The killing of a senior lawyer and a prominent member of Ahmadiyya community, Malik Saleem Latif is a reminder of how this minority group continues to be a victim of discrimination and violence. Reportedly, the banned sectarian outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) al-Alami, also linked to the Islamic State, claimed the responsibility for this attack. As the head of Ahmadiyya community in Nankana Sahib, Malik Latif was on the hit list of several extremist groups. Investigations will reveal the exact motive for this murder but there is an established pattern of recurring hate crimes against Ahmadis in the country.
According to the community’s annual report, six Ahmadis were murdered due to their beliefs during 2016. In the past decades, hundreds ofAhmadishave been targeted. Charged mobs have repeatedly attacked Ahmadi places of worship and even desecrated their graves.
Violence against Ahmadis is acute in Punjab province. The Punjab government has long been accused of turning a blind eye to the notorious activities of various militant groups including the LeJ. A controversial cleric, MasroorJhangvi who openly called for the killing of Shia community, was elected to the Punjab assembly last year. It is quite unfortunate that our defective electoral laws are unable to prevent these hatemongers from corrupting our legislative bodies. Electronic media could have played its watchdog role but the obsession for ratings and profit render it unable to initiate any meaningful debate on issues of national importance.
Despite much-touted successes of Operation Zarb-e-Azab and theNational Action Plan, the government has yet to curb the menace of hate speech, particularly against religious and/or ethnic minorities. It is time to remind the civilian and military leadership that their claims are not matched by the situation on ground especially when it comes to premeditated crimes against religious minorities.
The Ahmadi question continues to haunt the body politic of Pakistan. While attempts to Islamicise the country saw the parliament officially declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims in 1974, another set of laws enacted during 1980s institutionalised discrimination against this community. Clerics and sections of media sanction such discrimination with some even justifying violence against them. Many young Pakistanis are influenced by such popular narratives, which overlook the plain fact that Ahmadis are citizens of this country with certain fundamental rights. The key question today is how to ensure full citizenship rights that Ahmadis deserve as Pakistanis. Freedom to worship and security of life and liberty are guaranteed by the Constitution. However, nothing would change if conscientious citizens will remain silent in the face of such injustice. *