Asia Sentinel [link], Hong Kong, 30 September 2009; also carried in the World Politics Review

Ahmadis face serious danger and death, some of it possibly fomented by the government

Last month Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari observed the country’s National Minority Day by calling minority groups “a sacred trust for Pakistan” and lamenting the ‘extremist elements’ responsible for their insecurity in the country. But his words fell flat for Pakistan’s Ahmadis, for whom a fresh surge of hostile incidents, some linked to the state itself, is capping decades of persecution.

The issue was taken up this month by Iqbal Haider, the co-chair of NGO, The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan: “Ahmadis are the worst victims of such discrimination and deprivation, mainly because they refuse to regard themselves as non- Muslims,” he said to Daily Dawn’s political magazine, the Herald. “The state and the society are unwilling to let them have any rights, let alone the freedom to practice their religion. Pakistan has most oppressive laws when it comes to Ahmadis and the suspicion runs deep.”

Ahmadis are arguably the most vilified minority across the Islamic world. They are not considered Muslims by mainstream branches of the religion. Founded in the 1880s by a religious figure named Ghulam Ahmad, Ahmadis differ with the mainstream on the death and return of Jesus, the concept of jihad and, most controversially, the question of whether the Prophet Mohammad was the last messenger from Allah. Ghulam claimed to have received messages himself from god, making him a later prophet.

Pakistan is hardly alone in discriminating against Ahmadis. In Indonesia, where they are known as the Ahmadiyah, they have been terrorized regularly, with their places of worship attacked by fundamentalists and members being banned from taking part in the Haj in some parts of the country. Laws were passed in Indonesia last year restricting their activities and prohibiting them from proselytizing. In many parts of Kyrgistan, they have been told to cease worshiping.

The depredations in Pakistan have been particularly distressing. Since the mid 1980s, the Ahmadis have been dying in droves. Some 104 have been murdered in targeted attacks or lynchings and 117 others have escaped murder attempts, according to the community’s records. Other forms of harassment are also common: mosques have been demolished, set on fire and forcibly occupied and Ahmadi corpses have been dug up from Muslim graveyards.

Statistics tend to run from 1984 because that’s when a column started to appear on all official forms, asking whether or not a person believes in the ‘finality of the prophet;’ part of dictator Zia ul Haq’s ‘Islamization’ drive that cordoned off Ahmadis and other minorities from mainstream life. But recently things have become markedly worse, with at least eight Ahmadis murdered in the last year alone in Pakistan, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), and many more falsely arrested. Doctors are a popular target, possibly because Ahmadis tend to be well educated (the group claims a 100 percent literacy rate for women) and at least seven have been murdered in the last three years.

Bouts of anti-Ahmadi or anti-Qadiani sentiment have long seemed to kick in with a ruler’s loosening grip on power.

“In Pakistan religion has been used by the political leadership to sustain their political agenda for a long time,” notes Khawaja Zafar Iqbal, a non-Ahmadi journalist and founder of the Kashmiri-based NGO, Press for Peace (currently in hiding due to a fatwa). “Even our former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was considered very liberal, received considerable public support during his rule by declaring Ahmadis to be non-Muslims.”

Similarly, seven years into the reign of dictator Zia ul Haq in the 80s, when his power base was seen to be slipping, he strengthened specifically-anti Ahmadi legislation with an ordinance and a couple of amendments to the penal code. And these days a struggling President Zardari appears to be making no concrete commitment to combating public aggression against the sect, much of it linked to the Punjab Provincial Chief Minister, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif and his ambitious brother and opposition party leader Nawaz Sharif.

In 2008 and 2009 a spate of vociferously anti-Ahmadi conferences (known as the Khatme-E-Nabwat movement) have gone ahead in Punjab, with street processions and two-storey billboards in town centres proclaiming ‘Friendship with Mirza (Ahmadis) is like the enmity of Allah’ (see image). One of the official sponsors in a number of these events was the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), the provincial ruling party; their insignia appears on the billboards and members of parliament attend. Ahmadi groups also point out that frontline PML-N politicians – including current Chairman Raja Zafura-ul-Haq and Pakistan’s former president Rafiq Tarir have belonged to aggressively anti-Ahmadi parties such as Jamaat Islamiah. For sect members in this province in particular, these conferences are a time to keep their heads down.

