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Islam and Sectarianism ( 1 May 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Ahmadis in Pakistan: The Cost of Allegiance


By Mohammad Ahmad

April 25, 2013

If serious human rights violations and usurpation of the constitutional rights of the community in Pakistan were part of a strategy to contain the Ahmadis, the policy is not working

The caretaker government in Punjab has the job on its hands to lead the most populous province into impartial elections. However, the extremists present a challenge of a different nature. Two separate incidents involving the Ahmadi community have taken place, requiring proactive engagement by the administration whose stance on human rights is being challenged, so that justice is served.

The Asian Human Rights Commission reports that a day before the caretaker chief minister was to take oath, a crowd of more than 60 persons attacked the house of an Ahmadi, Maqsood Ahmed Anjum, a resident of Shamsabad in the sub-district Chunian .The family members including women and children locked themselves inside the house for their protection but the crowd broke open the doors and dragged all of them out. Anjum was beaten by the crowd with iron rods, sticks and fists, and kicked before the family was forced to ‘convert to Islam’ and disown the Ahmadi belief. When he fell unconscious the attackers left him on the road thinking that he was dead. There were 10 policemen present at the scene when the attack took place but they did not intervene to stop the violence. After the incident the police party from a Chunian police station arrived and, rather than providing medical assistance to the victim, threw him in a police jeep and took him to the district hospital of Chunian where Anjum was found to be still alive. It was announced in the Shamsabad village that all the Ahmadis should immediately leave their houses and vacate the village as the local people will not tolerate them in their village. The local English press carried news on the incident and has reported the lodging of an FIR about the incident but follow up action is still missing. Is it that the police want to gain time so that they can force a settlement on the victims as they did in Gojra when Christians were targeted?

On April 12, seven Ahmadis were booked on charges under Section 295-B (defiling, etc, of a copy of the Holy Quran) and 298-C (person of Qadiani group, etc, calling himself Muslim or propagating his faith) of the Pakistan Penal Code and 11-W of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) on the complaint of a member of the Khatm-e-Nabuwat Lawyers Forum accusing the Ahmadis of printing and distributing the community’s newspaper Al-Fazal, which the complainant accused of carrying blasphemous content. It has been reported in the English press that an Ahmadi hawker was distributing the paper to the house of another Ahmadi when a group of local clerics followed him and forcibly entered the house of the latter and beat the resident and his son, and after detaining them questioned them about the editor and printer of the newspaper so that they could be nominated in the complaint. News reports record that the community’s spokesman has said that the paper was going to celebrate its centenary publication this year but since July last, some elements were bent on stopping its publication and had stopped its circulation in the newspaper market, forcing the community to develop its own circulation setup in Lahore.

Hate-related human rights violations are not new to our land. Hate-based organisations are allowed to form and function. Their funding is never questioned and functioning never put under surveillance. These organisations are branded with appealing names and use the emotive power of religion to fan hatred against vulnerable groups. To keep providing the justification for their existence to their masters, situations are created, while at times, their services are utilised by land grabbers who have their eye on the property of people from vulnerable communities in order to force them to quit their places of abode and sell off their properties to these land grabbers at throwaway prices. This forced migration is nothing but a form of unlawful dispossession of rightful property. This tactic has been employed with the Hazaras in Balochistan and with Ahmadis at a number of other places.

Is it a coincidence that both incidents in Punjab happened in areas where the members of the National Assemblies belonged to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)? Incidentally, the incidents in Gojra and Joseph Colony Lahore involving violence and arson against the Christian minority also happened where the MNA belonged to the PML-N. People ask whether the soft corner the party has for extremists and terrorists is an indicator of its covert support for this mindset. This is a question yet to be answered by its leaders.

Dictating through fear and vilification indicates bankruptcy of arguments. On the other hand, using the power of reason and logic symbolises strength of ideology. While all are not to be blamed, it is indeed deplorable that some groups while claiming allegiance to the religion of peace use fear and intimidation as their tactic of choice when interacting with those disagreeing with them on issues. Shouldn’t they at the least have faith in the reasoning of their faith while dealing with people belonging to a differing school of thought? In the case of Ahmadis, killing dialogue and prohibiting a rebuttal to any doctrinal allegation through legislation carried out in the days of the dictator Ziaul Haq has taken away from the community the right to defend itself against allegations even if fabricated, while spreading half-truths or lies about their beliefs is allowed to all and sundry. Most would agree that Pakistan was a much safer place for all its people when dialogue of some sort was allowed to the community. Whenever the community is targeted in any manner, Pakistan is brought into disrepute and one is forced to think if this was not the real aim of the pseudo-religious clerics whose leaders and mentors were against the creation of this state.

If these serious human rights violations and usurpation of the constitutional rights of the community in Pakistan were part of a strategy to contain the Ahmadis, the policy is not working as these have not had any negative impact on the work of the community abroad. In the past 12 months western media carried stories on them when they launched their ‘I Love Mohammad’ (PBUH) campaign in response to the ongoing mockery and baseless propaganda against the Prophet (PBUH) of Islam, and when their leader addressed US lawmakers at a reception on Capitol Hill with Nancy Pelosi, the current house minority leader and former Speaker of the US Congress in attendance, and spoke about international relations based on the teachings of the Holy Quran. Media reports about their activities have also appeared when their leader addressed the European parliament on how to achieve peace. Is this containment? Their adversaries, therefore, need to rethink their strategy.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s image has been tarnished whenever Ahmadis, Christians or Shiites have been targeted by hate groups. Isn’t it high time we open our eyes and see through the designs of those who wish to see the image of Pakistan tarnished and the people of Pakistan disunited, with society at war with itself? This seems to be their revenge against Mohammad Ali Jinnah who succeeded in creating Pakistan by uniting all those who believed in his philosophy of convergence and unity despite the best efforts of the pseudo-religious clerics who sought to oppose Quaid-e-Azam and sided with the Indian National Congress. Isn’t it time that those who believe in the ideals of the Quaid stand up for the stoppage of discriminatory treatment to the vulnerable Ahmadi, Shia and Christian communities and say no to division so that all Pakistanis rise as one nation?