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June 06, 2010
By Arshed H. Bhatti
When my elder sister in Lahore, who I call my instant channel for ‘heartbreaking’ news, called to inform that Friday prayer congregations of Ahmadiyya community were attacked in Lahore, I was very sad but not surprised.
When my sister used the expressions of ‘masjid’ and ‘juma ki namaz’, she was not afraid of being penalised for deliberately or inadvertently committing blasphemy according to the laws introduced by General Zia in 1984: a mala fide postscript that followed the Second Amendment to the 1973 Constitution by a decade, declaring people subscribing to the Ahmadiyya faith as non-Muslim minority.
I was sad but not surprised for two reasons. One, a few months back, the colleagues at Civil Junction informed that they had spotted some bearded men taking photographs of the Baitul Zikar (a post-1984 title given to ‘mosque’ by Ahmadis to evade penalty and punishment) which is about 100 metres from my café. Duly alarmed by this, we informed persons responsible for the security of the ‘mosque’, and held meetings with neighbours to deliberate precautions. That incident had sent a shudder down one’s spine that the faith-based hatred was about to unfold a new devious angle and Ahmadis were soon to replace shias as new kaafirs, in the eyes of the self ascribed guards of the fort of Islam who have taken it upon them to weed out all ‘others’ from the land of the pure!
The second reason is what most of us know intuitively: the harvest of hatred is ripe, ready and in our face following three decades of nurturing of reengineered, false and flawed faith-based identities of Pakistanis.
I wish to raise four points to invoke rethinking about our identities who shall decide that? Whether we may leave the verdict to Allah Almighty, for the Judgment Day, for hereafter or should we continue doing that ourselves.
First, the universal reference point of a person’s/group’s identity is primarily language and location. This was the first collective denial Pakistani in leadership succumbed to in 1949 when apprehending ‘provincialism’ they decided to base Pakistani identity atop Islam. Though in one’s view it was a deception to evade electoral politics and institute new non-people constituencies.
Second point, State can determine citizenship of its inhabitants but cannot dissect their worldviews or attempt to scout which divinity rules their imagination! In my view, State can determine or deny a person citizenship; it cannot decide or determine inner dynamics of sub-identity like faith or sexual orientation, both of which follow one’s heart, and more importantly the person is the ultimate judge, jury and benefactor of that sub-identity.
Third point, State should not meddle with (read, support or stymie) a citizen’s volitional membership of a community.
Fourth, law’s function is to determine the course of action the citizens ought to follow in order to eventually keep the social fabric of a society intact. If a certain law’s intent, prod or push goes beyond that, then this law is not a law per se. It is rather an intrusive tool to ensure social engineering of sorts.
It is about time Honourable Supreme Court under Chief Justice Iftkhar Muhammad Chaudhary had taken notice of these particular laws which, introduced by a dictator, have not only shaken the basic framework of the Constitution but are also eating up the social bonds citizens are promised as equal citizens.
Arshed is a political activist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org