I urge the government to get their act together and seriously think about eliminating religious hatred, and repeal the blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws
The Justice Munir Inquiry Commission Report published in 1954, exposed the fundamental elements at play which were at the very centre of religious violence against Ahmadis in 1953. It appears that nothing has changed since then, except that the society collectively has further moved towards religious extremism. There are far less fair-minded voices in power out there who can recognise injustices against the Ahmadis of Pakistan. The Munir Report exposed the shallowness of religious clerics who had no political vision for the newly formed nation, despite seeking enforcement from the Shariah, they propagated a very narrow minded and divisive ideology of hate promoting an anarchist mob rule. Those ideologies continued to remain at play in the following decades plaguing Pakistan’s progress. The curse is still upon us without an end in sight. Justice Munir and Justice Kayani conducted a thorough and unbiased assessment of the situation faced by a minority community.
Ahmadiyya community members despite the intense hatred perpetuated against them at the time remained loyal, exemplary and highly progressive citizens of Pakistan. Amongst their members was Sir Zafarullah Khan who later became the vice president and then the president of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. He was a strong proponent of freedom causes of North African nations, a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, the person who took India to the UN Security council because of the Kashmir issue. Moreover, Dr Abdus Salam won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. There were many lesser known Ahmadis who also contributed through in the progress of Pakistan throughout its history.
The second amendment of 1974, introduced in the constitution and the infamous Ordinance XX promulgated by General Zia ul Haq in 1984, targeting Ahmadis, forced them to migrate out of Pakistan to seek religious freedom. This trend continues till today. Ahmadis are almost 100 percent literate and through community efforts stress the importance of higher education. This has given the community an opportunity to establish themselves in many western countries with a very large section of highly educated and well positioned Pakistani origin Ahmadis.
It is to Pakistan’s detriment that they have forced arguably the most progressive citizenry out of the country. Despite the persecution, Ahmadis feel great affinity and love for Pakistan and follow a narrative of deeply rooted loyalty. Pakistan has also alienated other minority communities from the mainstream in the last 3 decades, forcing them to migrate out of Pakistan. This loss is why the leftover populace is becoming more religiously zealous and intolerant.
How much should we focus on any detente with extremists, given that fringe groups still have the capacity to execute high-level attacks against minority communities like Shias, Ahmadis and some adversarial politicians?
When Ahmadis and other conscientious opinion makers write about the rights of Ahmadis and about other minority groups who are subjected to widespread persecutions, many start discussing the religious differences and then attack both the Ahmadis and those writers. Social media pages are filled with hateful responses focusing on doctrinal and interpretational differences. The social media has become a common place to threaten Ahmadis, and even incite murders. The notion of apostasy is also used to justify this view. Ahmadis are not given any fair opportunity to respond on religious grounds under the Pakistan penal code 298 B and 298 C (Ordinance XX of 1984) and thus, it remains a futile exercise to attempt to give an objective response. Therefore, all such discussions remain lopsided, meaningless and against the norms of impartial journalism. The honourable Justice Munir and Kayani interviewed in 1954, on numerous divergent denominations of Islam and on the topic of apostasy, concluded that;
“If the constituents of each of the definitions given by the Ulema are given effect to, and subjected to the rule of ‘combination and permutation’ and the form of charge in the Inquisition’s sentence on Galileo is adopted Mutatis Mutandis as a model, the grounds on which a person may be indicted for apostasy will be too numerous to count.”
The underlying notion of mass murders remain a conversational topic among anti-Ahmadi groups. The hateful religious entities operate freely and without fear of the law or the government when spreading their vile philosophies and inciting their followers to kill. These groups are directly linked to either Jamaat-e-Islami, or Tehrik-e-Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Labbaik, or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and to many other affiliated groups. The (PTI) government in their naivety believe that holding talks and bringing some of these murderous elements into mainstream society is achievable.
I pose a rhetorical question; how much should we focus on any detente with extremists, given that fringe groups still have the capacity to execute high-level attacks against minority communities like Shias, Ahmadis and some adversarial politicians? The simple answer is none. Such murderous philosophies in the name of religion are not a new phenomenon to the human civilisation. Such people have appeared in the garb of priests and Christian clergy in medieval Europe as well; running inquisitions, killing innocents in the name of Jesus Christ and conspiring against kings and queens to achieve their political objectives. Pakistani religious extremists are no different. The key motive has always been to acquire political power in one way or another. These groups operate through the tools of anarchy. It is ludicrous to believe that the government’s agreement and the civilised table talk have any meaning for them.
If the government is serious about addressing the human rights issues of Ahmadis and non-Muslim communities then the first step would be to show concern for them. However, their misery cannot be resolved without repealing the unfair and targeted laws against Ahmadis including the blasphemy law. So far, the PTI government has not shown concern for them in their first 40 days. Even the Minister of Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari has not commented about local Pakistani human rights issues faced by Ahmadis.
Therefore, I urge the government to get their act together and seriously think about eliminating religious hatred, and repeal the blasphemy and anti-Ahmadi laws under which numerous people including Asia Bibi a Christian woman and Shakoor Bhai an Ahmadi octogenarian have been imprisoned for far too long. Their only sin was to practice their religion according to their own conscience.
The writer has Master’s degree in Project Management from the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He can be reached at @Imranahsanmirza
Published in Daily Times, September 30th 2018.