This seems particularly necessary when looking at the lack of help Ahmadis tend to get from the legal system; in a country already notorious for police corruption, violence against them can appear state sanctioned.

Late last year a guest on the religious program ‘Alam Online’ (hosted by the former federal minister for religious affairs) repeatedly and freely urged Muslims to kill Ahmadi sect members as a religious duty.

The next day a 45-year old Ahmadi doctor was shot 11 times on his hospital floor by six men, and a day later a 75 year old community leader was shot in the street in Sindh. In the former case although the shooters were seen sauntering casually out of the hospital’s front entrance, no one has been arrested and no official moves were made to hold the program accountable (a weak apology was made after much NGO lobbying).

No one has been arrested for the murder of a trader earlier this year, who died when three men asked him to identify his religion, then peppered his car with gunfire. Ahmadi groups say that little progress has been made in the prosecution of two madrassa students who tried to behead a sect professor this June, but were successfully fought off.

In fact the law for Ahmadis appears to be working inversely, blasphemy laws in particular being misused – it is estimated by the AHRC that 500 Ahmadis are currently charged with offences that vary from ‘impersonating a Muslim’ to desecrating the Quran, which is punishable with death, and in most cases little evidence is used to book them.

In Punjab early this year four teenagers and a teacher of theirs were arrested for writing the name of the Prophet on the walls of a toilet at a mosque in Layaah, though no evidence was given to link them to the mosque or the area itself; police later lamented pressure from fundamentalists groups to make the arrests and the judge trying the case himself became a target of street protests by Majlis-i-Ahrar-i-Islam lobbying for strong punishment. Media reports this week noted a fresh wave of police operations in Lahore to pull down Quranic verses or plaques from above Ahmadi shop doors. This official line has done little to set a positive example in the community.

“People are very loyal and lovely,” insists Munawar Ali Shahid, the General Secretary for Amnesty International in Lahore, an Ahmadi. “The problem is the politicians and political parties and their underground alliances with religious groups.” Nevertheless he talks of discrimination against his son at school – he was told not to drink from the same tap as other students by his teacher – and of reluctance to tell people of his religion.

Munawar Shahid

The feeling extends to the press, which commonly prints fatwas issued by religious groups against minorities (see image) yet refused across the board last year when Ahmadi group tried to place an advertisement explaining that they were boycotting the general election because of religious discrimination.

“All these beautifully constructed articles take a 180 degree turn while considering the status of religious minorities, especially Ahmadis in Pakistan,” says human rights lawyer Rao Zafar Iqbal, of the laws in the penal code that protect the right to religion. “The Zardari government [are] unable to do such things because they are playing in the hands of unseen powers who have their own priorities.”

Iqbal himself narrowly escaped assassination earlier this summer and is in hiding, after fatwas against him were published by the Daily Pavel newspaper, decrying his legal defense of minorities. “I think it’s the failure of the government that religious minorities, activists and human rights defenders protection is still a vague thought in Pakistan,” he says.

A start, says Munawar Ali Shahid, would be the repeal of the ordinance that enforces religious declarations on official documents. Next, he says, Ahmadis must have their right to vote along with the rest of the country, rather than in a separate electoral role (Muslims with Christians, Hindus and other minorities were united electorally under Musharraf, but not Ahmadis). At 46 years old Munawar has never been able to bring himself to vote as a ‘non-Muslim’.

At face value the Zardari government agrees. “This is a Pakistan People’s Party’s Government that is deeply committed to the protection of minorities and to accord them rights a full criticizes” said parliamentarian Sherry Rehman earlier this month. Yet it’s likely that the teenagers with the near-lethal graffiti convictions, the fatwa-burdened lawyer, the disenfranchised father and the professor who nearly lost his head this year, would all like to see a little more bite behind the bark.

