Religious Persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
Recommend UsEmail this PagePersecution News RSS Blog
Introduction & Updates
<< ... Worldwide ... >>
Monthly Newsreports
Annual Newsreports
Media Reports
Press Releases
Facts & Figures
Individual Case Reports
Pakistan and Ahmadis
Critical Analysis/Archives
Persecution - In Pictures
United Nations, HCHR
Amnesty International
US States Department
Urdu Section
Feedback/Site Tools
Related Links

Home Media Reports 2001 Another day …
Another day, another atrocity

DAWN - the Internet Edition

01 September 2001
12 Jamadi-us-Saani 1422


Another day, another atrocity
By Irfan Husain

Earlier this week, this newspaper reported yet another atrocity against Ahmadis. A mob of zealots in Sheikhupura district had been goaded by mullahs from the Sipah-i-Sahaba and the Khatm-i-Nabuwat parties to attack a peaceful group of Ahmadis watching a religious TV transmission in their ‘place of worship’ which was burned down by the frenzied mob.

As usually happens in such cases, those locked up (in ‘protective custody’) were the victims, not the criminals. In fact, it is still not clear whether the police have even registered a criminal case against those instigating the fanatics and those who participated in the attack. Apparently, what infuriated the worthies of Syedwalla village was the fact that the Ahmadis were watching the televized address of their spiritual leader, Mirza Tahir.

Ironically, the same issue of this newspaper carried a clarification relating to the system of separate electorates: according to a spokesman of the law ministry, no summary proposing that the system of joint electorates be restored was being moved as had been reported in a section of the press. In fact, I had read this bit of happy news just a day earlier, and was preparing to write a column welcoming this development. In my naivete, I had assumed that this government was following up on its banning of a couple of extremist religious parties by finally enfranchizing our minorities who had been so cruelly marginalized by Zia and his pernicious separation of the minorities from the mainstream.

Incidents like the recent one in Syedwalla are commonplace, and invariably the perpetrators are never touched; indeed, they are regarded as heroes protecting the faith. It is fortunate that none of those attacked was killed; but even if there had been a fatality, one can be sure the murderer would not have been arrested by the police. Such is the state of security for our persecuted minorities.

In the recently concluded local bodies elections, apart from the blatant pressure tactics used by the establishment to ensure ‘positive results’ in certain constituencies, we had the odd situation where minority candidates could not contest the seats of nazim and naib nazim even in areas where they are in a majority. Thus, Muslims will be running local governments in the few pockets where Hindus or Christians outnumber them. The basis of this travesty is the system of separate electorates.

I was shocked and saddened that Omar Asghar Khan, the minister for local bodies, who supposedly presided over this exercise, did not raise a finger to correct this gross injustice. I have long respected him for his strong advocacy of the underprivileged, and had welcomed his appointment. Alas, power seems to have diluted his sense of justice, and he has opted to take the path of least resistance.

And what shall we say about Shahida Jamil, the minister for law and justice? If her ministry has not moved a summary proposing the end of the separate electorate system, should it not have done so? As the minister for justice, should not Ms Jamil be concerned about the deplorable state of our minorities, and do something to improve it? At the end of the day, it is far easier to strike liberal postures on Islamabad's cocktail circuit than in cabinet meetings.

I have long maintained that by disenfranchizing the minorities, we have effectively removed whatever feeble protection the state of Pakistan provides the disadvantaged. Since non-Muslims are barred from voting for mainstream candidates and parties, they are in turn ignored and neglected by them. And as the local MPs (and now the local governments) see no electoral benefit in interceding with the police and other minions of the state on behalf of the minorities, this reality inevitably weakens their position in society.

Ahmadis are possibly in an even less enviable position than Hindu, Christian and other non-Muslim citizens because they consider themselves Muslims. Without wishing to get into the rights and wrongs of this debate, I can only express my outrage over the fact that these unfortunate people are legally persecuted even for reciting verses or phrases from the Holy Book. Ironically, we are delighted when a (white) foreigner is able to say “Assalam Walaikum.” Scores of Ahmadis are rotting in jails around the country for having committed this ‘crime.’

Our record for human rights, never very bright, has been further tarnished because of our inhumane treatment of the Ahmadis of which the recent violence in syedwalla is only one relatively mild example. Organizations like Amnesty International and the Human rights Commissions regularly document and highlight these transgressions against internationally accepted norms.

Earlier in its tenure, this government had made some refreshingly liberal noises that led the optimists among us to assume that it meant what it said, and that religious extremism would no longer be officially encouraged. But a spate of sectarian killings soon belied this expectation. Even the recent arrests of activists from extremist parties proved to be no more than a stage-managed showpiece as most of them were soon released.

Similarly, the ‘ban’ on fund-raising by jihadi outfits was illusory as these groups have openly defied this edict. It is this kind of backtracking that has emboldened these small but well-organized and armed gangs. Both politicians and generals have repeatedly demonstrated a distinct yellow streak when it comes to facing their responsibility and putting a stop to the sectarian violence that is destabilizing the country. The basic problem, of course, is that these very armed and dangerous groups are being used to further the establishment's agendas in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Our rulers refuse to comprehend the basic truth that religious extremism is not divisible: we cannot have sectarian peace and quiet at home while exporting violence beyond our borders. By permitting training camps to function, millions to be collected and volunteers to cross our borders, the government is viewed - both internally and externally - as encouraging and strengthening extremist elements. Whether the activities of these groups is called ‘terrorism’ or ‘jihad’ is a matter of semantics: it matters little to the families of those killed and wounded by their actions.

It is high time our rulers and our citizens understood that until we draw a line and take tough action against those persecuting Ahmadis, those gunning down Shias in Pakistan or Hindus in Kashmir, all of us are at risk from the growing menace of intolerance and sectarian violence. General Musharraf has shown that he can talk the talk. But he has yet to demonstrate that he can walk the walk.

© The DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2001
Top of page