Pakistan: The government joins religious bigots against Ahmadis

 

Rana Tanveer
October 17, 2019

Like any other part of the world, religion holds great importance in Pakistan, particularly for “Muslims.” To Muslims, not only their own religion but that of others (Ahmadis, in particular) is very important. Where “Muslims” defend their own religion, they also defend that of Ahmadis too and do not let them ‘deviate’ from their religion.

They make use of blasphemy law, street power, “mob justice,” social pressure, religious bigotry, fanaticism, even rumours to take strength to keep Ahmadis confined within their religious bonds “to establish rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.” Ahmadis are so important to the “Constitutional Muslims” of Pakistan that they became a reason to introduce the definition of Muslims in the constitution through they (Ahmadis) themselves have no religious definition in the legal codes of the country.

For giving them above-mentioned too much favours, the constitutional Muslims some time expect favours from Ahmadis in return. For some politicians, they are a good source to gain vote bank to make the opponents lose. If we recall some events of recent past, it reminds us that it was the opposition of Ahmadis, which brought Tehrik Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah into the parliament. On the other hand, it was the Ahmadi factor, which ended the political career of former law minister Zahid Hamid. It was the Ahmadi factor, which became the reason of throwing a shoe at three-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a speech at a seminary as well as firing a bullet at former science and technology minister Ahsan Iqbal as their government was accused of paving way for Ahmadis to exercise their right to vote in the last general elections.

So far, apparently politicians, people at the local level, and even some government officers in their personal capacity have been involved in using Ahmadis. From time to time, some rights activists and Ahmadis have been accusing the government of patronising “hate campaigns” against them. However, the government never refuted such allegations.

Now the government, which is depending on populism only to complete its term, is openly spreading hatred against Ahmadis as well as attaching its opponents with them. The present government seems to idealise General Ziaul Haq and put itself in his shows in making the use of religion to prolong its tenure. No one else, Ahmadis, are here to be used as bait to save it from the current financial and political crisis. On one side, there are skyrocketing prices of commodities along with Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s muscles-flexing brigade.

The government, depending on populism only to complete its term, is openly spreading hatred against Ahmadis
In this situation, the government is trying to kill two birds with one stone. On October 6, on Pakistan Television (state-owned television station), it ran a 30-second news item, comprising the statement of an Indian Sikh politician, which he issued in 2013 against Ahmadis. News anchors not only associated Ahmadis with terrorist activities in Pakistan and India. Language of the news was provocative and hateful seemed to aim at inciting violence against Ahmadis to divert the attention of the public from real issues. After six days of that news, a fake letter associating it with the head of Jamat-e-Ahmadiyya was widely circulated through social media giving directions to Ahmadis in Pakistan to participate in Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s protest against the government on October 31. Another fake letter was circulated two days later giving the impression that under the direction of its spiritual head, Jamat-e-Ahmadiyya Pakistan is directing all its members to support Maulana’s Azadi March financially and physically.

By doing this, the government not only is trying to divert attention from real issues but also trying to spread hate against its present opponent Maulana Fazlur Rehman. But don’t forget, facing the worst circumstances of this campaign would be Ahmadis, who have nothing to do with it in any case. Writer Christopher Douglas in 2018 wrote that religion is often the subject of fake news and often its targeted audiences are religious believers. The point of modern propaganda is not only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.
Keeping the words of Douglas in view with the current scenario in Pakistan, it seems that Pakistani government is well aware of consequences and benefits of ‘religious fake news’ and it must have expert advisors on the subject who are not only making such strategies but also implementing them. No objection over spreading fake news as it is a routine matter in Pakistan since fall of Dhaka, but please do not do it at the cost of tiny, peaceful, ostracised, and outcasted community already living in perils.

The writer is based in Canada and studies religion, culture and global justice

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