By Yasser Latif Hamdani
January 27, 2014
Under the 1973 constitution, the offices of president and prime minister were reserved for Muslim citizens of Pakistan. Therefore, the attempt was to exclude Ahmedis from the highest offices in the state
The elderly Dr Masood, who is an Ahmedi, has now been in jail in Lahore for over 60 days for the ‘crime’ of reading the holy Quran. Meanwhile, in Rawalpindi, a young Ahmedi was shot dead by terrorists when he tried to stop them from planting a bomb on Eid-e-Milad un Nabi. What we have done to this patriotic law abiding community is going to haunt us for a long time to come.
The legal persecution of Ahmedis in Pakistan started when Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto caved in to the pressure by a certain section of religious orthodoxy and threw the Ahmedi question to parliament. Here, some points must be restated. The section that wanted Ahmedis declared non-Muslims was without exception the same section — Jamaat-e-Islami, Majlis-e-Ahrar, etc — that opposed the creation of Pakistan. Having lost on their anti-Pakistan platform in the 1945-1946 elections, these groups initiated the anti-Ahmedi movement in Pakistan to exact revenge on Muslim League stalwarts like Zafrullah Khan as well as the Ahmedi leadership, which had set up camp in Rabwah. In 1953, the same groups banded together and demanded the ex-communication of Ahmedis but the then Prime Minister, Khawaja Nazimuddin, a far more religious man than Bhutto sahib, refused to give in to their demands.
The second amendment (1974) to the constitution of Pakistan, 1973, violated the basic spirit of the constitution, which did not vest parliamentarians with ecclesiastical authority. The Pakistani legislators assumed instead that they were like the British parliament, whose acts cannot be ultra vires (beyond powers), and not bound by the spirit of the constitution that they themselves had passed a year earlier. The second amendment stated: “Amendment of Article 106 of the Constitution: In the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, hereinafter referred to as the Constitution in Article 106, in clause (3) after the words “communities” the words and brackets “and persons of Quadiyani group or the Lahori group (who call themselves ‘Ahmedis’) shall be inserted. Amendment of Article 260 of the Constitution: In the Constitution, in Article 260, after clause (2) the following new clause shall be added, namely — (3) A person who does not believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of The Prophethood of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), the last of the Prophets or claims to be a Prophet, in any sense of the word or of any description whatsoever, after Muhammad (Peace be upon him), or recognises such a claimant as a Prophet or religious reformer, is not a Muslim for the purposes of the Constitution or law.”
Note the phrase “purposes of the constitution or law”. What might be the purposes that the constitution or law may have? Well, under the 1973 constitution, the offices of president and prime minister were reserved for Muslim citizens of Pakistan. Therefore, the attempt was to exclude Ahmedis from the highest offices in the state. The purpose in the law may be to exempt them from application of Muslim personal law. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, speaking to the Assembly, declared that as a non-Muslim minority, Ahmedis’ fundamental rights including the right to freedom of religion would be protected.
In 1984, General Ziaul Haq changed that too. By promulgating Ordinance XX of 1984, he criminalised certain key parts of Ahmedi religious tenets like the Azaan (call for prayer), the use of the Kalma, minarets on mosques, etc. Simultaneously, he made the Objectives Resolution a substantive part of the constitution but omitted the word “freely”, which had qualified minorities’ rights to develop their cultures and religion, from it. Consequently, the constitutional challenge to Ordinance XX of 1984 failed in the Supreme Court (SC) when the SC declared in Zaheeruddin versus the State 1993, SCMR 1718, that essentially criminalising everything central to the Ahmedi faith was in no way a violation of Article 20 of the constitution (freedom to profess and propagate religion). Slowly but steadily, rabid mullahs have managed to use this judgment to bulldoze minarets, whitewash Kalimas and attack Ahmedis for having Muslim names. The height of this absurdity was seen in Sargodha where an Ahmedi man was imprisoned for having his own name on his house. The constitutional situation however has shifted with the 18th amendment. The word “freely” was restored to the Objectives Resolution in an annexure to Article 2-A of the constitution. Yet there is no end in sight for the rabid and blatant persecution Ahmedis have to face.
A corollary of this persecution is the passport declaration. It would be one thing if Muslims were called to reaffirm their faith in the unqualified finality of the holy Prophet (PBUH) as per the second amendment but Muslims are asked above and beyond to also call the founder of the Ahmedi religion a “liar” and “impostor”.
Perhaps those who devised this form should have read section 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code, which prohibits scurrilous abuse against any founder of a religion. The second amendment to the constitution of Pakistan recognises Ahmediyyat as a separate religion. Therefore, all the protections and safeguards guaranteed to Pakistanis of other faiths must surely be extended to Ahmedis. The irony is that when ‘Ulema’ like Tahir Ashrafi and his brother Hassan Muawiya go around declaring that Ahmedis are acting unconstitutionally by just existing, they betray their own ignorance of the constitution as well as the inherent unfairness and dishonesty that is part and parcel of their own personal constitutions.
Stop persecuting the Ahmedis now for God’s sake. Must we always sully the name of this country and Islam because of our own petty little insecurities?