By Yasser Latif Hamdani
July 9, 2018
Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam was a religious party closely allied with Indian National Congress during the 1930s and 1940s. While its president Mazhar Ali Azhar himself claimed to be from a Shia background in evidence before the Munir-Kayani Inquiry Committee after partition, the party by and large was a Sunni-supremacist party. In the curious political permutations of pre-partition British India, Ahrars being fiercely anti-British found themselves in alliance with secular socialist Jawaharlal Nehru. One of the key agenda items of the Ahrars was the idea of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat.
Even though Nehru himself had admirably countered Allama Iqbal’s abuse against Ahmadis through his writings, Ahrars were nevertheless cultivated by the Congress leadership against the Muslim League, chiefly because Muslim League was led by a Shia, an Anglicised Shia at that who was more British than the British in his lifestyle. Ahrars sought to break the unity of the Muslim League in two ways. In Luck now, they started the Madh-e-Sahaba movement against Shias of that city. In Punjab, they raised the slogan of Khatm-e-Nabuwwat against the Ahmadi members of the Muslim League.
Punjab Muslim League, under influence of reactionaries like Allama Iqbal, was ready to fold but at this moment Jinnah intervened and declared that Ahmadis would be treated as any other sect of Muslims with the same rights and would be welcome in the Muslim League. As Dr Ayesha Jalal writes in her book “Self and Sovereignty”, Jinnah was not ready to allow a theological dispute to come in the way of Ahmadis’ right to self-identify. Such an issue would be nothing but a disaster for the Muslim community. It was for this reason Jinnah also asked Raja of Mahmudabad to distance himself from the Muslim League when the latter began to talk of an Islamic state. In no uncertain terms, Jinnah said that he would have a liberal democratic Muslim majority state and not an Islamic state. With more than 70 sects represented amongst the 90 million Muslims of the subcontinent, any attempt to create an Islamic state would lead to the very dissolution of the state, argued Jinnah.
Truth be told, 1971 had ended Jinnah’s Pakistan geographically. 1974 was the deathblow to whatever residuary parts of Jinnah’s ideas were still left. Then onwards it was Bhutto’s and Zia’s Pakistan but Jinnah’s ideas were on a ventilator. Messrs Imran Khan, Shaikh Rasheed and Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui have managed to destroy the ventilator
After Pakistan broke up, entirely through General Yahya Khan’s machinations and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s willingness to play the regime’s puppet against the rightful Prime Minister-elect of Pakistan Shaikh Mujib-ur-Rahman, the new regime led by PPP did not learn from the past. Instead of following the admirable policy of the Pakistan Government from 1947-1971 of keeping theological disputes out of politics, PPP along with other left-leaning parties made Islam the state religion of Pakistan. In 1974, they declared Ahmadis Non-Muslim through a spurious Constitutional Amendment which essentially shifted the question of Muslim from one of self-representation to that of theology. Bhutto’s attempts to appease the right-wing badly backfired when he lost power in 1977 and was hanged through a sham trial. In 1984, a horrendous Ordinance was promulgated by General Ziaul Haq’s callous regime, which severely limited the religious freedom of Ahmadis.
Even though in his book “Pakistan, a personal journey”, PTI Chairman Imran Khan criticises Bhutto for the 1974 amendment, he has nevertheless done what others have done before him. He has been claiming from morning to evening on the campaign trail that the PML-N government has tried to undo the constitutional amendment declaring Ahmadis Non-Muslims through omissions to the new Election Act. One wishes that was the case, but subordinate legislation cannot override constitutional amendments. Nor was the legal impact of the proposed changes in any way going to suddenly restore Ahmadis’ right to identify as Muslims. It is Pakistan’s obligation under the ICCPR to ensure that every citizen of Pakistan is given the right to vote and the placement of Ahmadis on a separate list disenfranchised that community and singled them out for discrimination. Rectifying this injustice did not mean that the spurious 2nd Amendment was being removed secretly.
Sheikh Rasheed and Imran Khan saw this as an opportunity. Then came Mullah Khadim Rizvi with his band of illiterate and unthinking crazies. Now they are contesting elections as a political party on this single issue. Taliban Khan has now reignited the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat issue. This was a door that should not have opened again, given that we have been burnt repeatedly.
The Islamabad High Court’s decision on the Ahmadi issue delivered by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui is the opening salvo of what our country has now become. Frankly, his 172 page judgment reads a lot like Mein Kampf. The contributions of Ahmadis to the creation of Pakistan, and to the Kashmir issue for example are omitted. Instead, it is falsely stated that Ahmadis plan on taking over large tracts of territory in Pakistan to form a state within a state and that they are Zionists. Based on Iqbal’s reactionary and bigoted correspondence with Nehru, Ahmadis are declared enemies of both religion and country — ironic since when Iqbal was writing the country he meant was India. It is also recommended by the “learned” judge that Ahmadis should not be allowed to use the word “Ahmadis” as their name because it is too Islamic. Justice Siddiqui wants them to have Qadiani or Mirzai as their surname. Welcome to the 4th Reich. Welcome to Naya Pakistan.
The judgment is damning not just for Ahmadis but all Non-Muslims. The reason why the distinction exists in the Pakistani Constitution between Muslims and Non-Muslims is strictly for those constitutional positions that are reserved for Muslims such as President, Prime Minister, members of the Council of Islamic Ideology and judges of the Federal Shariat Court. Other than that, there is no constitutional bar on Non-Muslims from becoming judges in the Supreme Court or High Courts, or holding the highest positions in the armed forces or for that matter in the government.
Honourable Judge Siddiqui wants all Non-Muslims to submit evidence for all these jobs now. In other words, no Non-Muslim should even bother applying for jobs that they are not constitutionally barred from. This is a violation of Article 25 of the Constitution, but this particular judge cares little for things like fundamental rights. He has strategically timed this judgment because he is himself under trial for corruption at the Supreme Judicial Council. If the SJC rules against it, he will term it a “Qadiani conspiracy”.
Truth be told, 1971 had ended Jinnah’s Pakistan geographically. 1974 was the deathblow to whatever residuary parts of Jinnah’s ideas were still left. Then onwards it was Bhutto’s and Zia’s Pakistan but Jinnah’s ideas were on a ventilator. Messrs Imran Khan, Shaikh Rasheed and Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui have managed to destroy the ventilator. The powers that be ought to be ashamed of what they have done. They do not care because they have their own agendas. Imran Khan wants to be the prime minister for god knows what reason. It is certainly not because he would be the best man for the job. Shaikh Rasheed simply wants to remain relevant. Siddiqui wants to escape his trial at the SJC. When an impartial history of this country is written in the future, these three men would rank as the worst enemies of Jinnah’s Pakistan, even above General Ziaul Haq, our most destructive dictator yet. Mark my words.
Yasser Latif Hamdani is a practising lawyer and a Visiting Fellow at Harvard Law School in Cambridge MA, USA.