Yasser Latif Hamdani@theRealYLH
November 25, 2019
It bears repeating again and again that when certain sections within the Muslim community tried to bring pressure to bear on the founder of this nation on the Ahmadi issue, he put his foot down and refused to turn them out of the Muslim League. Jinnah also promised repeatedly that a person’s faith would never be the business of the state in Pakistan. Quite the contrary it seems that a person’s faith in Pakistan today is everyone’s business including the state.
In 1953, Muslims of various persuasions carried out pogroms against Ahmadis in Punjab especially Lahore. At that time the state took a stand and refused to cave in on the issue. In 1974 the sanctimonious Muslim ulema managed to prevail on Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to send the question to the parliament, where even left leaning “secular” politicians like Wali Khan and former allies of Congress party like Moula Bux Soomro voted to declare the community non-Muslim. In 1984 unconscionable restraint was put on their constitutional right to religious freedom through Ordinance XX of 1984 which posed Ahmadis as enemies of Islam. In 1993 Ordinance XX of 1984 was declared constitutional through the most spurious reasoning by the honourable Supreme Court of Pakistan. In 2010 the members of community were massacred in broad day light during prayers. Nawaz Sharif had to apologise for calling them “our brothers”. Countless places of worship (since you cannot call them mosques by law), as many as 200, were forcibly occupied or desecrated by both state and society. In 2017 a simple attempt to restore their right to vote (they are disenfranchised also) by the then government was misrepresented as an attack on “Khatme-Nabuwat” and used by Imran Khan and his motley crew as an election issue in 2018. Since December 2018, Ahmadis are essentially being asked to sign an affidavit declaring themselves Non-Muslim. These are all grave violations of Article 20 of the Pakistani Constitution as well as Pakistan’s international obligations. You can open a 100 Kartarpurs and restore thousands of temples but the almost Nazi-like blood lust for the Ahmadis that pervades every section of our society will always creep up and do untold damage to this country. It is the state’s responsibility to protect every citizen. It is duty of the superior judiciary to ensure the fundamental rights of every class of persons in Pakistan. Both have failed miserably when it comes to the Ahmadi community.
The Constitution declares Ahmadis Non-Muslim for the purposes of law and constitution. The Constitution does not ask them to think of themselves as Non-Muslims
When Imran Khan came to power, he appointed Atif Mian, world’s leading economist, as a member of the Economic Advisory Council. Soon afterwards he was forced to ask him to resign. In part this was owing to his own rhetoric leading up to the elections. However let us imagine this. There is a Pakistani economist who is considered an expert in his field but we are unable to utilize his services because of his faith. Imagine if Jinnah had bowed to such pressure visa vis Sir Zafrullah Khan. We would not have the UN Resolutions which are owed entirely to him. Jinnah had persisted with his choice both before and after partition. It was Zafrullah Khan who was tasked by Jinnah to plead Pakistan’s case before the boundary commission because Jinnah realised the talent of the man. This is the difference between a weak and cowardly leader like Imran Khan and a true man of integrity and courage like Jinnah.
Of course it is not Imran Khan alone who is a coward. Nawaz Sharif’s own son in law Captain Safdar chose to attack and abuse Ahmadis in 2017. Then there are those for whom the issue remains alive for them to use as they please. Consider the ridiculous petition against General Bajwa in the Peshawar High Court. Normally such a petition dealing with military service matters would not be sustainable under Article 199(3) of the Constitution but the Peshawar High Court has decided to deliberate on the issue as to whether a Non-Muslim officer can be the Chief of Army Staff. There is no constitutional bar against any Non-Muslim citizen to hold that office. The office of the registrar should simply have thrown out the petition. However in this great land of ours, constitution means nothing at all. General Bajwa has clarified repeatedly that he is not an Ahmadi and we must accept him on his word. However even if he was one, this petition was still not maintainable. One can only wonder how it is even being heard.
This brings me to the final and most ridiculous counterpoint. A number of self styled experts of law and constitution are heard saying “we will give Ahmadis the rights as citizens when they accept that they are Non-Muslim.” To be clear neither Article 260 nor Article 20 of the Constitution lay down any such pre-conditions for citizenship rights. The Constitution declares Ahmadis Non-Muslim for the purposes of law and constitution. The Constitution does not ask them to think of themselves as Non-Muslims. No constitution in the world can posit such a ridiculous proposition which seeks to control people’s thoughts. Religion is a matter merely between man and God. Jinnah said that. Pakistan is paying for deviating from that wisdom. In the process it appears quite comical to the rest of the world. Unfortunately though it has real life consequences for people who live in this country. So I ask very simply- what will satisfy the blood lust of the average Pakistani Muslim? Do you propose to kill every Ahmadi or do you propose to convert them by force? Should you do so, know that all your claims about being peaceful and tolerant people will be laughed at by the world.
The writer is is an Advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan