Ahmadiyya repression a political issue
Asma Jahangir says at roundtable
UN Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir yesterday said Ahmadiyya repression in Bangladesh is a political issue, not a religious one and the state of religious freedom here might follow Pakistan’s if the media and civil society are not proactive.
Religious bigots in Pakistan too project such issue as a religious one to gain public attention, said Jahangir, the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion.
She was speaking as the keynote speaker at a roundtable on Freedom of Religion in the Context of South Asia, organised by Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (Bilia) at its auditorium yesterday.
Referring to ‘inaction’ of the Pakistani civil society and the media since the 1970’s when Ahmadiyyas were declared non-Muslim there, Jahangir, now on a private visit to Bangladesh, said, “If you go along this path, there is no end to it.”
She lauded the role of Bangladeshi civil society and media for raising concerns over repression against Ahmadiyyas here, but said that they must remain vigilant to arrest religious intolerance in its incipient stage.
“Democracy cannot move forward because of the permanence of intolerance in the countries in South Asia,” Jahangir said, asking the secular and democratic forces to take a stronger stance.
Jahangir voiced concern on a speaker’s reminder of the string of grenade attacks, large-scale arms hauls and assassination attempts in Bangladesh last year.
“You have cause for worry here, we do not know if it is local or otherwise, but when it goes to the level of assassination attempts, it is a disturbing thought,” she added.
Asked about her thoughts on the recent spate of ‘crossfire’ killings by the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab), she said “How can you call killing a man in handcuffs legal?”
Jahangir added that although the government is trying to justify the extra-judicial killings here in the context of a grim picture of law and order, examples around the world suggest that extra-judicial killings do not bring crime down.
“The police become more and more unaccountable and corrupt with such power, and there is no rule of law,” said Jahangir, adding that the use of greater firepower and violence only provokes further escalation of violence as criminals use more firepower in turn.
She asked for a greater role of the media to make the public aware of the consequences of such actions of the government.
Jahangir, who hails from Pakistan and is an internationally renowned human rights activist, also asked moral support from the people of Bangladesh in the ‘Pakistanis’ struggle for democracy’.