the term. Ahmadis will remember the year 2002 in history as the year when the state of Pakistan and its President chose, once again, to reassert the wrongs for which there was no excuse or moral basis whatsoever. The year ended on a high note for the mullah. The great evil to which the gauntlet had been thrown on January 12th, 2002 was embraced once again, as political bedfellow.
Nothing unpredictable has happened in the year 2003. The pattern is set and well known. Lip service is paid to liberal values and the drum is beaten to declare building of modern and progressive Pakistan. Recently at the UN General Assembly, on September 24th, 2003, President Musharraf called for a double pincer strategy to build harmony, promote moderation, oppose extremism, and ensure justice. He called this strategy, of Enlightened Moderation. He also urged the Muslim nations to embrace the march of human civilization. He called for reflection, introspection and action. Yes, action-but what action? In Pakistan, Ahmadis are not permitted to manage their own town. They are forbidden to hold a peaceful religious conference in their Center, while mullahs routinely get permission to come to Rabwah and under take slander and provocation in public. Mullahs are free to issue the Fatwa of death against innocent Ahmadis. Schools and colleges are returned to their rightful owners, but withheld from Ahmadis. Deliberate actions are taken to deny Ahmadis the right to vote. The provincial government issue Ahmadi-specific order to 1) Curb press freedom, 2) To confiscate periodicals with out pointing the objectionable material, and 3) Threaten public schools with closure on behest of petty Mullahs. There is job discrimination in public sector, and glass ceilings are erected to discriminate overtly against Ahmadis. People are murdered for their faith, and most murders go untraced and unpunished. State attorneys bend backwards to implement bad religious laws and try their best to deny bails and solicit maximum penalties for innocent victims of such laws. There is a wide gulf between pious statement on the media and the implementation policy on the ground. The gap is too big and obvious to escape even the casual observer.
This paper would be incomplete without contributing a useful suggestion. Is Pakistan at cul-de-sac? Perhaps not. If Enlightened Moderation is a viable strategy and if reflection, introspection and action is called for, the President and his government should uphold Ahmadis human rights. This course of action is not as dangerous as some chicken-hearted advisors tell the President. After all, what could the fundamentalists do when their leaders were restricted to their quarter last year? Actions that are moral and upright lend immense strength to their undertaker. Eventually, the draconian anti-Ahmadiyya law and other bad religious laws have to be removed from the statute book, but a small beginning can be made now in that direction. So, let the President permit Ahmadis as a first step, to hold annual conventions of their women and youth at Rabwah. Havens will not fall thereby. Mullahs hold such gatherings frequently all over Pakistan. The mullah cannot oppose his permission of human rights without loosing the argument and face. Let the first drop of benevolent rain of human rights on his parched land of the pure. There is memorable inscription on a portal of university of bygone Muslim Spain: The world is supported by four things: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayer of the religious and the valor of the brave. A little bit of valor will provide much needed support to the fragile state of Pakistan. If the President truly believes that liberal, progressive and moderate values are the real need of Pakistan and his government, effective and influential groups exist in Pakistan, that can supply adequately these apparently rare commodities. Why not tap these resources and dump the obscurantist mullah to the garbage dump of history, where he rightly belongs?
October 7, 2003