Jo Baker is a Hong Kong based journalist and program coordinator for the Asian Human Rights Commission


Comments (11)add

 

 

0

Witness the peril of the “Latter Days”
written by Matin, Jameel , October 29, 2009

Great post
 

0

Witness the peril of the “Latter Days”
written by Abdul_Ahad , October 22, 2009

Writer Jo Baker: 

Thanks for an eye-opening article. Alas, one cannot awaken another who is determined to continue feigning sleep.
The mullahs in Pakistan are determined to run the country into the ground, as long as they can command some position/prestige in the crumbling entity that is their lamentable nation. The federal government there has become the supreme tyrant, by virtue of its unrelenting persecution of the peace-loving group, the Ahmadis. Incredibly, in this day and age, that government declared the Ahmadis to be non-Muslim by (of all excuses) majority vote in Parliament! It has allowed a reign of terror to be let loose against Ahmadis, documentation of which is available freely.
Yet the irony is this: it is the Ahmadiyya Community that is at the forefront of the immense task of introducing the superbly-benevolent qualities of Islam to the world at large. Ahmadis construct mosques emblazoned with the Kalima (the Islamic creed). People world-wide click on www.alislam.org for authoritative expositions of Islamic beliefs; they turn to Ahmadi scholars for intelligent explanations of Islamic concepts; and they respect the fact that that highly-educated group, though relatively small, has produced a Nobel Prize winner and other leaders of our eternal struggle toward a more-peaceful existence.
Pakistanis, wake up! The nations around you are progressing by leaps and bounds! Cast off your stupor and your chains of servility to the demented mullahs in your midst! If not for the Ahmadis, then do it for your nation’s survival!

report abuse
vote down
vote up

Votes: +2

 

0

Wonderful to see someone
written by waseem sayed , October 21, 2009

Members of the Ahmadiyah Muslim community are renowned the world over for their attachment to peace. They are taught from their infancy that they must be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. 

Their motto is: Love for all, hatred for none. They believe that faith devoid of good deeds and service of God’s creation is no faith at all. Thus, in every society where the Ahmadis are found, the communities bear witness to their unblemished record of peaceful, law-abiding nature and can show the good works they are involved in to improve the lives of the poor and disadvantaged members of the society.

The Ahmadiyah Muslim community has now built some 15,500 mosques, more than 500 schools and 30 hospitals. It has translated the Holy Koran into 60 languages.

It propagates the true teachings of Islam and the message of peace and tolerance through a twenty-four-hour satellite television channel (MTA), the Internet – www.alislam.org – and print (Islam International Publications).

It has been at the forefront of disaster relief in the United States and worldwide through an independent charitable organization, Humanity First – www.humanityfirst.org. It is strange that such totally harmless, indeed beneficial members of society should be made the target of attacks.

What is more alarming is that not just the authorities, but the vast majority of Pakistanis are totally blind to the deadly consequences of this persecution that they have seen unfold before their very eyes. If Bhutto and Zia the two masterminds of this ‘service to Islam’ had in fact done Allah’s work why would they and their nation have been flushed down the toilet after such magnificent service?

I fear the end will be the total destruction of the Country! God save us from this disaster.

report abuse
vote down
vote up

Votes: +1

 

0

thanks!!
written by Atifa , October 16, 2009

hello, and thankssmilies/grin.gif its good to see that other people are realising the discrimination being done against ahmadies and other minorities…its quite amazing how politicians and mullah’s are educated but still illeterate…
you should also look into the more recent things the Mullahs have gotten upto.
there have been cases of kidnapping ahmadi children (one waseven, sadly murdered) and asking ransom money from Ahmadi communities OUTSIDE of Pakistan, since they know we live freely outside Pakistan.
its sad how the Mullahs and other people think they can kill us as they please. if they hate us as ahmadies they should atleast consider us as humans. wives have lost their husbands who are a support for them, children have lost their fathers.
it would be great if you could notify others aswell of these horrid acts against minorities in Pakistan. 

