By Yasser Latif Hamdani
April 01, 2013
Logically, a free, fair and impartial judiciary, unmoved by religious passion or pressure should be able to strike down the notorious and illogical Ordinance XX of 1984
On a recent visit to Islamabad, President of Egypt Muhammad Morsi made a statement that should have startled our ideologues and guardians of Islam in Pakistan. Paying a tribute to Dr Abdus Salam, the Islamist president of Egypt declared that the great physicist was a source of pride for the entire Muslim Ummah. Years ago, our mullahs had desecrated the grave of this great man because his tombstone read ‘the first Muslim Nobel Laureate’.
Dr Salam was one of those rare Pakistanis who continued to remain loyal to his country even after experiencing persecution of the worst kind. His speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony is a testament to this. So is his refusal to accept overtures by both Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1960s and later Indira Gandhi. Compare Dr Salam’s commitment to Pakistan to the commitment of our self-styled saviour, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, who confessed to trading nuclear secrets for money. One can safely say that had he been in place of Dr Salam, Dr Khan would have sold his soul and any nuclear secrets he possessed to the highest bidder, including India.
Dr Salam’s faith is unwelcome in Pakistan thanks to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Ziaul Haq. His co-religionists continue to be disenfranchised, marginalised, persecuted, beaten up and killed by both the state and society, despite their sterling contributions and unwavering loyalty to this country. This is why when President Morsi, a man whose praises our mullahs do not tire of singing, comes and states a simple truth, the silence by the latter is deafening.
Dr Salam is not the first talented Ahmadi who gave all for his country. One of the founding fathers of Pakistan and one time president of the Muslim League, Sir Zafrullah Khan, whose ideas formed the basis of the Lahore Resolution, who was tasked by Mohammad Ali Jinnah to plead Pakistan’s case before the boundary commission and who was appointed the first foreign minister of Pakistan was similarly shabbily treated because he happened to be an Ahmadi. Then too an Egyptian president, Gemal Abdel Nasser, had famously said, “Some people say Zafrullah is not a Muslim, well, if he is not a Muslim, I am not one either.” Nasser was very impressed by Sir Zafrullah’s advocacy of the Arab causes in the UN and considered him a great friend and ally. The same Sir Zafrullah was abused by our mullahs on the streets time and again.
So while our Egyptian brethren have been fulsome in praise of our two great Pakistani icons, Sir Zafrullah and Dr Salam, we have failed to name even a single road in their honour. Children are not taught of Zafrulla’s contributions to the Pakistan Movement. His picture does not feature in the Aiwan Karkunan-e-Tehreek-e-Pakistan Museum on the Mall, while every ‘jee-huzoori’ (yes man) and Nawabzada — including those who openly abused Jinnah — has his picture up as one of the pioneers of Pakistan. Our children are not taught to admire and emulate Dr Salam, who has kept Pakistan’s name alive in the field of Physics even in death.
The question of whether one considers Ahmadis Muslims or non-Muslims can be a matter of choice clearly. The problem starts when the state starts deciding who is a Muslim or a non-Muslim. Given that none of us are in possession of divine knowledge, would it not be better to follow a simple test instead, a simple test that the founder of this country, Jinnah, prescribed “anyone who professes to be a Muslim is a Muslim.”
What happens when the state decides who is Muslim or non-Muslim? It empowers various sections of the clergy. Inevitably, those sections of clergy then turn on each other, turning one kind of Muslim against another kind of Muslim. This is when Ahle-Hadith tell Barelvis that they are kafir (infidel), and Barelvis tell Deobandis they are kafir and so and so forth. A multitude of movements begin to declare each other a constitutional kafir. The result is that you have endless bloodletting because ultimately not every community is non-violent like the Ahmadis.
Ahmadis, in so far as I have understood their position, have long left the matter to God. What they want now is simply to live in peace as Pakistani citizens, entitled to equal rights as Pakistanis, which includes the right to practise their faith, whether or not you and I consider them non-Muslims. This is a constitutional right under the Article 20. Those who rely on Zaheeruddin v the State to suggest that the Article 20 of the constitution is not violated by the persecution of Ahmadis and wanton destruction of their property should remember that through the 18th Amendment, the word ‘freely’ was restored to the Objectives Resolution, which was not the case in 1993. Therefore, logically, a free, fair and impartial judiciary, unmoved by religious passion or pressure should be able to strike down the notorious and illogical Ordinance XX of 1984, which is a violation of every known principle of natural justice and all principles of Islam vis-á-vis religious freedom.
Let us not persecute this community any further. Restore to them, as Pakistanis, their civil and political rights even if you disagree with their religious beliefs, so that they may live honourably and without fear as citizens of country. In the long run, we need them more than they need us.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Jinnah: Myth and Reality.