report abuse
vote down
vote up

Votes: +3

 

0


written by Farooq , October 11, 2009

Good Article, keep it up 

More journalists need to take up the case of persecuted minorities such as Ahmadis in Pakistan to give them a voice with a view to bringing this to the attention of the World so that justice can be done

report abuse
vote down
vote up

Votes: +3

 

0


written by Tarique Malik , October 09, 2009

Hello Jo, 

It’s a very nice articles, keep it up carry on this good work. We have to do something to stop this main stream Mullah of Pakistan to save not just Ahmadies( the peace loving ,the only loyal community of Pakistan even before the creation of Pakistan) Christians, Hindus, Sikh and other minorities in Pakistan. May Allah give you the best reward for doing this great work.smilies/kiss.gif

report abuse
vote down
vote up

Votes: +2

 

0

Comment
written by Umar Rasheed , October 02, 2009

Hello Jo Baker,
Very good articles, keep it up carry on. 

report abuse
vote down
vote up

Votes: +3

 

0

justice in Pakistan
written by Abu Luqman , October 01, 2009

this is good thing keep it up.only the ahmadies are not hatted in pakistan rather the minorities are also in dangers like Hindus chritians and many more.
Keep pakistan out of mullah s hand,if not concern cheef justice of pakistan to look into the matters.
thanks and thanks for ur brave ness. 

Abu Luqman
report abuse

vote down
vote up

Votes: +3

 

0


written by ASU Rajput , October 01, 2009

Hello Jo,
It is good to see someone speaking the truth about the Ahmadis living in Pakistan. I would suggest you to investigate the following topics as well.
1. See what happened to the National Assembly that termed Ahmadis as Non-Muslim.
2. See the fate of the the most powerful political figure of Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), who was the leader of the house in 1974.
3. How the institutions in Pakistan depleted and corrupted ever since the doors on Ahmadis were shut.
4. How the extremism made Pakistan a threat to the whole world, the first bow-down to them was done in 1974 when the then government accepted their demands. 

There is a lot to investigate and you will come up with lot of surprises if you dig deep into this subject.

Thanks,

ASU Rajput

report abuse
vote down
vote up

Votes: +6

 

0

Commander (Retd)
written by Munir Varraich , September 30, 2009

Hello Jo Baker, 

Good to know that someone talks about Ahmadis in the media. But what you write has been written many times in the press and the media.

I must make it clear that when we talk about Democracy then there is no majority and no minority. Whether it is Benazir’s PPP or whether it is Asif Ali Zardari’s PPP, first and foremost the policians of Pakistan and the society of Pakistan have to decide whether they want an Islamic Republic of Pakistan or a Democratic Republic of Pakistan.

If it is Islamic, then we can talk about Majority and minority in the religious context. Hard luck Ahmadis, in such an Islamic State the rule of Shariah (according to the Mullah) will be implemented. That means Blasphemy Law must be implemented with full Islamic vigour. In that scenario all Ahmadis MUST be killed to purify the Islamic State of Pakistan. Because Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has claimed that he is not only a prophet but has appeared after the Last Prophet who was Mohamad.

As afr as the Law of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is concerned, the DEATH SENTENCE to all Ahmadis in Pakistan and all the Muslim countries in the world, is LAWFUL and LEGAL.

Hello Jo Baker, can you stop this “MURDER OF HERETICS” in the name of Democracy (here it means that majority vote is right and has the right to implement its decision) which goes on in the Muslim World?

If not then all this effort which you want to do is of no use. When madness which has been let lose for the last 400 years by the Church and which during the colonial times was copied, ney, monkeyed by the Muslim world, and when any sense was attempted into the blocked mindset, those very persons and communities was sent to the gallows or the stakes and in today’s world beheaded and their houses burnt. All in the name of religion.

MAV

report abuse
vote down
vote up

Votes: +3